Previously on the CogitActive Saga:
It is standard practice when designing a logo to use vector graphics. One question remains, though. How to create vector graphics?

Granted, vector graphics are the best choice for a number of design and illustration tasks, creating logos in particular. The question, however, is how to create (and edit) them? For that purpose, you actually need a specialized software, namely a vector graphics editor. The industry standard, or at least the most popular software when it comes to vector graphics, is Adobe Illustrator. However, as you can image, it is not cheap.

While there are plenty of online tools that call themselves vector graphics programs, not all are worthy of further consideration. I was looking for a real, dedicated vector graphics editor; a top of the line – yet free – alternative to Adobe Illustrator. One, if not the best, of the vying competitors1 was, and still is, Inkscape – a professional vector graphics editor.

Inkscape is an open-source vector graphics editor
similar to Adobe Illustrator.The Inkscape Project

What is Inkscape?

Here is what the Inkscape’s Contributors2 have to say about Inkscape. It is a professional quality vector graphics software which runs on Windows, Mac OS X and GNU/Linux. It is a Free and Open Source Software licensed under the GPL.

It is used by design professionals and hobbyists worldwide, for creating a wide variety of graphics such as illustrations, icons, logos, diagrams, maps and web graphics.The Inkscape Project

Inkscape was started in late 2003, and while still in beta (version 0.92.4 at the time of this writing), it has quickly established [itself] as a noteworthy Open Source project. In keeping with their own saying, Inkscape has sophisticated drawing tools with capabilities comparable to Adobe Illustrator.

Specifically, it has a comprehensive feature set, a simple interface, multi-lingual support and is designed to be extensible; users can customize Inkscape’s functionality with add-ons. I will not list everything that it can do; you can visit the Features of Inkscape page for more information.

Inkscape signature

Apparently, what sets Inkscape apart is its use of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), an open XML-based W3C standard, as the native format. Yet, Inkscape natively supports opening or importing many different formats, such as SVG, SVGZ (gzipped SVG), PDF, EPS, and AI (Adobe Illustrator) formats. In addition, it can natively import most raster formats (JPEG, PNG, GIF, etc.), but it can only export PNG bitmaps.

To summarize, while Inkscape does not yet have all the features of the leading vector editors, the latest versions provide for a large portion of basic vector graphics editing capabilities, as humbly put by the Inkscape’s Contributors.

Free and Open Source Software

Interestingly, Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is not exactly the same as Open Source. Without going into details, “Free Software” and “Open Source” are different political positions that disagree fundamentally. The term FOSS (or FLOSS), which is used to avoid a preference between the two camps, describes software that are both Free software and Open Source software.

Thus, not only it means that the source code is made available to the public3, but also that anyone can freely use the software, copy, study and change the code, and redistribute the program (with or without modification). Importantly, free refers to freedom, not price. Nonetheless, as opposed to proprietary one (e.g. Adobe Illustrator), FOSS are often free of charge.

Inkscape is free! By this, we mean it is free of cost, free to use and distribute, and open to peek into the source code.The Inkscape Project

Inkscape as reviewed by others

Given my lack of expertise, I will not dare appraise Inkscape in comparison to other vector graphics editors. Still, let see what other people have to say about this powerful desktop application.

Undeniably, it offers an impressive level of functionality compared to what you might expect from free software. Indeed, it is a very flexible vector graphics editor that offers you almost all the functionality you expect from a more pricier version only. Not only does it include all the standard vector-drawing options, but it also comes with a full set of filters that can perform some useful functions. Clearly, Inkscape is a fully-featured, complete and professional vector graphics application4, which is pretty damn impressive . . . when you consider that it was created by a team of volunteers and is given away for free4.

Inkscape is fully-equipped and completely capable of handling any kind of vector design work you may need it for.Nick Saporito

Thus, Inkscape is a full-fledged desktop vector editor and an excellent tool for graphic designers. Apparently, the SVG format is why many graphic designers have adopted the use of Inkscape for their projects. Obviously, the fact that it is free has also something to do with it.

Anyway, despite very few limitations (see below), Inkscape is largely acclaimed:

It’s so good, in fact, that’s a serious alternative to premium tools like Adobe Illustrator.TechRadar
The best choice among all the free vector editors.Make Tech Easier
It is the open source alternative to Adobe Illustrator in the true sense.It’s FOSS

How does it compare with Illustrator?

If you can do it in Adobe Illustrator, chances are you can do it in Inkscape.Cat Ellis

Indeed, anything that was designed in Illustrator can, theoretically, be designed in Inkscape as well4. However, Illustrator has a variety of additional tools and features that will make your workflow a little more efficient4.

Importantly, Inkscape is equipped with everything you need for your vector design work, except one true shortcoming4. It doesn’t have the ability to output files in CMYK color profiles, which will make designing anything for print a real challenge4. Now, there is a workaround4 and I will use my graphics mainly for online applications (see I will need graphics).

Admittedly, Inkscape may not match the full range of tools of Illustrator, but it remains a powerful application. According to Kick Saporito, Inkscape truly is a viable alternative to Illustrator4.

The volunteers over at Inkscape have done nothing short of a phenomenal job in creating something that rivals the product of a corporate juggernaut.Nick Saporito

To sum up

Inkscape may have some limitations (that should only really affect those working professionally in graphic design anyway), but it is a powerful application. This Open Source alternative to Adobe Illustrator can indeed match the functionality of the more popular and paid tool. Besides, did I mention it was free of cost? Admittedly an appreciable argument!

Like every professional software, it will take time to master it fully. Fortunately, there is a massive amount of instructional and tutorial content available both online and offline. In particular, the HTML form5 of Inkscape: Guide to a Vector Drawing Program by Tavmjong Bah proved to be a valuable resource.

After drawing few flags and other objects (from the Quick Start section of the aforementioned guide), I was already able to draw most of the illustrations I have used so far in my posts. Of course, having a great tool will not make me a great designer… Nonetheless, I have decided to create my logo myself (see I will need graphics – part 2); definitively a different kettle of fish.

Coming next: CogitActive logo – a first sketch

1 Honestly, I didn’t compare all the vector graphics software available since Inkscape rapidly came to the forefront. Now, if this daunting task doesn’t scare you away, you may start with this Wikipedia comparison article. ^
2 See Inkscape. ^
3 For more information, you may want to consider visiting the Open Source Initiative website, among other sources. ^
4 Nick Saporito (2016) Inkscape Vs. Illustrator: Can Inkscape Replace Illustrator? Logos By Nick. ^
5 It is not an https:// address, but here it is: ^

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