Using Simple Shapes and Lines in Inkscape

In this tutorial I’ll show how to use simple shapes and lines to draw a whimsical little Robin. This tutorial is very basic and geared toward anyone just learning to draw with a vector program.  If you follow the steps below, you should end up with a little guy that looks something like this one.

Vector drawing of whimsical bird Body, Head, and Wing 

example of body, head, and wing

Tip:  Click on any of the illustrations to take a closer look.

Create a circle by clicking the circle icon on the Tool Box Bar on the left side of your screen and dragging a circle anywhere on the page.  Change it to a path by clicking Path >Object to Path on the very top Main Menu. Now go up to the Tools  Controls Bar, which is the bottom of the horizontal bars located at the top of the page, and set the width and height both at 300 px. Look at the little dropdown box to be sure that px is selected as the units.

Tip: If you click the padlock icon after you size it, this will ensure the proportion will stay the same while you are working.

Tip:  Make sure whatever you are editing is selected. It should have a dotted rectangle around it with arrows.  If it is not selected, select it by clicking the select tool at the top of the Tool Box Bar and then clicking the object.

Now go through the same procedure for the head, but this time make it 175 x 175 px. Don’t worry about colors yet as you will get to that later. You are going to use the circle tool once more, but this time drag it into an oval shape. Make the size of the oval 175 x 110 px.  Don’t forget to change it to a path and also make sure it is selected.  Go back to the Tool Box Bar and click the edit nodes tool. Click on your oval again and you will see four nodes. Drag the nodes and move the arms to adjust the curves and shape it into a wing.  If this is new for you, it may take a little practice, but don’t worry…. it gets easier. Now use the select arrow  to select and drag the pieces into place.  If needed, select each part and use Page Up or Page Down on your keyboard to order them correctly.  Finally, select the body and then click on the paintbrush icon on the Command Bar, located just below the main menu, to open the Fill and Stroke Panel. Click on the Fill dropdown and click on desired color. Now repeat for Outline. Complete this procedure for head and wing. It should look something like this.

Picture of body head and wing grouped

Tip: It’s a good idea to group items when you are done with a step.  When items are grouped, they won’t accidentally get moved out of order.  To group, use the select tool to drag a rectangle around your desired group.  This will select all of the items.  Click Object > Group.

Tail, Beak, Tuft, and Feet

examples of tail, beak, tuft and feet

In the Tool Box Bar, select the pen tool.  Draw the tail, beak, and tuft on top of the head.  Change each to Path and adjust fill and stroke color. Arrange order using Page Up or Page Down.

Tip:  When using the pen tool, click once to start your line, click again to change directions. Double click when you are finished with drawing.

Tip: You can adjust curves on tuft using nodes and handles as you did for wing.

Tip: If it is difficult to see small objects you are working on, try using the + sign on your keyboard to zoom in closer.  Use the – sign to zoom back out .

The feet are drawn in the same manner, using the pen tool.  You will not use a fill color but may need to adjust the color and size of the stroke.   The size can be adjusted in the Fill and Stroke box. Click on Stroke Style and make sure the drop down box for width units is set at px. Now you can set the desired width using the up and down arrows. When you’ve drawn one foot, select it, right click and Duplicate.  You can select and drag the top one wherever you want it.  Use Page Up or Page Down to order them up or down.


Use the circle tool to create the white and pupil of the eye. Use the node tool to adjust the shape. This time instead of setting the size on the Tools Control Bar, try selecting the part and using the arrows to drag to the desired size. Click on it again and you should see another set of arrows which allow you to rotate it. Do this for both the white and the pupil, place them in order using Page Up or Page Down, and group them.

eye white and pupil

Tip:  As you probably noticed, you used two different techniques for sizing items.  Another helpful shortcut is for grouping. Simply right click after selecting and choose Group.

Tip: Make sure when you are drawing an object that either has no fill or is filled with white, that you have a stroke color selected. If not you won’t be able to see what you are drawing.

I always like to add a little reflection when I draw an eye. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to draw a little square using the square tool on the Tool Box Bar. Use the node tool to add curves to the sides. Make it very small by selecting and dragging the handles.  Order on top of eye as shown.  Group with eye. Group entire bird.

Eye with reflection

You are almost done.  Just draw a small circle, change it to Path, and duplicate several times.  Fill with desired color and place circles on chest of bird. Group the bird.

Tip: You can change the color of several objects at a time by using the select tool and dragging a rectangle around them.  Once they are all selected, go to the Fill and Stroke Box to select a color. When you are finished, click on one of the objects again and they will deselect.

Now isn’t he HANDSOME!

finished drawing

If you’d like another simple Inkscape tutorial, look here for tips on drawing lines and curves.


7 Replies to “Using Simple Shapes and Lines in Inkscape”

  1. Your bird is so cute. I have no artistic talent but I think with your instructions I will be capable of drawing my own bird. Thank you.

  2. I love it!!! You could do a whole series of these cute birds. I didn’t realize you had done your own vinyl wall art- you could easily sell these. They are unique and whimsical and would look really cute in Luna’s room. (wink, wink) Thanks for the “how-to”- can’t wait to try it.

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