Inkscape Snapping Tamed

Although I have battled many minotaurs in the Inkscape user interface, one monster remained unvanquished: the Inkscape Snapping Tool.

Snapping is an invaluable alignment aid, but I could never get it to work right in Inkscape. I would enable it and select what I thought were the correct options, but it would fight me, pushing objects to undesired points as I tried to move them in position.

So I would just turn Snapping off and soldier on, snapless.

Finally today I fired up a couple of YouTube instructional videos and realized why it wasn’t working for me.

Part of the problem is that the Snapping settings bar is crowded and small. The other part is that there are lots of Snapping settings, including three that I never noticed until today. Tooltips explain these options, but initially they confused me. To help decode Snapping I’ve annotated it here.


If you don’t see the Snapping settings bar in Inkscape, go to the View menu, select the Show/Hide options and enable Snap Controls Bar. Snap controls will appear either horizontally on the top left of the screen or vertically on the right side of the screen (position set by Default/Custom/Wide radio buttons in the View menu).

There are four major on/off switches. Graphically they look to me like diagonal seatbelts.

From the left, the first on/off switch turns snapping on or off.

The second on/off switch turns on Bounding Box features: Snap to Edges, Snap to Corners, Snap to Midpoints and Snap to Centers. You can enable as many as you wish.

The third on/off switch manages Nodes, Paths and Handles in a similar fashion and the fourth on/off switch enables three Text and Center functions.

You can enable all the switches and all the options, or choose whatever subset is most useful. Be warned, though: as you choose more options, Inkscape takes on attention deficit behavior.

The last three options – Snap to Page Border, Snap to Grids and Snap to Guides – caused me lots of grief, because until today I didn’t realize they were turned on. As I would move objects near each other Inkscape would begin flashing proximity messages, too fast to read, and I could never get the positioning right so I would turn Snapping off. Now I realize that the lure of the Grids was my problem.


Nice!!! @Jules, this needs to be matrixed!


Yes it does.

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Nice writeup. I will add one thing that you didn’t mention…

In the preferences, there is a section about snapping, under


While they are all useful to know about, the one that you might find the most game-changing is the checkbox for “only snap the node closest to the pointer”. It allows you to be absolutely sure about some snaps, when Inkscape is otherwise strugging to snap the exact two things you want.


Thanks for this, it will help with something I’m working on for the group.
We tend to not realize that something that works for you may be giving someone else fits. That is why these write ups are so important.

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Thank you for the write up. I too have turned the snap feature off because it was snapping everywhere and I was to busy designing to figure out why. This will help.

I’ll go one further and say that this is the most important skillset to have in inkscape when working on projects of any significant complexity. Understanding how it helps you with precision alignment is the only practical way to get accurate results in the resulting SVG.

So, if you’re reading this and thinking “what’s this good for?”… Think again, this is a core competency, like the concepts of fill and stroke, path booleans, and understanding grouping.

Oh also, previously, another take on snapping was in my post here:

All of Tavmjong Bah’s tutorials are really good, the index of them can be found here:


Thanks for the Tavmjong Bah link. The Inkscape interface is so dense that I discover new powers almost every day. I just jumped to the page on Alignment and realized that there’s a drop-down menu for “alignment relative to” options. Oh.

Working in Inkscape reminds me of the story about why lion tamers use a chair: The lion can’t focus on all four legs at once. Inkscape is easily three legs over my focus ability.


Yeah this is a key thing to know, it makes alignment tools much more predictable and useful. I prefer “last selected”, I’ve just gotten used to it.


Snapping generally is brilliant.

The bit it took me a while to learn is that Inkscape will snap the bit that is nearest the cursor doing the dragging. So if you want to snap say the top left corner of your object, pick it up with the mouse near that corner. If you say picked it up with the mouse near the bottom left, it will try and snap that corner instead.

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Try is the operative term here. It really struggles with high node-count files, even if you limit the snapping targets using the buttons in the OP. If it ever gives you guff, definitely check out the snapping preference. You can absolutely lock down the snap to be only the nearest node, and get full control over it, even with really complicated files.

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When you’re working in a complex file, don’t be afraid to zoom in closer to the area you’re trying to snap. This makes it easier for you to see more precisely. You can use the zoom commands while within another command and it won’t cancel the command on you.

Would be nice if Inkscape had a simple key command that allowed you to toggle through the active snap options to find the right one for the immediate need. AutoCAD got at least that one right. :slight_smile:


Agreed. There’s the global “%” keystroke for turning snapping off entirely, but it’s not as handy as what you’re talking about.

I just posted the official keystroke guide here:


Thank you so much for this! I have been using Inkscape for years, never understanding how to make Snap work!


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