Inkscape Tutorial: text to outlines

Continuing the discussion from Inkscape prep:

@cmreeder inspired me to figure this technique out. Then I realized it would be a good process to try and document as a tutorial. The road to getting the screen capture and audio was tortuous (for a cheapo guy like me). After having done the routine about 50 times, I got pretty familiar with the method in Inkscape. This is the first video I ever edited (did it in four scenes) and then used Audacity to overdub the commentary.

Open to comments and suggestions regarding both the Inkscape process and the YouTube.

TextOutline.svg (19 kb)


I’ll watch when I get home.


Very good tutorial! (Similar to Illustrator method.) Thanks!


Alright… Not at all the voice I imagined for you. The grey in the beard stands out in your avatar, so to me you were an old grizzled guy :slight_smile:

Your approach is very different from mine. Never even knew about the text interface window.

Keeping the text grouped should save you a little work on getting the letters to overlap the frame ever so slightly. You can ungroup and adjust slightly afterward for any that were a little weird in placement. The individual movements you did will drive text-nerds batty, since you messed up the kerning.

Timely tutorial, I have an acquaintance getting married this weekend. We were going to attend the wedding, but hadn’t figured out a gift yet. I kept looking at more elaborate laser projects and knowing I don’t have the time for them. But a simple name frame would be appreciated and easily accomplished.


I haven’t used Inkscape to do this, but Affinity Design…and was just curious as to why you had to move each letter individually rather than the entire word/name…as @jacobturner mentioned…then just ungroup and deal with each letter separately, if desired. Such fun stuff though…I love working with fonts. Thanks for your video.


I kept trying to do the intersection with the whole text. Doesn’t work. For a Roman typeface with nice base serifs, the lineup is pretty straight forward, as you indicated. For Forte, I found it easier to do each letter or the bases just didn’t have enough meat to hold up and I would have to tweak the base nodes. Then with some of the slants in the letters, that made some precarious connections. Yes, I don’t respect some of the typography rules, but I kind of like manual placement for overall effect.


I’m open to being shown how to do that in Inkscape.

How much connection do you think is needed for it to be solid? Just belted out the frame for the wedding present, and only have enough wood to run it once. So hoping for no failures :slight_smile:

I plan to cut an acrylic square to place behind the letters, with acrylic a bit thinner than my wood. Should allow me to glue these three parts together, and leave enough room for them to slide an 8x10 behind the acrylic.


Good question! I’ve made the bases thicker than I’d prefer, assuming my fat fingers would knock some letters off the frame! Nice work. Hope you can post the finished product. Nice to work with you again.


Right back at you. I seriously lack for collaborators, and do a lot better when I have them.

1 Like

Good tutorial. I’m going to need some serious hand holding in Inkscape.


Sorry, I can’t be of any help with Inkscape. I don’t use it. I was just thinking out loud wondering if you couldn’t move and tweak it without separating it.


Ask away. Just start a project and post what you have so far. You’ll get some help.

You can move it and position it without ungrouping; however, I found that with the variable shapes of the font I used, I might as well just place the individual letters since I was having to adjust the base nodes anyway. And I still don’t see any way of joining the paths in the manner I want to while the whole text block path is selected.


The way to do the joining all at once would be to use the “Combine” command on the individual letters to make them a single path object.

So, you type and set the font, then go back to the normal select object and move the whole text chunk to position. CTRL+SHIFT+C (object to path), CTRL+K (Combine) then CTRL± (Difference). Done. Now look for areas where the material is too narrow for comfort.


Yes! I tried all kinds of combos in the last few days and varied the steps and couldn’t get it to work. The steps are crucial.

  1. Select whole text block, CTRL+A
  2. Convert to path, CTRL+SHFT+C (object to path)
  3. Set fill to none and stroke to flat color. If you do 1 pixel for all the paths it allows for great precision for placement.
  4. While keeping the whole block selected, CTRL+K (combine).
  5. While still selected, position text path block to intersect with frame
  6. Multiselect the frame SHIFT CLICK.
  7. Now do the difference command CTRL+ - (difference)

Thank you so much. I’ll do another video later on with that method.


Hope I didn’t offend you…asking why you did that when I don’t even use Inkscape. I was just comparing to my own experiences, which by the way, are few and far between. :relaxed:


Ungroup is not required. Should actually do nothing, since after running Combine you are now working with a “group” of 1 object only. And the next steps delete that group anyway.

And the size of the stroke doesn’t matter (just tested with an insanely inflated stroke, it only merged the actual lines. BUT, for visually placing where you want it, then a small stroke size lets you see those actual lines. That is probably what you meant now that I think about it).

It is also vital to remember that your initial frame MUST be a path, not an object. If you just draw a box and never run CTRL+C on it, then you cannot do a Difference.


No offense at all. This is all helpful for me to explain things and not take anything for granted. I’m reminded of my favorite scene in Officer and a Gentleman: The sergeant asks Richard Gere’s character why he doesn’t quit: because I have no where else to go! So much of what I do is just because that’s what I have learned. Without people asking and questioning, and without being open to change, I will never improve.

No, it isn’t. You are right. But there are some funky things happening and it’s difficult to pinpoint what is going on. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. It’s not because of the font, but there is something about the positioning that impacts the situation. And definitely it has to be converted to paths. And when you apply the combine is important. What was happening was that I didn’t have the combine applied and then would try the difference. Nothing seemed to happen.Then I had to undo a couple times to ensure I had the path block ready. Then put the combine on. Then position correctly before finally doing difference. Anyway, I’m so relieved to be able to do it in one block.

Then try to put it on the outside of the frame!

Final question for @jacobturner: how did you do the descenders like the “y” in Becky and Larry? Did you use a font that didn’t descend below the base line or did you manually position them?


It’s wildly flattering to see my uncommon name as part of a tutorial!
There’s my 7 minutes of fame.

The process I used was a bit different; so I really enjoyed learning your tutorial because I learned about tools I haven’t yet played with.

Thanks very much!


The difference operation relies on the “vertical” position of the components. So possibly the weirdness you experience is because you created the letters before the box, or converted the letters to paths before you did the box. That would cause the letters to be the “primary” and the box to subtract out of them, leaving only the part you meant to clip away.

You solve that by hitting Page Up a few times on the item you want to be removed from others.

Random guess though, as that is the main weird thing I had to figure out in the process.

For the “y” I had to manually position, and then also shrink. I very nearly ran off to find a different font, or go with all-caps. And for a while entertained the idea of engraving the tails so they can continue below the line. But this looks decent as rendered (I also raised the comma in the date)