The Designmark Graphics blog
Quality tutorials for Inkscape and GIMP
Today's tutorial is one that I hope will go off with a bang. Here's a shiny bomb with a lit fuse that I've designed entirely in Inkscape, and I'm going to show you how to make it too.
Obviously, we'll be making good use of the Ellipse tool, but we'll also think a bit about how to make an object appear hard and shiny, and finish by adding a fuse built from a repeating pattern that we will create ourselves. This is a fairly in-depth tutorial but most of the steps use standard Inkscape features so there shouldn't be any demons waiting in there.
Skills you'll be developing in this tutorial
- Working with the Ellipse Tool (E)
- Using gradients to simulate the depth and shape of a hard sphere, as well as lighting
- Use of Live Path Effects to quickly create a realistically-detailed fuse
Step 1 - Set up the document and create the first bomb outline
Load up Inkscape and, on your new canvas, edit its dimensions to be 400 pixels wide by 400 high. Do this by opening the Document Properties window (Ctrl, Shift and D or File --> Document Properties).
Activate the Ellipse Tool (E on the keyboard) and, while holding down the Ctrl key, draw a circle in the centre of your canvas that's about 200 pixels in diameter. Watch the info bar at the bottom of the Inkscape window to see how big your ellipse is as it's being created.
Open the Fill and Stroke panel using Ctrl, Shift and F or by clicking on the 'Fill' box in the bottom-left corner of the Inkscape window, and choose a grey fill of R = 52, G = 52, B = 52.
In the same dialog box, switch click the button to change the fill to a Radial Gradient, then click the Edit button that appears to go into the Gradient Editor.
Here's where we set the colours that the gradient starts and ends with. We've already got the starting colour for bomb: our dark grey from earlier. That's assigned the first 'Stop' on the gradient. Now we need to set the end point and make sure that it's a fully opaque, black colour of R = 12, G = 12, B = 12. Select the second stop from the dropdown box now.
Use the colour bars (or the wheel tab if that's easier for you) to fill the end stop with a colour of R = 12, G = 12, B = 12. Finally, slide the opacity arrows to the right to make the fill totally opaque. You'll see a number of 255 in the box when this is done.
Let's take a look at our circle now.
That's good - we've got a subtle, lit effect on our circle. As you'll see later though, we don't want it exactly in the centre of the shape otherwise it won't look right, so let's fix that now before we move onto the next step. Pick up the Gradient Tool (Ctrl and F1) and notice the new points and lines that appear over the circle. Click and drag the square over to the lower-left area of the circle until you get an effect similar to below.
Step 2 - Create highlights to make the bomb look shiny
Believe it or not, that's already brought us quite a long way to our final result. Now we'll add more highlight areas and I'll show you how to make it look like a hard, shiny object.
First, change back to your Ellipse Tool and an ellipse (don't hold Ctrl this time) over the upper-left area of the bomb, a little way in from the edge. Go to the Fill and Stroke dialog box and change its fill to white (R = 255, G = 255, B = 255), then reduce the opacity of each shape to about 50%. I'll show you the steps below.
Finally, change to the Select Tool (F1), click once on the shape to display the rotation handles, and rotate this ellipse slightly clockwise. Visualise the bomb being spherical here and try to imagine how the surface might curve; as a guide I've turned mine about 21 degrees, which is a number you can pick up from the information bar at the bottom of the Inkscape window.
Repeat this process with a second, smaller highlight, using an opacity of 40% for the second highlight. You'll probably want to rotate this shape a few more degrees to follow the curvature we're trying to imply on our bomb sphere.
Good. Now for the secret ingredient that will give our shiny surface a real boost. Select and copy the main bomb shape using Edit --> Copy or Ctrl and C, then paste two copies over the top of the original using Edit --> Paste in Place or Ctrl, Alt and V.
Move the topmost copy of the bomb up and to the left so that it overlaps about 1/3 of the other one. I'll re-colour the two shapes I'm interested in so you can see more clearly where to position things.
Hold down the Shift key and click on the second circle so that you've got both shapes selected. Then, either press Ctrl and * or go to the menus and select Path --> Intersection to leave behind the area where those circles overlap.
Change the colour of this shape to flat white, then click the Radial Gradient button like before so that it's a white-to-transparent fill. Finally, reduce this shape's opacity to about 60%.
The key to creating shiny solid objects is make sure that your gradients have a hard edge. If you make it too diffuse it will still work, but won't have that hard, metallic look to it that we're seeking here.
OK, so we're starting to get the idea that our main light source is coming from the top left of the image and reflecting off the shiny surface of the bomb. But there ought to be a small amount of light bouncing onto the other side, too, so let's add some extra shiny spots on this side, but with a much lower opacity than before - around 10% will be plenty here.
Step 3 - Make the bomb's neck
Now the bomb itself is complete, it's time to concentrate on details at the top of the drawing. We'll start with the neck, then move onto the fuse last.
We'll need some precise alignment to make this work, so switch on your Inkscape grid now with the # key. Find a space on your Inkscape canvas and draw an ellipse which is 45 pixels wide by 20 pixels high; the shape should 'snap' to the grid lines. This new shape will probably repeat the last fill settings were used, so it's very likely you'll have a white ellipse at 10% opacity. Hop back to the Fill and Stroke panel and change this to be R = 12, G = 12, B = 12 like we used before, and slide that opacity back up to 100%.
Make a copy of this ellipse that sits over the top of the first, using our copy (Ctrl and C) and paste in place (Ctrl, Alt and V) trick from earlier. Then move this copy straight down by 25 pixels. Hold down the Ctrl key with the mouse to lock the movement direction to one axis as you do this.
Change to the Rectangle Tool (keyboard button R) and draw a rectangle which is exactly as wide as the ellipses, and aligned to the widest points of each one. This will be the piece that joins the together shortly.
With this rectangle still selected, hold down Shift and click the bottom ellipse it overlaps. Use the keyboard command of Ctrl and +, or choose Path --> Union from the menus to join these two shapes together into one. Set it to be behind the top ellipse by pressing Page Down on the keyboard or use the Object menu and choose Object --> Lower. You can also switch off the grid at this point, if you want.
Keep this shape selected and change its fill to be a linear gradient in the Fill and Stroke dialog box. Click on the Edit button again to go to the Gradient Editor pop-up.
For the best outcome we want to create a multi-stop gradient here: one that has four gradient stops along its width. By default, Inkscape assigns two gradient stops - the start and end, so click the Add Stop button twice to add two more.
Set the stops on this gradient to the below RGB colours (or use approximations on the colour wheel if that's easier for you) to get our gradient's blend to be how we want it. We'll also change the Offset for the two middle stops to tell Inkscape where to change the colour across the gradient.
This little task-within-a-task should leave you with something resembling this:
To be consistent across our drawing we should also add a subtle gradient to the top part of the neck too, so select that ellipse and apply a linear gradient which has a first stop of R = 61, G = 61, B = 61, and an end point of R = 12, G = 12, B = 12.
Great. Now drag a selection area around both parts of this bomb part so they're both highlighted, and press Ctrl and G, or select Object --> Group to bind them into one object on the canvas.
Rotate this grouped object by about 30 degrees or so, then move it over to your main bomb shape, positioning it over the top of the bomb somewhere close to the edge. Bring this object to the front with the Home key if it's not situated on top of other items for some reason.
Step 4 - Draw the fuse using Pattern Along Path
Great, we're getting there; time to create the fuse. The first step is to draw the path that the string will run along, so activate the Pen Tool (keyboard B) now and click on three points to draw a curving line out from the collar piece we've just made. Drag the line outwards as you click on the second and third points to make it bendy.
Now for the tricky part - making the fuse look like a fuse. Switch your grid back on, and swap to the Rectangle Tool again. Draw one that is 5 pixels tall and 10 wide; zooming in a good way will help here. Holding the Ctrl key, click and drag the corner-rounding controls all the way down so that you have a capsule-shaped result.
Start by converting this shape to a path instead of a rectangle; press Ctrl, Shift and C to do that or use Object --> Object to Path in the menus. Then switch to the Node Tool (F2) and drag a selection area around the four middle nodes on this shape. Click the Make Nodes Smooth button from the Node toolbar above your drawing - you should see a small change as the extra node handles appear after you've done it; don't worry if you miss it though.
Switch the grid off, and drag another rubber band selection around all of the nodes on the bottom half of this shape, then click on one and drag the selected nodes over to the right to achieve a round-edged, blobby shape. I've moved mine by 4 pixels; you can check the distance
Looks a bit like a peanut, doesn't it? This is the shape we'll use to create the string effect of our fuse by repeating it along the wavy path we made before. Change to the Select Tool so that the whole of this peanut shape is selected (not just the nodes). Copy it with Ctrl and C but don't paste it anywhere yet. Instead, go and click on the fuse path and use the catchy keyboard shortcut of Ctrl, Shift and 7 - the menu alternative is Path --> Path Effect Editor - to bring up the Path Effect Editor panel.
From the dropdown box at the top, choose Pattern Along Path, and click Add. Guess what the pattern you're going to use is ... yep, the blobby shape from before. Click the Paste button in the Current Effect area, along with the Link to Path button next to it. By doing this, any changes we make to the blob shape will be reflected in the Pattern Along Path straight away, which is handy.
At the moment we'll have something that looks like this:
Now, as things stand it doesn't look like we're helping the situation at all, but we'll tackle this step by step and you'll see how it comes together. Start by changing the Pattern Copies dropdown box to a setting of Repeated.
Then alter the Spacing setting to -4 which, as it's a negative number, will move each copy of the closer together (obviously, using a positive number has the opposite effect).
With this Spacing setting in place, we've now closed the pattern up so that each blob overlaps the previous one, creating the illusion of a wound string; perfect for a bomb fuse. Now to add some suitable colour to this feature of our drawing.
Firstly, convert this blobby shape-along-a-curve to a path with Ctrl, Shift and C (or Object --> Object to Path as before). Then break it apart so that each shape is an object in its own right, with Ctrl, Shift and K. Path --> Break Apart in the menus does the same job.
Now that we've got this set up, we can concentrate on creating a good fill for the fuse elements. Keep them all selected and head back to the Fill and Stroke dialog box. Remove the outline (Stroke) from the shapes, and apply a linear gradient which runs from R = 184, G = 130, B = 7 to R = 235, G = 203, B = 113. You'll see how each shape picks up this gradient and inherits the fill just as we want.
It can be useful to Group all the fuse parts together in case you want to stretch or move it as a whole. I did, so that I could make a small correction to the positioning and centre the fuse on the top of the neck part. At this point we can delete that peanut shape we used as our source pattern earlier, and zoom back out to take a look at what we've got up to now.
Step 5 - Light the fuse and step back
Excellent, we're nearly there. Let's ignite this drawing a bit more by adding some sparks to the fuse to make it look like it's lit and ready to blow. Pick up the Star Tool with the * key and draw one right over the end of our fuse by clicking and dragging outwards from the centre. In the Star tool's settings toolbar, set the number of corners to 6, the Spoke Ratio to 0.250, and the rest of the settings to 0. Give it a fill of R = 255, G = 242, B = 2.
Make another star, keeping the same settings as before, but make it slightly smaller and inside the first. Rotate it slightly too. You can control both the size and rotation with Star Tool as you're drawing it, which is handy. This one should have a fill of R = 223, G = 62, B = 14.
Time for one last finishing touch. Switch back to the Ellipse Tool and draw a narrow ellipse right at the base of the bomb. Fill it with black and press the End key to send it behind the main bomb object. Also on the Fill and Stroke panel, use the sliders to give it a blur of 15 and an opacity of around 50%.
And there we have it - a great-looking shiny bomb drawing created in Inkscape and ready to be exported to PNG any time you're ready.
If you like, you could add a background to the piece as well, just to set things off. A simple square to frame everything with, drawn on top with a three-stop gradient in very light greys, then sent to the back of the illustration using the End key so it's behind our drawing.
Refer back to step 3 of the tutorial - Making the bomb neck - if you need a reminder of how to tackle gradients with more than two stops on them.
We've learned an awful lot in this tutorial, from working with simple shapes to manipulating opacities and gradients, to using Inkscape Live Path Effects when creating repeating shapes along a path, so if you've been working along all the steps, well done!
How did you find this tutorial? Has it been dynamite, or a bit of a damp squib? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.
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