Design a detailed flip calendar in Inkscape
This tutorial was requested by blog reader @Ty_Foo, who linked me to a stylish-looking icon design by Google Plus user Omar Naveed. Is it possible to make this in Inkscape? Of course it is!
In fact, the process is relatively straightforward and we'll mainly be making use of the Rectangle tool to create objects, then tweaking their appearance with clever offset shapes and opacity tricks. The secret to getting this kind of pixel-perfect appearance is accurate control of positioning and sizing, so the grid will be handy here too.
This is a very reproduceable tutorial so I've assigned it an "Easy" rating - if you're familiar with Inkscape's basic toolset you should have no problems here. Let's take a quick look at the finished product we'll be making.
Can't wait until the day? You don't have to - let’s get on with it.
Skills you'll be developing in this tutorial
- Use of the Rectangle (R) and tool to create pixel-perfect objects
- Z-order object management
- Managing opacity of objects to add depth and recognisability to designs
Step 1 - Set up your canvas and guides before starting
Open the Document Properties box with File --> Document Properties or Ctrl, Shift and D and enter a value of 400 pixels for both the width and height of the canvas. Switch on an Inkscape grid here too, by clicking on the Grids tab and pressing the New button (make sure Rectangular grid is selected in the dropdown box - it usually is by default). The default settings should be fine.
Drag in two guides from the top and bottom Rulers in the Inkscape window. These should be positioned so they intersect in the centre of your canvas
Step 2 - Create the initial shapes for the calendar's back
Make sure the Snap bounding box corners button is depressed, and activate the Rectangle Tool from the toolbox (R on the keyboard). Use it to draw a 200px square on the canvas - hold the Ctrl key on the keyboard to constrain the shape to a square. Click and drag the shape out to the right dimensions; you can monitor the width and height of any object you're drawing in the information bar at the bottom of the Inkscape window. After the shape is complete, these measurements will appear in the tool's settings toolbar higher up.
Open up the Fill and Stroke dialog box and give the square a fill of #1a1a1a, which is a very dark grey, but not quite black. We don't want a Stroke on this shape so unselect that using the X on the Stroke tab of this panel.
Then move the square shape to the centre of the canvas using the Select Tool (F1).
The calendar we're aiming to emulate has rounded corners throughout, so flip back to the Rectangle Tool and find toolbar we looked at before. In the Ry option box, enter a value of 20px - this is the Corner Radius setting. You can also use the Node Tool (F2 on the keyboard) and do this using the mouse if you prefer.
Duplicate this shape twice with Ctrl and D or Edit --> Duplicate. Select the topmost copy and open the Transform dialog box with Ctrl, Shift and M. Enter values of 2 in the Horizontal box, and -2 in the Vertical box. Then click the Apply button when done. I'll show you what this looks like with some alternative shape fills:
Switch to the Select Tool again and, holding the Shift key down, click on the shape copy underneath our offset top one. This will add the second shape to the current selection. It may help to zoom in to do this. Press Ctrl and - or choose Path --> Difference in the menus, to cut the shape and leave a narrow inset in the top-left corner of the calendar's back.
Give this shape a fill of white - #ffffff - and lower its opacity to around 30% in the Fill and Stroke panel.
Repeat this process of Duplicating, Transforming, and Subtracting but move the top copy the other way - up and to the left - using Horizontal setting of -2 and a Vertical one of 2. Give the resulting shape a black fill (#000000), lowering the opacity slightly to 80%.
Step 3 - Add pages to the calendar
Our calendar is going to be pretty useless without any pages, so let's begin adding them now. Draw another Rectangle which is of Width and Height of 160px, with a Corner Radius of Ry = 20. The latest-created shape, it will appear at the top of the stack, which is where we want it to be. Give it an initial fill of #e8e8e8, and a Stroke which is 1 pixel wide, with colour #bababa using the tab next door. Set the opacity back to 100% for this shape.
Change this shape's fill to be a Linear Gradient, using the button on the Fill and Stroke panel. Then click the Edit Gradient button to open up the dialog box where we can make changes to it. In the pop-up that appears, select the second of the two Stops, and change its colour to #fafafa in the RGBA box at the bottom. Move the silder to the right, to assign it at full opacity - 255.
Swap to the Gradient Tool, which is Ctrl and F1 on the keyboard, then click and drag the gradient such that it is vertical. Make the starting point of the gradient (indicated by the square marker) to be level with the centre of the page, and the end point (the circle marker) about half-way down the page. Then, over on the Fill and Stroke panel, select Reflected from the Repeat dropdown box.
Duplicate this shape, and use the Transform dialog box again to move this copy downwards by 3 pixels Horizontal: 0 and Vertical: -3. Push this behind the original top page by pressing the Page Down key or by selecting Object --> Lower in the menus.
Repeat this process by duplicating this shape, and Transform it downwards by 3 pixels more than before: 6 pixels. Your settings will have been retained from the last run, so this process will be quick. Do it again with another copy offset by 9 pixels so you've got 3 pages sitting below your first one.
Step 3 - Add a date and the top page overlays
Switch to the Text Tool (keyboard T) and click on the canvas, somewhere to the left-hand side of your page, which will help you to judge the correct font-size to use shortly. Type in your calendar's date number and then highlight the text. Select an appropriate font style and size using the Text toolbar, and change the fill colour in the Fill and Stroke panel as before. I've gone with a strong red: #c20707.
Move the text into position with the Select Tool. It should be aligned to the middle horizontally, and sit halfway between the horizontal guide and the top edge of the calendar page. You can toggle your Guides on the page at any time with the pipe key: |.
Time to add more depth to our focal area. Duplicate the top page square of the calendar once again, then draw a second rectangle which overlaps the bottom half of the first; use the guide you created earlier to help with this step. Multi-select the two shapes with the Shift key, then subtract the second object from the first using the Difference operation (Ctrl and -).
Remove any stroke from this shape and change its fill to a solid white one. Using the Gradient Tool, drag a gradient line upwards from the bottom of the shape, to around half way. That Inkscape default setting of making Linear Gradients transparent at one end does the job for us here. Lower the opacity of this shape to 70%
Copy and Paste this shape with Ctrl and C, then Ctrl and V. For once, we don't want to Duplicate because the duplicate will be given the same gradient fill, which we're about to change. Do that, and we'll affect both shapes at the same time.
Flip the copy vertically with the V key or Object --> Flip Vertical, and drag it into position with the Select Tool so it sits over the lower half of your top page.
Change the gradient fill of this object to be black to transparent, by first setting a solid black fill, then clicking the Linear Gradient button and dragging out a gradient path as before. Set an opacity of just 5% for this object, as it is dark and placed above a light-coloured object.
Lastly, create two rectangles which are the full width of the calendar page, but just 1 pixel in height. Use the grid and a high Zoom level to position them adjacent to each other vertically. The top one should have a solid white fill, and an opacity of 40%, while the bottom should be black and have an opacity of 30%.
This will have the effect of looking like there's a fold or divide in the paper of our calendar - a neat trick that is often used in vector graphic design.
Step 4 - Add the flip calendar's rings
Now we'll add the the rings that bind all the pages of the calendar. This is actually quite a simple process and only requires two shapes.
Start with the darker outline for these, where we're implying the pages have been punched in order to move over the binder rings. Grid back on (# key, if you need a reminder). Zoom in and draw a 10 pixel wide, 24 pixel tall Rectangle which spans our newly-created page divide exactly. Round the corners of this shape fully with either the Rectangle Tool or the toolbar's manual settings, and assign a fill colour of #545454.
Keeping the grid switched on, create another Rectangle which sits inside the first exactly and has a Reflected, Linear Gradient fill of #f7f7f7 to #9b9b9b.
Give this shape a 1-pixel, light-grey Stroke of #e3e3e3, which will give the shape a bit more definition when we zoom back out. Then select the two objects at the same time with the Shift key again, Duplicate them, and move the duplicates to the other side, an equal distance in from the edge of the page.
It's at this point that I've noticed my numbers aren't quite aligned properly. It's not a big deal, but we're going for pixel-perfection here and I'm confident we can fix the situation. But how do we select the text when it's underneath so many other shapes?
No problem - there are (at least) two ways. One is to use the Tab key and cycle through our objects. But I've got a better idea: because I can see what the text says, use the Find function and search for it. Ctrl and F brings up the dialog box, then just search for the text. Inkscape will select the object for me, then I can reposition with the arrow keys, and resize slightly with a mouse-drag of the vertical handles.
Step 5 - Add the background.
Draw another Rectangle which is the full width and height of the canvas, and which has a solid fill of #3f90af. This will appear on top of all your other shapes but don't worry about that, you can send it quickly to the bottom of the stack with the End key or Object --> Lower to Bottom in the menus. Home is the button which does the opposite, by the way.
For the first time in this tutorial, swap to the Ellipse Tool (keyboard shortcut E) and draw a large, white ellipse covering the centre of your image. Send this to the back with the End key, then raise it one level with Page Up so it's in front of the blue background.
Apply a Blur of 30, and an opacity of 20% to soften the effect greatly and give our subject a nice backlit effect.
As well as the highlight, let's add a shadow to lift the calendar away from the background. Select the first square that we drew - the calendar's back - and Duplicate it. Push it to the back of the image with End, then raise it above the blue background and the white highlight, by pressing Page Up twice. Blur the shape with the slider to a value of about 7.
Have a look at your image and perform any other tweaks. Right at the end, I realised my text was much too dark, and used the Find function again to select it and change the fill colour to #eb3e37 to give my final result.
And that's your vector desk calendar drawn entirely in Inkscape and ready to Export. Thanks to TyFoo once again for the tutorial request and Omar Naveed for the great original which served as inspiration.
How did you find this tutorial? Will you be saving the date, or was it just like a bad date? Leave me a message in the comments section below.
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