Inkscape Class

Inkscape Class Day 4

This past Thursday morning, I taught the fourth session of an 8-session (40 minutes per session) course on Inkscape at a Boston-area middle school. (For more general details about the class check out my blog post on day 1.)

Thursday’s Class

Thursday’s class was the first class the students really got a big chunk of time to start working on their project. With only 20 minutes or so under their belt, working on their rock band logo assignment, they’ve already come up with some pretty impressive designs!

Music Artist Logo Review

We started class off by walking through example logo designs from music artists of various genres – I pointed out some of the features about each logo and asked the students to think about how they contributed to the message the logo put across. I also pointed out that they should think about the kind of message they want their logo to send, and brainstorm ways they could change up the design of the logo to follow that message. For example, I contrasted the curves, hearts, stars, and bright colors of Katy Perry’s logo to the sharp angles of Metallica’s logo and asked them to think about each band’s music and how the design fit with the music.

We went over logos Eve and I pulled together from the following bands:

  • Adam Ezra Group
  • Atmosphere
  • Black Flag
  • Boys Like Girls
  • Britney Spears
  • Bullet for My Valentine
  • Cobra Starship
  • Katy Perry
  • Lady Gaga
  • Metallica
  • Muse
  • My Chemical Romance
  • Nirvana
  • Norah Jones
  • Pink
  • Prince
  • The Coup
  • The Killers

I would happily post the logo slideshow we put together, but these logos are all property of other folks and I’m not sure if it’s kosher for me to redistribute them. But you’d probably want to customize the logos you use to your own students’ taste anyway. A few of the groups listed there students in the class explicitly told me they liked the first day when I asked them their favorite groups. I also asked John for some suggestions via his daughter’s taste as to what kids in this age group are listening to today, because I am definitely behind on the times on music these days. 🙂

I was happy to find some of the students weren’t familiar with some of the artists, like the Adam Ezra group and Norah Jones, because it gave them an opportunity to try to figure out what type of music the artist played based on the logo design, and then I was able to tell them what genre the music really was.

I had the idea to arrange for a playlist of a sample of each band’s music – I put one together using a playlist in totem and Amazon’s music preview links. Turns out those preview links expire after 20 minutes or so, so when I went to play the playlist later on, it didn’t work! Oh, well. If you teach this class to your own students, consider picking up some sample music to play for the students as part of a “What genre is this group based on its logo” guessing game. 🙂 I think it could be a fun way to get the students to think critically about what message the different attributes of the logo designs support.

Color Palettes

We talked a little bit about how color palettes can be an inspiration and help convey a message in a logo. I brought in two color palette books that I left out on the center table of the computer lab for the students to use during class if they wanted (none of them ended up using them.) The books are:

I also referred them to which is a great site for inspirational color palettes.

More Material on the Text Tool

I had just a little bit more material on working with the text tool – kerning, line spacing, letter spacing… and we had to just skip pretty much all of it. Why? For some reason, the Inkscape keyboard shortcuts for kerning and letter spacing do not work on a Mac. Does anybody know why this is? On my Fedora machine, for example, I simply use Alt+ to adjust letter spacing. We tried every key combo we could think of on the Mac to try to get it to work – command+>, alt+command+>, ctrl+alt+>, etc. etc. Any ideas from the Mac Inkscape users out there?

Anyhow, I kind of cheated and had the students convert text to paths and move letters manually with the arrow keys on the keyboard to get the same effects that the type tool should have offered. We also put text on paths…. although I have to say, have text run along the inside of a circular path vs the outside of the path is still really confusing. Path > Reverse doesn’t work when the text is already on the path, you have to take the text off the path first. Maybe worth filing a bug?

Logo Assignment

Finally the students got to work on their logo assignment. I read over the guidelines on the assignment sheet and let them go. Strangely, four classes now and the students are still very quiet! As you can see from the photos though, their results were impressive – they are very serious and focused on their work:

Inkscape Class Day 4
Inkscape Class Day 4
Inkscape Class Day 4
Inkscape Class Day 4

Some of the students struggled to come up with a band name. Eve and I offered a few suggestions to help them get unstuck and start playing with Inkscape:

  • If you have the style of the band in mind and just can’t come up with the perfect name, design a logo using your own first or last name, and when you think of a good band name you can replace it.
  • Use an online band name generator.
  • Work on an illustration to accompany the band’s name as part of a logo, and maybe a name will come to mind as you work on the illustration.

That being said, I think I should have maybe had a set of index cards with pre-picked fake band names and genre specifications for stumped students to pick through. It might still be useful for session 5. If I have time I may try to put these together…

Follow Along on Your Own

For those of you following along at home, here’s the lesson plan and exercise sheets we used for the class today:

Introduction to Inkscape Lesson 4

lesson 4

Introduction to Inkscape Lesson 4 Logo Assignment

lesson 4 exercises

How To Download & Install Inkscape

Today we handed out this sheet – although I should have put this together and handed it out on the first day. It’s instructions for the students to download and install Inkscape on their home computers. It includes instructions for Windows and the various OS X versions. There were already students who had Inkscape installed at home when I handed this out – but I think it helps to have instructions and an explanation of what the software is for parents who might worry otherwise:

As always, the source files and the outlines for the entire course are at the course page on my website – but please note that’s a rough outline; as we progress through the class I’m coming up with the more-solid lesson plans based on how far the students get each session. By the end of the course I hope to have the course page organized much better.

By the way, if you’d like to follow all the blog posts about this class at one URL without getting the rest of my feed, I’ve set up a category in WordPress specifically for these posts:

Enjoy! And please do let me know in the comments if you have any questions or suggestions

This course is sponsored by

About Máirín Duffy

Máirín is a principal interaction designer at Red Hat. She is passionate about software freedom and free & open source tools, particularly in the creative domain: her favorite application is Inkscape. You can read more from Máirín on her blog at


9 thoughts on “Inkscape Class Day 4

  1. awesome, thank you for this!

    Posted by jon | January 24, 2010, 2:20 am
  2. Awesome does not even begin to describe it, if I could have a course like this in my school it would be pure <3. It would be fantastic if you could upload some small snippets of the students work

    Posted by Nick HS | January 24, 2010, 7:21 am
  3. Hi Máirín,

    I am interested in teaching small business owners to use Open Source software for their businesses, and Inkscape is one of the programs I’d like to teach them. Please visit my blog:, and contact me if you’d like to talk about teaching the Inkscape course: your material is excellent, and I’d love to work with you!

    Best wishes,

    Posted by Pamela | January 24, 2010, 9:49 am
  4. Awsome !

    Thanks a lot to make this available


    Posted by Kosta | January 24, 2010, 11:36 am
  5. When the whole class is done are you going to be able to post what the students were able to create?

    Posted by Scott Baker | January 25, 2010, 3:31 pm
    • Hi Scott,

      I don’t think I’m going to post the student’s files – since they are under 18 and Americans, we would have needed to have their parents sign forms to license the students’ work. I would love to do a class just on licensing to familiarize the students with open licenses and why they should consider it for their works – but I don’t want to force them into that, and I don’t think we have the class time right now to do that.

      Did you have any particular plans in mind with the students work? I’ll try to take high-quality photos of their T-shirts when they come out with my SLR.

      Posted by mairin | January 26, 2010, 8:55 pm
  6. Don’t know how much this helps for a student lab that is likely to have limited permissions, but here’s one answer to the Alt problem…


    How to make the Alt key work ?

    If you find yourself unable to use Inkscape functions that require the alt key (i.e. option key) such as Alt+D to create a clone or Alt+Click to select under, you will need to turn off the “Emulate three button mouse” under the Input Preferences for X11.

    If you still cannot get it to work you can try using a keyboard mapping file for X11 (the environment Inkscape is running in) called an xmodmap. Open a terminal and type

    cd ~
    touch .xmodmap

    This will create a new text file called “.xmodmap” in your home directory. The period before the actual file name “xmodmap” causes the file to stay hidden within the Finder.

    Now open the file by typing

    open .xmodmap

    and paste the following into the newly created file:

    keycode 66 = Alt_L

    This defines the left option key as alt within all X11 applications, enabling Alt based shortcuts. You need to re-start X11 to see the change.

    The right option key stays the same though, so you cannot use it as Alt but you can still use it to type special characters such as é, ß or \ on non-US keyboards (which is Shift+Option+7 on a German keyboard for example). It makes typing those letters more cumbersome but the user (unfortunately) has to determine him/herself which of the two functionalities is needed most for his/her daily business.

    Posted by Sarah | January 26, 2010, 2:44 pm
  7. Hey, I dented to you about this too! Would you be interested in volunteering to lead a series on IRC for a lot of interested folks based on this course you’re giving?

    Posted by nigelbabu | January 28, 2010, 4:59 am
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