How to mirror in Inkscape

How To Mirror In Inkscape | Drawing With Symmetry

How To Mirror In Inkscape | Drawing With Symmetry 800 470 Nick Saporito

In today’s tutorial we’ll be going over a more obscure feature in Inkscape, which is the ability to draw in “symmetry mode”, where transformations made to one object are mirrored and copied on the other side of the axis. In order to mirror in Inkscape we will need to use a designated path effect.

Upon first impression it may appear that you are unable to mirror in Inkscape as this isn’t a feature or option anywhere to be found in the standard application menus at the top of the screen. There is, however, a Path Effect that was added to Inkscape retroactively that allows you to draw in symmetry mode.

This path effect can be tricky to locate though. What’s more, there appears to be no official documentation on it either! So let’s uncover this mystery once and for all.

How To Mirror In Inkscape

To mirror in Inkscape, select the object (or group of objects) you’d like to mirror and open the Path Effects menu (Control + Shift + 7). Click the plus (+) icon to add a new path effect, and choose Mirror Symmetry from the list.

The following video tutorial will walk you through the entire process, step-by-step:

Continue on for the written tutorial.

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Table of Contents

Step 1: Designate an object or group of objects to mirror

In order to mirror in Inkscape we will first need to designate an object (or a group of objects) to mirror. If you’d like to mirror multiple objects then make sure to group them first (refer to the video tutorial if you don’t know how to do this.)

For this demonstration we will be making a simple smiley face, so I made the following objects:

Sample objects

Click to enlarge

The quarter circle on the bottom represents the left half of the mouth. The circles up top represent the left eye. This grouping of objects will be duplicated and mirror across the vertical axis to make a smiley face.

Important: the mirror symmetry setting we’re about to apply only works on objects that are paths, so make sure to convert your object(s) to paths before proceeding.

Step 2: Apply the Mirror Symmetry path effect

Make sure you have your object(s) selected by clicking on them, then open the Path Effects menu by navigating to:

Path > Path Effects

As a shortcut, you can also access this menu via the keyboard shortcut, which is Control + Shift + 7.

The Path Effects menu should now be active on the right-hand side of your screen as a docked menu:

Path Effects menu

Click the plus (+) icon in the bottom corner of the menu to apply a new path effect. If the button is grayed out then you either do not have your object(s) selected or they are not vector paths.

Once you click the plus icon, you should be prompted with a menu of path effects to choose from:

Path Effects choices

Outlined in red.

Select Mirror Symmetry from the list. If you are having trouble locating it then you can type the name into the search bar at the top of the screen.

Step 3: Adjust the mirror settings according to your preferences

Once you apply the Mirror Symmetry path effect, your selection should be mirrored across the vertical axis:

Mirrored selection

You can change the axis (either vertical or horizontal) using the Mode dropdown towards the bottom of the path effect settings menu.

If you’d like to change the distance between the mirrored copies, or rotate the mirrored copy, you can do so by activating the Edit Paths By Nodes tool (keyboard shortcut: N). Once activated, handles should populate on the canvas that will allow you to move and rotate the mirror:

Editing the mirror settings

Step 4: Transformations made will now be mirrored across the axis

Now that you’ve set up your mirror in Inkscape, you can continue working on your design and any transformations made will be copied to the other side:

Live editing

If working with multiple objects, as is the case in my example, then you’ll want to use the Edit Paths By Nodes tool to make these transformations.

This can be a little tricky if you aren’t yet familiar with working with nodes, so refer to the video tutorial at the beginning of the post for detailed instructions on what to do.

Conclusion

It doesn’t take much to mirror in Inkscape, but it does require you to navigate through a menu system and apply an effect that was added later on. This suggests that there was never really any way to mirror draw in Inkscape, which is unfortunate. Hopefully in the future this will be made into a more standardized feature.

If you have any questions or need clarification on anything from this lesson then just leave a comment below.

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Nick Saporito

Hi, I'm Nick— a Philadelphia-based graphic designer with over 10 years of experience. Each year millions of users learn how to use design software to express their creativity using my tutorials here and on YouTube.

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