6 Reasons Why Union Is Not Working In Inkscape | Path Functions

6 Reasons Why Union Is Not Working In Inkscape | Path Functions 800 470 Nick Saporito

Merging objects together via the Union path function is one of the most basic and frequently-used functions in Inkscape. However, it doesn’t always work the way you expect it to work. In this post I’ll be covering 6 common reasons why union is not working in Inkscape. This also applies to other path functions like difference and intersection as well.

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Path Functions

Path functions in Inkscape allow you to dictate how objects interact with each other. You can merge objects together, use one to cut a hole in the other, create a new object from the intersecting area of several objects, etc.

As powerful as path functions are though, they don’t always work as expected. This is usually because path functions only work on individual objects that are paths. So this means objects like raster images, clips, and masks are excluded (for the most part.)

One problem you may run into frequently if you’re a newcomer to Inkscape is certain path functions (like Union) not working. This is something that used to confuse me as well when I was learning Inkscape. It may not make sense just yet, but I can assure you there is a logical explanation for why union is not working in Inkscape. Let’s explore some of the reasons this may be happening.

Common Reasons Why Union Is Not Working In Inkscape

If a basic path function like Union is not working in Inkscape, it’s because path functions only work on individual objects that are paths. Make sure that your objects aren’t grouped together.

If you find it easier to learn in video format then be sure to watch the video tutorial I’ve put together located at the top of the page!

Reason #1: Your Objects Are Grouped Together

The most common reason why union is not working in Inkscape is usually because you’re trying to unify objects that are grouped together.

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Grouped objects

Path functions (like union) only work on individual objects that are paths. They will not work on objects that are grouped together, so make sure to ungroup your objects by pressing control + shift + g (you may have to do this a few times to completely ungroup everything) then try again.

Reason #2: Text Objects

Performing path functions on text objects is a little tricky. If your text object is still an editable text object then all of the path functions should work just fine.

You can determine if it’s still a text object by referencing the little node in the bottom-left corner of the object. You can also grab the Text Tool and see if it’s still editable.

Editable text object

However, if you have converted your text object to a path then the path functions will not work. The reason for this is because when you convert a text object to a path, the result is a grouping of individual letters, and as I’ve outlined above, path functions do not work on groups of objects. So the fix for this is to simply ungroup your text object.

Ungrouped letters

Reason #3: Strokes and Lines

Certain path functions (like union) only work on objects that have a fill area. In the following example, the green circle has a full area, but the black stroke does not.

Stroke objects

Since there’s no fill area of the black line, there’s nothing there to merge with the green circle as far as Inkscape is concerned. If you unify these two objects together, you’re just going to end up with a green circle.

If you want to unify the line and the circle together, you’ll first have to convert the stroke to a path by selecting it and navigating to Path > Stroke to Path. When you do this, the black line essentially becomes the fill area and you should be able to unify them now.

Reason #4: Clipped Objects

Another reason why union may not be working as expecting is because you’re trying to apply it to an object that is clipped with another object.

Clipped objects

A clipped object is not a path, so if you try performing path functions on a clipped object it is not going to work the way you expect it to work. As you can see in the example above, the result of unifying the clipped blue star with the green circle is that Inkscape referenced the blue square, even though it wasn’t visible any longer. You simply cannot unify clipped objects in Inkscape.

Reason #5: Masked Objects

Path functions do not work on masked objects for the same reason they don’t work on clipped objects — they are not paths.

Masked objects

In the example above I applied a raster image to a star to give it a grunge texture (I have a tutorial on that here if you want to check that out.)

If I were to unify these objects together, the result would be a green combination of both shapes, but without the texture. This is because you cannot perform path functions on masked objects. If I wanted to apply this texture to a combination of the two shapes, I’d need to unify then together first then apply the text.

Reason #6: Objects With Filters Applied

The final reason why a path function like union is not working in Inkscape is because you’re trying to use an object that has a filtered applied, like the example below.

Object with a filter

You theoretically can unify objects that have filters so long as they’re paths. However, the union function may not work as you expected. This is because takes the properties of the lowest object and applies it to the new unified object. So if I were to unify the two objects depicted above, the result would be a green combination of the circle and the square.

If I wanted the result to be a combination of the circle and the square with the filter applied, I would need to position the square beneath the circle.


These are the only 6 reasons I can think of why a path function like union wouldn’t be working as expected. If none of these addressed your problem then leave a comment below and I’ll see if I can help. As always, thanks for watching!

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Nick Saporito

Designer, content creator, and the founder of LogosByNick.com — an educational media platform for learning about graphic design.

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  • Ana

    Hey Nick, I have been trying twice already to do a beer mug from your video from about 4 years ago. Every time I come to the part where i already added the handle to the mug and union it with three elements and then select all of it, duplicate and union. It doesnt allow me to do it. Do you maybe know what is the issue.

  • Ben Andersen

    Gday mate,
    Love your vids, I was having an issue unioning text that had been “path – object to path/Stroke to path” and it wasn’t working, I tried ungrouping the text and it didnt work, but when i ungrouped individual letters it split the stroke and the fill and then i could use the union function.


    • Nick Saporito

      Yeah in Inkscape 1.0 they changed the stroke to path function so that it maintains both objects in a group. It kind of blows up a lot of lessons I’ve created over the years unfortunately.

  • Perry

    Hello Nick,
    Enjoy your videos. I am having trouble with the path function simulating the effect as shown with your video of the word “INK” from about 4 years ago. I try to punch holes in a particular letter with several circles ungrouped but it does apply the divide effect or any of the path effects. I have quite a fast laptop so am not sure what could be wrong, any thoughts would be appreciated, thanks.

  • Niki

    Hey Nick,
    I am having the fussiest of times trying to combine two objects. I’ve been fiddling on and off with inkscape for over a year now, so it’s always funny when these ‘simpler’ issues pop up for me. I just have a circle, and a mosaic pattern I made of lines (I combined them, and stroke to path’d, and turned off stroke and on fill). I can combine the two objects, but for the life of me I can’t do union/difference/etc. I just want to cut my mosaic into the circle, but a simple clip won’t do the trick as I need to go on to laser cut this, and the laser cutter undoes the clip.

    • Nicole

      I’ve just figured it out. I happened to notice that at the bottom of the screen it gives details on the selection, ‘1 path with 4 nodes’ ‘1 object’. One of my objects read as ‘2 objects grouped’, I ungrouped, and the entire object was still intact. But now it allowed me to then union with the first object. I undid the union, and Inkscape now said object 2 was a ‘group of 1 objects’ – which is rather silly! Again I couldn’t run an intersection. So I ungrouped the group of 1, and magically it worked. I don’t know if that is some sort of glitch or user error, but I’m glad I noticed the detail bar at the bottom! I’m also glad I happened upon your article, so that the ‘group’ detail caught my eye. Thank you!

    • Nick Saporito

      I wasn’t aware that I was blocking IPs from Venezuela. If you were able to access this post and comment on it you should be able to use the logo design academy. Unless this is happening through Teachable’s website?

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