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Start with Inkscape

Boolean Operations

There are multiple ways to modify an object in your drawing. If the object is a rectangle, an ellipse, a star or a spiral, i.e. a geometrical shape drawn with one of the shape tools, then this object is a shape, and not a path. Shapes can only be modified by dragging their specific handles. In contrast to shapes, you must use tools that are meant for modifying paths, if you want to edit a path. Shapes can be converted into paths, so the path tools can then be used with them.

To convert a shape into a path:

  • 1. Select the shape with theSelector tool.
  • 2. In the menu, selectPath > Object to path.
Warning: a shape can always be converted to a path, but a path can never be converted back into an object!

The Boolean Operations work on paths, or they try to convert the selected objects to paths before they compute the result. All these operations need at least 2 convertible objects or paths, which will be combined following specific rules.

  • Union. Keeps the common outline of all selected paths.
  • Difference. Subtracts one path from another one.
  • Intersection. Only keeps those parts that are covered by all selected paths.
  • Exclusion. Keeps those parts which are covered by an uneven number of paths (if you have two objects, this is where the objects do not overlap).
  • Division. The path below is cut into pieces by the path above.
  • Cut Path. Creates as many paths as there are path intersections between the two paths.
  • Combine. Keeps all parts, and combines them into a single object.
  • Break Apart. If a path consists of a number of independent parts (subpaths), this will create that number of separate objects.

To use these operations, select the two (or more) objects, and then select the option of your choice in the Path menu. The result will immediately appear on the canvas - if it doesn't, read the error message that will appear in the status bar, at the bottom of the Inkscape window, to find out about the reason for the failure.

Two objects about to be unioned

The result of unioning the triangle and the square

Unioning a triangle and a square gives a house.

The rectangle will become the door opening

The door is open

 Difference between a rectangle and a house creates an opening for the door.

Two overlapping ellipses

Two overlapping ellipses.

Intersection between the two ellipses

Intersection between the two ellipses.

Exclusion between the two ellipses

Exclusion between the two ellipses.

Ellipse with a path on top

Someone has drawn a path with the pencil tool (with the setting of shape: Ellipse) on the orange ellipse.

Ellipse divided by the path


The two parts of the ellipse have been combined into a single path (with subpaths)

Move apart and combine (to form a single path composed of two subpaths).

Each subpath has become a single path after Break Apart.

Break Apart separates all subpaths into independent objects.

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