Inkscape definitely takes some getting used to when you’re first starting out with the program. One of the first tasks you may be looking to learn is how to rotate an object in Inkscape. Unlike other programs, like GIMP, that use a specific “rotate” tool for this task, Inkscape does things a little differently.
Let’s get in to how to accomplish rotating an object in Inkscape. I’ll be using Inkscape 1.0 for this tutorial. Though I’ll be using a rectangle shape to demonstrate how this works, the Inkscape rotate method works for all objects and shapes, as well as text boxes. You can check out the video version of this tutorial below, or scroll passed it for the full Help Article available in over 30 languages via the language dropdown in the upper left corner.
Also, I have my Inkscape user interface set up in Dark Mode. You can learn how to do that in my Inkscape 1.0 Dark Theme Set Up help article.
Method 1: Rotate On-Canvas with Rotation Handles
Let’s start by drawing an object. To do this, I’ll grab my rectangle tool (red arrow in the image above), left-click on a color in the Swatches panel (blue arrow) to select a color for the rectangle, and will click and drag my mouse on the canvas to draw the rectangle.
When I release my mouse, the rectangle will now appear on my canvas with the color I selected from the swatches panel (red in this case) as the fill color. You’ll also notice there are 3 handles on my shape – a square handle in the upper left and bottom right corner of the rectangle (blue arrows in the photo above), and a circular handle in the upper right corner (green arrow). These handles are for adjusting the width and height of your shape (the square handles) or adding roundness to the corners of your shape (circular handle).
However, to rotate the shape, we’ll need to grab the Select tool in the tool box (red arrow in the photo above). Once you have this tool selected, the handles around your shape will change to black arrows at various parts of the shape (blue arrow).
These handles that first appear allow you to change the size and aspect ratio of the shape.
If I click directly on the shape with my select tool, the handles will change. You’ll see four arrows along the sides of the shape (blue arrow in the image above), and four arrows on the corners of the shape (red arrow). The arrows in the corners of the shape are the arrows that will allow us to rotate the object (again, the red arrow).
If I click and drag one of these arrows in the corner, the shape will rotate in the direction I drag my mouse. In the photo above, I rotated the shape in the direction of the blue arrow. You’ll see the angle of rotation down in the status bar below the canvas at the very bottom of Inkscape (red arrow in the image above).
When I release my mouse, the shape will now be rotated and the handles will re-appear (red arrow in the picture above). I can always click and drag the rotation handles at any point to rotate the shape from that position.
In this case, I’ll hit ctrl+z to reset the shape back to before I rotated it.
Method 2: Using Shortcut Keys and Tool Controls Bar
Something else I want to point out is that there are shortcut keys you can use on your keyboard to rotate shapes or objects by specific increments (in degrees) or to rotate your object from a different axis, or rotation center, rather than around the center of the shape. These keys are called “modifier keys.”
For example, if I click and hold the rotate handle, then hold the ctrl key on my keyboard while I drag my mouse, the shape will rotate in 15 degree increments. You can see this in the status bar (blue arrow in the photo above) near the bottom of my Inkscape window – which denotes the increment (-15 degrees in this case since I rotated the shape counter-clockwise), as well as the modifier key I’m using (it says “with Ctrl to snap angle” since I’m using the ctrl key). I’ll hit ctrl+z on my keyboard to undo this action and reset the shape back to its original position.
On the other hand, I can rotate my object in 1 degree increments by using the “alt+[” (to rotate to the left) or “alt+]” (to rotate to the right) shortcut keys. I can hold down the alt key and press the “[” or “]” to continue rotating the object in one degree increments in either direction. Keep in mind that using this method won’t display the rotation info in the status bar, so you’ll have to count how many times you’ve hit the shortcut keys if you need to know exactly how many degrees you’ve rotated in either direction.
I’ll hit ctrl+z to back up to the shape’s original position.
If I hold the shift key while I rotate the object, the object will rotate from the opposite corner of the handle I am clicked on. So, for example, if I hold shift and click and drag the bottom left rotation handle (red arrow in the image above), the object will rotate around the top right corner of the object (blue arrow) rather than the center of the object.
If I hold shift+ctrl, the object will rotate in 15 degree increments around the opposite corner from the rotation handle I am clicked on. In other words, these two key modifiers can be combined to produce both effects simultaneously. I’ll hit ctrl+z to back up until my shape is in its original un-rotated position.
If you want to quickly rotate an object by 90 degrees, you can do this using any one of two methods.
The first method is by clicking either the “Rotate 90° CCW” icon (for rotating counter-clockwise) or “Rotate 90° CW” (for rotating clockwise) in the Tool Controls bar (outlined in blue in the photo above).
The second method is by going to Object>Rotate 90° CW to rotate the object in a clockwise direction or Object>Rotate 90° CCW to rotate the object in a counter-clockwise direction. This will produce the same result as the first method – so the method you ultimately go with just depends on personal preference (the icons are more easily accessible, so I recommend going with that method).
Method 3: Using the Transform Dialogue
The last method for rotating shapes, objects, text, etc. in Inkscape is to use the Transform dialogue. To access this, select your object on your canvas and go to Object>Transform.
This will open the Transform dialogue on the right-hand side of your Inkscape canvas (outlined in green in the photo above). Here, you’ll see several tabs for transforming your selected object. The third tab is labeled “Rotate” (red arrow). Click this tab.
Within this tab, you’ll see a numerical field labeled “Angle” with a – and + symbol (outlined in green in the image above). Here you can rotate your object using the selected unit of measurement featured in the drop-down to the right of this field. By default, the unit is set to degrees (°).
Typing a positive value in this field will rotate your object clockwise, and typing a negative value in this field will rotate your object counter-clockwise. For example, if I type “45” here (red arrow), then click the “apply” button (green arrow), my shape will rotate 45 degrees clockwise.
Your object will always rotate from its current position based on the numerical value you input in this field. So, our shape is currently rotated 45 degree. If I type “15” and click the “apply” button again, the shape will be rotate 15 degrees from the last position. In other words, 15 degrees will be added on to the existing 45 degree rotation, making the shape now rotated at 60 degrees.
Of course, if I type “-30” here, the shape will be rotated 30 degrees counter-clockwise from its current position. So, the shape will now have 30 degrees of clockwise rotation. You can also use the icons to the far right to change the direction of the rotation (red arrows in the photo above). The left icon, when selected, will rotate the shape counter-clockwise by the amount you put in the numerical field. The right icon, when selected, will cause the shape to be rotated clockwise.