Inkscape, the free scalable vector graphics alternative to premium software like Adobe Illustrator, has held numerous “About Screen” contests over the years as a way to get the Inkscape community involved in the software’s design. It has also provided an outlet for Inkscape artists to showcase their many talents.
In each contest, one winner is declared based on whichever design receives the most votes from the Inkscape and free software community. The winning design is then displayed on the very first “About” screen that pops up every time you open the software.
The previous About Screen Contest, held for the major Inkscape 1.0 release, was won handily by artist Bayu Rizaldhan Rayes’s entry, “Island of Creativity,” which clearly stood out above the other designs with its unique composition and ability to successfully create cohesion between myriad design elements.
Rayes’s intricate work accomplished two major things for the Inkscape program – it raised the profile of Inkscape 1.0 by exemplifying what the program could accomplish, while also raising the bar for future Inkscape About Screen Contests.
On February 21, 2021, Inkscape wrapped up its latest About Screen Contest for its upcoming version, Inkscape 1.1, receiving 83 qualified submissions from vector designers across the Inkscape community. The works submitted this time around are truly incredible, and are a testament not only to how far free graphic design software has come, but also to how diverse the free software community is both in terms of the nationalities of those submitting entries and the style of artwork displayed in those entries.
Below is a showcase of what I think are the stand-out entries from the Inkscape 1.1 About Screen Contest, as well as what I love about each entry showcased. Don’t forget to vote on your favorite entry before the contest closes (you’ll need to create a free account on the main Inskcape site – voting ends Feb 28, 2021)!
Art Bot by fauzan syukri
This entry – Art Bot by fauzan syukri – is incredible in so many ways.
For starters, the overall composition is highly imaginative: it playfully depicts an autonomous painting robot creating a still-life portrait of a nearby potted sunflower.
Another element that makes syukri’s piece work is the unconventional choice of color palette and textures. Rather than going with a traditional “steel” aesthetic for the robot, the artist has instead decided to use what appears to be wood for the robot’s body, with blacked-out metal accents for the robotic skeleton and matching black chords that presumably control the moving parts of the machine. Using wood instead of steel not only makes the robot more approachable, in my opinion, but also makes it seem more like something you’d see a startup or community create rather than a large robotics company. This, in my opinion, fits with the theme of Inskcape being an open source community of developers and users.
Additionally, the peripheral devices surrounding the robot give it tons of character and evoke abstract-realism. One example of this is the computer-kiosk lit up with the Inkscape logo that appears to be the robot’s control center. Another example is the surveillance camera pointed at the sunflower that acts as the “eyes” for the robot – made more obvious by the light beam coming from the camera lens itself. These little clever touches of detail help bring the composition to life and show the artist took extra care to design this scene.
Keeping these elements grounded in approachability are the more innocent aspects of the piece – including the artist’s “palette” where the robot is dipping its paintbrush, as well as the little canvas and easel set up in front of the robot. Finally, the actual image the robot is creating – the adorable painting of the imperfectly-replicated sunflower- is the final element that makes the robot seem friendly if not almost human.
Though the overall scene created by syukri seems simple and playful, it is actually quite complex when you consider that almost the entirety of the design was done on what appears to be an isometric grid, giving the piece additional depth and perspective. Plus, when you zoom in on individual objects, you can see how much detail went into shading the illustration to create realistic lighting, inset elements, and additional areas of texture on pieces like the wood canvas.
Tying this illustration to the Inkscape theme, outside of the obvious fact that this is a vector illustration done in Inkscape, are the nodes and paths surrounding the sunflower and drawn above the robot. These design touches bring visual balance to the artwork. Additionally, the reference to some of Inkscape’s tools like Node Selection tools and the Fill tool remind the viewer of the more technical aspects of the program.
All of the wonderful elements of this piece are brought together by a simple, vibrant gradient background and subtle placement of the latest Inkscape 1.1 logo.
Syukri has a second entry for this contest which is also really great, though I think the one I featured here is the better of the two.
Desenhe Livremente by Ray Oliveria
Desenhe Livremente, which means “Draw Freely” in Portuguese (the main Inkscape slogan), is a piece you may think looks cool if you’re quickly browsing through the contest entries, but has so much detail upon closer look that it is truly astounding. In order to get the full effect of this piece, I highly recommend downloading the SVG file on the contest entry page and zooming in closely on each area of the illustration.
What may appear as randomness at first glance is actually an intricately connected assortment of unique characters that seamlessly transition from one element to the next. And, despite there being so many individual and unique characters, they all retain the same theme and color scheme throughout the piece, pulling off the seemingly impossible task of bringing this scene together flawlessly. All of this is accomplished inside the frame of the Inkscape logo outline, with “Draw Freely” prominently and successfully placed at its center.
If you start from the bottom and work your way up the piece, just some of the characters you’ll see include: a man riding a spaceship, abstract characters playing various instruments (including one playing a drum set with “Livre” painted on the bass drum), Inkscape tools brought to life as they dance and emote across the composition, and myriad other unique and wonderfully abstract characters like a disco robot and the Inkscape logo drawn as a runner crossing a “Finish” line at the top of the piece (which is also the tip of the Inkscape logo).
There are many other characters I recommend you explore for yourself in this piece that aren’t mentioned above.
Overall, this illustration is like a masterful and carefully crafted doodle. Each element appears freehand-drawn, while still being totally comprised of scalable vector graphics. Plus, each piece has been carefully planned to perfectly fit its position in the work. Not a single millimeter is wasted, and yet not a single element is superfluous.
The color palette has a retro-modern feel to it – like a ’90’s cartoon with a 2021 facelift. All of this is placed on a subtle eggshell-white/tan background to help the colors of the main piece stand out. Finally, the Inkscape 1.1 logo is placed cleverly in the bottom left-corner – prominent enough to see clearly but still giving the spotlight to the centerpiece illustration.
I should note that this is one of two entries by Oliveira, both of which are good enough to win the competition, though I think this particular entry is the better of the two.
Home Office: Uma realidade mais presente by Rafael Lopes
The next entry showcased here is called “Home Office: Ume Realidade Mais Presente,” translated to mean “Home Office: A More Present Reality” in English.
Though this piece is simpler than the first two outlined in this article, it makes my list of favorite entries because of how well it fits our current times, as well as how well the simplicity works for the artwork.
For those of us here in the present, the pandemic needs no explanation – it has defined the past year-plus of our lives and has changed the way we all live and work.
Despite the troubles we’ve all been through because of COVID-19, this piece exemplifies the optimism our world continues to exude as a result of humans’ innate ability to adapt. Rather than perceiving the home office as a dreary dungeon where we marinate in our doldrums, Lopes has depicted our shared reality as a happy and tranquil place where we’re joined by our pet companions in comfortable places around our abodes.
This theme or sentiment is made more obvious by the use of a vibrant golden color palette for the couch – a place a lot of us have had to work from during the pandemic. This main scene stands out further given that the rest of the background, which is presumably the person’s living room, is done in monochrome purple with undeniable minimalism.
The main subject of this piece is also undoubtedly a person of color, which is befitting not only because of the protests for human rights that have made their way across the world and coincided with the pandemic, but also because this contest is held during Black History Month.
Finally, the bright color palette emanating from the main subject further enforces the optimistic mood of the piece. It also adds an element of creativity and imagination, two key things the Inkscape software was designed to help artists harness. This sort of “imagination/creativity” bubble is outlined by paths and nodes, and frames the main Inkscape 1.1 logo to bring the entire theme together around Inkscape.
Inkscape Funtastic by Muhamad Farlly
“Inkscape Funtastic” by Muhammed Farlly was an early front-runner in the Inkscape 1.1 About Screen Contest, and for good reason. In his entry, Farlly makes use of flat vector elements while still providing plenty of depth and perspective for a colorful, adorable scene of a bird fishing with its little frog companion.
There are tons of small pieces of detail throughout the piece that give it an extra layer of creativity. For example, the egg-shaped islands the animals are sitting on have small ripples of water around the base where the land meets the water, as does the fishing line plopped just offshore. The basket next to the bird has a couple fish in it, and the bird is flanked by fantastical mushrooms and other colorful vegetation. And there’s of course a shark’s fin fast-approaching in the background, though this doesn’t phase the fishing friends (or maybe they are just unsuspecting).
The seemingly simple gradient shading throughout this artwork is wonderfully done, giving all the “flat” objects in the piece quite a bit of dimension. As a result, Farlly pulls off the hard task of placing 2D characters convincingly in a 3D world, having them interact with rounded objects (like the island they’re sat on) that are also positioned in perspective in the foreground, midground, or background of the piece.
The Inkscape logo is integrated twice within this piece – once in the bottom left corner of the artwork as the main watermark, and again as a branding element on the bird’s headphones. Finally, the transition from the main scene to the Inkscape logo mark is made interesting and smooth with swirling elements that gently divide the piece.
Unleash Your Creativity by Fabian Mosakowski
“Unleash Your Creativity” by Fabian Mosakowski is another composition that demonstrates just how much you can do with the free design software Inkscape. Mosakowski combines a “little planet” centerpiece illustration with the outline of a giant artist – designed like a huge constellation in the sky – with a page curl that reveals the Inkscape 1.1 logo.
This is another piece of art that requires a double-take as there are many small details that are easy to skip over. For one, the mountain that sits atop the tiny globe is at the base of a small lake. Together, these two elements actually make up a surrealistic rendition of the Inkscape logo itself. What adds to the detail of this small scene is the realistic reflection of the mountains in the water, and the small coloring of soil lining the areas where the grass meets the water’s edge.
Flanking this main mountain and lake element is a hovering set of shadow-casting clouds, vector trees – with the tops of one of the trees dissected into it’s path outlines and nodes, and a simple set of vector flowers – which appear to be either daisies or chamomile.
The slogan “Draw Freely” frames the top and bottom of the composition. However, rather than displaying this lettering as simple typeface, Mosakowski has dressed Inkscape’s slogan as 3D elements floating in space. “Draw” appears to be a comet, while “Freely” looks like asteroids orbiting the small creative planet. Rounding out the spacey elements of this work include the small constellations of stars that appear in the shape of icons of some of Inkscape’s many tools.
In the words of the artist himself, the submission is “personifying creativity as a cosmic deity bringing ideas to life with Inkscape tools. The goal was to showcase the limitless creative potential of the software, from hand lettering to 3D-like volumes.” I think he has done all that and more!
Inkscape has truly evolved over the years (or decades, for that matter) to become a viable option not only for people looking to ditch Adobe Illustrator and the Creative Cloud subscription payments, but also any professional artist looking to make incredible works of art with tools that won’t hold them back.
If this contest demonstrates anything, it’s that Inkscape is fully capable of producing stunning works of art. It allows you to draw vector graphics with amazing detail and add eye-popping colors to those graphics. Finally, the fact that it’s free means there’s no barriers for anyone who wants to unleash their creativity aside from having to learn how to use the program. And that is truly an amazing thing!
Thanks for checking out this article! You can see more Inskcape related content on my site, including Inkscape video tutorials and Inkscape help articles. Maybe one day it’ll be your artwork that is featured in articles like this one, or wins the About Screen contest altogether! Also, don’t forget to vote for your favorite entry in the Inkscape About Screen Contest before voting closes.