The Shape Builder Tool is officially coming to Inkscape, and very soon! Major Inkscape Contributor Martin Owens has been making inroads with getting a workable version ready for the next major stable release version of Inkscape, and major tests are already underway.
The Shape Builder tool is a “live” or “on-canvas” boolean operation tool that lets you combine multiple shapes or shape segments to create new shapes. It was popularized by Adobe Illustator, which released the first version of the tool in Illustrator CS5 in May 2010.
Owens has been releasing update videos on his YouTube channel discussing his contributions to this popular and highly-requested feature for Inkscape.
In a video Owens released about 3 weeks ago titled Shape Builder and Power Styles – Inkscape Update 27th Aug 2022, he discusses how the Shape Builder tool was initially introduced to Inkscape via a Google Summer of Code student’s project. The project was never completed. Additionally, due to Inkscape’s ever-evolving codebase, the initial work on that project eventually became obsolete for newer versions of Inkscape.
However, thanks to Owens’ recent efforts, the original Shape Builder code has been “rebased,” or updated to be compatible with Inkscape’s latest codebase, allowing Owens and future Inkscape developers to work on the code and get it ready for the next stable release. Owens also “refactored” the code to be able to introduce new features and remove some superfluous or otherwise unnecessary features.
In his latest video, Shape Builder 2: Boolean Boogaloo – Inkscape Update 17th Sep 2022, Owens reveals that he’s “completed” a working version of the Shape Builder tool, and has already requested and received feedback from testers via a development release of Inkscape. In the video, Owens discusses how the Shape Builder Tool works and why it’s such a versatile tool, while simultaneously playing clips of users testing out or demoing a working version of the feature. Owens has also begun the iteration process and fixed a few bugs or general UX flaws that were discovered in the tool via the feedback process.
You can see this tool in action in the image above. In the Inkscape 1.3 Development Version, you’ll find the Shape Builder Tool in the Toolbox (red arrow). With the tool selected, you can set it to either “Add Shape” or “Delete Shape” depending on whether you want to compound shape segments or remove them. In the image, I selected “Delete Shape” (blue arrow). You can then simply click and drag your mouse over the shapes or shape segments you want to add or delete (green arrow – the segments you want to delete will become highlighted in pink).
The result of the “Delete Shape” setting for the Shape Builder Tool is displayed in the image above.
While there is still undoubtedly much work that needs to be done to ensure this tool lives up to the hype, it appears very likely that we’ll see the Inkscape Shape Builder Tool at long last in the next stable release version, Inkscape 1.3.
For those of you not familiar with this software, Inkscape is a free and open source vector graphics editor most similar to Adobe Illustrator.