Working with files

Creating a New Document

Creating a new document is usually the first step to creating art in Inkscape.  While you can always begin with an existing document, it is likely that a blank document is more useful for a new drawing.

New documents, themselves, are created from an existing document (also known as a template) which exists in the user's profile.  A standard template file comes with a new installation, but a user can modify it, just like any Inkscape file, to suit his or her preferences.  In addition to the standard template, there is a selection of other templates representing various media types; this list can be extended with additional templates created by the user.

When Inkscape starts, a new document is automatically created from the standard template.  If a new document is created from an existing instance of Inkscape, a new Inkscape window is opened.

How to Use

One can create a new file in several ways:

  • Select File > New from the menu bar (opens a list of all available templates with Default at the top)

  • Press Ctrl + N (creates a new document from the default template)

  • Click the New Document icon on the Commands Bar (also creates a new document from the default template)

To modify document properties (such as page size, default units, etc.), select File > Document Properties from the menu or press Ctrl + Shift + D.

Opening a Document

Instead of creating a new file one may wish to open an existing SVG document. This process can be useful for:

  • modifying an existing document;

  • getting some part of a document to reuse it for another one;

  • analyzing the method used to create a picture, especially by viewing the code in the Inkscape XML source code editor;

  • exporting the document in a new format.

How to Use

There are a couple of methods for opening files:

  • Open... - Opens a file in a new window for editing, making any work carried out totally independent from concurrently open documents. 
    • Select File > Open from the menu
    • Press Ctrl + O
    • Click the Open icon on the Commands Bar 
  • Import... - Imports a file into the currently active document you are working on. The imported file becomes an object in the already open document.
    • Select File > Import...
    • Press Ctrl + I
    • Click the Import icon on the Commands Bar

    It is possible to exchange objects from one document to another by copy/paste, but only if the newly opened document was opened from within the original application instance.  For example, if a file was opened by double clicking its icon from the computer's file browser, a second instance of Inkscape would be opened and objects could not be exchanged between documents.

    While Inkscape can import several different file types, it only works with SVG files; therefore, every file is translated to SVG upon import.  This means that some data loss and change may occur upon import.

    Saving a Document

    There are several methods of saving files:

    • Save - saves the existing document using the current file name. If the document is new and has not yet been saved, a dialog will open asking the user to specify a file name and location.
      • Select File > Save from the menu
      • Press Ctrl + S
      • Click the Save Document icon on the Commands Bar
    • Save as... - saves a new copy of the file under a different file name. The newly saved file automatically becomes the working copy, so any further changes will be saved to the new file.  This can be useful for saving incremental versions of a file.
      • Select File > Save as... from the menu
      • Press Ctrl + Shift + S
    •  Save a Copy... - saves an exact copy of the current SVG file under a different file name in whatever location the user specifies.  This copy is kept separate from the current working file, even after the save.  It can be saved over by selecting Save a Copy... again from the menu.  This can also be useful for saving incremental versions of a file.
      • Select File > Save a Copy... from the menu
      • Press Ctrl + Shift + Alt + S
    •  Export Bitmap... - saves a bitmap rendering of the SVG file or some selection of objects on the page.  Currently only renders as PNG.
      • Select File > Export Bitmap... from the menu
      • Press Ctrl + Shift + E
      • Click the Export Bitmap icon on the Commands Bar

    The File Save Dialog



    Specifies the new file name.  Selecting "Append filename extension automatically" at the bottom of the window, makes it unnecessary to type extensions manually.

    Directory and File Panels

    In the center part of the dialog, the left panel gives a quick access to standard directories and bookmarked directories; the right panel lists the actual directory contents.


    Defines the file format for saving the file.

    Inkscape SVG (the default file type) is a superset of the SVG specification which is used by Inkscape as its native file format.  Inkscape SVGs contain markup that define such features as Path Effects which are not defined in the SVG spec but are still important to save in the file.  While many SVG applications will open Inkscape SVGs, the file may not render as expected in those programs if non-SVG features were used in the file.

    Plain SVG is the standard SVG without Inkscape-specific markup. Use Plain SVG for best interoperability with other applications that may be used to open the file.

    For more information about other file formats supported by Inkscape, see below.

    Commonly Used File Formats


    There are several versions of the SVG file format available to Inkscape:

    Inkscape svg is Inkscapes default format which keeps every shape as easily editable as possible.

    Plain svg is the recommended SVG format for use outside Inkscape.  It is fully compliant with W3C's spec. In this format, many of the shapes (especially primitives) will be transformed to paths.

    Adobe Illustrator svg (Adobe Illustrator 9+) is the svg format exported from Adobe Illustrator, with its specification.  For those who have to work with proprietary software users.  Note: these files are labeled .ai.svg and Inkscape is only able to open/import them.

    .svgz (compressed)

    Compressed SVG file using gzip compression.  Low file size for quicker downloading or uploading on the web. Inkscape can save .svgz files in both Compressed Inkscape svg and Compressed Plain svg formats.


    An exchange format developed by Adobe, PDF documents can contain any mixture of text, fonts, images and vector graphics. PDF files are able be viewed across many software, operating system and hardware platforms while still retaining the same formats, layout and properties that were intended by the document's creator. Note: Inkscape's PDF is 1.4 only, and needs to be improved.


    EXtensible Application Markup Language. Developed by Microsoft to define the Windows Vista Graphical Interface.


    PNG (Portable Network Graphics) is a Raster Image format recommended by W3C and is expected to eventually replace the GIF image format. It utilizes a lossless data compresstion and includes alpha support for image transparency.  


    Simple Raster Image format. BMP files are uncompressed so they produce large files compared to other Raster formats such as PNG and JPG. Note: Inkscape is only able to open/import BMP files.

     .jpg, .jpeg

    Raster Image format commonly used for photos on the internet as JPEG images are able to be highly compressed giving very small file sizes.  The compression method causes some detail to be lossed, so the compression ratio can be set at a trade-off of file size for image quality. Many digital cameras also save pictures in JPEG format. Note: Inkscape is only able to open/import JPEG files.


    Tiff (Tagged Image File Format) is a flexible Raster image format developed for the professional printing process. Tiff files are very flexible supporting many colour classes including alpha channels.  Several forms of compression are able to be used in tiff files, however their larger size makes them unsuitable for online use. Note: Inkscape is only able to open/import TIFF files.

    .ps, .eps, .epsi

    PS (PostScript) is a page description language developed by Adobe in the early '80s.  As the first software/hardware independent format to incorporate text, raster images and vector drawings it quickly became the comercial printers main language.  Now starting to show it's age ps is being replaced by pdf.

    EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) is a subset of the ps file format used for transferring graphic images between different software. EPS files contain PostScript code as well as an optional preview image in TIFF, WMF, PICT or EPSI format.

    EPSI (Encapsulated PostScript Interchange) is a raster image format used as a preview image for EPS files.  Containing only 7-bit ASCII data it has been used in areas not supporting TIFF, WMF or PICT formats.


    A 2D and 3D graphics file format developed by Autodesk for the AutoCAD system. Now supported by virtually all PC based CAD systems DXF is the standard format used for technical drawings in the engineering and construction industries.  Note: Inkscape is only able to save DXF files.


    Extended (Enhanced) Windows Metafile Format. A vector graphics format recognized by many office applications including Openoffice and MS office; basically a 32-bit version of the original Windows Metafile Format (.WMF)  


    Native format for the GIMP image editor.  A very flexible XCF files can contain a lot of info including  Alpha Chanels, Transparency, Paths, the current selection and layers (which are kept when saved from Inkscape). Note: Inkscape is only able to save XCF files.


    A raster image format limited to 256 colors.  GIF files overcome this limitation by customizing their own pallets to suit the colors required for the image.  Owing to it's small size and the ability to add transparency the GIF format is commonly used on the web for logos and animated logos (GIF files can store multiple images enabling basic animation when viewed through a web browser). Note Inkscape is only able to open/import GIF files.


    (Compressed Inkscape SVG with Media). This option will save the drawing as an Inkscape SVG file and then package it with all included linked graphics files as a ZIP file. The resulting file will not be read by Inkscape, but once uncompressed Inkscape can find the graphics when the SVG file is opened. Note Inkscape is only able to save ZIP files.