Inkscape Experiments: How to Step and Repeat

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It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these articles. Just to get back into the groove of things, I’ll cover a basic action done by most graphic designers. It’s called “Step-and-Repeat”. Step and Repeat is as advertised, create one duplicate, and repeat that duplicate across the same distance for however many times. This function you’ll find in most graphic design programs such as Adobe InDesign and QuarkExpress. This can also be achieved in your favorite vector programs, such as Inkscape. Thanks to Inkscape’s robust Create Tiled Clones window, which I introduced to many of you in back when we were spinning paths, applying Step-and-Repeat to any object is relatively painless.

Getting Started with Create Tiled Clones Window

With your object selected, open the Create Tiled Clones window by clicking the menu bar, selecting Edit > Clone > Create Tiled Clones… For those of you who haven’t noticed, this window allows you to create an array of transformations. Hence, the ton of options that are packed inside.

A break down of the Create tiled clones window

By default, the Symmetry tab is selected. Click the Shift tab. This tab will provide us with all of the options necessary to help us step and repeat our object. Let’s break-down what options we’ll use:

  • Rows, columns: These two text fields allow us to create how many clones per row and/or per column.
  • Shift X: Shift X has three different text fields: Per Row, Per Column, and Randomize. Per Column for Shift X deals with the space between clones that run horizontally. Per Row will shift proceeding objects in a column. This means instead of creating a straight up and down column, you’ll create a column with objects that shift slightly either to the left or right as each one is created. Randomize will randomize the space you create with the other two text fields. See below:

A visual result of using Shift X options

  • Shift Y: Just like Shift X, this also has three different text fields. But the Per row and Per column text fields work in reverse. Entering as number in the Per row text field creates space between objects in a column. The Per column text field shifts the next column of objects upwards or downwards. See below:

A visual result of using Shift Y options to step and repeat

  • Create: The Create button generates your clones once you’ve entered your settings. Create will also replace the clones that you currently have and generate a new set of clones based on the changes you made.
  • Remove: The Remove button is used when mistakes happen. This button will clear any generated clones.

A Note on Clones

Clones in Inkscape act much like symbols in Adobe Flash or Illustrator. (But without the library.) Newly generated clones are linked to an original vector object. That means if you edit or manipulate the original, all of the linked clones will mimic those changes. A clone by itself can only be scaled. If you wish to delink a clone in order to directly edit it, you will need to goto the menu bar and select Edit > Clone > Unlink Clone. (Keystroke is Shift-Alt-D)

 

In the Meantime…

Later on in this series, we’ll dig even deeper into the Create Tiles Clones window. It’s an extremely powerful tool that’ll allow you to effortlessly create transformations. That said, there’s a lot packed into Create Tiles Clones.  That’s why I feel the need to breaking down tab by tab.

 

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