Inkscape Experiments: Creating Beta Flashes


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My Path to Creating Beta Flashes in Inkscape

I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on Inkscape so far. Recently I found this Inkscape tutorial, and as much as I like the effects, I really couldn’t make sense of it. (Actually, I skimmed over the article a few times assuming that I’d just soak it in.) I was still fascinated by the fact that Inkscape was capable of this:

A path spun and cloned by Inkscape.

On the left, a basic 2 point path. On the right, a path cloned and spun in Inkscape.
A path spun and cloned by Inkscape.

For a while I pondered the possibilities if I could do that. Without ever actually reading the tutorial, I struck out on my own, and played around in Inkscape to try to replicate this effect.


Creating a Beta Flash

I had to look up the name of this comic book/manga effect. I know it goes by another name, but I just can’t think of it. According to [amazon asin=1569709173&text=How to Pen and Ink&chan=default], it’s a beta flash. After seeing an example of Inkscape spinning a path, a Beta Flash was the first thing that came to mind. For the sake of this article, I will define two different types of beta flashes in Inkscape: Circled and Rectangular.

Circled Beta Flashes Using Pattern Along Path Effect

This is the easy one. If you’re more of an advanced Inkscape user, you’ll be well aware of the Pattern Along Path effect. What we’ll do with the Pattern Along Path effect is to use it to take a simple straight path, and have Inkscape replicate it around the circle, creating something similar to a beta flash. I’ll walk you through the process.

1.) Use the Ellipse Tool to create a basic circle. (Holding down the Control key will force Inkscape to create an undistorted circle.)

Create a new circle with the Elispe/Arc Tool

2.) With your circle still selected, click the Path menu, and select Path Effect Editor… (Or use keystroke Shift+Control+7) This will bring up the Path Effect Editor pallet in your main window.

Inkscape Path Effect Editor

3.) Within the Path Effect Editor, under Apply new effect, select Pattern Along Path. Then Click the +Add button to  bring up the options for that effect.

[amazon asin=&template=banner easy&chan=default]

4.) Use the Bezier Tool to create a simple, straight path. Copy it. (Control+C)

Pattern Along Path Settings5.) Select your circle again. In the Path Effect Editor, under your Pattern Along Path options, click on the Paste Path button (which looks like clipboard icon) to use the path as the circle’s pattern. Doing so will create a copy of your path on a spot along your circle. Click into the drop-down menu, next to Pattern Copies and select Repeated. To view something coherent, type in 50 within the number field next to Spacing. This will create a pattern of paths around your circle. (A smaller number in Spacing will bring the lines closer together.)


The effect isn’t perfect. The cloned line closest to the first path or pasted path will look visually smaller than the other lines. Adjust the Spacing to fix this.


Applying pattern along path Circle Pattern after an adjustment made to the Spacing setting

To adjust the space within the center of your circle of lines, enter a number next to Normal Offset. (This is found inside your Path Effect Editor.) The bigger the number, the closer your lines and the smaller the space. The smaller the number, the further away the lines from each other and the bigger the space in the middle.

The effects of using the Normal Offset settings.

There are two methods to create an arc out of your pattern. If you haven’t converted your circle into an editable path, you can use the arc handles (which look like circles) to partition off as much of the circle as you want to expose. You’ll see some weirdness when you first break apart the arc handles. If you are dragging your cursor within the pattern or outside the circle, the circle will look like the path dips into the center of the circle. Dragging your cursor within the center of your circle will cause a visible break in the pattern.

If your adjusting the arch handles within or outside the pattern If your adjusting the arch handles inside the circle

The other method is to enter a number in the Tangential Offset number field, located within your Path Effect Editor pallet. Using the Tangential Offset will provide the same effect in a counter-clockwise direction. Entering a negative number into the Tangential Offset will create overlapping lines on a portion of your circle’s pattern.

The effects of using positive and negative numbers in the Tangental Offset

On the next page, I’ll go over the basic steps towards creating a rectangular beta flash using a straight path.