Beta Flashes are a common effect found in comic books and manga. You can learn how to create this on paper from the book, How to Pen and Ink. This visual effect can also be created, in vector form, via Inkscape. For the sake of this article, I will teach you how to create two different types of beta flashes in Inkscape: Circled and Rectangular.
(This tutorial can be followed using version 1.2 of Inkscape or earlier. Download the latest version of Inkscape now.)
Using Pattern Along Path to Create a Circular Beta Flash
Now we’re going to create a circular useful beta flash within Inkscape 1.2.
1.) Start a Beta Flash with an Ellipse
We’ll start our new circular beta flash by creating a basic circle using your Ellipse tool. (Use the Control key to keep it undistorted.) Leave it filled and with no stroke. That can be adjusted within the Stroke and Fill pallet.
2.) Make Point with the Rectangle Tool
With the Rectangle Tool, create a new rectangle that runs up and down. Convert your rectangle into a path by going into the Main Menu, selecting the Path >> Object to Path. Select the bottom two nodes with the Node Tool, and merge the nodes by clicking the Join Selected Nodes button in the toolbar, right below the menu bar. Select the newly created triangle with the Selector Tool and copy the shape. (Control+C)
3.) Paste Your Point Using the Path Effects Editor Pallet
Select the circle and bring up the Path Effect Editor pallet click the Path menu, and select Path Effects… (Or use the keystroke Shift+Control+7) Select Pattern Along Path within the drop-down menu inside the Path Effect Editor pallet and click the Add button.
Inside the Pattern Along Path settings click the Paste Path button, it has a clipboard icon, and set Pattern Copies to Repeat.
Quick Side Note:
In previous versions of Inkscape, there will be a surprising gap in the new beta flash. You will need to play with the Spacing Settings to even the points out. Inkscape 1.2 works like expected, without the gap.
4.) Spacing Your Points
To give the points inside my circular beta flash some room, I gave my pattern 15.4 in the Spacing setting. Play around with Spacing to get the look you want.
5.) Layer Beta Flashes without Surprise Fractals
I made the false assumption that I can layer on the same path effects. When I added another Pattern Along Path path effect, I got some wacky fractal-looking pattern.
What I chose to do instead was to copy the circle (Control/Command+C) we’re working with, and Paste In Place. (Control/Command+Alt+V).
Quick Side Note:
In versions of Inkscape previous to 1.2, Path Effects didn't behave independently of paths that were copied. They were basically linked to the same path effect with the same settings. In this case, you would need to delete the path effect being used by clicking the minus button under the Effect List. Then you would create a new beta flash using steps 3 through 4 on a new ellipse.
5.) How to Tweak the new Beta Flash
You will have one of two options, either rotate the new beta flash using the Transform Tool by clicking the object twice and moving one on the corner handles. Or for a more organic look, adjust the Spacing Setting within the Path Effect Editor pallet.
Here’s where it gets annoying. To adjust the width of the new points, we’ll use the Width Setting inside of the Path Effect Editor pallet. But this adjusts the points from the perimeter to the center. So the points are technically shorter, but they look like they were pushed inside the original beta flash. We need the shorter points to originate from the edge of the beta flash.
To bring our new point back to the perimeter of our circular beta flash, we will need to adjust the Normal Offset Setting within the Path Effect Editor pallet. Looks better?
Using Pattern Along Path to Create More Rectangular Beta Flashes
Now we’ll create a more rectangular beta flash in Inkscape.
1.) Start with a Rectangle
Create a new square/rectangle with the Rectangle Tool. This will be used as our base path.
2.) Create Your Points
With the Rectangle Tool, create a new rectangle that runs up and down. Convert your rectangle into a path by selecting the Path menu, and clicking Object to Path. Select the bottom two nodes with the Node Tool, and merge the nodes by clicking the Joint Selected Nodes button in your toolbar, right below the Menu Bar. Select the newly created triangle with the Selector Tool and copy the shape. (Control+C) This shape will be used in our pattern.
3.) Paste the Point
3.) Select the rectangle and bring up the Path Effect Editor pallet click the Path menu, and select Path Effects… (Or use the keystroke Shift+Control+7) Select Pattern Along Path within the drop-down menu inside the Path Effect Editor pallet and click the Add button. Inside Pattern Along Path settings click the Paste Path button (the clipboard icon) and set Pattern Copies to Repeat.
Now we have a problem…
As you can see, we only have points extruding from just the side and not the corners as well. So how do we fix this? We can’t. So we’ll have to fudge it.
4.) How to Fudge Your Way to a Beta Flash
With the current rectangle selected, we’re going to use the Rectangle Tool to adjust the Circular Handles which rounds the corners. This allows the points to extrude from those areas. Adjust the Spacing Setting within the Path Effect Editor.
5.) Layering the Square Beta Flashes
Copy your current beta flash and Paste Into Place (Command/Control+Option+V). This command directly places the copy of the beta flash onto of the original. With the new beta flash selected, tweak the size of the points using both the Width and Normal Offset settings.
6.) Now Clip those Beta Flashes!
Select both beta flashes using the Selection Tool. Group both beta flashes the keystroke (Command/Control+G) or go into the Main Menu >> Object >> Group. With the Rectangle Tool, draw a new square across the beta flashes.
Select everything and go into the Main Menu >> Object >> Clip >> Set Clip. This turns the new square into a clipping path and masks off everything outside of it.
Next time, I’ll show how to rotate paths via the Create Tiled Clones pallet.