Draw Unique Snowflakes! (Part 2)

Submitted By: brynn Date: December 02, 2014, 10:21:57 AM Views: 9097

Draw Unique Snowflakes!
Part 2

In Part 1 of Draw Unique Snowflakes!, I provided instructions for drawing a basic snowflake.  Here in Part 2, I'll cover a few ways to make it fancy.  This was my final result from Part 1, and we'll use it here too.  So please open the file you saved of your original snowflake.

Round vs Spikey

The first thing I thought as I was finishing that first snowflake, was that it's a little too spikey.  It looks a little more like a ball of sharp thorns, than a gentle snowflake, to me.  So I tried changing some of the corner/cusp nodes to smooth.

 1 - Before you start, Copy (not Duplicate this time) the whole snowflake, consisting of the top original triangle path, and 5 clones. 
 2 - Paste it to the side of the original.  Or if you're familiar with using layers, put it on a new layer, and hide the original.
 3 - Using the Node tool  :node:  select the nodes you want to change.  Hold the Shift key for the multiple selection.  The screenshot on the left below (image 1), shows the nodes I changed on mine.
 4 - Click the "Make selected nodes smooth" button  :sn:  on the Node tool control bar.  The screenshot on the right below (image 2), shows the results.

<--1 | 2-->

Aahh, that's a lot better!  I'm still not loving it, but now you know that's one of the options you have, for giving it a softer appearance.  So I'm going to follow steps 13 through 16 from Part 1, so I'll have a copy of this version, in case in the end, I like it best.  And then I can use my same original to try a couple more things.  If you tried this and want to keep the result, you should do the same.  Otherwise, just Undo back until the snowflake is either the single, closed path, or compound path.

Ok.  Now with that path selected, do Path menu > Dynamic Offset.  If you're not using the Node tool, switch to it.  Notice how you can't see the nodes like you'd expect.  Instead, there's a tiny diamond shaped handle at the top of the path.  See my example in the screenshot on the left below (image 3), where the handle is circled in red.

<--3 | 4-->

Grab the tiny handle and drag it a very short distance.  Since this is a resource intensive process, unless you have 5 or 6 or more GB of RAM, there likely will be a delay for path offset to take effect.  So if it seems like nothing is happening, just give it a moment after you drag it.  In the screenshot above right (image 4), you can see what happens.  Note that I dragged it just a tiny bit for that screenshot -- maybe 10 px.  Unfortunately, there's no way to move that handle using arrow keys.  But there is a way to set the outset distance, and we'll cover that shortly. 

I like that result a lot better, but there's still more that can be done.  Try dragging the handle a little further.  See the screenshot on the left below (image 5).  And depending on your needs, the screenshot on the right below (image 6), might even be useful.  (In fact, something like image 6 will be used for the last drawing.)

<--5 | 6-->

You may already be thinking about what more is possible, after seeing those!  So let me explain how to set the specific distance for the dynamic offset.

 1 - First you have to do Path menu > Dynamic Offset, and actually drag the handle some distance (doesn't matter how much or how little).
 2 - Leave the path selected, and open Edit menu > XML Editor
 3 - In the upper right section of that window, in the Attribute column, find "inkscape:radius".  Notice in the Value column to the right, it shows a number with 6 (!) decimal places.
 4 - Click on "inkscape:radius" to highlight that row.
 5 - When it's successfully highlighted, you'll see it show up in the lower right section of that window.  Here's what you should see in the XML Editor, at this point:

 6 - Place your mouse-pointer into the field, which in my screenshot has 4.472136 in it.  Change the number to the pixel distance you want.
 7 - Click the "Set" button.  To confirm that you were successful, you'll see the original value change, in the upper right section, to the value you set.  And it automatically happens on the screen, when you click Set.
 8 - Close the XML Editor.

Also note that you don't have to use Dynamic Offset.  You could also use Path menu > Inset, or Outset.  Each time you click Path menu > Inset or Outset, it moves the path by 2 px.  You may find it more convenient to use the key shortcut for this, which is Ctrl +( for Inset and Ctrl + ) for Outset.  Of course, the obvious problem with these, is that you're limited to 2 px increments.  So you can use whichever technique you find more comfortable.


Ok, here we go with the really fun stuff -- time to bring in some color!  Next I'll show some different variations I came up with, and instructions are below each one.  Remember to always start with either your single, closed path, or compound path of 6 closed sub-paths.  To make sure that happens, before you start each new variation, duplicate the whole path, set it aside and make your edits on the duplicate.

  • Select the path.
  • Duplicate.
  • Select the bottom path (click on the top path with Selection tool, press and hold Alt key, while you click once more -- this selects the path underneath).
  • Path menu > Dynamic Offset, then Set the offset distance in the XML Editor to 6.0 px.  Or if your computer is fast enough, just drag it out "live".
  • Or do Ctrl + ) 3 times.  Also note that your snowflake may be very different from mine, so you may have to do some trial and error, to find the right amount for your unique snowflake.
  • Choose a nice snowflake color (click on a swatch in the palette or use the Fill and Stroke dialog to create a custom color).
  • Remove the stroke (this button  :rem:  in Object menu > Fill and Stroke dialog > Stroke paint tab; or while holding Shift key, click on the tiny X swatch on the far left end of the palette).
  • Select the top path.
  • Set the outset distance to 1 px.  (Or whatever works for yours.)
  • Change the stroke color to white (hold Shift key while you click on the white swatch in the palette).  (Or whatever color you like.)
  • Change the stroke width to 2.0 px (Fill and Stroke dialog > Stroke Style tab > Width). (Or whatever looks right for yours.)
  • Select both paths and Group (this button  :gr:  on the command bar, or Object menu > Group, or key shortcut).

The snowflake above is made in the same way, except I used a darker blue for the bottom path's fill.  And for the top path, I added a fill to go with the white stroke.  If you're like me, you'll probably tweak and adjust the fills and stroke colors, until you find something you like.  And below is another variation, where I left out the stroke on the top path.

The variation below right (image 8) puts me in mind of Christmas tree ornaments.  And it easily could be achieved to use your snowflake design with a circle which is drawn to look like a 3D sphere, and have a realistic 3D Christmas tree ornament....although going through those steps in this tutorial, would make it quite a long tutorial.  But I'll explain how I made both designs below.

<--7 | 8-->

For the design on the left above (image 7):
  • Follow the steps for the first variation above, through step 8.
  • Give the top path a fill color and remove the stroke.
  • Select both the top and bottom paths.  (Hold Shift key for multiple selection)
  • Do Path menu > Difference.
  • To the result, apply a radial gradient fill that goes from light blue in the center to dark blue on the outside.  (While it's selected, click this button in Object menu > Fill and Stroke > Fill tab  :rgr:.  Switch to the Gradient tool  :grad:.  Click the center handle, and then click a light blue color in the palette.  Click the outside handle, and click a dark blue color.)
  • For a really sharp look, to that result, apply Filters menu > Bevel > Ridged Border.

The variation above right (image 8) is pretty complex, but it can't hurt to try!

  • Start again with your original path.
  • Duplicate it twice.  (so there will be 3 identical paths)
  • With the 2 duplicates, follow the steps above to create image 7 above left, except don't apply the filter.
  • Duplicate it.
  • Add a yellow or gold stroke to the duplicate, and remove the fill.  The yellow stroke on mine is 1.5 px width.
  • Object menu > Fill and Stroke dialog > Stroke Paint tab > click Radial Gradient button  :rgr:  to give the stroke a radial gradient.
  • With the original path, apply Dynamic Offset, and drag the handle out far enough that there are no more gaps in the middle, and only the outer border is left.  It will be a lot like image 6 further above, except there shouldn't be any holes in the middle.
  • Fill this new shape with a radial gradient.  (Object menu > Fill and Stroke dialog > Fill tab > click Radial Gradient button  :rgr: .  Then click the gradient dropdown menu just below the button, and select the same gradient you used to fill the other part.  Then click the bar that says "Duplicate".  Switch to the Gradient tool  :grad:  and click one of the outside gradient handles.  Then do Shift + R.  That reverses the gradient.
  • If you want or need to, you might adjust some of those gradients.  You can grab the outside handles and drag them around, to make the gradient larger or smaller.  (Since this drawing is radially symmetrical, be sure to hold Shift and Ctrl while you drag the outside handle, or the gradient will become oblong.)  Or you can grab the center and move it around.  Or you can add more stops to the gradient and give them different colors.  (In Inkscape versions 0.48.5 and below, open the Gradient Editor by clicking the "Edit" bar, in the F/S dialog.  Then click "Add Stop" button.  For versions 0.91 and higher, there is a new Gradient tool control bar where hopefully stops can be added.)
  • Even as I finish writing these steps, I see more possibilities for making this snowflake design.  Like maybe add a wide stroke to the larger object.  Or maybe some blur and/or transparency could be used somehow.
  • Look what happens if I difference the 2 filled shapes, and bump the stroke width to 3 px, below left (image 9)!  And below right (image 10), I reverse the gradient!  And  Just experiment and have fun with it!

<-- 9 | 10-->

One last note.  As I was making some quick, but smaller examples, to post in the forum, I noticed that if I scaled the snowflakes smaller, before I performed the Path Inset or Outset, the results were much poorer quality.  I don't really understand why.  (Possibly the new renderer coming with version 0.91 and up will help with this.  I'm not sure.)  So when you do the insets and outsets, be sure to be zoomed in so that the snowflake is filling the window.  With the Zoom tool engaged  :zoom: , this button on the Zoom control bar will automatically zoom the selection to fit the window.  So select the snowflake, and click this button  :zs2w: before you start insets/outsets.

So that about wraps it up.  This is the end of Part 2, and the end of Draw Unique Snowflakes!  And I hope you learned something and enjoyed it  :D

If you see any mistakes or typographical errors, please feel free to post a Comment below.  If you get stuck working through it, or have questions about the tutorial, please post a new message on this board


December 2014

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