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15 April 2013

How to Create Layered Text with a Shiny Highlight in Inkscape

A Comparison of Inkscape with GIMP

After writing an article for GIMP called How to Create Layered Text with a Shiny Highlight in GIMP, I wondered what the difficulty level would be for doing the same thing in Inkscape. I decided to follow along with the original instructions from Shiny, Double-Beveled Text by Scott Kelby and Felix Nelson in the March 2004 issue of Photoshop User instead of reproducing the exact steps I used in GIMP.

The instructions below describe how to create this image using Inkscape version 0.48.2 r9819:

Step 1 - Add Some Text with a Glow

Open Inkscape, edit the properties of the document [1], and set the Width to 1200 pixels and the Height to 400 pixels. Use CTRL+Mouse Wheel Forward to zoom in until the canvas covers most of the work area. Select the Text Objects tool [2] and choose an interesting font. Make the size fairly large, somewhere between 200 and 300 pixels depending on the font you choose and the length of your text. Type some text on the canvas, then use the Align and Distribute tool [3] to center the text on the page. Use the Fill and Stroke tool [4] to set the Fill color [5] and Stroke paint to 490207ff (a dark red) and the Stroke style Width to 3 pixels. Enter 2.0 for the Blur value [6]. Use the Layers tool to rename the layer to "text" [7].

Add Some Text with a Glow

Step 2 - Overlay an Outlined Color

In the Layers dialog, click on the "+" button [8] to add a new layer above the "text" layer. Name it "yellow" [9]. Left-click on the text and use CTRL+C to copy it. Left-click on the "yellow" layer in the Layers dialog and type CTRL+V to paste a copy of the text. Slide the Blur slider all the way to the left [10] until the value reads 0.0. In the Fill and Stroke dialog, change the Fill color to dec43dff (a golden yellow) [11]. In the Align and Distribute dialog [12], click on the icons to center the yellow text both horizontally and vertically on the page. You should now see yellow text with a strong red outline surrounded by a hazy red glow.

Overlay an Outlined Color

Step 3 - Create a Backdrop

Left-click on the yellow text and use CTRL+C to copy it. In the Layers dialog, create a new layer named "backdrop" and move it to the bottom of the list using the down-arrow button [13]. Use CTRL+V to paste a copy of the text onto the "backdrop" layer. Press CTRL+0 (that's a zero, not the letter O) five times to grow the text.

If you zoom in, you'll see that Inkscape doesn't grow the selection correctly at all points. There may be odd angles, points, and dips in the outline [14]. This is a known problem with growing and shrinking text and Bezier curves. A bug report was filed for this in 2008. This illustrates one of the drawbacks of open source software. There's no accountability or responsibility, so problems can exist for years without being addressed. If you are unhappy with the outline that Inkscape generates, you can select the Edit paths by nodes tool [15] and tweak the nodes.

Growing an Object Causes Artifacts

Once you're happy with the outline of the grown text, use the Fill and Stroke dialog to change the Fill color to 9a0c00ff (a medium red) [16] and set the Stroke style Width to 0. With the Select and transform objects tool [17] selected, use the icons in the Align and Distribute dialog [18] to center the backdrop under the rest of the text.

Create a Backdrop

Step 4 - Create a Shadow

Select the text in the "backdrop" layer if it isn't already selected. (If you have trouble selecting it, go into the Layers dialog, click on the lock icons of all the other layers to lock them, then click on the backdrop layer. You should now be able to select the backdrop text easily.)

Choose Filters > Shadows and Glows > Drop Shadow [19] and set the parameters as follows:

Blur radius, px = 10.0
Opacity, % = 90.0
Horizontal offset, px = 6.0
Vertical offset, px = 6.0

Hit the Apply button to create a drop shadow, then the Close button to remove the dialog. Lock the "backdrop" layer in the Layers dialog [20].

Create a Shadow

Step 5 - Add a Wavy Highlight

Create a new layer named "highlight" and move it to the top of the Layers list [21]. Choose the Bezier curves tool [22] and carefully draw a curvy line across the top to middle of the letters, curving back around above the letters to complete the loop. (I usually turn off the fill and use a small stroke width to see only the outline [24].)

Draw a Wavy Highlight

Set the Fill color to white (ffffffff) and the Stroke style Width to 0. In the Fill tab, select Linear gradient [25]. Select the Edit paths by nodes tool [26] and move the two endpoints of the gradient line so that the square one is at the bottom of the object [27] and the circular one is at the top [28]. Set the Blur value to 10.0 [29].

The Photoshop article calls for setting the layer mode to Soft light, but Inkscape doesn't have that option. None of Inkscape's blend modes did anything useful for this image, so I left the Blend mode on Normal [30].

Soften the Highlight

Step 6 - Clip the Highlight

To create a clipping object, unlock the "backdrop" layer and lock all the other layers, then click on the red text and copy it. Create a new layer called "clip" and make sure it's at the top of the Layers list [31]. Paste the copied text onto the "clip" layer. Remove the blur and center the clipping text over all the other text [32]. Unlock the "highlight" layer [33] and use SHIFT+left-click to also select the wavy highlight [34], then choose Object > Clip > Set [35]. This will limit the highlight to the letters only.

Clip the Highlight


The method in Inkscape described above has two fewer steps than the method I used in GIMP. If you compare the two final images, you'll see that the Inkscape highlight looks like a haze over the letters, whereas the GIMP highlight looks like the letters are simply lighter. This is due to the difference between using a normal overlay versus a soft light overlay. Though I like the lightening effect in GIMP better, I like the smoothness of the letters in Inkscape better. One nice feature of using Inkscape is that an Inkscape image can be resized without loss of image quality.

This exercise should have given you a taste of some effects that you can put on text in Inkscape. Experiment with various filters to see what other effects you can achieve. The important thing is to have fun while learning.

Here are a few variations that I made:

Matte Jelly Effect
Filters > ABCs > Matte jelly
(60% highlight opacity)
Plaster Effect
Filters > Bumps > Plaster
(no highlight)
Marbled Ink Effect
Filters > Image effects, transparent > Marbled ink
(25% highlight opacity)

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