How to Erase in Inkscape

If you’re wondering how to “erase” things in Inkscape, there’s a good chance you may be new to vector design. Either way, let’s go over how to erase in Inkscape!

The Eraser Tool

Step 1

The first thing you should know is that you can’t technically “erase” with vector design. Since everything is based on points and lines, you’ll actually have to add more points in order to give the illusion of erasing. Let’s take this simple blue circle for example, which is rendered by only 4 nodes.

blue circle inkscape

Step 2

Let’s say you go to grab the Eraser tool, change the mode to Cut out from objects, and set the brush Width: 35. Go ahead and scrub the eraser over the circle and see what happens.

eraser tool inkscape

Step 3

Holy cow, look at this monstrosity. By “erasing”, we actually just added about 100 nodes to our simple circle… and it looks awful.

inkscape eraser nodes

A Better Way to “Erase”

Step 1

The best way to erase or alter a shape drastically in vector design is to use boolean path operations. To start this example, we’ll be using the Pen tool to draw a line similar to the previous eraser scrub. You’ll already notice the benefit of being able to adjust your nodes prior to erasing.

pen tool circle

Step 2

Now, we need to emulate the eraser brush width by adjusting the stroke width. Another thing we need to do to make this work is to select our line and head up to Path > Stroke to Path.

thick stroke inkscape

Step 3

Finally, with both the circle and the line selected, go to Path > Difference to make the boolean operation.

black line blue square

Step 4

Below is our new, clean result. Unlike this eraser tool, this method of turning a simple shape into a complex one is done with only a handful of additional nodes. Cool!

inkscape boolean erasing

And Now You Know!

This was part of 5 Essential Inkscape Tips and Tricks.

Boolean path operations may seem a little tricky at first to accomplish something as simple as erasing, but it’s truly very easy to get used to. You’ll also start to fashion your shapes and designs more cleverly as well (to avoid erasing, clipping, etc). Thanks for reading!

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