In this tutorial, learn how to draw vector ropes in Inkscape using the Pattern on Path path effect with inkscape. This technique is super useful for drawing a whole bunch of different vector assets with inkscape, like rope or laurel wreaths or anything that has a simple shape that is repeated along a path.

Lets get started!

Create the rope element to pattern to repeat

Using the pen tool in inkscape, draw a the shape that will make up the part of our rope that will be repeated. In this tutorial, we are going to call it our pattern.


Create our path to put the pattern on

Next, create the shape that you want your rope to be. This can be any shape. In the example image above, the shape i used was a series of paths to form the letters “rope”. But for this example, we just have a simple rounded-cornered frame. In this tutorial we are going to call it our Spine Path.

spineshape Add a path effect to the Spine Path

With the Spine Path selected, open up the Path Effects dialog (Path > Path Effects), Click the + button, and choose the Pattern Along Path option from the dialog. It will add the Pattern Along Path effect. Note however that your Spine Path or your Pattern will not change during this step.


Add the Pattern to the Spine Path

Next, select your Pattern, and copy it to the clipboard with Edit > Copy or Control+C. Once copied to the clipboard, select the Spine Path again, and in the Path Effects dialog, press the Link to Path on Clipboard button (its the last button in the Pattern Source section, with the tiny lock on it).

After doing this, your Spine path should look different — the pattern will be stretched out over the length of the spine path:


Change the Pattern Along Path settings

With the Spine Path still selected, change the Pattern Copies dropdown to Repeated, and mark the Pattern is vertical checkbox:


Tweak the spacing

Next, set the Spacing value. This number is going to be a negative number, but will vary widely depending on the size of your image. If a setting of -1 doesn’t change your path much, try a much larger number. Tweak this value until the rope edges line up fairly cleanly:


Tweak the pattern to fit better

Now the spacing is pretty close, but when you zoom in on the shapes, they are going to not fit perfectly:


Luckily, we can go back and change the shape of the Pattern. Choose the node tool, and tweak the shape of the Pattern until you have minimal overlaps between the shapes. YOu may also need to tweak the spacing a bit to make it fit better. The key here is that the outside edges line up neatly, don’t worry too much about the inside edges. The result should look something like this:


Tweak the spine path, then Convert to Path, and break apart

Finally, you can select the Spine Path and tweak the shape of it if you want (I didn’t because it was the shape I wanted). Once you are happy with the shape, convert it to a path with Path > Object to Path. Note that once you do this, you can’t tweak the shapes anymore. Finally, break your path into individual shapes with Path > Break Apart, and set the fill colour and stroke to what you want. Once you set the fill colour, the inside overlaps will be covered up.



Use this technique with a range of Patterns and Spine Paths to create a range of different results: