Amorelli’s Guide to Making Avatars with Inkscape and the GIMP

This Guide is intended for use with Mac OS X, though Linux and Windows users should have no problem.

I: Getting Inkscape
1. Go to the Download Page

2. Select the download appropriate for your system. (These aren’t links, since those change with new versions. I just included which to download for each OS)
---MACINTOSH: Mac OS X — .dmg
---WINDOWS: * Windows — .exe installer
---LINUX: * * * * Linux Autopackage — .package (See for directions).
---OTHER OSs: Scroll to the bottom of the screen. You can download the source code and compile it yourself.

3. Drag the Inkscape application from the disk image to your application folder (or wherever you want it to go)

3. Follow the instructions on the website

II: Getting the GIMP
NOTE: The GIMP requires Apple’s X11 which is included in the “Optional Installs” Package on the OS X install disk

1. Go to the website

2. Download it.

3. Open the ReadMe and follow the instructions.

1. Go to the GIMP for windows website and follow the instructions there for download and installation.

FOR UNIX (Linux, BSD, Sun Solaris)
1. Go to the GIMP for Unix website and follow the instructions for download and installation that are appropriate for the OS you have.

III: Making the Avatar
NOTE: I am doing this on a Mac. There may be slight differences in appearance and function with other operatic systems, but it should be the same overall.
1. Open Inkscape. At this point, your screen should look like this (a large picture, so just the url)

2. Go to File > Document Preferences (Shift + Ctrl + D). The window should look like this. Choose the Page tab, and in the custom canvas section set the units to px and each side to 117. It should now look like this.

NOTE: If you hover the mouse over just about anything, a box will show up telling what it does.

3. There should be a small box in the lower left part of the screen. This is the canvas. Zoom in on it using the zoom tool (The magnifying glass). The box in the extreme lower left corner also controls zoom. I like to set it at between 200 and 225 for the basic drawing and zoom in further for detail.

4. First, use the circle tool (guess which one it is) to create a circle. I generally make it about as big as a third of the canvas height. Now go to object > fill and stroke. You’ll want to always keep this window open, since it controls, surprisingly enough, the fill and stroke of whatever object you’re currently editing.

NOTE: The anatomy of the fill and stroke window.
Fill deals with the inside of the object and its transparency and color. Stroke deals with the outline of the object.
Along the top are three tabs: Fill, stroke paint, and stroke style. They are remarkably self explanatory. In the fill and stroke paint tabs (the above picture), the X makes it no fill, the solid box makes it a solid fill, the linear gradient makes it a linear gradient fill, the circular gradient makes a radial gradient fill. Ignore the other ones. The slider at the very bottom controls the transparency of the entire object. The triangle and surrounding ring control the color, and the slider labeled “A” controls the alpha. Under the alpha slider is a box containing a value. This is the code for the color you are currently using. The stroke style tab doesn’t really need explaining, since it is already well labeled.

5. Change the fill of the circle to an appropriate flesh tone, (I used ffd197ff) then select the stroke paint tab and make sure it’s black. Your canvas should look something like this.

6. Now, select the straight line/Bezier curve tool (the pencil with a straight line and a curve). This tool creates nodes where you click and draws straight lines between them. Press enter to end the line. For this example, we will create a wizard type person. So, create a blocky outline of the robe. Remember to make the line 2 pts thick, and choose a nice fill for it. Then, select the robe, go to object > lower to bottom. It should look something like this:

7. Obviously, we don’t want a blocky outline. This is when vector drawing comes in. Select the node tool (right under the arrow tool) and click on the object. Each of the nodes can have lines going off of it. These lines control the curvature of the lines between the nodes. However, right now the nodes don’t have any. So… hold shift, click and drag off one of the nodes. A line should come off of it and affect the curvature of the line. Play around with moving the nodes and creating more lines so you get the hang of them, and make a robe. Now, it might look something like this.

8. Now, we make the face. Using the circle tool, create two small ovals, one slightly larger than the other, and make the stroke and fill black. Basically, make it look like the eyes on OoTS. They should look something like this.

9. To finish the face, we make the smile. Use the freehand drawing tool (directly under the spiral) to make a smile. If you make it a little crooked or shaky, don’t worry. Remember the node tool? You can use it on this line too, so you can change the curvature and placement of the nodes, and even delete or add them. To delete click one and press delete. To add one, double click on the line. So, the drawing will now look like this:

10. All we have left is arms and legs. Make them with the Bezier curve tool, similarly to the creation of the robe, except you need no fill. Generally, I use two lines per arm. The first line has a node at the shoulder, elbow, and end of the middle finger. The second has a node at the end of the left finger, wrist, and right finger. Use the lines attached to the nodes to achieve the right curves. The leg has a node at the hip, knee, ankle, and toe. Here’s a close up of the arm/hand (note that I changed the robe somewhat. This was easily achieved by moving nodes.)

11. Now, you can add other things like a belt, etc.

Another possibility, as Pop Goes the Banjulhu told me, is to make the lines in the drawing have rounded "caps", so the end of the line is not sharp. This is done by going to the stroke style tab of the stroke and fill window and choosing the rounded cap, as is shown in the picture of the stroke style window above.

12. Once you are done, go to file > export bitmap. Choose the page tab and set the size to 117 by 117, which will be 90 dpi.

13. Now, quit Inkscape and open the GIMP. Open the image you just exported. Create a layer and move it to the bottom, and use the paintbucket tool to fill in the lower layer with white. This functions to fill in something behind the transparent first layer so the anti-aliasing is preserved when converted to .gif. Your windows should now look like this.

14. Select the lower layer, and use the magic wand tool with the sample merged option (the settings for your magic wand tool should look like this) selected to choose the white areas and use clear (ctrl + k) to delete them. When you do so, you should see the checkerboard background again, not white. Then, go to file > save as. Erase the .png at the end of the name and replace it with .gif. Click save, then export, and unclick the comment part. Then, click export.

15. Your Done! If you have any further questions, PM me or post them in this thread.


Q: In Gimp, when you use the Fuzzy Select Tool, (to make the background trasparent) how do you keep it smooth and not choppy?
A: First of all, make sure you export the image from inkscape as a .png. This image should look smooth: this is because of antialiasing to make the edges curved. However, this antialiasing is done by changing the alpha of certain pixels, which won't transfer over onto a .gif nicely, and produces results similar to what you have shown me. However, by putting the white background on a layer behind it, you make the antialiasing over white. Then, by using the fuzzy select tool with the sample merged option and selected the white areas (make sure the white layer is still selected in the layers section), you delete the non-antialiasing part of the white background. So, you should be left with an image that has anti-aliasing over white. However, your image does not seem to have this antialiasing.

There are two things I think could be causing this problem.
First, you may not have the sample-merged option selected. This would delete the entire white background, and thus render it useless. When you delete the white areas, the layer that was previously completely white should now have a white silhouette of your picture on the above layer.

The second thing that could be causing this problem is if the threshold is set incorrectly on the fuzzy-select (threshold is how close the color has to be to the adjacent color to be selected. So, if the threshold is too high, for example, a grey would be selected along with the white.) The threshold should be set to 15.

Here is a picture of what the settings should be:

If the problem persists, feel free to PM me.