Quick Inkscape Tutorial for ArcGIS Users

  • Download and install Inkscape
  • Export a map you made in ArcMap as an .svg
  • Open Inkscape
  • File > Import > yourmap.svg
  • Use shift + in Inkscape to zoom in
  • If you had more than one layer in your map, view the different layers using the Layer > layer dialog
  • Use Path > Trace bitmap with a layer selected if you want to smooth lines. For example, if I have some really detailed river lines that I want to smooth for a lower resolution map, I use the layer dialog to select the river lines (alternatively you can try selecting them via point, click but sometimes you end up selecting the wrong layer), then use Path > simplify
  • Experiment with the filters menu on the entire finished map to produce unusual visual effects.
Export world population from ArcGIS

Export world population from ArcGIS

Filters > Bubbles > Bubbly Bumps

Import to Inkscape and use Filters, Bubbles > Bubbly Bumps

  1. #1 by Ryan C on June 23, 2014 - 10:09 am

    Thanks for writing this up. I feel like I am missing a step involving the layers. Whenever I have tried to work in Inkscape with an SVG (or any format, for that matter) from Arc I only ever have a single layer. When I ungroup the features I can select individual elements, but the layers pane just shows one layer. There’s no list of elements or anything like that. Where in your workflow do you separate the single layer you get from an exported SVG into multiple layers, a la AI? This has been an issue I’ve dealt with for a couple years and feel like if so many others are replacing AI with Inkscape, I must just be missing something really obvious. It’s literally the only thing keeping me from using Inkscape. Thanks!

  2. #2 by Jeremy Wright on June 23, 2014 - 1:45 pm


    If you have transparent or rasterizing layers (e.g. transparency) in your map, it’ll get flattened into a single layer in the resultant export.

    Use the “detect rasterizing layer” python sample from the help (search for map export) to detect and remove rasterizing properties from the layers to resolve this problem.

  3. #3 by Jeremy Wright on June 23, 2014 - 1:47 pm

    Hi Gretchen,

    FYI saw a small bug in your blog page – when you have only one comment, it shows “1 coment” [sic] below the COMMENTS header. Once a second person comments it goes to correct spelling.

  4. #4 by G.P. on June 23, 2014 - 2:42 pm

    Thanks for your helpful replies!

  5. #5 by Ryan C on June 23, 2014 - 5:25 pm

    Thanks for your response Jeremy. I’ll have to look into that when I get to work tomorrow.

    Also, Great blog, Gretchen! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Comments are closed.