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Tutorial: Making a Custom Name Ornament in Inkscape

Tutorial: Making a Custom Name Ornament in Inkscape main article image
Posted on December 27, 2022 by Christy Madokoro

One of the pleasures of owning an at-home laser cutter or craft cutter is being able to make customized items year-round.  However, without knowledge on how to create the designs yourself, your options will be limited to what you can buy online or pay others to create.  Learning how to do it yourself may seem daunting, but with a little bit of practice and baby steps, you’ll master the basics, gaining knowledge and experience that can be applied to endless creative projects.

Step-by-Step Guide: Custom Name Ornament in Inkscape

Finished engraved ornament in clear blue acrylic, using summer wreath SVG from Creative Fabrica

Inkscape is a popular free open-source vector graphics editor that allows users to create and edit scalable graphics. In this tutorial, you will learn how to create a custom name ornament using Inkscape.

New project blank template

First, launch Inkscape.  A new document should open with a blank template.  If not, go to File > New.  To get into the practice of keeping your workspace simple, it’s good to get into the habit of choosing a simple color palette for your work.  Strokes will be used for cuts and scores, and fills will be used for engraves.  In this example, red will be used as outer cuts, dark blue will be inner cuts, lime green will be scores, and fuchsia will be the engraves.

Creating a circle about 3.5 inches in diameter

Next, you will create the shape for your ornament. To make a standard ball ornament, click on the Ellipse tool in the toolbar on the left side of the screen and drag your mouse while holding down Ctrl on your keyboard to create a circle on the canvas.  Adjust the circle to the size you’d like your ornament to be.  A standard ornament size would be between 3 and 4 inches, with 3.5 inches being the average.

Creating and resizing duplicate circles

Depending on how you want to hang your ornament, you will create a new shape to act as the tab to string the ribbon through.  In this example, two other circles will be used, with a circumference of ½-inch and ¼-inch.  To accomplish this, rather than dragging to make the additional circles, click on your main circle, and press Ctrl and “D” on your keyboard.  This will create a duplicate copy of the exact size.  With the aspect ratio locked, change one of the measurements for either height or width and press enter.  Do this again for the final circle, with a measurement of ¼-inches.

Aligning duplicates to make them centered

Aligning all shapes by center vertical

Select the two smaller circles and click Object > Align and Distribute.  Select “Center on vertical axis” and “Center on horizontal access” on the right side of the screen by selecting the appropriate icons.  Ensuring both the smaller circles are selected, move them to where you would like the tab to be positioned on the larger circle.  To center it, while all three circles are selected, choose “Center on vertical axis.”

Unioned to make tab

Select the outer small circle, and the main body of the ornament, and select Path > Union.  Make the smaller circle with a stroke color of dark blue to indicate that is an inner cut.  To assign a stroke color, hold down shift on your keyboard and left click the color you want to choose with your mouse.  This completes the outer shape of your ornament.

Change stroke color by selecting the shape and holding "Shift" key, left click a color with your mouse.

Now we will add the name to our ornament. To do this, click on the Text tool on the left toolbar and click your canvas with your mouse to create a text box. Type the name that you want to add to the ornament and use the text formatting options in the top toolbar to adjust the font and size of the text.

For a simple engraved ornament, with the text selected, click on the Object menu at the top of the screen and select Align and Distribute. In the window that appears, select Align centers horizontally and Align centers vertically to center the text within the ornament.

Added text being converted to an object

The text will need to be converted to an object for the laser software to read it properly.  To do this, select the word, then click Path > Object to Path.  This will make each letter a separate object.  Next, without deselecting the word, select Object > Ungroup.  This will ungroup the letters and allow you to move them as you wish, and then Path > Union all the letters together once you finish.  If you skip the step to union them, you’ll notice that when engraving, any place the letters overlap each other will not be engraved.

Ungrouping Text

Ungrouped and ready to union text

If you do this correctly, when you go to View > Display Mode > Outline, it will look like this:

Text view in Outline Mode. If done properly, text will not have any overlapping letters and touching letters will be a single object instead.

Finally, add some decorative elements to your ornament.  For this example, Summer Wreath by Creative Fabrica Crafts was used.  After you’ve finished, select it all and group it together so that the elements to not move. When you are satisfied with your ornament, click on File > Save to save your design.

Group project together so elements aren't moved by accident

If you plan on engraving this in clear acrylic, you will need to flip the entire design horizontally.  This will allow you to engrave the acrylic so that the front will be smooth and show your design through the surface.  When sending to the laser cutter, make sure to arrange steps accordingly:

  • Engraves/Scores
  • Inner Cuts
  • Outer Cuts

Designs mirrored/flipped along the vertical axis to engrave into transparent acrylic.

If you’re interested in something a little more challenging, try the following steps to create a cut-out name for your ornament.

To start, you can use your ball ornament shape you created from the previous steps (or any closed shape that you prefer).

Choose a font that you like but be careful to choose one that is not too thin.  Your laser may be able to cut thin shapes, but if it is too thin, you run the risk of it burning, melting, or breaking away.  Also keep in mind that dots over your “i”’s and “j”’s may be lost if not attached to any other figure.  Remember that the inside of your letters, like in “o”’s and “a”’s, will also fall out, so if you’re design relies on keeping those in place, you’ll have to take extra steps to keep them attached, or use a stencil font.

Use a font that is thick enough to not break or melt and position it where you'd like it on the ornament.

To make an ornament with a word cut-out, in which the word is hold the ornament together, place the word where you like it on the ornament.  For this example, I am using the font “Faithful Story” by Rifki on Creative Fabrica.

Convert the text into an object by using Path > Object to Path

Select the word and Path > Object to Path.  Ungroup the word in Object > Ungroup, and then after placing the letters how you like them, select them all and go to Path > Union.  This will make all the letters into a single object.

Ungroup the letters and union them together to make the word a single object

The next step in this example is to make a rectangle that extends beyond the width of the ornament, but it just slightly shorter in height than the words.  Making sure your ball ornament is completely ungrouped (make sure that the circle for the string is not selected if it is a separate object), then select the ornament and the rectangle by holding shift and clicking each individually with your mouse.

Using the shape tool on the left side menu, make a rectangle that extends through the ornament, but is just short of the top and bottom of the text

Go to Path > Difference and the rectangle shape should be removed from your ornament, leaving the area with the words blank.  Select the words, and the ornament, and go to Path > Union.  This should combine them all into one object.

Selecting the ornament and the rectangle, choose Path > Difference to remove the rectangle

The rectangle is removed, and the word object will need to be unioned to the main ornament

Union View

At this point, the ornament is ready to group, save and cut.  But to carry it one step further, you’ll want to separate inner and outer cuts.  The purpose of separating steps is for alignment.  If the cuts are all one color, it’s possible that the outer cut will be the first action of the laser.  If the material is not completely flat and drops after being cut, or if it’s light enough for a fan to blow it around, the rest of the details in your ornament will be out of place.

Select Ornament

The fastest way to separate inner and outer cuts it to assign them different colors strokes.  To do this, click on the ornament and to go Path > Break Apart.  If you are only using strokes, you’ll be able to easily see that everything is broken apart.

Path > Break Apart

Broken apart

Without deselecting anything, hold down shift on your keyboard and click on the outer most border of the ornament, the one that will be your outer cut.  You should be left with just the inner cuts.

Hold shift and click the outer ornament to deselect it.

Select Path > Combine, and it will combine all those inner cuts, from there, hold down shift and select the color for your inner cuts.

Path > Combine the inner cuts to combine the paths into one object. Assign a different stroke color to separate the functions from the outer cuts.

Add whatever other elements you’d like, like an image to engrave.  Select everything and group them together.  Save your project and send it to your laser.

Group the elements together to prevent accidentally moving elements.

You can test out these steps with other combinations of shapes and word placement.  Most functions in creating these types of projects are the same, so test them out.  Learning hotkeys on your keyboard is highly recommended to cut down time spent searching through menus.

And that’s it! You have successfully created a custom name ornament file using Inkscape. You can now print out your design and use it to create a physical ornament or share it with others online.

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