This past Thursday morning, I taught the fifth session of an 8-session (40 minutes per session) course on Inkscape at a Boston-area middle school. (For more general details about the class check out my blog post on day 1.)
Thursday’s class was primarily a working class.
First, we passed around a sheet for the students to write out their name, band name, and T-shirt size so EmbroidMe Chelmsford can have the correct size T-shirts ready to go. Then we passed out sheets with a calendar / schedule for the rest of the class. We’re halfway through the course – there are 4 sessions left – so the students’ due date for their design is the end of the second-to-last class on February 5th.
Then, I set out a sheet with some suggested band names that any student who was still stuck on a name could pick from. One idea for using this sheet in your own class could be to cut the band names into little squares and have students pick them out of a hat early on in the course. The students seemed to have settled on either using a band name of their choice (one student is doing the logo for a band he is actually in!) or doing ‘band’ logo using their name.
Last week, I sent Walter at EmbroidMe Chelmsford a demo design created in Inkscape for us to test out how well Inkscape-produced files work with his printing process. Some of the effects such as path clipping and blur did not come out right when he tried the SVG, so we decided to work with 300 dpi PNG exports. The shirt came out great, and I wore it to class as an example for the students, showing them the original file and finished T-shirt side-by-side. I then quickly showed the students how to set their canvas size to 13″ x 15″ so they could see the boundaries of where their designs would print on the T-shirt. One important thing I tried to remind them of is that the shirts will be heather grey, and there is no white ink, so any areas that are white in their file will turn out heather grey / no ink. You can see this in the snowcap of the Inkscape logo mountain in the test t-shirt, as I’m pointing out in the photo below:
The only instruction besides that was a quick run-through on linear and radial gradients. I did not have a sheet prepared for that, but I have prepared one here for your usage. Originally, I had prepared a sheet on importing Open Clip Art graphics, but as Eve and I were talking on the car ride into class we decided that it’d be better to go over gradients – getting the students working with Open Clip Art too early we feared might encourage them to lean too heavily on found art rather than hone their still-developing skills in creating their own artwork. I’ll use that material for the last day of class.
After the explanation on gradients, we encouraged the students to raise their hands as soon as they got stuck on something. By far, the most common issue that has gotten students stuck is the alpha setting in the fill dialog somehow getting turned all the way down, so when they start drawing with the calligraphy pen or shape tools, they can’t see their artwork at all. It’s the ‘alpha’ slider, not the ‘opacity’ slider (the latter they seem very comfortable with.) I’m pretty sure the stuck students were not setting the alpha in that dialog deliberately, so I am not sure how it keeps getting turned down.
Some other issues that came up:
- A couple of students over the course of the class have gotten ‘lost’ on the canvas. We’ve instructed them to hit ‘5’ on the keyboard to get brought ‘back to center’ to find their artwork again.
- A couple of students have gotten confused when a shape didn’t have nodes – I’ve had to remind them to convert the shape to a path first.
- One student today had a really nice illustration of a snake that she made with the calligraphy tool, but she did it in separate strokes and was not sure how to link them together. I showed her how to hold down Shift, select the pieces she wanted to unify, then go to Path > Union to make them one shape. It was a little hard for her to ‘collect all the pieces’ but once she got them all selected she was back on track.
I don’t think these are necessarily flaws in Inkscape, just humps that beginners to the program should learn how to resolve!
I forgot to take photos of the students’ work again – I will try harder for class 6 tomorrow!
Follow Along on Your Own
We have a lot of materials this week for folks following at home.
Here’s the lesson sheet we used for class on Thursday:
Introduction to Inkscape Lesson 5
T-Shirt Size Signup Sheet
Band Name Suggestions Sheet
Class Calendar with Deadlines
Sample T-Shirt Design SVG
Sample T-Shirt Design 300-DPI PNG
As always, the OpenOffice.org source files and the outlines for the entire course are at the course page on my website – but please note that’s a rough outline; as we progress through the class I’m coming up with the more-solid lesson plans based on how far the students get each session. By the end of the course I hope to have the course page organized much better.
By the way, if you’d like to follow all the blog posts about this class at one URL without getting the rest of my feed, I’ve set up a category in WordPress specifically for these posts:
Enjoy! And please do let me know in the comments if you have any questions or suggestions
This course is sponsored by