Yesterday morning, I taught the sixth 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.)
Yesterday’s class, like last Thursday’s class, was primarily a working class. After this class we have only two sessions left, and the students’ artwork is due at the end of next session, so we’ve been giving them as much time as possible during class to work on their designs.
When I passed out the shirt size signup sheet last week, one of the students was absent, so I got his size and sent Walter at EmbroidMe Chelmsford a quick email listing of all the T-shirt sizes we’d need so he would be ready to have the shirts printed when we send the designs on Friday.
I gave some quick instructions on working with the align & distribute tool in Inkscape – since we are getting close to the end of class, I thought going over alignments would be helpful for the students in making final preparations for their artwork to be handed off. One of the scenarios I used to explain align & distribute was making a template for a CD design, and how to use the tool to center the hole in the center of the CD to the circle shape for the actual disc.
Some things that came up while the students worked on their designs.
One student wanted to space some shapes surrounding a center circle at even intervals. I struggled a bit to explain how to do this – we tried using the ‘Remove overlaps’ section of the align & distribute tool, but it turns out that ‘remove overlaps’ behaves really strangely when you’re working with circular shapes. I would expect it to either calculate the spacing between the two objects based on the frame around the circular object, or between the outer edge of the shape at the point where the two shapes are closest together. Instead, it calculates based on the right-most point of the left circle, and the left-most point of the right circle, which results in the tool taking somewhat un-intuitive actions. I ended up instructing her to go around the center circle, clicking two of the outside objects at a time, and using the right-align, bottom-align, left-align, and top-align buttons all around the center circle to get things lined up. A bit more tedious, but at least it seemed to work more predictably than using ‘Remove overlaps.’ You can see her design in the photo above, in case this issue is hard to visualize.
Another student wanted a sword to run through a snake such that one part of the snake was above the sword, and the other was under the sword. We made a copy of the snake using Ctrl + D and a copy of the sword using Ctrl + D, then we used Path > Intersect to get two pieces of the sword from where the snake intersected with it. We used Path > Break Apart to seperate the two sword pieces, and deleted the sword piece that covered the snake in the area where she wanted the snake to run over the sword.
One of the students made some really cool textures using a radial gradient with a lot of different points. However, he faced the challenge of part of his band name not being readable because the background coloration was so vivid behind the letters. I showed him how to make a copy of the text, give it a thick stroke in either white or black, then place it behind the original text so that there was a white outline behind the text to help make it readable. I also showed him how to blur the outline to give it more of a glow effect.
You can see the full set of photos John took of the students work in the Flickr album for session 6. You might start to notice a ‘blood’ theme here 🙂 I think maybe all the vampires from Twilight have had a bit of influence on our youth 😉
I mentioned in earlier posts that the students were very quiet – during these working sessions they’re definitely a bit more social now, talking to each other and helping each other out. I’m really happy to see that happening. 🙂
Follow Along on Your Own
Here’s the lesson sheet we used for class yesterday:
Introduction to Inkscape Lesson 6
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
It's great that you're teaching young children about open source programs.
People who complain that Inkscape et alia are hard to use are actually saying that they've grown accustomed to Adobe programs' quirks, and are too old to learn anything else.
I can see the learning curve in Gimp though – it's not hard to use, but it's different enough from Photoshop that you have to take some time to get up to speed. But I was trained using Illustrator and made a fairly seamless transition to sodipodi (later Inkscape) back in 2004… I have not heard much from designers saying Inkscape is difficult to use (although I have heard much bellyaching from them about Gimp.) Is that no longer the case? Have you heard designers complaining about Inkscape being hard to use?
I don't want to be rude because those courses are a great step forward, but how could you explain that this course about Inkscape (free software), sponsored buy redhat (free software company) is done on a Mac, using Mac OS instead of some Linux distro (e.g. fedora?)?
It's kind of disapointing since it seems like old habits (stereotypes should I say) are still out there : designers on Mac, developpers on Linux, users on Windows…
But anyway, thanks for providing those courses to the community 🙂
First of all, thank you for calling this into question, as I think it's an important point. I will point out that we have been transparent from the start – I said these courses are being done on Macs in a computer lab at the school in my very first blog post about the program.
Red Hat is a free software company, and Inkscape is free software. To introduce an entirely new operating system to an existing system without tech support staff at the school who can support it I think is not a good way to start off a relationship. As it is, we necessarily introduced X11 onto these Macs, which are relied on by students for other classes, and since installing it they have been experiencing some lockups on the systems' login screens. Converting a school with a pre-existing computer system over to Linux is a nice long-term goal. To attempt such a major change in the short term, especially in the middle of the school year, without putting into place the framework and support system is really doing the school no favor at all.
You know, I'm a vegetarian. There are some vegetarians who are extremely strict, won't even eat food that's been cooked on the same griddle as meat, won't ever make an exception even if they would have to skip a meal otherwise. There's actually a lot of health benefits you can get from being vegetarian – but you don't need to be strict vegetarian 100% of the time to reap those benefits. Mark Bittman, the New York Times' foodwriter, follows a 'vegetarian until 6 PM' diet where he allows himself to eat meat only for dinner – he hasn't had to gie up meat yet he's enjoyed many of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Bittman tells people about this diet as an example that you don't need to be religious or 100% perfectly vegetarian to 'do it right.' Any bit of change you can make in your diet to include more plant-based foods is going to be a positive change, and it doesn't have to be mutually exclusive with meat.
So think about it – if you are a meat eater or know a meat eater – you know how difficult it is to get someone to change their entire diet and 'give up' meat… I know many people who would not deny that a vegetarian diet is healthy, but they would also laugh in my face if I proposed they ate an all-meat diet. It's just not feasible for them.
Does it have to be all or nothing? Would it be better for us to choose between 100% open source only or no open source at all? I would not want to make that decision, to be honest, and I'm well known for having very strict stances on free and open source software (I am a designer, one profession many folks in the FLOSS community will make allowances for in using non-free software, and I refuse to use anything but free and open source tools.) I would rather expose these students to one single open source app than none at all. And I would rather introduce free and open source software to school districts at their own pace then force them into introducing a big change at a pace they are not comfortable with and risk a disaster that could set free & open source software back for years to come in that school district.
I am 100% for running Linux in schools – when they are ready. I think if a school district does not have the framework in place to do it, it's going to hurt both the school and FLOSS more than it hurts to try to force the issue.
I hope this makes sense. And I completely agree with you – the stigma that Mac is for designers – I am trying to fight that, and there's other artists in the GNOME community especially like Jimmac and Lapo who are proving FLOSS tools are completely suitable for making high-quality and beautiful artwork. I think Inkscape is a good first step, to be honest. Many of the students who have Windows at home are able to get a taste of it in school and install it at home. And perhaps when they eventually get to college and Linux is even more prolific on the desktop (hey a girl can dream 🙂 ) they can carry Inkscape with them to Linux.
Interesting stuff. Can you bundle courses and the exercises to one document and put that on your blog once you finished the course?
Sure, what kind of format are you thinking of? I can provide them all in a tarball or zipfile, or I can put them in one big PDF – I think maybe the former would be more useful? What do you think?
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