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Playing With Isometric Projection in Inkscape to Make a Minecraft Scene

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Inkscape has a really neat grid feature to make isometric designs very easy to accomplish. It's called an axonometric grid, and we're going to use it to create a Minecraft inspired isometric design. This tutorial will focus on creating four different isometric blocks that can then be placed to create a scene.


1. Set Up the Document

Step 1

Let's go to File > Document Properties to set our page size to 970 x 1000 pixels.

set document size

Step 2

Now click the Grids tab and create an Axonometric grid. Refer to the image below for the settings - make sure everything on this is the same as yours or we might run into some issues. I've also changed the grid line colors to my liking, which may make things easier for you as well.

axonometric grid

Step 3

Finally, set the snapping options how I have it shown below. This will make working with grids much easier. At this point, you can see the axonometric grid (it's pretty neat). I've outlined the major grid lines below into the shape of a 3D cube, which will be the basis of this entire tutorial. Let's begin!

set snapping

2. Create a Dirt Block

Step 1

Grab that Pen tool, because that will pretty much be the only tool you'll be using. As nodes will be snapping as you draw, create a 3D cube outline (or hexagon) on the major grid lines. Get rid of the Stroke and give it a brown Fill.

Note: You may be wondering why I'm using a solid shape for a 3D cube instead of piecing together the three separate sides. Well, whenever I use the axonometric grid, nothing ever seems to fit pixel perfect (perhaps on the account of 30 degree angels and the inability to get numbers without decimals). With this, the outcome is always white lines where all of the sides meet up. By doing one solid shape as a basis for the cube, this at least removes the white lines.

draw the dirt block

Step 2

We're going to start adding some detail to our dirt block. When you zoom in, you'll see the smaller grid lines appear - this will be the size of each of our detail colors, so go ahead and draw four of those as shown below. Along with that, give them four different shades of brown as well.

dirt block colors

Step 3

Now this is the tedious part. Just start copy and pasting each of the little squares individually to get that Minecraft-type texture. Snapping to bounding box corners will snap these things into place as long as you move them by grabbing the top left or bottom right corners. You can even search some of the actual Minecraft blocks and use them as a reference. Of course, you can always just place them exactly how I have them below. Hotkeys for copy and paste will be your best friend for this one.

While this is tedious, it's super easy and only takes a couple minutes.

place detail squares

Step 4

With the Selection tool, just select all of the block you've just placed. Copy, paste, and click again to bring up the Skewing handles. Hold control and drag this handle up two notches, which will make this perfectly straight.

copy for the other side

Step 5

Let go of the skewing handle, but then grab it again. Then do the exact same thing - while holding control, drag it up two more notches. This will give you the texture at the correct angle. If you skew it only once, the angle won't be right, so make sure you do it two separate times.

skew some more

Step 6

As you can see, the angle is indeed correct and you can now position it into place. Again, bounding box corner snapping should do the trick, just make sure you grab the selection by a corner.

position details

Step 6

For some quick shading, grab the Pen tool and draw a square over the entire right side. Remove the Stroke and give it a Fill of black. Then, set the Opacity of this shape to 25%. That should do the trick!

dirt block shading

Step 7

It's time for the top details now. Just copy and paste that details group again and use the rotating handles while holding control to fit the top side of the cube.

detail the top

Step 8

To position this one, you'll probably want to set Snap from and to midpoints from the snapping menu. Bounding box corners would be pretty useless here.

set snapping

Step 9

To keep the shaded look going, let's draw a square for the top side of the cube. Give this one a light brown Fill and no Stroke again.

top side shading

Step 10

Then set the Opacity to 25%. At this point, you'll probably want to select the whole block and group it.

adjust shading

Looks pretty good, right?

dirt block

3. Create a Grass Block

Step 1

Okay, this one will be easy. Just copy and paste your dirt block as we'll using this for majority of the grass block. Then, using the Pen tool as usual, draw an entire shape in which to resemble the grassy top. Again, we're doing it as one shape (instead of three separate ones) to avoid brown lines from coming through.

draw grass top

Step 2

Remove the stroke, and Fill it with grassy green!

color the grass

Step 3

We'll be using two shades of green for the sides here. Go ahead and draw those up.

green color details

Step 4

Now go ahead and start copying and pasting away! You don't need too much detail here, but you can also place a few below the grass line to give it a more "grassy" texture.

place detail colors

Step 5

Just like before, repeat for the other side. Copy and paste your details and do that double skew maneuver to fit the right angle. Then go ahead and let that snap into place.

duplicate details

Step 6

After your details are in place, we're going to draw that black shape on the right side of the block again for some quick shading. That was just a black Fill, no stroke, Opacity 25%.

place the details

Step 7

It's time for the top side of our grass block. Draw a shape over the top side and give it a brighter green Fill.

grass block top side

Step 8

For the top side, we're going to use four more different shades of green. Go ahead and draw these up.

green shades

Step 9

Time for the copy and pasting spree! For this particular top side angle, make sure that Snap to midpoints is enabled in the snapping menu. Again, you can reference to an actual Minecraft grass block, or just randomly place these squares.

place top green details

Two blocks down, two to go!

dirt and grass block

4. Create a Tree Block

Step 1

For the tree block, let's just start from scratch. Draw the cube outline (just like we did with the dirt block) and give it a dark brown Fill, no stroke.

dark brown shape

Step 2

Let's draw a couple colors for our tree texture.

tree details

Step 3

For the tree block, it may be easier to just use the Pen tool to draw the texture by hand (instead of placing the little squares) as we want the tree to streak up and down. Then of course, use those two brown colors to fill these in.

draw tree details

Step 4

After we're all colored up, it's time to copy our texture and skew for the other side. Remember, hold control and drag the skew handle up two notches, then let go. Then, repeat. This will yield the correct angle.

color in the texture

Step 5

After placing that texture, it's time for the usual shading. Draw over the right side of the cube with a black shape and set the Opacity to 25%.

tree block shading

Step 6

For the top side, draw a light brown shape to cover the top of our cube.

tree top side

Step 7

Now for the tree texture, just keep drawing shapes one isometric block smaller to the inside. A nice light brown should do the trick.

filling in the top

Step 8

Continue this pattern with a slightly darker brown.

continue the top side

Keep this going until you have something similar to below.

finish top wood block

That finishes the wood block. Here's our three so far!

dirt grass and tree block

5. Create a Leaf Block

Step 1

This one is fairly simple. Since this will be a transparent block, we don't need to start with a base. Just draw up the three green colors as shown below.

leaf block colors

Step 2

And place away! Make sure to leave a sufficient amount of open space to make it look nice and leafy.

place leaf texture

Step 3

Once you've finished one side, go ahead and copy, paste, and double skew for the right side of the leaf block. Then let that snap into place. Keep that side selected for the next step!

copy leaf texture

Step 4

For shading, we can't simply slap a transparent black shape over it - it would look terrible with all of the white space. With the right side still selected, head up to Extensions > Color > Less Light. Run this extension twice for the proper amount of shading.

What this Extension does is darken all of the selected colors evenly, which works great in this scenario.

inkscape color extension

Step 5

Now it's time for the top of our leaf block. Copy and paste another slice of leaf texture and hold-Control while using the rotating handles to angle this one correctly. Keep this one selected again!

top leaf block

Step 6

This time for shading, we want a brighter top side, so head to Extensions > Color > More Light. Again, run this extension twice.

lighten color

Step 7

After snapping the top of the leaf block into place, we will have all four of our blocks finished!

dirt grass tree leaf

6. Build a World

Step 1

Time for the fun part! First, let's zoom out so we can see our canvas (it's less overwhelming this way also). Make sure Snap to midpoint is enables for placing blocks. Pretty much at this point, you can place blocks however you'd like. You just copy and paste the blocks we've created and let them snap into place.

Also, since we're working with fake 3D on a 2D plane, you'll quickly find that depth becomes an issue. The Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End keys will be your friend in proper positioning.

All new pasted blocks are set in front of everything by default, so working from back-to-front would be optimal. Obviously, this is tricky to do, so just keep your hand on those hotkeys.

start placing grass

Step 2

Here's my finished dirt and grass blocks placement. Remember that the grass blocks go on top of the dirt blocks!

dirt block world

Step 3

Let's build a tree! Just place those tree blocks about three or four high, then place some leaf blocks around it. Remember, Page Up and Page Down for proper depth placement will make this much easier.

build a tree

Step 4

Here's my finished world. This should give you a pretty good idea on how the construction works.

finished tree

Step 5

Now it's time for a little extra detail in the shading. For this, we can just use the Pen tool to draw shadows (black Fill with 25% Opacity). For mine, I have the shadow angle completely to the right. Look at the image below for a reference. They don't have to be 100% accurate, but just enough to add a little more depth to the entire scene.

isometric-47-small

Step 6

Here's my completed shading. You might notice I ended up doing a linear gradient for the tree shadow.

finished shading

Step 7

Now, you can finish this up just by putting some sort of blue sky background on it. Looks great, right?

add background

Step 8

I kept playing around with things and found that if I exported the scene with a transparent background, I could import a few of them back in and adjust the sizes, blurs, and flip them horizontally to make a neat blurred background.

blurred background

And We're Done!

A pretty lengthy and slightly tedious tutorial led to an awesome isometric projection design in Inkscape. Not only that, but it was also a ton of fun coming up with a random world out of building blocks! So go ahead and play around with this and build a neat Minecraft type scene. Thanks for reading!

inkscape isometric projection

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