Create Beading Patterns with Inkscape (free software)

Welcome to the free software Inkscape beading diagram tutorial! You can download Inkscape for free from If you have any difficulty following this tutorial, please post a comment at the bottom of the page on which you are stuck, and I'll do my best to help!


Final product - our Inkscape beading diagram!

Things to know ...
I have no affiliation with the developers of Inkscape. I merely stumbled upon their program through a link on another website that specializes in vector designs.

This program is freeware and has no adware associated with it. We are very fortunate that the authors have generously provided this program to all for their free enjoyment. Download Inkscape for free from

To explain the lingo, I will use double arrowheads ">>" to refer to a menu item at the top of the screen, followed by a submenu item within that menu. (e.g. File >> Save, or Effects >> Modify Path >> Add Nodes)

Part I - Setting up Inkscape: Installation and Preferences

1) First we must install the program. Visit and click on "Download Now" in the top right-hand corner of the page. Simply select a folder on your computer where to save the setup file for the program. Save the file onto your computer. The download should take about 2 minutes on high speed, or maybe half an hour on dial-up. Once downloaded, double-click on the setup file you saved on your computer. You may wish to exit other open programs, but I doubt it matters much. Follow the instructions in the setup screen until the program is installed. The setup program will create shortcuts and will add Inkscape in your start menu programs list. It will start up the program for you when you are finished installing, if you so desire.

2) Once the program screen is open, you'll find it's not maximized on your screen. This would make working with it inefficient, so resize the window. Simply drag the four corners of the program to the four corners of your screen. You could also click the maximize button, but you'll find that everytime you minimize the screen, it will revert back to its original size. If you drag out the four corners, it won't resize again. In the next few steps, I will teach you how to make this permanent in your Inkscape settings so that Inkscape opens full screen every time you launch the program.

Inkscape Preferences Button

3) Now we want to set up the program preferences to match our needs. Do one of the following:
-- Either go to File >> Inkscape Preferences...
-- Or click the button that looks like a wrench and screwdriver, which is on the top row of buttons, second from the right

I recommend that you make the following changes to the preferences:

Remember Window Size - Inkscape Preferences

A) In the left list, click "Windows": select "remember and use last window's geometry" under "Saving window geometry (size and position)". This will cause the window to be the size you last set it to when you resized the window. In other words, for us, this makes our full screen size permanent until you decide to change it. It will always remember what your most recently chosen window size.

Default Grid Settings - Inkscape Preferences

B) In the left list, click "Grids": select the following options from the Default grid settings for "Rectangular Grid":
-- Grid units: px (unchanged)
-- Origin X: 0.00 (unchanged)
-- Origin Y: 0.00 (unchanged)
-- Spacing X: 15.00
-- Spacing Y: 15.00
-- Grid line color: click the blue colour box and drag the sliders to select a colour (I selected light blue as seen in the photo)
-- Major grid line color: click the blue colour box and drag the sliders to select a colour (I selected black as seen in the photo)
-- Major grid line every: 4
-- Do not select show dots instead of lines

If in doubt, the photo shows you what your settings should look like exactly.

Setting the grid size is very important because we will be making heavy use of the grid to position our beads very easily.

Tool Settings - Use Last Style - Inkscape Preferences

C) In the left list, click on the [+] sign beside the word Tools. Then click the [+] sign beside the word Shapes: Make sure that for all shapes listed (Rectangle, 3D box, Ellipse, Star, Spiral) as well as for all other tools (Pencil, Pen, Calligraphy, Paint Bucket, Text), "Last style used" is selected rather than "This tool's own style".

This will ensure that when you use a tool or shape, it will remember what you last set the colours, stroking colours, gradient, etc. for that tool or shape. This is very important for us because when we type all our numbers on each bead, we want the program to remember the style from one number to the next without having to reset all the text properties again!

Document Properties Button

4) We are now going to edit the Document Properties for our document, and then we are going to save the settings we set here as our default template so that we don't have to change them again. To open the Document Properties box, do one of the following:
-- Either go to File >> Document Properties...
-- Or click the button that looks like a wrench head on a piece of paper, which is on the top row of buttons, on the very right

I recommend that you make the following changes to the document properties: (Go to page 2)