I have a basic shape (crescent shape) on one layer and a bunch of lines on another layer. enter image description here

I want to use the red lines to "cut" the crescent shape. Not in a mask but actually alter the crescent shape so that is is made out of individual shapes.

The result would look like this:

enter image description here

Here I just faked it by turning the red lines white.

I have followed the instructions here but they do not work.

I have tried every order of:

  • Selecting all red lines first, then the crescent shape and trying Path -> Unison, Difference, etc.

  • Selecting shape first, then red lines and trying Path -> Unison, Difference, etc.

  • Same combination of order with Object -> Clip -> Set

All I can get to happen is that the black object totally disappears.

I have also tried grouping and un-grouping the red lines.

This has raised some questions

  1. How do I do this?
  2. A lot of answers rely on converting the crescent object to a path. How do I know if a shape is an object or path? I thought shapes were only the primitives like circles and squares - why is there a difference here?
  3. Regarding the group thing, I understand the resulting XML code differences, but is there any difference in how groups and objects (or objects made up of paths if that is a thing) are treated? Is there a way to visualize what objects are in what (if any) groups?

1 Answer 1


You don't need to use separate layers for this. The red lines just need to be above the semicircle in the object stack.

  1. If the red lines are strokes, make sure they are ungrouped and selected, then convert them to paths using Path > Stroke to path. If they are already filled paths, ignore this step and just make sure they are ungrouped, and selected for the next step.

  2. Do Path > Combine, or Path > Union. The result will be the same. This will effectively mean the red lines will become one combined path.

  3. It the black semicircle is a stroke, also do Path > Stroke to path. If it's already a path with a fill ignore this step.

  4. Select both the red lines and the black semicircle then apply do Path > Difference

  5. If you want everything as separate paths, do Path > Break apart


enter image description here

You can find out if objects are in groups by opening the Objects panel (using Object > Objects). Unless it has been manually renamed, a group will be labelled with a letter "g" follow by some numbers. Alternatively just select everything and hit ungroup several times until there are no groups left.

You can find out if an object is a stroke or a filled path by selecting the object with the Edit Paths by Nodes tool F2. You will see the path in the middle of the stroke, as opposed to a path that is filled. For the above technique to work, you want just filled paths, no strokes.

You can also select an object and open up the Fill & Stroke panel Shift+Ctrl+F to see what attributes have been set.

enter image description here

Please also note that ellipses and rectangles created with these tools are shapes, and not actually paths until you convert them to paths. You can use Path > Object to Path for that. You can skip this step when converting a shape directly to a filled path using Path > Stroke to Path.

  • Fantastic answer. So, conceptually is the way to thing about it: All objects are paths - but some are paths with a stroke, and some are paths that are filled (and some could be paths that are stroked and filled)? In which case what is the difference between objects and paths? Again - great answer it worked.
    – Startec
    Apr 19, 2020 at 4:24
  • I think you've got it. Except paths are objects. Everything is an object in Inkscape. Strokes and fills are attributes. A path can also exist without a stroke and fill, but it would be invisible.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 19, 2020 at 9:00
  • You made something so confusing so clear.
    – Startec
    Apr 19, 2020 at 9:06
  • Well I dunno, I think I ramble a bit too much, but glad you found it helpful though.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 19, 2020 at 9:09

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