I created a symbol in Inkscape, but I can't figure out how to modify it. I found a forum post where the answer was "it's not possible," but I don't believe this to be true. It would defeat the purpose of symbols.

How can one modify a symbol in Inkscape?

3 Answers 3


I can't find a way to directly edit a symbol, i.e. one that is already in the symbols panel, although the answer by Library Seph will certainly work.

However, there's also another possible workaround, but it requires some forward planning in how you set up your symbols to begin with. Here are the basic steps.

  1. When making a symbol from scratch, group all the elements, then create a clone of it using Edit > Clone > Create Clone

  2. The clone will be created directly on top of your graphic, so click and drag it to move the clone away from the clone source, which you should keep somewhere off your page. Don't delete it.

  3. Now with the clone selected, add that as your symbol.

  4. Place instances of your symbol as normal, by clicking and dragging form the symbols panel.

  5. When you want to edit the symbol, double click on the clone source to enter its group, move, edit or add elements to the clone source group, and the symbol will update, and all instances of the symbol will update

Here's an example

enter image description here

Of course, alternatively, you could also just copy and paste clones, and dispense with the symbols functionality completely. Just make sure you keep the clone source, and all instances of the clones will update if you edit the clone source.

  • Dang. Clones are really, really broken from what I can tell. You have to place them exactly perfect at the start of your project because trying to move the clone source will move all other subs. I have yet to place one perfectly, and they have broken every project I've tried to use them in. Jun 26, 2023 at 23:27
  • 1
    @LibrarySeph Moving the clone source shouldn't move clones. Make sure you have exited the clone source group. (double click outside on a blank area to exit the group). Clones work perfectly in Inkscape. I've encountered no problems.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jun 27, 2023 at 7:35
  • Thank you. It was because I was inside the clone group. I thought pressing escape would get me out, but I was wrong. The double clicking trick is great news! Jun 28, 2023 at 18:38
  • @LibrarySeph You can also click on a layer in the Layers & Objects panel to exit a group, just in case you lose track of what group you are in.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jun 28, 2023 at 18:57

As of 2023, there is no direct way of modifying symbols, but the desired functionality is still possible.

Link to source: https://answers.launchpad.net/inkscape/+question/654054

The steps are:

  1. remove symbol
  2. modify (all copies are considered clones)
  3. re-add to symbol panel.

Essentially, symbol panel doesn't really do much beyond freezing clones.


there is this even hackier solution if others answers (which are honestly better) do not satisfy you

  1. Drag the symbol from the symbol dialog on the canvas
  2. Open the XML editor
  3. Navigate to <def> find your <Symbol> by name and unroll
  4. Drag and drop content (usually <g>) into the hierarchy / layer

A: Quick edit (safe option)

  1. Edit as usual on Canvas (symbol will paper in Top left corner 0,0)
  2. Back in the XML editor drag edited object back to the <symbol> inside <defs> (original place)

B: Permanent edit / interactive preview

  1. Symbol will appear in Top Left on the canvas
  2. Create a clone of this symbol ALT+D
  3. Back in the XML editor drag created clone back to the <symbol> inside <defs> (original place)
  4. Edit symbol on canvas
  5. After you are done you can move it out outside of Canvas so you can edit it later or delete it

editing symbols

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