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I would like to essentially recreate the following figure in Inkscape, but I don't know how I might go about the "particle cloud". Is that something I can do in Inkscape?

enter image description here

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3 Answers 3

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You could use a filter in Inkscape to create rough/turbulent noise, but it's quite tricky to find the right one or adjust it to get it to look right.

Making individual objects/particles would create a huge file size, literally thousands of objects, so that's not practical and would likely make Inkscape grind to a halt or crash.

Personally, I would use a raster image editor such as GIMP to create a noise texture like this. You can import raster images into Inkscape, so the diagram itself can still be vector, and just have the background raster.

Here's a rough example

The shape was made in Inkscape, imported into GIMP and blurred, and then a chalk texture I found online was added as a layer with the blending mode set to Burn. I also added some noise to this layer.

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Here is the raster image imported back into Inkscape and overlayed with some vector graphics. This is a bit rough, but I'm sure with some time and care you can get a better result.

enter image description here

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  • I would go for 3D software with a particle system... But what do I know n_n
    – Rafael
    Mar 19 at 19:59
  • @Rafael Yeah, I'm sure that would work too, but the question is about Inkscape ;)
    – Billy Kerr
    Mar 19 at 20:00
  • Or maybe a fresnel shader, and then on the resulting render using an error diffusion halftone to get the dots.
    – Rafael
    Mar 19 at 20:12
  • @BillyKerr thanks! I think this is a nice economic solution that still looks good. Also, I didn't know you could import vector graphic shapes into gimp. Good to know!
    – mapf
    Mar 20 at 8:29
  • @Rafael I agree that the proper way would be to simulate it in 3D, maybe using blender or even unreal engine? Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea how to do that. Do you know any relevant tutorials? Or would you even be willing show how it might be done in a separate question? Regarding the other solution you mention: I have no idea what you are talking about, but I would be really interested to see it!
    – mapf
    Mar 20 at 8:32
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This is a complementary answer to Billy Kerr's answer, only to make the "spherical part" using Blender wich is free, and explaining what a Fresnel material is. (It requires a basic understanding of Blender, but there are several tutorials on youtube for this)

A typical material in a 3D software has color, roughness and some glossyness, but that material depends on an external light outside the object. So in the case of this astronomical diagram does not apply.

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So The first step is to remove the Principled shader and add an Emission shader.

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But as this looks totally flat, we need the Fresnel node.

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This gives the instruction to change the value of the Emission depending on the angle of the face in relation to the camera.

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And here is the result.

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Now you can use it as a base for the "cloud"


I am opening this on Gimp and adding an HSV noise, and increasing the value on the Hue slider.

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As scale and size are important, on this version I reduced the image size to half, and I am zooming in 200%.

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Inside Inkscape, you now can play with this. I drew a circle over the bitmap and selected both.

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Now go to Object > Clip > Set (The image is in Spanish consider that a bonus language class n_n)

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And now the bitmap is inside a vector shape inside Inkscape.

I am very clumsy in Inkscape, but you can use several shapes with different textures to simulate the slices on the sphere.


Here are some shapes with the same texture, but I changed the curves to make them either darker or brighter.

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  • 1
    This is great! Thank you so much. But now I've tasted blood. I will try and see if I can actually simulate this in 3D.
    – mapf
    Mar 21 at 10:26
  • 1
    Just FYI, I just posted a question about how to properly model this in blender over in the blender SE. Maybe you would like to have a look.
    – mapf
    Mar 21 at 20:44
  • Nice. Ill take a look at the responses you get there. I´m still a newbie with Blender.
    – Rafael
    Mar 21 at 22:54
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There's 2 ways to make the cloud as vector

  1. use a chaotic noise effect which generates the bitmap image of the cloud in rendering

  2. have so low number (max. few thousands) of particles that the computer doesn't get stalled

Option 1 has been suggested already by others. Inkscape has SVG effects which possibly can create the wanted look, but building one with the SVG effect editor is complex, far beyond my knowledge. In addition it's finally a bitmap image, it can behave as vector (=scalable without pixelation) only in Inkscape.

Option 2. As far as I understand the case, it needs somehow randomly scattered dots, regularly spaced half-tone patterns cannot be used. Randomly scattered dot patterns can be made by spraying clones of a small circle. The spraying tool allows random scaling and it's possible to set the minimum distance to avoid too dense fill. Of course, if there's only max. few thousands of dots, it will look sparse, but a blurred copy can make it more solid:

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Originally a black circle was the original selection to be sprayed. After spraying the dots were grouped, for easy moving, colored to light grey, a black background was inserted. The sparseness was cured by making a couple of blurred copies of the pattern. They can well be bitmap copies because the blur is anyway a bitmap image.

Another way is to create a dithered black & white pattern in GIMP and trace it to vector in Inkscape:

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In the left there's a vectorized dot pattern. In GIMP one makes easily black dots. The color is changed to light grey after the tracing and a black background is inserted.

In the right the apparent density is increased by adding a blurred copy of the pattern. Some vector shapes are inserted to test how useful they are. I'm afraid the dot's alone do not show the wanted geometry. The shapes are copied from the original drawing and turned to white.

Making the image started from this (wonky, sorry) drawing.

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The drawing in the left is an attempt to convert a rendered low quality 3D model to line drawing. I put together manually some arcs to get a simple drawing. A capable enough 3D program, of course, would allow one to input the dimensions and the wanted view parameters exactly and the conversion to curves would be perfect with no tinkering.

In the right the areas are filled with light greys. The numbers are the used brightness percents. The colors are light to get sparse black dot ditherings in GIMP (or Krita).

The shapes are copied and pasted to GIMP to a 300 px wide image. Such functionality is fortunately implemented and works to both directions. The actual width of the shapes is only about 260 px.

A small amount of noise is inserted in GIMP to break a little the borders:

enter image description here

This is the conversion to indexed black and white mode with Floyd-Steinberg dithering:

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And this is the conversion result in GIMP:

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The result is pasted to Inkscape and traced to vector. Black dots got new light grey fill color as shown above.

A blurred copy is inserted to make the image less sparse. Blurring unfortunately fades the dots because the dots are so small. They were made bigger by inserting a stroke before blurring.

The blurred version could as well be a bitmap copy. It's useful in keeping Inkscape responsive.

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  • Wow, thank you! Another great solution. I like that it ends up being 100% vector graphics.
    – mapf
    Mar 21 at 18:58

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