I have a monochrome drawing of a face done in SVG. The entire face is one path. How do I for instance select just an eye and make it into a second separate path? Thanks.

Note that the eye is just kind of floating there in space and is not connected to the nose, mouth, etc.

enter image description here

  • Have you tried to remove the unnecessary nodes? Mar 24, 2016 at 14:20

5 Answers 5


CAI right. But Break Apart will make it for all path, not only for the eyes better this way:

  • Make a duplicate
  • Break Apart duplicate (now all the pieces are selected and separated)
  • Unselect duplicate-eye Shift+click (more convenient in outline mode)
  • Delete
  • Now we have a separate duplicate-eye over original, you need to remove original eye
  • Cut duplicate-eye for convenience
  • 1 Way use freehand-pencil tool shape over the eyes and a Boolean subtracting operation removes it
  • 2 Way Edit shape tool select eye nodes and delete
  • Paste eye

enter image description here

Yes, it looks difficult, but with hot keys is fast enough.


Path → Break Apart

I don't personally use Inkscape, but in Illustrator this would be a compound path or shape and there is a command to release the compound path.

According to this post on the Inkscape forum, the equivalent in inkscape is 'Break Apart' available from the Path menu.


From what I understood your SVG is made of a white object (the face) on a black background. Therefore we can not easily select the black eye as a separate object.

To overcome this a very fast method would be to use Inkscape's Bucket Fill tool (Shift + F7 ). By this we can create a new object outlining the shape of the undelying object we had applied it to. Colors and stroke properties will will be of our current defaults and needs to be adapted to match the source.

For more complex objects, or in case we need to obtain parts of a (foreground) object we can Break apart the existing path to create new objects.

  • No. It's black curves on a white background.
    – posfan12
    Mar 27, 2016 at 1:43
  • Mark the black path.
  • Shift+Ctrl+K (or Path menu, divide)

Now you have isolated black entities. In above picture, this will be mouth, eye, eyebrow and the rest, since the rest is connected.

Perhaps you have to ungroup after dividing - not sure.


If you need to separate out a bunch of elements and/or don't want to disturb the placement of the elements on the drawing, I recommend the following procedure (Windows/Linux shortcuts included to help speed your workflow):

  1. Open the Layers dialog (ctrl-shift-L)
  2. Create a new layer called "New"
  3. Create a new layer called "Working Space"
  4. Create a new layer called "Old" (This one is optional if your original is already in a layer)
  5. Move your original to "Old". This will be your source, so we won't alter it. Select the original, "Layer" -> "Move Selection to Layer...", then select "Old" in the dialog.
  6. Click on the eye icon next to layer "New" to hide it.
  7. If layer "Old" is hidden, click on the eye icon next to "Old" to unhide it.
  8. Select your original and copy it (ctrl-C), select "Working Space" in the layers dialog, paste in place (ctrl-alt-V)
  9. Click on the eye icon next to layer "Old" to hide it.
  10. Layer "Working Space" and your original should already be selected. If not, select them.
  11. "Path" -> "Break Apart" (ctrl-shiftl-K)
  12. Shift-click on the element you want to separate out. This will un-select it, leaving the rest of the original selected.
  13. "Edit" -> "Delete" (del) to delete the rest of the original.
  14. Move your separated element to "New". Select the element, "Layer" -> "Move Selection to Layer...", then select "New" in the dialog
  15. Repeat steps 7-14 for additional elements you want to separate.

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