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So I have a group of completely arbitrary objects in Inkscape that I want an outline around. Completely Arbitrary Objects

Not around each individual object, but around the group as a whole. Individually Outlined

So I convert to paths, do a Union, and set my Stroke. Success! Total Outline

....Except I forgot to mention that I want the component objects to be autonomously movable for the sake of reuse and animation. Autonomous Movement

The process I just detailed leaves everything as one consolidated image, defeating the reuse purpose.

Only One Object

Now, I obviously can't set a stroke on the group itself. That just sets the stroke on the components. But wait! Inkscape has cloning, right? So if I clone and Union the clones....One of the objects is not a path

Oh.

Now, I suppose I could just eternally destroy my work and do it all over again. That is always an option. A horrible, horrible, option, but an option. All the possible workarounds I've seen or come up with myself in a day of searching fail at the point of remaining linked to the original, and some also eliminate the path that lets me do fun things like Path Effects. I do like playing with line width, but I suppose I could get over its loss if that's the only way to save time.

Are there any tricks I'm overlooking to be able to link an outline to a dynamic group of shapes?

2

This might suffice as a kind of workaround. This is for Inkscape 0.92.1

  1. Group the objects you want to outline.

  2. Click Filters > Bevels > Jigsaw piece

  3. Open the filter editor

Set it up as follows:

Screenshot Filter Editor

  1. Click on the Morphology Effect and set it up as follows. You can somewhat adjust the outline thickness using the radius slider.

Screenshot Morphology Effect

The effect applies to the group. Each object within the group is still an independent object. Double click inside the group to enter it, and you can move rescale or edit each object.

Finished result showing outline

2

A lightweight workaround: Have 2 copies of the shapes in different layers.

  • add a new top layer
  • select all shapes
  • duplicate your shapes
  • remove the strokes
  • move the selection to the layer above

In the upper layer the shapes have only the fills, but no strokes. In the lower layer the shapes have both. A little practicing makes it easy to select simultaneously the same limb in both layers (Alt +Shift +2 clicks)

enter image description here

Toggle the selection mode between resize and rotate as usually with a click.

ADDENDUM: You cannot group the stroked and unstroked versions of the same limb because they jump to the same layer and same level in a layer.

  • Or just group them instead of needing to carefully click twice. A reasonable suggestion, and unlike the other suggestion, it allows for control of the outer half of the stroke, though the inner half is still covered up. – Trevortni May 30 '17 at 4:41
  • @Trevortni If two objects in 2 different layers are grouped, they jump to the same layer and to the same level inside the layer. This prevents the grouping. – user287001 May 30 '17 at 7:26
  • Oops, yes, I overlooked the fact that it defeats my original purpose. Silly me. Using clones for this and setting the rule to move clones in parallel seems to work, though that would best be saved for when it's the only clone work you need to do. – Trevortni May 30 '17 at 19:35

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