Discover how to draw complex shadows, highlights, and even flames in Inskscape. We’ll be using gradients, blurs, and clipping to simulate the effect of Illustrator’s gradient mesh in Inkscape. Let’s jump into this tutorial!
Final Image Preview
Below is the final image we will be working towards. Want access to the full Vector Source files and downloadable copies of every tutorial, including this one? Join Vector Plus for just 9$ a month.
- Program: Inkscape
- Version: 0.46
- Difficulty: Intermediate
- Estimated Completion Time: 1 hour
Do a Google image search for “candle.” We won’t be tracing over a reference image, but you may want to study several photos. There are a lot of subtleties to a candle’s lighting, and it’s hard to create them from your imagination alone.
We’ll be using several layers, and it helps to give them descriptive names. Rename the current layer to “Trunk.” This will hold the body of the candle.
Using the Pen tool, draw the outline of the candle. The top of the shape you draw will ultimately become the top-rear of the candle. If you make the top wavy like I did, the candle will look like it’s been burning for awhile.
Note that the very top of the candle is wider than the base. This gives the impression that the wax has melted and curled over a bit. We’ll strengthen this effect later with highlighting.
I drew the bottom arc by hand, but if you want, you can use the Ellipse tool, then merge it with the rest of the shape. To do that, select both the ellipse and the shape. Then click Path > Union.
Right-click the shape and select “Fill and Stroke.” Select the Fill tab and click the linear gradient icon. Click Edit and set up gradient stops with these four parameters: (1) Offset of 0.00 and Color of #c62f08ff, (2) Offset of 0.30 and Color of #c03c08ff, (3) Offset of 0.60 and Color of #bd4607ff, and (4) Offset of 1.00 and Color of #df512aff.
Create a new layer on top of the current one and call it “Top.” Using the Pen tool, draw an irregular elliptical shape. This will be the top of the candle.
Fill the shape with a radial gradient. This creates a highlight in the center where the flame will eventually be. The stops for this gradient are: (1) Offset of 0.00 and Color of #fffab0ff and (2) Offset of 1.00 and Color of #ffac19ff.
Now we can start highlighting the candle. This is the most important part, as almost all of the depth in the image comes from the highlights.
Create a new layer between the “Trunk” and “Top” layers, and call it “Trunk Highlights.” Draw a simple box across the upper half of the candle.
Fill the box with a radial gradient. Unlike the others, this one will go from solid to transparent. The stops are: (1) Offset of 0.00 and Color of #ffac29c3, (2) Offset of 0.47 and Color of #ffa92247, and (3) Offset of 1.00 and Color of #ffa21c00.
We can’t let that highlight spill over the way it’s doing now, so we have to clip it within the bounds of the trunk. To do that, select the trunk (the first shape your created) and copy it to the clipboard. Choose Edit > Paste In Place. Fill it bright green so it stands out.
Remove the top of the shape as illustrated below. Handy Trick: To get rid of Bezier handles, mouse over them and Control-click.
Make sure the green trunk copy is above the highlight. You can reorder objects with page-up and page-down.
Select the green trunk copy and the highlight. Choose Object > Clip > Set. The highlight should now be clipped to the shape of the trunk.
We’ll now add highlights to the sides of the trunk, simulating a studio lighting setup. Draw two shapes like those shown below.
Select the two shapes, go to Fill and Stroke, and set their Blur to 4.0.
Give them each a linear gradient going from white to transparent. Clip them both to the shape of the trunk, following the same procedure as before.
Now we’ll emphasize the lip around the top with some highlights. At the top-front, draw a shape like that shown below (green shape), just below the edge.
Apply a white to transparent radial gradient.
Draw similar shapes at other points around the lip.
Blur them and add radial gradients.
These few sharp highlights aren’t quite enough to suggest the shape of the lip. So, we’ll add one subtle highlight going all the way around. This shape will be a ring with a hole in the middle. To achieve that, draw the outer ring, and then draw the inner ring on top of it. Select both rings and choose Path > Difference.
Set it to a semi-transparent white and Blur it. This one doesn’t need a gradient.
To suggest light coming from the flame, we’ll add a highlight on the inside of the lip. Drawing the left and right sides of the shape requires a bit of three-dimensional thinking.
Blur the inner highlight. Thanks to our layering, the Blur doesn’t spill over onto the yellow ellipse.
Apply a radial gradient going from orange-yellow to transparent. Extend the gradient handles beyond the bounds of the object.
We’re done with the highlights. Here’s how it looks so far, shown below.
Now we can start drawing the wick and flame. First, draw an ellipse in the top-center, color it yellow-orange, and give it some Blur. This will simulate the pool of molten wax around the wick.
Draw the wick. This should be a very simple shape, but make it a little more interesting than a rectangle. Give it a black to yellow gradient.
Let’s draw the flame. Create a new layer called “Flame.” Start by drawing a simple shape that shown below. Fill it with a solid, fleshy color.
Draw a slightly different shape on top of it, leaving a bit of a gap at the bottom.
Fill the top shape with white and Blur it.
Draw a boomerang-like shape at the bottom of the flame.
Fill it with yellow and Blur it.
Draw a circle at the bottom of the flame and Blur it.
Apply a peach to transparent gradient, running top to bottom.
The candle itself is done, but it looks rather bland against a white background. Let’s draw a simple backdrop.
For mine, I just applied a vertical, linear gradient, then layered a radial gradient on top of it.
With the background in place, our candle stands out nicely. For added realism, you could put a few shadows on the ground beneath the candle.
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