Importing Files

Inkscape is capable of importing many types of vector and bitmap graphics files. It can also import text. Some types are handled internally by GDK (ani, bmp, gif, ico, icns, jpeg, pcx, png, pnm, ras, tga, tiff, wbmp, xbm, xpm). Other types require additional programs, listed under the relevant entries as listed. One special feature allows importing images from the Open Clip Art Library, a free source of clip art. This is discussed at the end of this section.

Two methods exist for importing files into an already open document. The first is to use your window manager to drag a file and drop it onto an open Inkscape window. The second is to use the File icon Import... (Ctrl+I) dialog. These work for both bitmap and SVG files.

[Note]Embedding versus Linking

New in v0.48:

When bitmap files are imported, a dialog will open up asking if you wish to embed or link the file. Embedding a file will cause the SVG file to be larger (sometimes significantly) but the SVG file will be stand alone as a copy of the bitmap is encoded inside the file. If you link to the bitmap, you will need to move the SVG file and bitmap file together. If at a later time you change your mind, you can use the Embed Images or the Extract Image extensions to embed or extract images. See the section called “Images” in Chapter 22, Extensions. Note that prior to v0.48, by default, bitmap images are linked.

[Note]Bitmap Editing

You can edit linked bitmap images with an external program by doing a Right Mouse Click on the image and selecting the Edit Externally... option. The external program specified in the Bitmap section of the Inkscape Preferences dialog will open with the image loaded. Inkscape will update the image if any changes are saved (updates will happen any time the linked bitmap file changes, not just when the editing was initiated from Inkscape). Note, you cannot edit an embedded image file with an external program.

[Warning]SVG Bitmap Support

The SVG standard only requires renderers to support PNG, JPEG, and SVG formats. The other formats that Inkscape supports internally due to GDK (ani, bmp, ico, pcx, pnm, ras, tga, tiff, wbmp, xbm, xpm) render fine in Inkscape. Other renderers, however, will most likely not support external files of these types referenced from within an SVG file. When you select the embed option, Inkscape will convert the file first to a PNG. Your safest bet is to either embed them or use another program such as Gimp to convert these formats to JPEG or PNG.


A number of import types (CDR, PLT, SK1, and WMF) use the program UniConverter. As of UniConvertor version 1.1.4 text is not imported. It is planned that UniConvertor version 1.1.5 will handle text.

Windows UniConvertor 1.1.3 is included in v0.47, 1.1.5 in v0.48.

Macintosh UniConvertor is not included with Inkscape. Installation is not trivial.

Fedora Users.  The executable uniconv was renamed to uniconvertor to avoid a naming conflict. This is accounted for in v0.48. For v0.47, you can add a symbolic link from /usr/bin/uniconv to /usr/bin/uniconvertor (if you don't already have a binary with that name) or you can edit files such as cdr_input.inx and in the share/inkscape/extensions directory.

[Tip]In Case of Failure

If importing fails to work, check the file extension-errors.log located on Linux at ~/.config/inkscape/ and on Windows at %userprofile%\Application Data\Inkscape\. Any missing programs (dependencies) will be listed.

File types supported (a * indicates the author has not tested the file import):

Open Clip Art Library

The command File icon Import From Open Clip Art Library opens a search dialog that connects to the Open Clip Art Library website, a source of free clip art. The dialog allows searching for drawings that match descriptive words. Previews of files are shown in a window on the right side of the dialog.

Import from Open Clip Art Library dialog.
Import From Open Clip Art Library dialog. An example of searching for a butterfly is shown.

You may have to set the server name ( in the Import/Export section of the Inkscape Preferences dialog. In the future, export to the library will also be supported.