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21 May 2014

How to Import EPS Files into Inkscape

While browsing the shelves of a local discount book store, I stumbled upon an interesting pattern book called Drip.Dot.Swirl. by Von Glitschka, published by HOW Books in 2009. Being a bit of a pattern nut and seeing a lot of patterns in the book that I liked, I was about to buy the book when I noticed that the DVD that was supposed to be in the back of the book was missing. The DVD contains editable vector files, swatch libraries, and tutorials and is at least half the reason for buying the book. Being undaunted, after a quick search online I found a copy of the book and had it in my hands within a week.

Drip Dot Swirl: 94 Incredible Patterns for Design and Illustration

I happily popped the DVD into the drive and grabbed the first vector file, only to discover that all the files are in encapsulated PostScript (EPS) format and plain vanilla Inkscape is completely unable to load them. Fine. Back to the internet. After poking around for a while I finally found some useful instructions at Here's a quick step-by-step on how to set up Inkscape so that it can read EPS files. (Please note that these instructions are for Windows 7. For later versions of Windows, the way to get to your environment variables will probably be slightly different.)

Step 1 – Install Ghostscript

The main thing you need is a program that is able to convert EPS files into PDF files. That would be Ghostscript. Ghostscript releases are currently available at (They are no longer using SourceForge.) I chose the Postscript and PDF interpreter/renderer for Ghostscript 9.14 for Windows (64 bit) and installed it in its default location (“C:\Program Files\gs” on Windows 7). What is of main interest is the ps2pdf utility.

ps2pdf Utility in Ghostscript

Step 2 – Modify your Path Environment Variable

Once Ghostscript is installed, you need to tell Inkscape how to find it. This is done by adding a couple of paths to your Path environment variable, namely the paths to Ghostscipt's bin and lib folders.

Useful Ghostscript Paths

You will need administrator access in order to make these changes. The following are instructions on how to do this on Windows 7. Before changing your Path variable, make sure Inkscape is not running.

To find your Path variable, open your Start menu and navigate to Control Panel > System and click on Advanced system settings. This will open the System Properties dialog. Click on the Advanced tab and then on the Environment Variables button.

In the System variables section of the Environment Variables dialog, scroll down until you find Path, click on it, then click on Edit.... You can add the appropriate paths to either the front or the back of the Variable value field in the Edit System Variable dialog. Paths in the value must be separated by semicolons (;), so if you add these paths to the front, make sure you end with a semicolon, and if you add these paths to the back, make sure you start with a semicolon.

Setting the Path Environment Variable

The paths I added are “C:\Program Files\gs\gs9.14\bin;C:\Program Files\gs\gs9.14\lib”. If your Ghostscript installation is on a different type of system, make sure you add the appropriate paths pointing to Ghostscript's bin and lib folders. If you are installing a different version of Ghostscript, use the appropriate version number in the path.

After entering the new path values, click OK in the Edit System Variable dialog, OK in the Environment Variables dialog, and OK in the System Properties dialog, then close the Control Panel window.

TIP: The order of paths in the Path list can be very important since some tool paths can override others. I recommend that you start by putting the Ghostscript paths on the front of the Path list. If this causes something not to work, then you can rearrange the order of the paths to try to figure out which tools are interfering with each other.
TIP: If you have a problem with doubled backslashes ("\\") showing up in your path, try copying file gswin64c.exe (or gswin32c.exe if you have the 32-bit version) from the Ghostscript \bin folder into the Ghostscript \lib folder to see if that fixes the problem.
TIP: If you get a strange message from Inkscape about ps2pdf failing, try adding "C:\Windows\system32;" to your path.

Step 3 – Run Inkscape

The first time you run Inkscape after changing your Path variable, you'll notice that it takes a while to respond. This is because it's exploring the new path and setting up the functionality that allows the importing of EPS files. Be patient and wait. (I am using Inkscape version 0.48.)

Once Inkscape is back in the land of the living, choose File > Import (Ctrl+I) and navigate to a folder that contains one or more EPS files. You should see them automatically listed. If you click on the Files of type button at the bottom of the window, you should be able to find an Encapsulated PostScript entry.

Importing EPS Files

Choose a file and click on the Open button. The PDF Import Settings dialog will appear. Choose the settings you prefer and click the OK button.

PDF Import Settings Dialog

I am unfamiliar with this dialog, but I think the only relevant adjustment for the vector files that I want to import is the Precision of approximating gradient meshes slider. The default value is 2.0 (rough). According to The Book of Inkscape: The Definitive Guide to the Free Graphics Editor, page 388, this adjustment controls how gradient meshes are approximated with lattices of small, flat-colored path tiles. Increasing this slider will make imported meshes look smoother at the cost of increasing the size of the SVG file.

Once you click OK, the EPS file data is converted to vector data that Inkscape can manipulate. You can now make any changes to the drawing that you like and save it in SVG format.

Imported EPS Image

Well, that was relatively straight-forward and easy and worked the first time. How refreshing!

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