Rich EPS file editing with Inkscape

I’m currently preparing a paper for journal submission. A number of my pictures are UML diagrams, drawn in Enterprise Architect. The journal’s standards for graphical images represent a very high bar that Enterprise Architect can’t jump natively. The resolution of the bitmapped files it produces fall way short of what the journal is willing to accept. For a preference, the journal wants EPS files, given that they don’t pixelate when they are re-scaled.

There were a lot of dead-end paths I tried to get a vector graphic EPS file of these UML diagrams that I won’t document here.  Instead you, dear reader, get the winning approach. One that I’ve turned into a blog entry so in a year’s time, when I suspect a new supervisor may want a publication on what we did, I can reproduce this trick without re-walking the dead-end paths.

Firstly, use PrimoPDF to print the diagram to an EPS file.  You need to ensure that you are printing to a file using the PrimoPDF printer, that you are doing it in black and white (something about colour is causing invalid EPS files), and under the “Advanced..” settings, “PostScript Options”, you want Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) as your “Postscript Output Option”. For good measure, I’ve also pushed the print quality up to 600 dpi, but it’s probably unnecessary.  Here’s a picture of the printer setup employed:

A picture of the PrimoPDF settings for successful EPS file printing

PrimoPDF settings for successful EPS file printing

The file generated is an EPS file, so to save yourself grief, ensure the filename you specify has an eps extension.

Secondly, Inkscape is happy to import and export EPS files, and supply very rich drawing capabilities in the middle.  It isn’t going to do this for you straight out of box though. What you need is to install ghostscript, and ensure that it’s bin/ and lib/ directories are in your PATH environment variable, as described here.

When you first attempt to open an EPS file with Inkscape, you’ll see a PDF import dialog screen something like this:

A picture of PDF Import Settings Dialog of Inkscape

PDF Import Settings Dialog of Inkscape

When the file is first loaded, it is probably embedded in a page of mostly useless whitespace. Trim the page down in size to match the EPS image by going to “File->Document Properties->Resize page to drawing or selection”:

A picture of resizing an EPS page in Inkscape

Resizing an EPS page in Inkscape

Once that’s done, introduce a new layer, move all the text elements up into that layer, and paint some of the boxes to assist readers in their efforts to chunk together related elements on the diagram. Of course, we could go a lot further in tweaking given Inkscape’s rich editing facilities, but that’s enough to prove the point that you can now do some deliciously serious editing on an EPS file:

A picture of an EPS File being edited in Inkscape

EPS File Editing in Inkscape

Scribble with delight on your EPS files long and prosper!


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