Create vector graphics with LibreOffice Draw


© Lead Image ©HannuVitanen,

© Lead Image ©HannuVitanen,

Article from Issue 172/2015

The LibreOffice suite is best known for its word processing and spreadsheet applications. However, LibreOffice also comes with Draw – an excellent vector drawing program.

Many users turn to LibreOffice every day for word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, and small-scale database implementations. In the rush for office documents, the excellent drawing and painting program known as LibreOffice Draw often goes unnoticed. If you've wondered about using Draw, read on for a look at how to get started.

In this article I refer to version of LibreOffice, as included out of the box with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and other recent distros. If you're using an older version, the instructions might vary, but you can always update to the latest version through your Linux distro's package management system.

Getting Started

LibreOffice Draw starts with a blank page in portrait orientation in standard format dimensions. The left column named Pages displays a scaled-down version of the current page; to the right, you see the drawing window. As the column layout suggests, the software is perfect for managing many pages with different drawings in a Draw file. To enable an individual page, click on it (Figure 1). Format | Page sets the page format.

Figure 1: All drawings from the author's book [1] reside in a single image file.

Along the bottom of the application window are the drawing tools, and at top is a toolbar with the attributes of the objects you create (View | Toolbars | Line and Filling). The most commonly used object is likely to be the rectangle. Like all other objects except lines, it has a border and a surface area. You can set its properties with the five selectors above the drawing page (Figure 2). Lines, of course, use only the three line style properties.

Figure 2: All objects – rectangles are shown here – consist of an edge and a surface area. You can set their properties with the five selectors above the drawing page.

Working with Objects

Like GIMP, Draw also works with layers. The last object created lies above those generated previously. To change the position of an object, right-click on it and select Arrange in the context menu (Figure 3). Objects can also be moved on the view plane. Alignment lets you position objects precisely not only using the mouse, but also mathematically. Aligning Left, for example, means that the left edges of all selected objects are lined up with a common vertical.

Figure 3: Using the Arrange context menu command, you change the position of the selected object, moving it to the front or back.

Whereas the Left, Centered, and Right alignment commands cause a shift in the horizontal plane, Top, Center, and Bottom cause shifts in the vertical direction. If you want to distribute objects evenly over a defined area, try Distribution from the context menu. This aligns the selected objects both horizontally and vertically across the area they currently jointly occupy; that is, the action only applies to the area the objects already occupied before distributing.

Draw is particularly suitable for explaining photos. To start, import the desired image into a blank page with Insert | Picture | From File. Now add explanatory text, markings, and arrows.


To export an image, first select all the associated objects with Edit | Select All (or Ctrl+A). A frame with eight green handles appears around the objects – this is also what you see when you click a single object. If you only want to select specific elements, hold down the Shift key and click the elements.

You can then start your export by selecting File | Export. This opens a file browser window in which you specify the location and the target format. To make sure the export module only processes the selected objects, instead of the entire document, check the box next to Selection.

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