SVG by Hand and by Code

 2019.06.18 -  Nat Tuck -  ~3 Minutes

This post is an attempt to walk through programattic generation of SVG files, step by step.

Part 1: SVG By Hand

Prereq: Kate Editor

$ sudo apt install kate

Simple SVG document:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> 
<svg width="100" height="100">
  <circle cx="50" cy="50" r="20" />


Ex 1

  1. Paste the above document into Kate.
  2. Save it as “circle.svg”
  3. Open it in Inkscape and Firefox to confirm that it’s reasonable.

Ex 2

  1. Skim the SVG tutorial at W3 Schools SVG Tutorial  
  2. By hand, using the Kate editor, create an SVG document with three concentric circles, colored as a bullseye.

Ex 3

  1. Create an SVG document that uses a path tag and the “h” and “v” commands to draw a square.
  2. Put the path in a group tag. Use the group tag to rotate the square into a diamond. Hint: look at the docs for the “transform” attribute.

Part 2: SVG By Code

Prereqs: Kate Editor; Ruby w/ Nokogiri

$ sudo apt install ruby ruby-nokogiri kate

Ruby Review

Here’s a Ruby tutorial: CodeCademy Ruby  

Go through the first 4 lessons of the “Learn Ruby” course.

Quick Re-Review

Start the interactive ruby shell:

$ irb

Try these commands and see what happens:

irb> text = "the quick brown fox"
irb> text
irb> words_array = text.split(/\s+/)
irb> words_array
irb> array2 = words_array.reverse
irb> array2
irb> array2.join(" + ")
irb> "word".upcase
irb> array3 = {|w| w.upcase }
irb> array3

Handling XML

XML describes a tree of tags. Take a look at the diagram here   .

Nokogiri is a library for writing Ruby programs to manipulate XML documents.

Try this:

irb> require 'nokogiri'
irb> doc = Nokogiri::XML("<svg/>")
irb> root = doc.xpath("//svg")[0]
irb> circ ="circle", doc)
irb> circ["cx"] = 50
irb> circ["cy"] = 50; circ["r"] = 20
irb> circ
irb> root.add_child(circ)
irb> doc
irb> puts doc.to_xml

Now consider this program:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

require 'nokogiri'

def add_node(parent, name, attrs)
  node =, parent.document)
  attrs.each do |kk,vv|
    node[kk.to_s] = vv.to_s

doc = Nokogiri::XML('<svg width="100" height="100" />')
root = doc.xpath("//svg")[0]

group = add_node(root, "g", { transform: "translate(10 10)" })

20.times do |ii|
  x = 10 + 10 * (ii % 5)
  y = 10 + 10 * (ii / 5)
  add_node(group, "circle", { cx: x, cy: y, r: 5 })

puts doc.to_xml

Paste the above into Kate and save as “grid.rb”. Then, in a terminal in the same directory:

$ ruby grid.rb
$ ruby grid.rb > grid.svg

Then open grid.svg in Inkscape to see what you got.

Ex 1

Modify grid.rb to draw a bullseye with N rings, where N is a variable that can be changed.

More stuff

Here are the official Nokogiri Tutorials   .