Rendering 3D polyhedra and meshes using Inkscape

Tags: projects, software

When I was writing my dissertation, I was planning on creating all images as vector graphics if possible. They scale better and give the document an altogether published look. Some of the figures containing meshes (of some 3D objects for an IEEE TVCG publication about the merits of topological data analysis) turned out to be problematic, though. The state-of-the-art tool for mesh analysis, the aptly named MeshLab, is not capable of exporting vector graphics. Luckily, the Inkscape vector graphics editor, which I already used for other graphics, shipped with a plugin for “rendering” meshes in Wavefront OBJ format.

There were only two snags with the plugin:

  1. It seemed to be unmaintained or at the very least, somewhat undocumented.
  2. It did not support colours.

I could not easily change the first point, but boy, do I love me some fancy colours, in particular when I am talking about the curvature of meshes, for example. So I added colour support for the plugin and re-christened it to the highly creative name of 3D Polyhedron with vertex colours. You can find the code on GitHub. In contrast to most of my projects, it is released under the GPL. This is due to the fact that I was modifying the code of the original plugin.

Usage instructions are available on GitHub, so I would rather end this brief post with an example of the output of the plugin.

A torus, colour-coded by its mean curvature

Until next time!