Generate vector graphics with Python

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Shoebot is a Python graphics robot. Instead of drawing with your mouse, you write code to create images. The syntax is simple and aimed at people without a specific programming background -- though its advanced features might be useful for code ninjas too!

It takes a Python script as input, which describes a drawing process, and outputs a vector graphic in a common open standard format: SVG, PDF, PostScript or PNG. It works through simple text files, and scripts can describe their own GUIs for controlling variables interactively. It can also be used as a Python module, a plugin for Python-scriptable tools such as Inkscape, and run from the command line without a GUI for automated tasks.

Shoebot is a port/rewrite of Nodebox 1. It was also inspired by DrawBot and Shoes. Thus, "Shoebot".

Install dependencies

Shoebot runs on Python 2.7, which is most probably what you already have installed.

The first step is to install the appropriate dependencies. If this is your first time using Shoebot, you'll want to install all of them.

In Debian/Ubuntu:

sudo apt-get install libjpeg-dev python-cairo python-gtk2 \
python-gobject python-rsvg python-imaging

In Fedora:

sudo yum install libjpeg-devel pycairo pygtk2 \ 
pygobject2 gnome-python2-rsvg python-pillow

Install Shoebot

You can get the latest flavor of Shoebot from GitHub, or using these direct links:

You can also clone the repository using Git from the command-line.
mkdir ~/src
cd ~/src
git clone

You should now see a new shoebot/ directory. The only remaining step is to install it proper:

cd shoebot
sudo python install

Running Shoebot from the console

Using the Shoebot console runner is straightforward:


This command will run the script, and create an output image file – output.svg by default. You'll want to specify your own filename, and for this there's the -o or --output option:

sbot -o image.png

The allowed extensions for the output filename are .svg, .ps, .pdf and .png.

You can find many example Shoebot scripts in /usr/share/shoebot/examples.

Shoebot can also run in a window, which is useful for quick previews, as well as realtime manipulation of parameters. For this, just use the --window or -w option:

sbot -w

For a list of extra options, type

sbot -h


For the full command reference, see the Nodebox 1 reference. It's the best available resource while we work on the Shoebot documentation site.

You can find the current docs at ReadTheDocs.

Shoebot documentation can also be generated locally using sphinx. First, install it::

pip install sphinx

The following commands will output the HTML docs::

cd doc
make html 

The documentation should now be available in doc/build.

Further reading

For a great intro to the Nodebox/Shoebot language, be sure to check the Nodebox tutorials at .

The Shoebot documentation has quite a lot more information on what you can do with Shoebot, such as:

  • running Shoebot as a Python module
  • using the socketserver to have other programs control a Shoebot script
  • using Shoebot to generate images via a CGI script



Copyright (C) 2007-2012 The Shoebot authors (Stuart Axon, Dave Crossland, Francesco Fantoni, Ricardo Lafuente, Sebastian Oliva) Originally developed by Ricardo Lafuente with the support of the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam.

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as
published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the
License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
along with this program.  If not, see <>.