Alexandre Prokoudine [blog | twitter]  covers creating layer effects with Inkscape. In this detailed article, Alexandre talks you through hand-editing the SVG XML in inkscape to apply filter effects (e.g. Gaussian blur)  on whole layer (rather than on an object or group level).  Note that to achieve this behaviour, you will be diving deep into inkscape SVG internals, so this tutorial is recommended for advanced inkscape users.

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