Sketch has been around long enough to be considered the older, but still prepubescent,
child in the relatively new world of UI/UX design tools. After its release in 2010 it got
designers talking and fast became the shiny bandwagon with the FOMO licence plate
everyone wanted to hop on. In fact, the bandwagon analogy needs reworking because
Sketch was not a new tool serving an old purpose in a slightly improved fashion but rather a
new tool making a flashy appearance in the young and energetic digital product world.
Considering ourselves the hip yet still mildly reserved members of that world we observed
from afar, reading reviews and blog posts generally titled with a variation of ‘Why I switched
to Sketch’. It didn’t take long, however, for us to cave in and give it a try. We’re glad we did
and it’s been an integral part of our UI/UX design process ever since. In this post, we will be
going over what exactly Sketch is, the pros and cons of using it, and what lays ahead for
tools in the same playing field.
Sketch is a vector based design tool that was built with the intention of making UI and UX
design as easy, and as stress free as possible. Released only for the Mac OS platform, it
placed itself snugly in a niche that was clearly long overdue a tool designed specifically to
its needs. To expand, that niche was designers who found Photoshop too generic and too
bloated to quickly mockup interfaces for mobile and web. When launched, Sketch greets
you with a blank canvas flanked on both sides with an impressively minimalistic set of tools.
But the minimalism is deceptive since there is a lot more lying under the hood - something
you discover time and time again as you continue using it. Sketch is performant (since it is
native), intuitive, and has behind it the support of a team that goes by the name of
Bohemian Coding - a team that has thus far been agile in response to its users, and laser
focused in its mission.
To understand what makes Sketch alluring enough to jump ship, we asked our designers
and read other prominent designers’ reviews and came up with the following list:
Artboards in Sketch are very versatile and easy to work with. Having a bird’s eye view of the
entire project and being able to quickly insert simple features wherever and whenever
needed is crucial in UI design. Artboards can also be used for many different purposes such
as testing out variants, iterations, and even states of a screen. On top of all this, Sketch is
very lightweight and filesizes, no matter the number of artboards you put in them, do not
bloat to gigabytes like they tend to do in Photoshop.
As we mentioned earlier, Sketch was built from the ground up for UI design; more
specifically for mobile and web UI design. This is clearly seen in the templates that come
within the app. Templates pre-built for iPhone, and Android, and web screens are big timesavers
when starting a new project.
The color picker in Sketch is very handy (being accessible with just ctrl+c) and also very
accurate. The zoom pop-up that appears gives you pixel precision with RGB values
displayed live. Additionally you can pick colors that are not part of the application as well.
Aside from that, the color panel is always on the side panel giving you quick access which is
crucial when it comes to color.
Resizing objects that are composed of many shapes gives funky, distorted results in
Photoshop. Not so in Sketch. By simply selecting the group you can resize it to your heart’s
desire and end up with exactly what you were expecting. Drilling down into a shape within
a group is as easy as selecting and tabbing.
Reuseability is important in software UI design and Sketch has clearly taken that into
consideration and given us symbols. Any UI element such as labels, icons, and modules can
be saved as a symbol and stored in a library that can easily be organized into folders. These
symbols can then be easily accessed from the Symbol button at the top panel.
Sketch, once again, lead the way in this category. Exporting in Sketch is simple and
powerful, a duality hard to achieve. There are multiple resolution options (all perfectly
suited for mobile and web) and a variety of supported formats, including SVG. It is as easy
as setting the requirements and dragging out onto your desktop.
Sketch Mirror is an application that every mobile application designer should have in their
toolkit. Previewing and swiping live between screens and artboards speeds up your
workflow and doesn’t leave anything to guesswork.
This list is nowhere near comprehensive and we could go on but these are what stood out
and drove us to start using Sketch. Once involved, we realized the community was fantastic
and plugins of every kind were being developed and released constantly, always improving
our workflow in ways we did not think possible. We still revert to the industry standard
Photoshop for more detailed work and believe making use of multiple tools is the way to
It was difficult choosing which design application we should integrate first into Pixelworm
but after putting much thought into it we’ve come to realize we share the same philosophy
with Sketch, and chose, at least initially, to start with it.
If you haven’t given it a try, we highly recommend going for the free trial. You won’t look