Learning to Love Sketch

In a past life, when I was still a printing and media engineer, I used to design brochures and posters in Photoshop as a hobby. As I got serious about design, and started going to school for it, I learned that you used InDesign for type intensive projects, and Illustrator was for illustrations and vector artwork. Strangely, Photoshop was still recommended for web and UI design.

Photoshop was an inefficient way to design websites and I was quick to switch over to Illustrator. It felt lighter, had artboards, and gave you better control over type. Then Bohemian Coding came out with Sketch. It looked interesting, ditching the Creative Suite felt like a cheaper option, and I drank the kool-aid and purchased a license. After tinkering for an hour I learned that you couldn’t underline words in a text box, so I quit the app and forgot about Sketch.

That was 2013. I recently gave it another try, and this time it clicked! I realized that Sketch is more tuned to the digital design process. What seemed like deal breakers coming from Illustrator, are just minor refinements that are easy to look past. For example, hanging quotes or enabling stylistic alternates. It’s nice that you can activate them in Illustrator, but the reality is that these are not well supported features on the web (hope that changes in a year or two). Why worry about a typographic detail in a design mockup, when you know the real product might not show it?

Sketch’s UI shines at keeping things organized, and even encourages you to stay organized. Type styles, easy export options, symbol overrides and an excellent attributes inspector help you stay sane. The ability to create pages or collections of art boards enable you to keep all versions of a design in a single file. When you drag an image into a Sketch project, it’s in the file and not merely ‘placed’ there. I could keep listing these features, but that’s not what this post is about.

Illustrator is a great vector drawing and illustration tool, probably the greatest. But it’s not suitable for designing user interfaces. So, I urge you to give Sketch another try. If you can look past the minor annoyances, Sketch is a fantastic tool for digital design.

Pick a small web/UI project and follow the excellent free tutorials here to get started:

Switch to Sketch App: An 8-part video series covering Sketch design basics and design workflow. Why are the people at Invision so generous!

8 Critical Shortcuts in Sketch: Use shortcuts, work faster, prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.