Product Reviews

Sketch

Oct 2017

4
min read

Get to know the popular alternative to Photoshop that’s perfect for Mac-using designers.

By Simon McCade
Oct 2017

4
min read

Photoshop isn’t the greatest for user interface (UI) design. If you’re a designer, you’ll know what I mean.

There are many alternatives out there, such as Adobe XD, Figma and Affinity Designer, but there’s one that piqued my interest and has been in my repertoire for a good six months now.

Sketch has been the subject of a lot of attention in the world of digital design, so I wanted to see it for myself. Here are my thoughts after a number of projects on both a personal and a professional level:

Pros

  • Very simple and easy to use; it’s easy to pick up the basics
  • Powerful and effective tool for general layout and vector drawing
  • Sharing and exporting multiple-resolution assets is incredibly simple
  • Superb integration with other apps and plugins
  • Affordable — especially given the time it can save on projects

One of the greatest benefits of Sketch is its simplicity. It’s refreshing just how easy it is to navigate, even as a newcomer.

The likes of Photoshop can be cumbersome for what should be straightforward design jobs, so it’s a relief to have something like Sketch to not only save time, but also stress and, most importantly, money.

The ability to re-use elements with ease again and again means that you can shave not just minutes, but hours off your working time as a designer.

Layouts and vector drawing are as powerful and simple as they should be, so it’s a pleasure to get stuck into — even if you want to spend more time experimenting.

Sketch isn’t a standalone app that requires extensive procedures to bring all your work together either; it facilitates almost seamless integration with the likes of Principle, Framer and Marvel, which rarely leaves you wanting.

If you are ever left with questions, the support is excellent, too, with a community of invested designers who know the app inside out and an invaluable online library of courses, articles and video tutorials to hand to help you.

It’s a wonder Sketch is so cheap at a one-off payment of $99 (including free updates for a year). It’s certainly saved me more than that on my projects.

Cons

  • It is quite buggy…even the latest v47.1 can be frustratingly so
  • Unexpected crashes and malfunctions of the app and supported plugins
  • It’s Mac-only (sorry PC users)
  • The photo-editing capabilities are limited
  • Difficult to use with a Wacom tablet

For all the good that Sketch brings, it does have its downfalls. One of the most infuriating is its susceptibility to bugs and glitches.

Even after updating to the latest version (v47.1), I’ve still been experiencing annoying and unexpected crashes with the app and its associated plugins.

It might not be enough to cause you to lose time on your projects (at least in my case), but it’s still pretty frustrating and needs to be fixed if it’s going to seriously challenge in this space.

Another crucial move for Sketch, I think, will be to move into the PC arena. At the moment, it’s only developed and updated exclusively for Mac users, so there’s a chunk of designers left untapped out there. It’s a natural path for the app to take, so I’d be happy to see it widen its net (even as a Mac user myself).

It’d also be great to see it expand its reach and usability on the Wacom tablet, too. It’s currently quite difficult to use due to the panning issues and generally convoluted experience.

Top tips

  • The ‘Craft’ InVision plugin, which autosyncs artboards between the apps, is a huge timesaver
  • The plugin also allows you to create style sheets with one click, as well as import images directly from iStock and Getty Images
  • It’s even possible to create a working prototype in Sketch for use in InVision (find out more here)

Conclusion

Sketch has great promise in the world of design. Our line of work has been too frustrating for too long and we’ve lost too much time with Photoshop and the like, so it’s great to see an innovation so genuinely groundbreaking.

If you take the time to test and learn with these apps, you’ll enjoy the rewards in the long run.

At present, the app is in need of some TLC in terms of getting over its glitches and unnecessary crashes, but those are not impossible to fix. Once we’re past that point, I don’t see any reason why Sketch can’t be dominant in this ever-competitive industry.


A new digital design toolkit from Sketch. A UI app built for designers

The good stuff

The not-so-good stuff

This article represents the opinion of experience design consultant, Simon McCade, who has no association or affiliation with the company or the app in question.

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