ASK DN: What's the fascination with Sketch?

over 5 years ago from , Digital Technology Director, NRDC

I'm an older web designer (meaning I started before we had books about it). So my talents are in Photoshop and Illustrator. I'm loving all the resources about Sketch but when I open it, I can't even figure out how to crop.

So tell me, really. What makes Sketch so great for design these days? I honestly want to know and try to compel myself to jump the Adobe ship.


  • Gabriel BrodersenGabriel Brodersen, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    What's the fascination with Sketch?

    Speed, Focus, Simplicity.

    22 points
  • Fred BarkerFred Barker, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    You can certainly crop photos but any other kind of photo manipulation is not really on the cards. If I need to do any heavy lifting with photos, I switch over to Pixelmator and then bring the finished photo back into Sketch.

    As a newcomer to design, I find Sketch to be infinitely more intuitive than PS. When I open Photoshop and see all the buttons/tools/options/menus, most of which I probably won't use, I get the fear.

    I guess it comes down to individual needs. It feels to me, in my admittedly limited experience, that Photoshop is a jack of all trades and Sketch is a master* of one.

    *Or at least on the way to being a master!

    16 points
  • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    These are the reasons I like using Sketch:

    1. It really is tailored for the UI/Web design process rather than photo manipulation or print design, there's lots of little features that can make your life easier.
    2. It's not bloated with features that I never use so it feels quite lightweight and fast.
    3. The people that make it, really listen to their users and react quickly to feedback and feature requests.
    4. It's not made by Adobe so it's much more affordable.
    9 points
    • Darth BaneDarth Bane, over 5 years ago

      Well hold on a minute...the latest Sketch is £70 in my App Store. I'm paying around £5/month* for my Photoshop. I assume Sketch is around £70 every time a new version comes out - I don't have to worry about that with my Photoshop as my monthly fee covers all upgrades.

      Photoshop used to be very expensive. Nowadays it's actually quite affordable.

      • I have a package deal for Photoshop + Lightroom for about £7/month
      0 points
      • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, over 5 years ago

        That's fair point, photoshop is cheaper than it used to be.

        But Sketch releases are made about one every 2 years (with free minor version updates in-between) and when Sketch 3 was first released it was on offer for about £30.

        Even at full price it works out at bbout £35 a year, less than half of what you pay for PS/Lightroom.

        0 points
  • Rob GillRob Gill, over 5 years ago

    Agreed, I've used both quite a bit. Mainly used Sketch because of the hype and I always revert back to Ps/Ai because I found them way more powerful and easier to use (because I'm already familiar).

    I can see why you'd love sketch if you never uses Ps/Ai before, and I think thats why people love it so much. Be I've never found anyone who's experienced in Ps/Ai say they prefer using Sketch.

    Maybe DN can prove me wrong...

    7 points
    • Joshua SöhnJoshua Söhn, over 5 years ago

      I used photshop for about 3/4 years and switched to Sketch this year. At the agency I'm working at I still have to use Photoshop everyday and I always feel less productive in it. Speed, the UI, Artboards, file sizes and the ability to export files by drag and drop are the key features in Sketch for me.

      At Lookbook I'm using it for pretty much everything except creating some teasers real quick or a mockup.

      7 points
    • Account deleted over 5 years ago

      I've been using PS/AI for about 8 years and I certainly like Sketch much better, for UI anyway.

      4 points
    • Evan DinsmoreEvan Dinsmore, over 5 years ago

      I'm in the same boat. I've tried to like Sketch, but with 15 years of experience in Photoshop, my workflow is already very fast. I feel like I can iterate more quickly with more freedom. Sketch still feels limiting.

      0 points
    • Bruce Vang, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

      Been using PS for over a decade. Here's why I love Sketch.

      • Exporting assets is fast and easy. Exporting in PS is very time consuming. You have to buy a $40 plugin to do something that Sketch does for free.

      • It's SVG. I don't have to open AI to create an icon. I stay in Sketch.

        • Text Styles. This is great for Web Design. Save your H1, H3, p styles. If you change the style of your H1, it's changed across your design.
      2 points
    • Alexander S. K.Alexander S. K., over 5 years ago

      I've used Photoshop since 1998, mainly for web design. I switched to Sketch relatively recently (when 3.0 came out) and there is no way I'm going back to Photoshop for web design. It's just not the right tool for the job. I still use Illustrator for heavy vector stuff, and Photoshop for photo stuff, but Sketch is now my main tool for anything UI/web related.

      No regrets.

      2 points
  • Olivier HeitzOlivier Heitz, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    I have been using AI/PS for 15 years and have added Sketch to my daily workflow a little more than a year ago. I can only recommend it!

    I'm a UI Designer and a lot of my work is designing web interface elements. This means grids, boxes, layers of boxes, lines, typography, layout and spacing, icons, UI patterns like input boxes, buttons, etc. Then creating color- and styleguides, and exporting assets (PNG/SVG) that can be handed over to developers and continued from there.

    For me, Sketch has been a tremendous help in production work (awesome exporting), and it's much more fun and lightweight than AI/PSD to design User Interfaces and Websites.

    • It's in vector, so it renders all things beautifully. No more pixels needed. Plus exporting screens and parts is fast and fun, not a pain like in other apps.

    • It gives you an infinite canvas with multiple artboards and multiple pages. Plus it has basic symbol and text style features for common styles across a project.

    • Once you get the hang out of selecting and manipulating with keybord shortcuts, it's extremly fast!

    • No blurry pixel and "fit to pixel" vector shape fuck-ups like AI

    • You will have to learn to organize your layers early to get quick and efficient with it. (Like in PSD)

    • It has awesome plugins that add functionality, it get's updated quickly by bohemiancoding and it has a great community that supports it!

    I like it a lot and It feels perfectly made for UI, web design and similar design work. But totaly wrong for photo editing and not yet as good as AI for crazy complicated vector illustrations.

    And you can't beat that price! (and you're not just renting it)

    6 points
  • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, over 5 years ago

    wait. you're ceo of "mark & phil" but your name is daniel? explain.

    5 points
  • Nathan HueningNathan Huening, over 5 years ago

    All 3 designers on our team use it, all 3 of us started with Photoshop (though I was a Fireworks guy from way back). Ashley wrote up her initial impressions that hold up well:


    To address your question re: cropping, I'm sure you figured out by now that it is decidedly not a bitmap editing tool. Beyond Photoshop, plenty of terrific tools already for that: Pixelmator (my favorite), Acorn, etc. But UIs aren't about bitmaps, are they? Especially in an age of multiple device (and resolution) sizes, bitmaps become problematic as the foundation of a design.

    So Sketch is more of a compositing tool in that respect. Generate your bitmap assets however you like, using the tools you're familiar with -- and best suited for that purpose -- then import them into Sketch for layout. Photoshop was never especially good at the layout part.

    And that's probably the crux. Photoshop was intended to manipulate bitmap imagery. That's not what web design is and though it's evolved through many versions to make UI / screen design easier with layer comps & smart objects, to me it's always felt bolted on. Like using a shoe to hammer a nail -- it'll work, and I'm sure you can get good at it, it was just never designed for that purpose.

    But if you were going to start over with a UI design tool for multiple devices, what would you include? Vector-based, pages, artboards, infinite canvas, extensible with plugins, and the best slicing and exporting tool you've ever used. (Oh, and go native: no great consumer software ever really existed cross-platform. Because Pixelmator & Sketch can take advantage of so many OS core text, audio, and motion libraries for free, it's a fraction of the size, uses fewer system resources, and can be developed by a small team.)

    Some day Adobe will make a great UI design tool to go with its great vector and bitmap drawing software. That day isn't today but as it stands it's a huge hole in their product offering. Screen design != print / graphic design

    3 points
    • Daniel Schutzsmith, over 5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing that link! Absolutely terrific write-up on pros and cons. Makes so much sense and easy to share this with the staff.

      We too have struggled with tools in the past 2 years especially since our site designs are built on top of Twitter Bootstrap with SCSS in a Wordpress theme. By looking at our sites you wouldn't KNOW they're built.

      It feels like Sketch is going to help us much more in this area.

      0 points
  • Renato de LeãoRenato de Leão, over 5 years ago

    Besides speed, simplicity, minimal learning curve, incredible community, useful open source plugins, integrations, focus on being one purpose app instead of trying to be a monster that does everything... i would say...

    PRICE ?

    3 points
  • Nathan ManousosNathan Manousos, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    Double click an image to get into edit mode where you can crop it.

    Sketch is loved because it's pretty much the only tool built for UI design.

    And hey! Being old is no excuse! I've been using Photoshop and Illustrator heavily since I was a little kid, I'm 30 now and I switched fully to Sketch for UI work a couple years ago :D

    2 points
    • Daniel SchutzsmithDaniel Schutzsmith, over 5 years ago

      Nope, not using age as an excuse at all. Totally and genuinely am looking to improve productivity for me and my design staff.

      Really awesome to hear you've made the transition. Gives this "old-timer" some confidence in doing the same ;)

      0 points
  • Eli SladeEli Slade, over 5 years ago

    Sketch is not a replacement for anything Adobe has. It's a new tool.

    1 point
  • Ryan LeFevreRyan LeFevre, over 5 years ago

    For what it's worth, the learning curve of Sketch for someone like me (more developer than designer) is significantly shallower than that of Photoshop.

    1 point
  • Stelian FirezStelian Firez, over 5 years ago

    An easy switch from Photoshop to Sketch depends a lot on how you use Photoshop.

    If you use shapes(shape tool, path selection tool, layer effects) instead of bitmaps(marquee tool, gradient tool), making the move from PS to Sketch will be a breeze. At least, that's how it was for me.

    As a side note, I don't remember the last time I used the crop tool in PS(I always used canvas size). And I just masked larger images. The point I'm trying to make is that everyone works differently. For some, who are used to use Photoshop in a certain way, it's harder to make the switch to Sketch than it is for others.

    1 point
    • Daniel Schutzsmith, over 5 years ago

      Yeah, true that. I understood the shape stuff right away and masking - love how easy all that is.

      Also the concept of symbols are really freaking awesome and way better IMHO than Illustrator's attempts.

      0 points
  • Darth BaneDarth Bane, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    Photoshop is mainly for pixel-based editing (photos). Sketch is mainly for vector-based UI design.

    The reason you have a hard time finding out how to crop is because Sketch isn't photo editing software, and therefore cropping is not a primary action like it is in Photoshop.

    In Photoshop you have set boundaries on your document, which is why cropping is useful. There are no boundaries in Sketch, so no real need to crop.

    The fascination with Sketch has to do with it being a tool specifically created for interface design. In a modern world with retina screens and a bunch of different device resolutions, Photoshop is starting to make less sense.

    I still use Photoshop on a daily basis at work, as the contracts I do often have pixel-based logos and images in them. But when I do mobile UX/UI it's Sketch time.

    Pixels: Photoshop Vector: Sketch

    1 point
  • Diego LafuenteDiego Lafuente, over 5 years ago

    I switched back to Illustrator CC. Sorry Sketch, AI is still a beast when you need to move dozens of vectors.

    0 points
  • Palash MukhopadhyayPalash Mukhopadhyay, over 5 years ago

    Well truly, its never about the tool. Use whatever you're comfortable with. For best results mix them all up! Each toolset has its own strengths and weaknesses.

    Personally, I prefer working across Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Sketch (plus other front-end command-line tools!).

    Of course, if you try really hard, you can bend a tool to do what you want it to e.g. simply fill a shape with a picture to simulate basic cropping in Sketch.

    0 points
  • Christian Krammer, over 5 years ago

    I used Photoshop since my beginnings as a web-designer almost 15 years ago, but as soon as I got a Mac 2 years ago, I instantly downloaded and used Sketch and used it almost entirely since then. I still open PS occasionally to design some complex stuff, but that's rarely the case. And whenever I see the interface and workflow in Adobe's app I get the shivers. Even to select a layer is so difficult, that I'm glad something like Sketch exists. I even tried to do some print jobs in Sketch recently, which worked, but I still had to bend it quite much in the end to get the job done.

    For me Sketch is all about speed and simplicity. I mean, it still has so many box, foremost the artifacts when you zoom or scroll or that it still can't open most PDFs properly or even the ability to set the line-height of text individually for different lines, but in the end it has everything you need to get every UI-design job done.

    Btw, if you want to learn more about Sketch visit my site http://sketchtips.info.

    0 points
  • Andy LeverenzAndy Leverenz, over 5 years ago

    If you're into UI work then Sketch is the way to go. If your design is heavy on photography then Photoshop still reigns king. Illustrator is an alternate to sketch but wasn't built with UI in mind.

    0 points
  • Daniel Schutzsmith, over 5 years ago

    OMG, thank you everyone for sharing your take on why Sketch is awesome! Very excellent points and this makes so much more sense to me as to why it could be useful for us.

    0 points
  • David AlandíDavid Alandí, over 5 years ago

    vector and pixel merge magically.

    0 points
  • c kizerc kizer, over 5 years ago

    Sketch would not be a good tool for working with photos. It's a great tool for laying out designs. Especially if you work in iOS design, or more flat vector styles. Often you'll still use Photoshop to prep your bitmaps and paste them into Sketch.

    Sketch is a lot like Storyboard for Xcode. It's workflow is done in such a way perfectly to create apps (in my opinion)

    I design iOS apps. I open Photoshop and Illustrator maybe once or twice a week to tweak a graphic and paste it back into sketch. The current app I'm designing all 580 screens are in sketch.

    Sketch is vector but allows you to work with pixels. It has preset artboards for iOS sizes. It's doesn't start as a bitmap tool like Photoshop and add on support for vector later. It's very fast compared to doing the exact same thing (for me) in Photoshop. Also Sketch's export system is fantastic. It's fast. It uses NATIVE OS X font rendering. You can see EXACTLY what the typography is going to look like which is VERY important in design. You can't see this in Photoshop ever.

    0 points
  • Dustin KemperDustin Kemper, over 5 years ago

    I've been using Adobe apps for 12 yrs and very recently just started using Sketch. It has greatly improved my speed in creating mockups and generating assets for development. Sketch is not a replacement for PS. Its just another tool for designers, that for many (myself included) is a tremendous improvement over PS for creating UI and design for screens.

    Where PS fails, Sketch excels: asset generation, artboards, speed, simplicity, intuitiveness.

    I still use Ps and Ai for their individual strengths (photo manipulation/digital art and vector drawing, respectively), but Sketch has become the goto for all UI/web design work.

    0 points
  • Ryan GloverRyan Glover, over 5 years ago

    For UI design, Sketch takes the cake. It's fast, easy to use, and is tailored to the experience of designing an interface.

    A great example of this is how layers work in Sketch. Whereas Photoshop gives you one large list of layers that need to be organized at your discretion, Sketch uses three conventions: Pages, Artboards, and Layers.

    Pages = Collections of Artboards and Layers (e.g. an actual page or view in a website or app).

    Artboards = Collections of Layers. Optional, but handy for doing things like specifying multiple breakpoint designs for one Page.

    Layers = Individual elements and grouping of elements.

    I'd say it's an organizational thing. Sketch isn't trying to do a lot of things right at once, but rather, just one (and they've nailed it).

    0 points
  • Art RiduetArt Riduet, over 5 years ago

    I don't know for everyone, but for me, the killer feature is its non destructive workflow.

    0 points