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In this review, I’m going to share my analysis and evaluation from my hands-on experience with Sketch. But first, if you’re just beginning your search for the best UX design software, check out my picks for the best UX design tools. You probably already know that Sketch is among the most popular UX design tools out there, but you need to better understand what’s good (and not so good) about it.

This in-depth Sketch review will walk you through the tool's pros and cons, features and functionality, and more to help guide you to better understand its capabilities and its suitability for your needs.

Sketch review showing the main window interface
I like how Sketch's main window helps users keep assets organized.

Sketch Software Product Overview

Sketch is a vector-based design tool specifically focused on user interface and user experience design with unique prototyping and collaboration features. Its target users are UI/UX designers and teams looking for a specialized tool to create high-fidelity mockups, wireframes, and prototypes. The benefits of Sketch include enhanced productivity and creativity through its intuitive interface and expansive plugin ecosystem. The software addresses common pain points by streamlining the design process, facilitating real-time collaboration among team members, and providing a comprehensive set of tools for creating detailed designs and layouts.

Pros

  • Vector Editing: Precision and Control; Sketch offers superior vector editing capabilities, allowing designers to manipulate points and paths with accuracy that results in clean, scalable graphics.
  • Plugin Ecosystem: Expandability; The vast array of plugins available for Sketch extends its functionality, catering to a wide range of design needs and workflow enhancements.
  • Collaborative Features: Team Efficiency; With its robust collaboration features, Sketch streamlines the handoff between designers and developers and supports teamwork through shared libraries and real-time editing.

Cons

  • Platform Limitation: macOS Exclusive; Sketch is only available for macOS, which limits access for users who prefer or need to work on Windows or other operating systems.
  • No Native Prototyping: External Integration; While Sketch excels in design, for advanced prototyping features, users often rely on external tools like InVision, to add steps to the workflow.
  • Cost Over Time: Subscription Model; Sketch has moved to a subscription-based model, which can result in higher costs over time compared to a one-time purchase of software.

Expert Opinion

In my experience, Sketch stands out for its streamlined UI design process and the ease with which it handles complex design systems and vector graphics. While it lacks behind in platform versatility and integrated advanced prototyping, it excels in facilitating an efficient workflow, especially when working with fonts, presets, and layer styles. It is particularly suited for design teams embedded in the Apple ecosystem, prioritizing collaboration and seeking a design-centric tool over a jack-of-all-trades solution.

Sketch: The Bottom Line

Sketch differentiates itself with a laser focus on UI/UX design, unlike broader design software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. It excels in artboard organization and vector design capabilities, enabling me to create detailed wireframes and mockups efficiently. Its standout features are the design system and real-time collaboration that greatly benefit design teams working on Apple's macOS platform.

Sketch Deep Dive

Here's a deep dive into Sketch's features, best use cases, pricing, customer support, and other purchase factors.

Product Specifications

  1. Layer Management - Yes
  2. Vector Editing Tools - Yes
  3. Color Palette Selection - Yes
  4. Text Styling - Yes
  5. Gradient Tools - Yes
  6. Pen Tool for Freeform Drawing - Yes
  7. Shape Builders - Yes
  8. Pathfinders for Combining Shapes - Yes
  9. Artboards for Multi-page/Layout Projects - Yes
  10. Symbols & Icons for Reusable Elements - Yes
  11. Grids and Guides for Alignment - Yes
  12. Prototyping Capabilities - Yes (basic)
  13. Plugin Support - Yes
  14. Collaboration and Sharing Options - Yes
  15. Compatibility with Multiple File Formats - Yes
  16. Export Options for Different Resolutions and Formats - Yes
  17. Built-in Templates and Design Presets - Yes
  18. 3D Tools - No
  19. Bitmap Editing - No
  20. Auto-Save and Version History - Yes
  21. Master Pages for Document Consistency - No
  22. Real-time Co-editing - Yes
  23. Customizable Workspace - Yes
  24. Animation and Motion Design Tools - No
  25. Integration with Other Design and Development Tools - Yes

Feature Overview

  1. Vector Editing Tools: Sketch's vector tools are precise and pixel-perfect, catering specifically to high-fidelity graphic design, making it simpler to craft detailed icons and illustrations.
  2. Artboards: The software allows designers to create multiple artboards within a single sketch file, streamlining the web page and iOS app design process by organizing different screens and states efficiently.
  3. Symbols: Symbols in Sketch enable reusable elements, such as buttons and icons, ensuring consistency across web and mobile designs while allowing for rapid updates across multiple instances.
  4. CSS Export: Sketch stands out for web designers with its ability to generate CSS code from design elements directly, speeding up the transition from design to development.
  5. Collaboration Features: The platform supports real-time collaboration, which sets it apart by allowing team members to work together synchronously on the same sketch files, enhancing workflow efficiency.
  6. Plugins: Its extensive plugin ecosystem is user-friendly and can be tailored to specific design needs, from automating repetitive tasks to integrating with social media platforms for direct asset export.
  7. Layer Styles: With layer styles, designers can apply consistent visual styles such as colors, shadows, and borders to elements, which are particularly useful for creating uniform UI elements in web design.
  8. Scrolling Artboards: Sketch provides scrolling artboards that simulate the scrolling experience of web pages and iOS interfaces, aiding in creating realistic prototypes and mockups.
  9. Tutorials and Support: A vast array of tutorials and a supportive community make Sketch accessible to beginners in graphic design, ensuring users can learn and apply new features effectively.
  10. Export Options: The software's export options are robust, allowing designers to output designs in multiple formats, resolutions, and configurations, which is crucial when preparing assets for web pages, iOS apps, and social media.

Standout Functionality

  1. Symbol Overrides: Sketch has revolutionized the way designers work with components through its symbol overrides functionality, which allows designers to create flexible design elements with editable properties. This feature is especially powerful when combined with JSON, enabling designers to dynamically insert and manipulate data in their designs, a feature not commonly as intuitive or as developed in other design tools.
  2. Collaborative Libraries: While many design tools offer shared assets, Sketch's collaborative libraries go a step further by allowing teams to share not just components and styles, but also to maintain them across different documents and projects in real-time. This ensures consistency and scalability in design systems, particularly for large teams or those distributed across different locations.
  3. Native macOS Integration: Unlike other design software that aims for broad platform compatibility, Sketch's exclusive focus on macOS means it is specifically optimized for Apple's hardware and software ecosystem. This results in a more seamless experience, from gesture controls to deeper integration with macOS functionalities, providing a smoother workflow for users within the Apple environment.

Integrations

Sketch integrates with design collaboration tools such as InVision, Zeplin, and Jira, enhancing its prototyping, handoff, and project tracking capabilities. It also provides an API, allowing for the development of custom plugins to tailor and expand its functionality further. A wide range of available add-ons can significantly extend the platform's utility, enabling users to integrate with additional services and automate various aspects of the design workflow.

Sketch Pricing

  1. Standard Subscription: This tier is designed for solo designers and small teams starting around $10/editor/month (billed annually). This plan grants full access to its suite of design and prototyping tools, with collaborative features and plugin access.
  2. Mac-only License: This tier is priced at $120 per seat and is yours to keep. It also allows you to save documents locally, in addition to the tool's design, prototyping, and illustration features. However, it is designed only for solo designers, meaning that it does not include collaborative features or web access.
  3. Business Subscription: This tier is priced at $20/editor/month and is designed for medium-sized teams and large organizations. In addition to standard subscription features, this tier includes Single Sign-On (SSO), unlimited versions and online storage, and other tools to suit larger teams.

Ease of Use

In my experience, Sketch presents a user interface that is sleek and relatively intuitive, particularly for those with a background in graphics or web design. The onboarding process is straightforward, with numerous resources and tutorials available to new users, though navigation can be dense with options that might overwhelm beginners. Some complexities arise with advanced features like symbol overrides or responsive resizing, which require a learning curve to master, and the extensive array of plugins may complicate the experience until users become familiar with the ones that best fit their workflow.

Customer Support

From my knowledge, Sketch offers a comprehensive set of customer support resources including a detailed documentation library, tutorials, and community forums which I find quite robust for self-help. They do not offer live chat, which some users may find limiting for immediate assistance. While response times for support tickets can vary, there is occasional feedback from users about delays in receiving personalized support, which can be a point of frustration, especially for complex or urgent issues.

Sketch Use Case

Who Would Be A Good Fit For Sketch

Sketch thrives in environments where UI/UX design and prototyping are at the forefront, particularly within tech startups, design agencies, and software companies where macOS is the primary operating system. The most loyal customers often include small to medium-sized teams that value streamlined collaboration on design projects, and individual designers who appreciate the tool's focus on vector-based graphics and user interface elements.

Who Would Be A Bad Fit For Sketch

Sketch is not suitable for teams operating in a Windows environment or those requiring cross-platform compatibility, as it is exclusively available for macOS. Large enterprises with complex software ecosystems or individuals who rely heavily on integration with Adobe products or other non-macOS-centric tools often find Sketch limiting and may be disappointed by its focused platform scope.

Sketch FAQs

Can Sketch be used on Windows or Linux?

No, Sketch is designed exclusively for macOS and cannot be used on Windows or Linux operating systems.

Does Sketch support real-time collaboration?

Yes, Sketch provides real-time collaboration features for team members to work on the same file simultaneously.

Is Sketch suitable for print design or only for screen design?

Sketch is primarily optimized for screen design, such as web and UI/UX design, and may not have all the features needed for print design.

Can I import Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator files into Sketch?

Yes, Sketch allows you to import files from other design tools like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, though some features may not be fully compatible.

Does Sketch offer prototyping capabilities?

Yes, Sketch includes built-in prototyping capabilities that allow designers to create interactive mockups.

Are there any resources available to learn how to use Sketch?

Yes, Sketch provides a range of tutorials, user guides, and an extensive help center to assist users in learning how to use the software.

Can Sketch handle vector graphics?

Yes, Sketch is a vector-based design tool, making it well-suited for creating and editing vector graphics.

Are there extensions or plugins for Sketch to extend its functionality?

Yes, Sketch supports a wide array of plugins and add-ons that can greatly extend its functionality in various design areas.

Alternatives to Sketch

  • Adobe XD: Adobe XD is often praised for its seamless integration with other Adobe Creative Cloud apps, making it a superior choice for those already embedded within the Adobe ecosystem and who require advanced animation and prototyping capabilities.
  • Figma: Figma stands out with its exceptional real-time collaboration features and browser-based interface, which make it ideal for teams looking for platform-agnostic accessibility and comprehensive co-design opportunities.
  • InVision: InVision is a good alternative for those who prioritize powerful prototyping and digital product design tools, offering extensive collaborative features and integration with Sketch, which may appeal to teams that need high-fidelity prototyping in their workflow.

Sketch Company Overview & History

Sketch is a software company that specializes in providing digital design tools, primarily known for its flagship product, Sketch, which is widely used for UI/UX and web design. It is utilized by a diverse range of companies, from freelancers to large tech firms, including names like Google, Facebook, and IBM. Sketch is a privately held company, owned by its co-founders Pieter Omvlee and Emanuel Sá, with its headquarters located in The Hague, Netherlands.

The company's mission is to empower designers to create their best work, from ideation to realization. Since its inception in 2010, Sketch has reached notable milestones, including winning an Apple Design Award in 2012 and consistently expanding its toolset to support a growing user base of designers worldwide.

Sketch Summary

This Sketch review finds the software to be a robust, vector-based design tool primarily tailored for macOS users with a focus on UI/UX and web design. It stands out for its user-friendly interface, collaboration features, and a strong community that supports it with numerous plugins. While it may present limitations for those outside the Apple ecosystem or for teams that require extensive cross-platform capabilities, it remains a top choice for designers who value precision and efficiency in their workflow.

I recommend Sketch to design professionals and teams who are looking for a specialized tool that aligns with the latest design trends and practices. If you're considering Sketch or have experience with it, your comments and shared experiences can greatly benefit others looking to make an informed decision.

By Hannah Clark

Hannah Clark is the Editor of The Product Manager. Following six years of experience in the tech industry, she pivoted into the content space where she's had the pleasure of working with some of the most brilliant voices in the product world. Driven by insatiable curiosity and a love of bringing people together, her mission is to foster a fun, vibrant, and inspiring community of product people.