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Sketch – An Overview for Beginners, Intermediates, and Experts

This time a year ago, I was solely working on a Windows machine, armed with Photoshop and Illustrator. It wasn’t until I started at JH that I began working on a Mac full-time. I was a little late to the party, but it didn’t take long to introduce Sketch as my primary design editor.

I was able to learn from some of the other designers at JH, who’d already been using Sketch for a while. They gave me plenty of articles to read and videos to watch. A year on, I’d like to share my own collection of resources and hopefully guide others. I know that there are already hundreds of exceptional resources for Sketch, from beginners blogs to master classes, but I wanted to collate some of my favourites. Hopefully they will help you, wherever you are on your own journey.

Beginner

When I first picked up Sketch, my initial thoughts of “Oh, this isn’t too different from Photoshop”, quickly changed to “Hmm, what do I do now?”

Here are a bunch of the best resources for getting to know Sketch and what it can offer:

Getting Started – Sketch

Right off the bat, go and read through the official Sketch documentation. There’s so much in there to walk you through the tools, layout and settings, and it couldn’t be said any better than by the guys that built the thing. It’s super in-depth and you’ll come out feeling a lot more familiar and confident about what everything does.

Step-by-Step Guide – Jon Moore / UX Power Tools

Jon Moore’s starter guide is an amazing breakdown of the things you should do to get yourself set up on any project. It can sometimes be daunting to begin a new project with a blank canvas and no idea where to go from there. Jon has some great extras to get you over that hurdle, like an action to instantly create the perfect start folder structure.

Ultimate Guide for Getting Started in Sketch (With Cheat Sheet) – DesignLab

Next stop – download the DesignLab Cheat Sheet. If you have space, it would be ideal to print this out and keep it somewhere in view. Knowing the shortcuts for each tool speeds up your workflow, allowing you to spend more time actually designing. You’ll be glad that you know the ones you use most often, even if you don’t remember them all.

Intermediate

These resources are for those that have spent a good while understanding and using Sketch efficiently. There’s a wide range of designers that will be using Sketch for different reasons, to reach different goals. Being a good designer means adapting your tools to fit your processes.

The Sketch App Hub

Resources within resources. The Sketch App Hub has a great list of the best plugins to use to speed up your Sketch workflow. There are some great gems in here, for example, ‘Keys for Sketch’ lets you set up your own keyboard shortcuts, and ’Symbol Spacer’ gives you a really neat way to maintain your vertical spacing.

Sketch Libraries: How they work, and the crazy stuff you can do with them – Jon Moore / UX Power Tools

After using Sketch for some time, and especially whilst working as part of a larger team, you’ll begin to notice that collaboration is difficult. From working on multiple Sketch files with the same pattern libraries, to multiple designers trying to work on the same piece of work, there’s never a perfect solution.

Well, Sketch Libraries is the newest addition to Sketch 47 and with it comes an invaluable addition to our toolset. Sketch Libraries let you sync symbols across different files, all whilst maintaining a ‘Source of Truth’. If someone updates a symbol, you can merge their changes into your file seamlessly. Jon Moore’s article is a great guide on all the amazing things you can do with Libraries.

5 Tips to Speed Up Your Workflow in Sketch – Tatyana Kuva

Tatyana shares her top 5 tips for using Sketch efficiently. It’s a great idea to pick up these small habits that will help to prevent your designs from getting too messy.

Expert

The amazing thing about Sketch is its ability to scale and adapt, from small side-projects to projects that have huge multi-user design systems. The key is knowing exactly what is possible with Sketch and how you could be using it better, faster and easier. On large-scale projects, having the right foundation and the right process can mean all the difference.

Take a look at some of the resources below and see what’s possible.

Sketch Libraries & Abstract: Per-project Libraries – Tim Van Damme

Abstract is GIT for designers. Just as Sketch Libraries helps you to work collaboratively on larger projects, Abstract brings in some core principles of version control to keep designs clean and organised. Branches allow you to confidently take another path without fear of messing up original designs (and without having to duplicate entire projects), whilst having the entire history of a project ensures that you can rollback at any time. The next step involves merging to two tools. Abstract has supported Sketch Libraries from the start and continues to push new features for designers to include in their processes.

A Component-based Workflow for Sketch – Tim Van Damme

Component-Based Design isn’t an entirely unique idea, but it’s highly regarded as a valuable part of any process that aims to scale efficiently. Taking its principles from development’s Atomic Design, Component-Based Design follows the idea that each design or interface should be broken down into individual elements. Sketch’s ability to have Symbols and Nested Symbols speaks directly to this concept. Tim Van Damme from Abstract writes about how they’ve utilised this principle in their tool.

1–2–3 Guide for Managing Design Assets – Greg, Medium

Managing your assets is important for projects of any size, but it becomes more and more vital as you begin to scale. Follow these steps to ensure you are keeping track of all your assets, from initial styles to handoff to the developers.

Prototyping

So far, we’ve been working strictly with Sketch on static files, but whether you’re working on a new website or a fancy mobile app, you’re sure to benefit from taking it a step further and building a working prototype. Tools like InVision, Principle and Framer are 3 prototyping tools for 3 different fidelities that you can integrate into your Sketch workflow.

Build an Interactive Prototype in Sketch in Minutes – Joseph Angelo Todaro

Prototyping in InVision uses their Sketch plugin, Craft. Just like their online tool, you’re able to connect your artboards using a mixture of interactions and transitions. InVision has made it quick and simple to produce a straightforward prototype and in most cases, there is no need for all the bells and whistles that you get with other tools.

Prototyping with Sketch & Principle – Marc Andrew

Principle is another tool that makes it easy to move your designs from static to interactive, though this time allowing for a lot more flexibility. By importing your Sketch files into Principle you can animate layers directly from screen to screen. This lets you build more complicated transitions and show off more detailed animations.

Framer & Sketch: An Intentional Workflow – Charlie Deets

At certain points, a project is going to require a more in-depth prototype and working with lower fidelity tools simply won’t allow for enough customisation. Compared to others, there’s a steeper learning curve when working with Framer, but the ability to scale much further and create some intricate functioning prototypes can outweigh the cons.

Framer uses CoffeeScript, a compiler for JavaScript that simplifies the syntax (making it easier for designers with little programming experience to get started), meaning that designers can utilise some of the powerful features that writing in code brings. Variables, loops and reusable blocks are common when creating with Framer.

Summary

Whilst this list only scratches the surface of what designers are able to produce in Sketch, it’s certainly a good starting point. These are a few of the things that have helped me along the way, so thank you to all the authors mentioned for spending the time to help the rest of us. I hope this article helps you along on your journey of adapting Sketch into your design workflow.

 

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