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Sketch by Bohemian Coding
Reviewed February 2015

Kai Alexis Smith, Librarian-in-Residence
Hesburgh Libraries
University of Notre Dame

Bohemian Coding's Sketch is a vector design tool with a focus on user interface design for websites and for mobile applications on iOS and Android platforms. Sketch effortlessly blends the best of three existing programs – Omnigraffle, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator – into one powerful, simplified tool. Currently Sketch design software is only available for the Mac operating system. Sketch has been received well in the software world and was voted app of the year by Net Awards in 2015.

The process of creating a project in Sketch is very straightforward, with intuitive navigation bars and icons. There are several template options for apps and web design, including desktop, tablet portrait, and mobile versions. Prior knowledge of other design programs is helpful, but one does not need expert knowledge of design programs to work successfully in Sketch. The interface is notably self-explanatory, and free tutorials are available on the Sketch website under the "Learn" tab of the top navigation bar.

Given that Sketch has built upon programs like Omnigraffle and Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, there are several noteworthy points of comparison. Sketch costs a fraction of the price of the other design programs, with a one-time purchase cost of $99 or a free 30-day trial download. Like Omnigraffle, Sketch provides users the option to design with grids, which is useful for respecting design standards on multiple devices. Sketch uses the same keyboard shortcuts as Photoshop and offers some of the same image effects tools (layer blending, styles, blur, noise, patterns), but unlike Photoshop, Sketch does not offer filters or photo editing, and the color options are limited to RGB. Web designers may appreciate that Sketch provides an integrated tool for CSS extraction, without the need for an extension or add-on. Sketch can export files into a variety of formats, including JPG, PNG, TIFF, PDF, EPS, and SVG, allowing work created in Sketch to play nicely with many other programs, in case work in other software is needed.

What sets Sketch apart are features like Groups and Artboards, which allow the designer to adjust and finely tune designs without undue hassle. The Groups feature enables the user to treat a group of layers as a single layer, allowing fonts and images to be scaled in tandem. Artboards allows the creation of frameworks for design that can be customized and extended across projects. Sketch's Autosave feature will save multiple versions of a project, allowing a user to revert to a previous version if desired. Another feature many librarians, design educators, and students will find helpful is Sketch Mirror, by which users can preview designs through a wifi or IP connection to test and see what designs look like across multiple platforms and devices.

A number of plugins enhance the Sketch experience. The Magic Mirror plugin provides users the ability to transform images and create perspective mockups. The Content Generator plugin can simplify generating features like avatars and names. SketchAppSources and Sketch Repo are great resources for downloading user-submitted Sketch design files.

Ultimately, Sketch makes the design experience smoother and more accessible for web designers and user interface designers, though it will not replace OmniGraffle, Photoshop, or Illustrator. Sketch complements and builds upon these programs, serving as another option in the designer's arsenal.

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