Sketch 2 review: Vector drawing package that's designed to export to bitmap

Sketch belongs to an extremely small sub-set of vector drawing packages that are designed to export to bitmap. This best-of-both-worlds approach makes Sketch an effective tool for web graphics creation. It’s also aimed at icon creators and application interface designers. 

For us, it’s been a source of surprise that there aren’t more of these tools. Not everyone needs all the tools and power of Adobe Illustrator. Dedicated web graphics tools are rare - and very rare indeed at Sketch 2’s price point. 

We’ll begin by getting an obvious comparison out of the way. Sketch’s closest rival is quite probably Adobe Fireworks, a tool that Adobe inherited from Macromedia and have not given a great deal of love to over the years. While Illustrator and Photoshop have had attention lavished upon them, Fireworks upgrades have been small and incremental. Tidying up and bringing the tool into line.

The metaphor is due a reinvention and Sketch both simplifies and augments a workflow process that will be familiar to Fireworks users. 

Created for app and web designers, but capable of much more, Sketch 2 is a challenge worth taking on.

The vector drawing tools on offer here are very simple. You can create shapes from a set of primitives and draw lines. To achieve complexity, Sketch enables you to combine shapes in boolean combinations. You can add them together or use shapes to subtract from others. 

There are a number of complex colour and effects options for each shape, that you can tweak using the Inspector pane. You can can automatically generate reflections and add blur to image objects. There’s no tool for directly creating bevelled edges, but you’re able to apply gradients to borders - a feature that effectively enables you to achieve the same effect. Combinations of colour and effects can be saved as Styles for repeated use.

Text tools are an important part of any application aimed at icon and UI creation and here they’ve been given some special attention. Text is applied crisply and smoothly, whether left in a vector format or rendered to bitmap.

One of the most powerful features is buried quite deep... When you’ve created an image, you can copy and paste the CSS for it and paste it directly into a web page. 

Sketch has a few eccentricities in its own UI that take a little getting used to. Layers are automatically generated as you add objects. A panel depicts and enables you to change layer order. You can also toggle layer visibility. But the use of the term “layer” is confusing as you can create empty layers or delete a layer. You can only create objects. 

Exporting slices is also a little befuddling to too When you add a new slice, it’s always called “Slice 1” - regardless of how many slices you already have. You should, of course, rename them.

OUR VERDICT

Aside from these interface niggles, Sketch is an extraordinarily handy tool for drawing, interface design, logos, buttons and other web furniture.

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