Weighing Sketch and Photoshop

A few of us on the Etsy design team have started using Sketch instead of Adobe Photoshop for UI design. It took some getting used to, but I’ve been getting very comfortable working with Sketch’s distinctly un-Adobe-like approach to crafting interfaces, in particular the way it delivers all the advantages of working with vector graphics while producing results that are indistinguishable from raster graphics.

I’m planning on posting more of my thoughts on my transition to Sketch soon, but yesterday, when Adobe notified me of an update to Photoshop, I was reminded of another reason why I prefer Sketch so much.

Photoshop vs. Sketch

On the left is the update screen for Photoshop. This particular software patch weighs in at 129 MB — just for the update. Sketch itself weighs in at less than a tenth; just 12 MB — that’s for the entirety of the app, the whole megillah; not just a software update.

You can argue that Photoshop needs to be bigger because it does so much more, but that is just the point. It does too much for my taste, and I’m a little tired of paying the freight costs of all those features I don’t need: the slowness, the crashes, the progressively exploitive pricing. I’m really enjoying Sketch’s more streamlined feature set, and how it is clearly purpose-built for designing user interfaces. Simpler tools are very often better tools.



  1. Another app you might want to try is iDraw. Also a vector graphics app and one of the nice benefits is there’s an iPad app that syncs with the Mac app. I’ve also been using Pixelmator for working with bitmap images.

    I’ve tried a few lighter graphics apps and have mostly been impressed. None do as much as Adobe’s products, but they generally do more than enough and you can get a handful for the same price as Adobe charges to rent their software for a few months.

  2. Great move! 🙂 Personally I couldn’t find my way into SketchЁ there’s too many things I couldn’t get done on it (regarding webdesign, where I occasionally need features Photoshop does offer), but I absolutely love the app and hope they can expand it’s features to be jЩst enough for everyone who designs.

    (web)designers rarely (if ever) need the 3D features, the gazillion filters and other gimmicks that are present in Photoshop. Some photo-retouching features together with strong layer and typography controls and non destructive layer effects and masking is, I think, 90% of what most designers use on a regular basis.

    That, and Creative Cloud sucks enormous *youknowwhat* for what I’d use it for.

  3. Some of us have been using it at Squarespace for a bit now too. Just having everything in one document without having to juggle layers is a huge timesaver. Still has lots of rom to improve, but it’s totally functional for mockups at this point.

  4. I bought a new Mac in March and attempted to install CS3 on there. It failed because the installers required Java and that was the week Apple banned Java due to security issues. I weighed up the pros and cons of buying CS6, but looking at full price just so I could get Fireworks, InDesign and Photoshop? Yuck. I reluctantly subscribed to Creative Cloud.

    The part my colleagues couldn’t understand was why I then put down $50 for Sketch. The answer? With no retina update for Fireworks, my gut told me CS6 was the end of the line. (Sadly, with the CC announcement, I was proved right). I needed to redesign my portfolio and thought it was a great time to try out Sketch ‘in anger’ on a real project.

    I learned that, outside of the bitmap-editing facilities of Fireworks, almost everything I needed to do was available in Sketch. Since responsive design became a thing, I usually work from paper sketches, refine page elements and font combinations graphically (I like to see how things render in pixels, not as perfect vectors) and jump to the browser as fast as I can. From there on I round-trip between browser and Sketch, creating graphical assets and experimenting with colour combinations and so forth.

    The software requires an adjustment to the way you work. I really miss Fireworks’ Master Pages and Photoshop’s Smart Objects. I did a batch of image resizing tasks in Fireworks because it was faster (but now I know how to do it equally fast in Sketch, so next time…). But over all, Sketch wins.

    And the most important thing about Sketch? It’s FUN to work in. I actually enjoyed using it. The way I work, Photoshop has always been a chore, and Fireworks has been fast but uninspiring. I actually smiled while using Sketch.

    SO I’m nearly there, removing Adobe from my workflow (except for cases of compatibility): I replaced Dreamweaver with Skedit five years ago (think Dreamweaver’s code edit mode without the cruft, bloat and bugs – not as hip as Coda or Espresso, but I like it), Sketch has almost replaced Fireworks, and I imagine I’ll be able to move to Pixelmator for photo editing pretty soon. The only Adobe app I _must_ have is InDesign. I hope someone comes up with a replacement for that.

  5. This doesn’t work for me because I don’t do web design. I mostly use Photoshop to retouch photographs. This seems like Illustrator but with a lot less tools. I don’t see how this would replace Photoshop at all. Not a winner for me, sorry.

  6. Juan: I was writing about Sketch for user interface design. It’s as if I said, “I just started using a paring knife for peeling fruit instead of a chef’s knife,” and you responded, “Sorry I don’t see how that would work at all because I want to carve a turkey.”

  7. I want to jump onto Sketch, but like Bilal, because it’s not also on Windows, I can’t use the software. Sketch sounds great, but our team runs on both platforms and the files therefore aren’t readable for some people. At least with Expression Studio, us Mac users can design and build in a VM, but not with Sketch. Too bad.

  8. I started using it almost exclusively back in February. I love the speed, ease of use, and the features it has that are lacking in Illustrator and Photoshop (this from the guy that wrote a book on Illustrator for UI Design…LOL). The only thing keeping Illustrator on my system is the occasional print project.

    Like others have mentioned, I have transitioned fully from Photoshop to Pixelmator. It’s great to see the “little guys” starting to get traction. I believe this is a really good thing.

  9. I’ve been very impressed with Sketch. It’s refreshing and liberating. Allowing me to work in a new way. Theres a few features I’d like to see added, but it’s a really young app and has frequent updates. So I’m keen to see how improves. Only thing I find annoying is that with a file as complex as an iPhone template, Sketch lags really badly on my new Macbook Pro Retina. Not sure how much of this is the fault of my Mac, the OS or Sketch. Hopefully the performance improves.
    But overall, I’m so happy I came across Sketch.

  10. Can’t say more than every body here. It’s a great application that I have been using since January and it never failed me.

  11. I prefer idraw to Sketch. Sketch has it’s place in certain vector-specific workflows but idraw works better particularly with scale-specific stuff like drafting/patternmaking because you can use mm/cm instead of px and because I’ve had weird issues with Sketch re-sizing things to 2x without warning. The latter is not a good thing where clothing patterns are concerned-I had to print at 50% XD

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