Sketch and Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Illustrator is considered the standard tool for creating vector artwork, and although it’s been challenged a number of times over the years, it remains on the top of the heap. That’s for many reasons, but being the simplest to use certainly isn’t one of them. It’s easier than Photoshop to learn, but both represent a considerable investment in time and learning to use with any efficiency and skill. Years, in many cases.
I’ve used Illustrator (actually all the Adobe tools in the Creative Cloud suite, and that’s a LOT) for years, and am a huge fan. I’m the owner of a Google Plus Adobe Illustrator community that has around 6400 members and counting, in fact. It’s easy for me to use because I’ve used it so much for so long, as is the case with anyone with anything. So when someone has that much invested, it’s sort of uncommon for people to jump ship to another program for no good reason.
The biggest complaint I hear about Illustrator, Photoshop and the rest of the Adobe products is their pricing model, which is a subscription. And it’s not exactly cheap. They used to sell individual licenses up to CS6 like most other products, but switched when they added a Cloud feature to sell storage alongside the tools. The other complaint would probably be, besides intermittent bugs, the time and effort it takes to learn if you’re just beginning. That’s where competing products try to get their feet in the door. I’ve lost count of all the products out there that you can use for vector design, but Google Web Designer is one, Macaw is another that was hugely-hyped and originally cost more than Sketch(it’s now free, incidentally), and there are others. I’ve played around with many/most all of them, and they’re all basically the same: a knockoff of Illustrator, but far less powerful, and with a learning curve to boot.
Sketch came along, and took the best of Illustrator and kept it, and took the worst, and reworked it. And they made it lighweight and fast. And also very easy to install plugins, and even develop them yourself if you’re so inclined. There are some great plugins available for free that increase productivity and workflows. That’s probably the biggest feature that makes Sketch so popular: it’s fast and easy. And comparatively cheap. Sketch is only available for Mac, however. As someone who uses both Windows and Macs, that strikes me as strange, because they’re missing out on a HUGE market. Of course, that’s their (Bohemian Coding- the developers) decision.
I’ve had Sketch installed for maybe 2 years and have never bothered to use it, so recently I decided to see how fast I could pick it up. A lot of designers use it, and it’s popularity has been sustained unlike other vector programs such as previously mentioned so it seemed worth some time and trouble. I’ve tinkered around with the interface a few times, and it’s laid out a lot like Illustrator, so I wasn’t expecting too much trouble. The wheel hasn’t been reinvented or anything. And, as expected, I didn’t have much. A large reason for that is also the excellent instructions and support Sketch has available, plus it’s pretty intuitive. If you contrast that with Adobe Illustrator, I’ve never been impressed with Adobe’s support for their products. (For a long time, they simply relied on Lynda.com for instruction, which is how I learned, along with trial and error.) That’s not because there’s a lack of them. To the contrary; there are too many. I don’t find it user-friendly, and I don’t think I’m alone because there are a gazillion third-party tutorials and help articles and videos for their products. An over-abundance which adds to the confusion since some are good and some are awful, and some are totally outdated, going back to CS2. And if you try to use the help menu IN Adobe’s applications, they divert you to your browser and take you out of the program completely to Adobe’s community forum which I’ve never found to be a pleasant UX at all. Users can go to the web themselves and do a search. And even then, you usually don’t find the specific help you need. Sketch has a menu on the app’s site that walks you through it, and that’s plenty, I found. Of course there are YouTube videos for any topic you may have as well, but I found them unnecessary. But there are some good ones.
I’ve picked Sketch up quickly, and that makes my workfkow speedy already. When I add the plugins that are meant to boost productivity for the activities I need them for, it’s really a great product. I especially like how lightweight and fast it is compared to Adobe’s products, which weigh in at about 1GB each. That adds up fast if You’re doing some serious creating with Illustrator, Photoshop, Bridge, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Animator, and so on. Premiere Pro is a monster. However Adobe has addressed that the best way they know how I suppose, byt being able to install an uninstall the apps via the Creative Cloud interface.
I still feel like Illustrator is a more robust application, for some reason, although I can’t justify that feeling. I can do anything with Sketch I can with AI, and in fact possibly more if you look at the new symbol libraries and export options and some other features I’m sure I haven’t stumbled upon yet. Sketch iterates pretty often, especially compared to past AI competitors. Sketch also has cloud storage built into their pricing, plus a free iOS app for mirroring your workspace. And the plugin ecosystem takes it to an entirely different level. Illustrator has plugins as well, but they aren’t maintained and you definitely won’t find them being consistently actively developed on GitHub, as with Sketch.
To that end, I’m posting here some of the better resources I’ve found for Sketch so far for my personal reference and anyone interested. They’re all free, and Sketch itself is a relative bargain at $99, with the option of a generous student/educator discount available (Adobe offers a discount as well-most software companies do). And it’s just a one-time fee, as opposed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which is an ongoing cost that’s also tiered. However, for that price you get quite a bit more. But whether those extra features, such as cloud storage and a TON of programs for creating anything you can possibly imagine is dependant upon the user, of course. So, am I switching to Sketch for good? Time will have to tell.