Sketch vs Adobe Illustrator

IllustratorHow Presents

Sketch

VS

Adobe Illustrator

Hey! I’m June. I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator for more than ten years. I decided to try out Sketch not long ago because I heard good words about this software and wanted to see it for myself. 

I saw a lot of questions about whether Sketch can replace Adobe Illustrator, or asking which software is better. I personally don’t think that Sketch can replace Adobe Illustrator, but there are things to consider, for example, what type of design you do, what your budget is, etc. 

In this article, I’m going to share with you my thoughts about Sketch and Adobe Illustrator, including a quick sum of their pros & cons, detailed comparisons of features, ease of use, interface, compatibility, and price.  

I assume most of you are more familiar with Adobe Illustrator than Sketch. Let’s quickly go over what each program does and its pros & cons. 

What is Sketch

Sketch is a vector-based digital design tool mainly used by UI/UX designers. It’s commonly used for creating web icons, concept pages, etc. As of this writing, it’s for macOS only.

A lot of designers switch from Photoshop to Sketch because Sketch is vector-based, meaning it allows you to create scalable designs for web and applications. Another convenient point is that Sketch reads CSS (aka codes). 

In short, Sketch is a great tool for UI and UX design. 

Sketch Pro & Cons

Here’s my quick sum-up of Sketch’s pros and cons. 

The good: 

  • Clean user interface
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Reads codes (ideal for UI/UX design)
  • Affordable

The so-so:  

  • The text tool isn’t great
  • Lack of freehand drawing tools
  • Not available on PCs

What is Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is the most popular software for both graphic designers and illustrators. It’s great for creating vector graphics, typography, illustrations, infographics, making print posters, and other visual content. 

This design software also is the top choice for branding design because you can have different versions of your design in various formats, and it supports different color modes. You can publish your design online and print them out in good quality. 

In short, Adobe Illustrator is best for professional graphic design and illustration work.

Adobe Illustrator Pros & Cons

Now let’s look at a quick sum-up of what I like and dislike about Adobe Illustrator. 

The good: 

  • Full features and tools for graphic design and illustration
  • Integrate with other Adobe software 
  • Support different file formats
  • Cloud storage and file recovering work great

The so-so:  

  • Heavy program (takes up a lot of space)
  • Steep learning curve
  • Can be expensive for some users

Sketch vs Adobe Illustrator: Detailed Comparison

In the comparison review below, you will see the differences and similarities in features & tools, compatibility, ease of use, interface, and pricing between the two programs. 

Features

Since both software is vector-based, let’s talk about their vector design tools, to begin with. 

The simple shapes tools like rectangle, ellipse, polygon, etc are pretty similar in both software, and they both have shape builder tools like unite, subtract, intersect, etc, which are useful for creating icons. 

Many UI/UX designers even prefer using Sketch because of its prototyping capabilities that allow you to preview your designs and navigate between Artboards with animated interactions.

Besides that, Adobe Illustrator’s pen tool and Sketch’s vector tool are good for editing paths. It allows you to edit the anchor points on a pencil path or shapes, so you can create any vector shapes you like. 

The second feature I’d like to mention is the drawing tools, because they are also important for designers. 

Looking at its name, Sketch sounds like a drawing app, but it’s actually not. The only drawing tool it has is the pencil tool. 

You can use it to draw, but I don’t like how I can’t change the stroke weight freely as I draw, and it doesn’t have any stroke style to choose from (at least I didn’t find it). Also, I found that sometimes couldn’t draw smoothly or the edges show different as I drew. 

For example, when I tried to draw the point parts, they came out rounded. 

Adobe Illustrator has the pencil tool as well, and it works similar to the pencil tool in Sketch, but the brush tool in Illustrator is better for drawing, as you can adjust the style and size freely.

Another important tool to compare is the text tool or type tool because is something that you use as a designer in almost every project. Adobe Illustrator is great for typography and it’s so easy to manipulate text. 

On the other hand, Sketch is probably not the best software for typography. Its text tool isn’t sophisticated enough. Let me put it this way, when I tried to use the text tool, I felt like I was editing text on a word document. 

See what I mean?

Winner: Adobe Illustrator. To be honest, if it’s only to compare their features for creating vectors, I would say it’s a tie. However, for overall features and tools, Adobe Illustrator wins because Sketch lacks advanced tools and it doesn’t work great with text or freehand drawing.  

Interface

Sketch has a huge canvas, and it’s unlimited. It has a clean interface and layout. Beautiful white space, but maybe it’s too empty. My first thought was: where are the tools? 

I’ll be honest with you, it took me quite a moment to figure out where things are at first. The default toolbar is extremely simple, but you can customize it. Simply right-click on the toolbar area to open the customize toolbar window, and drag the tools you want to the toolbar.

I prefer how Adobe Illustrator has most of the tools on the toolbar already and the side panels make it convenient for editing objects. Sometimes it can get messy when you open more panels, but you can always organize them or close the ones you’re not using at the moment. 

Winner: Tie. Sketch has a cleaner layout and unlimited canvas, but Adobe Illustrator has more tools on the document handy to use. It’s hard to pick a winner, plus the interface is customizable. 

Ease of Use

Adobe Illustrator has a steeper learning curve than Sketch because there are more features and tools to learn in Adobe Illustrator. 

Even though some tools are similar, Sketch is more beginner-friendly because the tools are more intuitive, there isn’t much to “figure out”. If you already know how to other design software like Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Inkscape, it should take you no time to learn Sketch. 

On the other hand, if you know how to use Sketch and switch to a more sophisticated program, you’ll need to take some time to learn some advanced features and tools.

I feel like it requires more “thinking” to use Adobe Illustrator, as the tools give you more freedom to explore. Some people are afraid of “freedom” because they might have no clue where to begin with. 

Winner: Sketch. The most confusing part about Sketch can be learning about the panels and finding where the tools are. Once you know where everything is, it’s easy to get started. 

Integration & Compatibility

As I mentioned earlier, Sketch only has a Mac version, while Adobe Illustrator runs on both Windows and Mac. I would see it as an advantage because there are still a lot of designers who use the Windows operating system.

Although the saving and exporting options are quite similar (png, jpeg, svg, pdf, etc), Illustrator supports more formats than Sketch. Some common Adobe Illustrator supported file formats are CorelDraw, AutoCAD Drawing, Photoshop, Pixar, etc.

Sketch does integrate with some extension apps but speaking of app integration, there’s no doubt that Adobe Illustrator wins. If you are using the Illustrator CC version, you can work on your projects in other Adobe software like InDesign, Photoshop, and After Effects. 

Adobe Illustrator CC also integrates with Behance, the world’s famous creative networking platform, so you can share your awesome work easily.

Winner: Adobe Illustrator. Adobe Illustrator works on both Mac and Windows, but Sketch only runs on Mac. Can’t say it’s a down point but it limits a lot of users. 

The fact that Illustrator supports more file formats than Sketch is also the reason I chose Adobe Illustrator as the winner. 

Price

Adobe Illustrator is a subscription design program, which means there isn’t a one-time purchase option. Among all the price & plan options, you can get it at as low as $19.99/month with an annual plan (if you’re a student), or as an individual like me, it’d be $20.99/month

Sketch is more affordable than Adobe Illustrator. If you’re choosing the standard plan, it only costs $9/month or $99/year.  

Adobe Illustrator offers a 7-day free trial to try it out if you can’t decide right away. Sketch also has a free trial and it’s 30 days, which gives you more time to explore the software. 

Winner: Sketch. Sketch is definitely cheaper than Adobe Illustrator and the free trial is longer. I do think Adobe Illustrator should have a longer free trial for users to get to know more about the software considering it’s quite expensive. 

Sketch or Adobe Illustrator: Which One Should You Use?

After comparing the features and tools, it’s pretty clear what each software is best for. 

Adobe Illustrator is best for graphic design professionals who work on multiple projects and Sketch is best for UI/UX design. 

If you’re looking for a graphic design job, Adobe Illustrator is definitely the go-to, because it’s the industry standard. Sketch is becoming more popular, so knowing how to use it can be a plus. However, only knowing Sketch isn’t going to qualify you as a graphic designer. 

Same rule for UI/UX designers. Just because Sketch is great for creating app icons or layouts, doesn’t mean that it’s the only tool you’ll need. It’s always a good idea to learn the industry standard and use it together with different tools (like Sketch). 

FAQs

Got more questions about Sketch and Adobe Illustrator? Hope you can find the answers below.

Is it better to Sketch on Photoshop or Illustrator?

Sketch beats both Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop when it comes to UX/UI design. However, for image manipulation, Photoshop is definitely the go-to, and for graphic design in general, Adobe Illustrator is a more sophisticated program.

Can you edit photos in Sketch?

Sketch isn’t the software of choice for image editing but technically yes, you can edit photos in Sketch. I wouldn’t recommend it but if you only need to do slight adjustments like hue, saturation, contrasts, etc, that’s fine. 

Is there a free version of Sketch?

You can get a 30-days free trial of Sketch, but there’s no legal way to use it for free forever. 

Can I use Sketch for graphic design?

Yes, you can use Sketch for some graphic design work. It works great for designing icons and app layouts. However, it’s not the industry-standard software for graphic design, so if you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer, only knowing Sketch wouldn’t secure a job position. 

Is Illustrator a good drawing software?

Yes, Adobe Illustrator is one of the most popular drawing software for graphic designers and illustrators. Just a tip: A good graphic tablet and stylus will definitely optimize your digital drawing. 

Conclusion

For me as a graphic designer, Adobe Illustrator is the winner because I create more than just vectors and layouts. Typography and Illustrations are important too. However, I understand that a lot of web designers like Sketch because it’s literally made for UX/UI design. 

So, back to the questions from the Intro that I mentioned earlier, deciding which one is better really depends on what you do. 

Actually, why not try both? 

Do you use Sketch or Adobe Illustrator? Which one do you prefer? 

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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