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Illustrator vs. Sketch 3: A Challenger in Vector-Based Design?

POSTED 02/25/2015
By Joseph Rauch

In the last few years, there have been some graphic and web design challengers who have dared to encroach on Adobe’s domain. Perhaps the most formidable competitor is Sketch, which top design professionals at Apple, Facebook, and Google have used and prefer as an all-in-one tool over Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Sketch is also an invaluable application for user interface and user experience design.

Although designers can choose both, it is often more practical and always cheaper to pick one over the other. If you are considering abandoning your Adobe subscription or deciding on a design application to start your career with, keep reading to decide whether Sketch or Illustrator is the best choice for you. SkilledUp interviewed a variety of professional designers to help weigh the evidence and help make the decision.

Adobe Illustrator Pros

Best for Illustration

You’d expect Illustrator to be the best for illustrations because, well, it’s in the name and is what Illustrator is primarily for. It may not have the versatility of Sketch, but it does at least one thing best without a doubt.

Designers primarily use Illustrator for digital illustrations, logos, infographics, posters, business cards, and more.

Meshes with the Adobe Suite

Naturally, Illustrator works well with the other Adobe tools such as Photoshop, InDesign, etc. Sketch can do a fair amount of what Photoshop can, but it’s understandable that people would want separate applications to work in conjunction.

Supreme Imports

Adobe Illustrator supports 30 file types, which is more than twice as many as Sketch.

Runs on Both Mac and Windows

Unfortunately, Adobe Illustrator might be your only viable option if you don’t have a Mac.

Adobe Illustrator Cons

Less Capabilities

Adobe Illustrator is superb for graphic design, but it doesn’t branch into other fields nearly as much as Sketch does.

The Subscription Model?

Not everyone likes Adobe’s subscription model. While some designers have accepted it as a fair monthly bill along with their electricity and Internet, others are considering leaving so they can save some money.

Sketch Pros

One-Time Fee Instead of Subscription

The subscription vs. a la carte issue may be a matter of preference, but it’s also a fact that purchasing Sketch for $99 will save you money in the long run as opposed to paying $30/month or more. You can purchase Adobe programs for a one-time fee if you want, but it will still cost way more than Sketch.

More Versatility and User Interface/User Experience Design Value

Sketch goes far beyond creating digital illustrations. It’s also an amazing tool for user interface design.

“I don’t use anything else for product or UI design anymore,” said senior product designer Nicole Dominguez when we questioned her on the issue of Sketch vs. Illustrator. “Imagine Illustrator and Keynote merged together — that’s what Sketch is like!”

Keynote is a PowerPoint alternative that allows you to make presentations with slick and easy interfaces. You’ll see it’s an apt comparison if you play around with Sketch and Keynote long enough.

Sketch also beats Adobe on product design because you can use it to create quick mockups of interface flows. It can repeat elements so you won’t have to do lots of copy and pasting.

Lastly, Sketch is still great when it comes to drawing. In fact, some prefer doing illustrations in Sketch over Illustrator.

“It’s my favorite drawing application and I use it for virtually all of my design work,” said Amar Sagoo, a senior interaction designer at Google.

Better Exports

Sketch has built-in tools that automate file exports, which are usually time-consuming and tedious. This means Sketch will have an easier time making content available for multiple devices.

Sketch Cons

Only for Mac

If you’re a Windows person, sorry.

Fewer Learning Resources/Harder to Learn

Because Sketch is so new, there aren’t as many ways to learn it. There are some quality online courses and tutorials, but the quantity does not compare to the learning resources for Adobe.

Imports are not as Good

Illustrator reigns supreme when it comes to importing files. Compared to Illustrator, Sketch has limited support for SVG, EPS and PDF files.

Which Program is Best for You?

Ultimately, it seems Sketch is an excellent fit for young/up-and-coming designers looking to save money and explore multiple fields by purchasing an app that spans graphic, web, app, UI/UX, and product design. On the other hand, Illustrator is best for pure graphic designers who want to focus primarily on illustration or those who already feel married to the Adobe suite. There are dozens of other pros and cons to list, but they are all small and boil down to the broader aspects listed here.

Also, remember that Illustrator and Sketch are not the only options for vector-based design. There is also Affinity Designer and Inkscape, which is perhaps another discussion for another time.

Jagged Edge Media JAcom Consultants