Book Review: Jump Start Sketch by Daniel Schwarz

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jump start sketch

The heated debate of Photoshop vs Sketch has the attention of every UI/UX designer. From my experience with Sketch I can safely say this is one killer design program.

People who already know Photoshop may have an easy time picking up the Sketch GUI. But for many people there’s good reason to prefer a guided walkthrough. The beauty of Jump Start Sketch is that anyone with zero design experience can pick up the book and learn Sketch quickly.

The author Daniel Schwarz is a great writer and very talented designer at using Sketch for its intended purpose: interface design. Daniel’s book takes you through the fundamentals of Sketch and how to use them in a digital design workflow.

By the end you should be comfortable using Sketch on your own to create basic mobile apps and website layouts from scratch. The book doesn’t cover these specific projects in detail, but it does cover all the fundamental skills you need to design these interfaces with Sketch.

Book Contents

In 150 pages Daniel walks you through the Sketch interface breaking down the most important components. You get to compare Sketch screenshots with Photoshop which can prove immeasurably helpful to newcomers.

The book starts with a preface and expands out over nine chapters.

  1. Sketch’s Interface
  2. Artboards, Layers, and Styling
  3. Shared Styles and Symbols
  4. Smart Guides and Snapping
  5. Vector and Bitmap Editing Tools
  6. Rulers and Grids
  7. Previewing Artboards and Exporting Assets
  8. Plugins
  9. Keyboard Shortcuts and Useful Resources

Daniel clearly states that no single program is the best at everything.

In my opinion Sketch is the best tool for vector icons and vector wireframes/interface mockups. But Photoshop will always be superior for digital painting and photo editing.

With this understanding you’ll study Sketch from the perspective of a digital designer.

Each chapter walks you through important components of the interface explaining how to use artboards, Sketch layers and layer styles, along with manipulating vector/bitmap content on the page.

Sketch can work with bitmap and vector content together just like Photoshop. But after reading this book I’ve found Sketch to be a whole lot easier for vector design work from scratch.

sketch screenshot

Grids are also a huge component of web design so I was thrilled to see a detailed chapter about grid tools. Creating a grid is much more hacky in Photoshop, and Daniel expresses the clearest techniques for making grids in Sketch.

This book doesn’t teach you the full details of a UI project from start to finish. But it does teach you all the core tools and workflows of Sketch that you’ll need to apply to UI design work.

This is really just a beginner’s guide teaching the raw tools and how they work. You will need to feel OK attempting new things on your own to see how they work. So this book will not teach you to design icons or websites from scratch.

But it gives you all the foundational knowledge to do this stuff on your own; and if you come from a Photoshop background this’ll be easy peasy.

Who Is This For?

The difficulty level of this book is so low that almost anybody could pick it up and learn Sketch. It won’t teach you how to create detailed projects but it will teach you all the tools, workflows, and advanced techniques like plugins to get you started.

I’d say this book would be perfect for the following people:

  • A designer moving from Photoshop to Sketch
  • Vector icon designers moving from Illustrator to Sketch
  • Anyone familiar with other Adobe software that wants to get into UI design
  • A brand new designer with no prior design software experience

Daniel has a way of writing colloquially and to the point so that you never feel lost. He can guide even a complete novice towards a full rich understanding of the Sketch interface.

This book is made for anyone that wants to learn Sketch but has no idea where to start. Daniel covers all the fundamentals that you’ll need to know in a super easy-to-understand writing style.

Pros & Cons

Everything in this book content-wise is stupendous. Honestly I looked around for a better Sketch book and simply wasn’t able to find anything.

With interest in this software growing so quickly this book fills a void that nothing else can match. Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Clear explanations of all Sketch features
  • Each feature is covered in great detail with plenty of screenshots
  • Daniel forces you to perform tasks so that you learn through action
  • This book covers a lot so you get a well-rounded understanding of Sketch

Cons:

  • Doesn’t offer specific project approaches or detailed tutorials
  • Feels a little short considering how much could be covered
  • The print version is a bit pricey

Complete beginners will adore the content in this book whether they have experience in Photoshop, Illustrator, or no other design programs.

You’ll learn through screenshots and step-by-step actions that force you to understand each minute feature of Sketch.

Because it is so short I have a hard time justifying the price for the paperback version. However the price of the digital Kindle version is very affordable, and for the number of pages covering start-to-finish Sketch workflow tips I actually think it’s a bargain.

I always prefer paperback copies of books just so I can reference them without staring at a monitor. But I don’t think you’ll be referencing this book once you move beyond the basics, so this is likely a book you’ll only read when you need to get going with the fundamentals.

I really do wish the book was lengthened to include more full examples teaching full project work. Even just one chapter near the end teaching you to build a complete interface from scratch would’ve been sweet. Unfortunately the only book I can find for specific UI work is Designing for iOS with Sketch, certainly a great title but not focused on web design.

But no matter how much I complain about wanting more I think Jump Start Sketch is a knockout book. You can pick this up with no prior knowledge and walk away with a comfortable understanding of Sketch. Plus the book is project-agnostic so you can use this book to learn icon design, web design, mobile app design, or any combination of the three.

Final Summary

Digital designers looking to break into Sketch would do themselves a huge service by starting with this book. It is perhaps the de facto book on learning Sketch from scratch considering there aren’t any other publications out there on the same topic.

Jump Start Sketch covers absolutely everything you need to know to move forward with this software. You learn by doing and the book is full of quality screenshots. I do think it would’ve been cool to see even more content expanding on advanced Sketch workflows.

But I really can’t bitch about this much because the content you do get is so well-written and it’s perfect for any beginner dipping their toe into the world of Sketch.

jump start sketch book cover

Review Rating: 4.5/5

Author:

Alex is a fullstack developer with years of experience working in digital agencies and as a freelancer. He writes about educational resources and tools for programmers building the future of the web.