Figma and Sketch are two of the most popular tools for designers. While designers have historically preferred Sketch, Figma has been making quite a few waves as of late.
Figma’s full browser-based design suite offers greater freedom to designers and makes it easy for them to share workspaces and projects with one another.
For design agencies, this poses a very important question: which one’s the better choice? Both Figma and Sketch provide excellent design capabilities, but there are a few differences that may sway your choice.
At Atarim, we know just how important such a decision can be. For a design and development agency, the right software choice can make all the difference.
And, that’s why we have put together this comprehensive, side-by-side comparison of both products. Read on to find out who we believe is the winner in the Figma vs. Sketch debate.
What is Figma?
Figma was originally launched publicly in 2016 by Dylan Field and Evan Wallace. According to the founders, Figma was designed to allow anyone to be creative, right from their browser.
It’s a purely web-based graphics editing tool, and that’s one of the main reasons why it’s so popular. In fact, by the end of May 2021, Figma was valued at a mind-numbing $10 billion.
It’s important to mention that while you can access Figma’s full functionality through your desktop, the company does offer mobile and desktop apps for all major platforms as well.
What is Sketch?
Sketch has been around for much longer than Figma, having been founded in 2010 by Pieter Omvlee and Emanual Sa. Unlike Figma, designers need to download the native macOS app to create designs using Sketch.
However, these designs can be shared through the browser, making handoffs easier, and also allowing designers to gather feedback from clients. Sketch has more than a million users, including some really big names like Facebook and Xbox.
All things considered, Sketch is generally a big deal in the design community. They sponsor meetups, regularly engage with community members, and even offer a ton of custom extensions that let you expand Sketch’s core functionality significantly.
Figma vs. Sketch – A Head-to-Head Comparison
So with the basic overview dealt with, let’s take a deep dive into the features of both Figma and Sketch, to determine exactly how the two compare.
When you create a new project in Figma, you’re taken to the first “frame”. Each artboard is known as a frame, and unlike Sketch, Figma makes nesting frames incredibly easy. This means that you can have several frames when creating a new design, including frames for headers, footers, or even simple lists.
Figma has a ton of pre-made templates, and you can even create your own and save them for use later on. For instance, if you want to add an Affinity Diagram and populate it, you can easily do so from the main artboard (known as FigJam):
From designing brochures to the first iterations of web pages, Figma makes it incredibly easy for users to come together and collaborate on different projects.
Whereas Figma has the basic editor, Sketch lets you play around on a vast canvas. The Sketch canvas lets you create as many artboards as you want, and you can play around with the designs in vector mode with incredible ease.
The best part is that when you add a design, you can essentially select the device that you’re designing for. For instance, if you choose iPhone 13 Pro Max, you’ll have a canvas with the exact dimensions of the device to work with:
This way, designers don’t have to worry about resizing specific elements for different screens or devices. You can even create custom canvas sizes and save them for use later.
From vector designs to paths, there’s a lot you can do with Sketch. You can even add app icons into your artboard, select custom images, and edit them however you see fit. From adjusting the color to overlaying different elements, Sketch is great at all things design:
The macOS app lets you insert different shapes, and you can also create your own freehand. It supports Boolean operations like Intersect, Difference, or Union, which is great for manipulating different images and shapes.
Once you’re done, you can preview images. You can browse through different layers and find various pages and artboards and flip through them accordingly.
One of the key reasons why Figma has exploded in popularity in the past couple of years is because of its collaborative features. It offers genuine real-time collaboration, where you don’t need to post-editing updates on a project management tool back and forth.
Each designer who’s working on a project can view the edits in real-time, and pitch in if needed. This is a major advantage that Figma has over Sketch, and saves a great deal of time for remote teams.
Unlike Sketch, designers aren’t limited to making edits if they have the native app installed. Sharing a wireframe or a project is as easy as sharing a URL. Each project has a unique URL, so designers can just open up the files in their browsers and start working.
Figma even lets you converse with other designers using audio, straight from your browser, without requiring any additional software. This is a major game-changer and can simplify the workflow greatly for designers, especially when two or three are working on the same project.
Perhaps the best part is that it’s completely free (text comments only), for unlimited editors, for up to three design files in a single project. Once you upgrade to Professional you can also hold audio conversations.
Unlike Figma, Sketch requires you to have a paid subscription before you can collaborate in real-time with other designers. Without a subscription for the macOS app, designers will only be able to view the content and give feedback.
Once you have a subscription, designers can download the app and start reviewing documents and projects in a shared workspace.
You should know that edits are only possible when you add people to the workspace. And, it’s also important to note that all users should be on the latest version of the macOS app before they can collaborate.
You can share designs using the browser-based tool to collect feedback, but as mentioned above, it doesn’t allow for any editing.
Tools and Features
Figma has several features that you’d expect from any design tool. It has a comprehensive Assets panel that lets you create your own Assets or use pre-made templates.
From brainstorming templates to GIPHY stickers, activity trackers to basic markdown notes, there’s a host of creative assets that you can add to your frames through Figma.
And as you’d expect from a reputable design tool, Figma lets you use different brushes, overlays, markets, washi tape, and more to get that perfect design.
Sketch has an array of different tools and features that greatly simplify the designing process. You can use custom brushes or markers, and in general, it’s extremely easy to use. You can even create prototypes and animate certain elements on the screen.
You can assign P3 or sRGB color profiles for different assets and documents, which ensures an accurate color range. This way, your users get to see exactly what you designed.
For handoffs, Sketch offers Symbols. Symbols let you turn any object (or several) into a micro-template of sorts, thus letting you add multiple instances of each into your document.
Plugins and Extensions
Figma has a plethora of plugins and extensions that you can add with a single click. Just go to Plugins from the menu on the bottom right, and you can easily search for available plugins.
Some of the most popular plugins on Figma include:
- Batch Styler
- Figma to HTML, React, and CSS
- Icon Resizer
As you can imagine, Sketch offers an array of plugins. You can search either their own library or the web to find plugins. You can then download the compressed files, and start using them. The most popular plugins on Sketch include:
Compared to Figma, Sketch’s plugin library is considerably larger. It’s been around for a while longer, which is one of the reasons why you’ll find extensive documentation on all of its plugins, icon libraries, and vector illustrations.
Some of the best Sketch plugins include:
- Anima Toolkit
- Export More
- Chromatic Sketch
- Looper 2.0
- Sketch Palettes
- Sketch Runner
- Swap Styles
- Symbol Organizer
- Magic Mirror
As you can see in the screenshot above, Figma’s base plan is free to use for anyone. However, the Professional plan unlocks greater functionality and lets teams fully utilize the power of the platform.
It gives you access to unlimited Figma files, lets you track version history, create team libraries, and also allows members to hold audio conversations.
Figma Professional costs $12 per editor, per month, which makes it slightly more expensive than Sketch, surprisingly. There’s also the Figma Organization plan, which opens up more functionality across the organization, and costs $45 per editor, monthly.
Sketch’s pricing is simple: users pay $9 per editor, per month. For larger organizations, they also offer custom pricing plans.
Figma vs. Sketch – Which One Is the Better Choice?
Both Figma and Sketch are excellent design tools. If you’re a freelancer or running a smaller design agency, and on the hunt for a tool that’s ideal for both UX/UI design and lets you create wireframes, Figma is definitely the better pick. This is also true if you’re interested in their collaborative functionality, which is really the best there is.
However, if you want a design tool that lets you design UI for apps on different platforms and offers more than just web design tools, Sketch, despite no longer being the most popular option, remains a great choice.
If you’re interested in learning more about web design, there’s an interesting research paper titled Peer Assessment of Webpage Design: Behavioral Sequential Analysis Based on Eye Tracking Evidence that you may want to check out.
It talks about how visual web design styles have evolved and sheds light on what elements attract the most attention using eye tracking evidence.