Designer’s Guide to Integrating ‘Sketch Libraries’ Into Your Workflow

Find out how working with Sketch will improve the speed and consistency of your designs, and how to integrate it into your workflow.

Portrait for EnvatoBy Envato  |  Updated November 4, 2020

Sketch is continually adding new features all the time. From nested symbols to shared styles, it’s constantly pushing the boundaries of what a vector application is capable of. The forward-thinking product team has established Sketch as a lead vector application.

Sketch libraries
Source: Sketch

The release of Sketch 47 will see the introduction of a new and exciting feature called Libraries. Already available in the Sketch 47 Beta, Libraries looks to expand on a successful existing product and widen its appeal to more users and teams. This will target users of Adobe CC and Affinity Designer, in particular.

What is Sketch Libraries?

A Library is a set of Sketch Symbols which can be used across an entire project or design team. Using a Library, you can sync design assets such as icons, buttons, user interface elements, and more. When the original Symbol is altered in the Library document, each instance of this Symbol will be updated simultaneously. This means you won’t have to go into each design file to make an update.

It’s best to picture Sketch Libraries as a standalone document which looks somewhat similar to a UI kit. Take an iOS app, for example. Inside this UI kit may be buttons, some custom iconography, user avatars, a tab bar, some toasts, and some content cards. Once this has been compiled and set as a Sketch Library, you can then begin on a new Sketch document. This could be for the main app screens. Then you may begin another new document – this time working on a landing page for the app and incorporating some of the UI details into this design. In both of these documents you will be able to pull Symbols from the Library document in just one or two clicks.

Now say you have had to make an edit to the border radius of the button. You would change this once in the Library document. It will then seamlessly update the buttons within the app screen and landing page documents.

For teams, the possibilities are even more extraordinary. Effectively you can have one Library document which an entire team can work from. This can include anything from UI elements to branding assets.

Figma library
Source: Figma

It’s important to note that this feature is not new by any means. Figma rolled out their version of Libraries (called Team Library) a while back. Figma’s implementation of the technology is simpler and easier to use. However, it does not offer the same extensive functionality of Sketch Libraries. Figma’s Team Library is also only available on a paid subscription basis – effectively excluding freelancers from using the technology.

How does Sketch Libraries work?

Sketch Libraries are incredibly easy to set up. Start by simply opening a new Sketch document, then create the Symbols you’d like to include in your Library. All that’s left to do is then open the Sketch Preferences and navigate to Libraries. Click Add Library and your document will now serve as a fully-functioning Sketch Library.

How does Sketch work
Source: Sketch

To begin inserting Symbols from your Library, open another Sketch document and click on the Insert icon on the top left. From there you’ll see your new Library and the entirety of the Symbols contained within it.

When you make an edit to a Symbol within your Library, any Sketch documents containing the Symbol will show a ‘Library Update Available’ notice in the upper right corner. You can then choose which Symbols to update. Any you wish to remain the same can be unlinked from the Library and converted into a local Symbol.

Why Would I Need to Use Sketch Libraries?

Sketch Libraries is predominantly about improving two aspects of designing, both as an individual and within a team. The first is speed. Constantly making changes to an element across multiple documents is incredibly time consuming.

Hover effect on app store and apple music
Source: Hacker Noon

The second, and probably most important, is consistency. This applies especially, but not exclusively, to teams. You only have to look as far as iOS 11 to see just how easy it is for UI details and components to be lost across design teams. Miscommunication between designers and teams can lead to a product that is plagued with inconsistencies throughout. With a tool like Sketch Libraries, everyone is pulling from the same set of components. If the Library source file is accurate and comprehensive then the resulting designs should be too.

How Can I Integrate Sketch Libraries into my Workflow?

For individuals, Sketch Libraries is pretty simple to integrate into your workflow. You may like to start a new design project by defining the main Symbols and working from there. Sketch Libraries will be most useful for larger projects where you will be reusing Symbols across multiple documents.

If you’re collaborating or working within a team, Sketch has some exciting features when using Sketch Libraries. You can add your Library file to a local server, cloud service, or version control system. From there, you can allow anyone from your team access to the Library. They can then receive updates to their design files when a change is made to the Library.

sketch designing on a notebook
Source: Envato Elements

Similarly, you could have a branding designer manage their own Library file where all the company brand assets are kept up to date. Anyone in the design team would then pull from this Library at any time and always have the latest colors, logos, and other assets synced to their file. It’s important to be cautious when using this system. For example, Sketch recommends restricting access to some users by making the Library file read-only.

Another interesting way of integrating Sketch Libraries into a workflow is using assets such as UI kits. An iOS 11 GUI or app icon template would be a great example where you can pull assets into multiple projects and documents. There are also some stunning premium UI kits that make for essential additions to your Sketch Library.

1. Base UI Sketch Framework

Base UI Sketch Framework

This Sketch-based web design system is perfect for integrating with Sketch Libraries. It contains over 180 screen templates and 10 ready-to-use landing pages. Each of these consists of nested symbols and shared styles.

2. W1 UI Kit for Watch Apps

W1 UI Kit for Watch Apps

This UI kit for Apple Watch serves as a perfect Sketch Library addition for your watch-based design projects.

3. UI Design System

UI Design System

This comprehensive and customisable UI design system is built upon an 8pt grid. It contains over 200 responsive symbols and has you covered for almost any element of UI design. It’s beautifully organised and presented throughout.

Check out more Sketch-compatible UX and UI kits to add to your library.

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