Time is such a precious commodity that it’s actually worth spending some of it learning techniques that’ll make you more efficient in the long run.
And if you work in Sketch (if you don’t, it’s easy to learn—do it here), it’s absolutely worth your time to learn these 8 Sketch tricks. They have to do with various functions, like using keyboard shortcuts instead of UI menus, changing properties of objects with more precision, moving objects, and adjusting default settings.
Set up keyboard shortcuts in Sketch
Yeah, we’re talking about shaving off a few extra seconds by using shortcuts. But remember that seconds add up to minutes, and those minutes eventually add up to hours.
Besides, isn’t it aggravating when you can’t do something quickly?
Here’s a real-life example—the most frequently used tool from the Insert menu (creating a rectangle).
Allow me to reiterate: 0.5 seconds versus 3.5 seconds. This means an 85% decrease in time spent on drawing a simple rectangle. Pretty significant, considering the number of rectangles you probably need to draw for any project.
For all available shortcuts, check out Sketch documentation.
Use Nudg.it to move objects with precision
Nudg.it is a free Sketch plugin that allows you to move objects with keyboard arrows and adjust the magnitude of the vector of movement. You don’t have to shift objects around by the default 10 pixels with each press of a button—this plugin lets you choose how far they’ll go.
Also, pressing Shift + arrow will result in a nice, big nudge for when you need to speed things up a bit. This means you won’t have to adjust your Nudge.it setting every 5 seconds.
Use arrow keys to edit by 0.1, 1, or 10 pixels
As you likely know, it’s fairly easy to adjust any given property in Sketch. But you can squeeze more functionality out of these up/down arrows than just +1 / -1 changes.
Hold down the Shift or Alt key to increase or reduce the shifting increments. It’s especially useful when creating illustrations, icons, and various other elements with irregular shapes.
This will allow you to change properties by, for example, 0.5 or 0.1 pixels. You adjust the increments by 0.1 pixels every time you use Alt + up/down arrow. Shift, on the other hand, allows you to change the increment by 10 pixels.
Be careful with the smaller increments. If you start shifting the elements of your design around by 0.1 or 0.3 pixels, for example, you’ll no longer achieve a “pixel-perfect” look. It’s a good tool for illustrations, though. Also, 0.5 pixel adjustments will help you with lines in HDPI displays.
Resize objects using the keyboard
It’s safe to assume that resizing objects is something you do often. It can be a pain, though, no matter how many times you’ve done it, since using the mouse isn’t great for precision.
What if I told you there’s a better option?
Select an object and press Cmd + arrow to change its size. In this case, just like in the previous one, holding down the shift key will increase the increment. This will help you change objects’ dimensions either smoothly and precisely, or quickly.
Move shapes while you draw them
You know that “ugh” feeling when you start drawing an object and realize a split-second later that you’ll have to move it right away, because it’s just a few pixels off to the left? Say goodbye to it, because you may never feel it again.
It’s possible to move an object around while you’re drawing it. Hold down the spacebar to position the shape just like you want it.
That’s another few seconds saved.
Separate duplicates by a fixed distance
In Sketch, you’ll often want to duplicate a bunch of objects and put them at equal distance from each other.
Not much to ask for—and a huge time saver, right?
The flow is super easy:
- Make an initial duplicate of your object using Alt + drag
- Use Cmd + D to make another duplicate at the same distance as the one you just created in the first step
Related: Designing icons in Sketch
Change object opacity with one button
Once again, the mouse turns out to be too imprecise.
Luckily, you don’t have to depend on it for changing object opacity. Just select an object and type “1” for 10% opacity, “2” for 20%, “25” for 25%, “00” for 100%, and so on.
Seriously, it’s that simple.
It’s faster and more precise to use the keyboard rather than the mouse-operated slider. Normally, you’d move the slider back and forth until you find the right opacity level, but it’s a bit uncomfortable since the slider is too small. Plus, using the keyboard is the easiest way to change the opacity of multiple selected objects at the same time.
You can also press Cmd + Shift + H to hide an object, which can be very convenient.
Change the style for new shapes
If you always find yourself getting rid of the border from your newly created shape in Sketch, you should consider changing the default style for new objects. Yes, you can do that.
Create any shape and adjust its style to what you like (or need for a particular project), then set it as your default by going to Edit -> Set Style as Default.
Now you won’t have to fix every object you draw—and changing the setting for a new batch of objects should be a breeze.
I’ve shown you 8 time-saving Sketch tricks—how to create objects with keyboard shortcuts, adjust the stepping of various tools (e.g. Nudg.it), use the keyboard for greater precision, and change Sketch’s sometimes-annoying default settings.
Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to reduce the time you spend on mechanical, uninteresting work and focus on what’s important: good product design.
More Sketch tricks
Jarek is a Product Designer at Netguru. Jarek’s core interest as a designer are "ideas and their implementation." He likes to boil things down to their fundamental truths. He has 6+ years of experience in design across several fields: architecture, product, branding, UI/UX for both web and mobile, and photography. Jarek is comfortable when working independently or in a team. He has founded and run 2 startups, so he understands the kinds of problems his clients face every day. When not designing or making things up, he’s probably brewing an espresso or out riding his bike.