As the need for resolution-independent graphics increases, designers are looking for alternatives to the weighty, pricey Adobe Illustrator and its web oriented cousin, Fireworks.

Sketch seemingly aims to supplant both, but at a fraction of the cost.

Sketch’s sparse interface is surprisingly flexible, cleverly utilising pop-up hints and an inspector that disappears when not in use.

The workspace is ‘infinite’, but optional rulers and a fantastic grid (along with Option-hovering to access distances between objects) are available for working on structured documents (websites, print adverts).

Tools and effects are fewer than in Illustrator, but the shapes and boolean operations are sufficient, and the ability to define symbols and text styles is a time-saver. But Sketch betrays its ‘version 1’ status with occasional instability.

The lack of nine-slice scaling limits Sketch’s scope for interface design, and its inability to import editable EPS files is disappointing (although we found EPS export to Illustrator more successful).

It’s worth remembering Sketch’s focus and low price – Illustrator CS5 costs over 15 times more. This release is a bit buggy, but it’s also in many ways brilliant, with tons of potential.

So while Sketch doesn’t get our highest rating, we urge anyone who regularly works with vectors to at least check it out.

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