IMPORTANT: The information in this post has since become outdated. Read our more current article on this topic.
When designing digital products such as websites, apps, etc. there are many apps to choose from. Which one is right for you? While some people use Figma, InVision Studio, and others, in this article we’ll focus on what we consider the three industry front-runners: Sketch, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe XD.
While some designers are just now making the switch to Sketch, it’s been around since 2010. Sketch is a Mac only app, which is fine with most designers, but PC users will need to look at Adobe XD or Photoshop.
Sketch is great for UX/UI design. You can design wireframes or finished visual designs, and turn those into clickable prototypes using Sketch’s recently added prototyping tools or InVision’s Craft plugin.
Sketch has very powerful symbols and styles, which enable you to easily create complex design systems that are flexible and manageable across large projects. It also has decent exporting options.
Sketch costs $99 (USD) and you get a year of updates as well as Sketch Cloud. After the first year, you can continue using your last update for as long as you want with no other payments. However, if you want another year of updates and Sketch Cloud, you must renew your license for $69 (USD).
Sketch is a great option for Mac users that want an affordable and powerful design app.
Learn more in our Sketch class.
Photoshop has been around for a very long time and many designers use it and know it well. That’s why they turn to it for creating designs and graphics. Photoshop has gained many web and UI design features over the past years, including artboards, paragraph/character styles, and improved web export options. Photoshop’s popularity is why you’ll continue seeing designers using this app for quite some time, even though there are other options such as Sketch and XD.
Because Photoshop is a photo editor that has gained web/UI design features, it's not as intuitive and easy to design with as Sketch and Adobe XD. Those apps are more targetted for design, and therefore are easier to use. Once you know how to use Photoshop though, it is a very powerful app.
Photoshop does not have features such as symbols (for reusing design components) or prototyping. While you can turn your Photoshop file into a clickable prototype with InVision, it’s not as easy to do as the integrated prototyping features found in Sketch and XD. We doubt Photoshop will add these features, especially now that they are focusing so heavily on Adobe XD.
Of these three apps, Photoshop offers the best export options for pixel-based graphics. If you really need to control the quality and filesize of graphics, Photoshop is the best choice.
Photoshop has integrated tools for creating animated GIFs, which you can’t do with either Sketch or XD.
You can get Photoshop for $9.99/month (USD) or Photoshop with all the CC apps for $52.99 (USD).
Learn more in our Photoshop for Web Design & UI class.
XD is the newest of these apps, and Adobe is putting a lot of effort into developing it quickly. Updates are released every 1–2 months, and XD has come a long way since the first beta versions.
XD aims to be the all-in-one solution for UX/UI design from wireframes to visual design, visual prototyping, voice prototyping, and more. XD is most similar to Sketch in how it works. Despite XD being such a young app, it does have some features (such as voice prototyping, auto-animate, and repeat grid) that are not found in its competitors. While it is more advanced in some ways, it does show it’s young age in the lack of some basic features. For example, you still cannot create manual guides, symbols cannot be resized as they can in Sketch (very useful!), there are no graphic/object styles, and exporting features are poorly implemented, just to name a few. We know that guides are being worked on, and with updates coming so quickly, we hope the other features will be added/fixed fairly soon.
XD has finally gained enough features that designers and companies are starting to use it. Especially on small projects, some of the missing/poorly implemented features won't be much of an issue. However on larger projects, those limitations might become a bigger issue. Adobe has been rapidly fixing things and adding features, so you're going to see more and more people starting to use Adobe XD.
Overall XD is quick and easy to use. We like the integrated design approach Adobe is going for, and we look forward to seeing XD continue to improve.
You can use XD for free to see if you like it! The free version of XD gives you the full app, but limits you to one shared prototype and design spec. If you need to share multiple prototypes and design specs, you can get XD for $9.99/month (USD) or XD with all the CC apps for $52.99 (USD).
Learn more in our Adobe XD class.
Which One Will You Learn or Use?
We hope this comparison has helped you decide which design app is best suited for your needs. We teach all of them, so whichever app you want to learn we have a hands-on class that you can attend live online, or in person in New York City.