How to Make Simple Illustrations Using Sketch — the Beginner Guide
Illustrations can be a powerful tool. Whether it’s explaining complex concepts, making the brand more relatable to consumers, or simply making a presentation more visually appealing–good illustrations can help achieve those goals.
This article is meant for designers who does not have a graphic arts background but need to make some quick and simple illustrations. If this sounds like you, please read on. If you need illustrations because you don’t have a budget to hire a professional, or the client expects you to be a design unicorn, either way you’ll learn some tips and tricks to create your own illustrations.
Why focus on Sketch?
The short answer is the low learning curve. If you already use Sketch, you don’t have to learn a new tool. You also have control over both the illustration and screen design within one software. This can be a time saver compared to Adobe Creative Suite. Adobe’s UX/UI design tool, Adobe XD, integrates well with both Illustrator and Photoshop, but you do have to open both software at the same time. It’s not ideal when you need to keep another 50 browser tabs open at the same time. I believe we’ve all been in frustrating moments when our computers act like marathon runners at 20 miles, panting crazily but not moving too much.
Sketch might not be as powerful as Illustrator in anchor adjustment, it’s a quick and easy tool to make and adjust shapes, with a relatively low learning curve.
How does it work?
My thought process of making flat illustration is first, to start with the basics of drawing shapes . You start with analyzing the real-life object and deconstruct it down to simple shapes.
Let’s start with an example. Say you want to make a monkey face (Why? Because they take some killer selfies!). You can start with real-life photos of monkeys and pick your favorite one.
Then we can start removing the details and deconstruct this handsome fella into basic geometric shapes.
Once you have this very Picasso style monkey, you can use the radius tool and point control tool to smooth out the sharp corners, hence resembling the natural lines better while keeping the geometric nature.
You might be wondering “Why not use anchors and paths to trace the shapes?” When I first started doing illustrations with anchors, I often found myself lost in the details and try to trace every single thing. This “basic shape-then-refine details” approach pulls me away from the nitty-gritty and focus on the high-level structure.
After manipulating some radius and points, we’ll get something that resembles the monkey better.
From here we can move away from the real-life photo and just focus on the illustration itself. Adjust shapes, fill in some more elements, and change the color based on your choice or the style guide.
Depending on how many details you want to include, you can add in those extra details such as their beautiful eyes, liberal teeth, and that killer haircut, all using the same “basic shape + adjust points” method.
With the deconstructing + reconstructing method, you can create pretty decent illustrations with just basic shapes, such as such as other cute animals.
Or characters from your favorite show.
I hope this little article is helpful for those who want to broaden their skill sets and bring more exciting ideas to their work.