Getting Started with Sketch

Part 3: Symbols and Exporting


This is the last installment of this tutorial. Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 before moving forward!


Symbols are great for organizing elements of your design that you re-use often. For this example, let's turn the sock monkey icon into a symbol. With the icon selected, look in the top menu bar and select "Create Symbol"

Create symbol

After you click this, a text field opens up in the Inspector. I named this symbol "Sock Monkey".

Name symbol sock monkey

Notice how the folder icon in your layers palette turned from blue to purple. That means it's a symbol!

Symbols have purple folder icons.

Now this symbol shows up in the Insert menu! Let's insert one.

Insert sock monkey symbol

Now we have two sock monkeys, both with purple folder icons:

Sock monkey symbol has been placed.

The cool thing about symbols is that they are linked. Any change you make to one will apply to all other instances of the symbol. For example, if you resize one of the symbols, the other is also resized.

Resize the symbol.
Reminder: Hold down shift while dragging the bounding box to maintain the original ratio while resizing.

Now I want to teach you a shortcut to duplicate any layer in sketch. With one layer selected, hold down alt/option while you drag it. Sketch automatically shows you red guidelines so you can align the copied layer to the artboard and other layers. Let go of your mouse first, then release the alt key to place the file.

Copy symbol
Tip: If you hold down alt + shift while dragging, the copied layer will hug a guideline aligned to the original layer.

Let's repeat that one more time so we have three sock monkey icons at the bottom:

Copy symbol again

There's a quick way to make sure all of these have the same amount of space between them. First, select all three layers. Then click "Distribute Horizontally"

Distribute horizontally

What this does is take the left-most and right-most objects and aligns all objects in between with equal spacing. This works with any selection of 3 or more.

Now, let's learn how to detach symbols. We want to resize the top monkey icon without affecting any of the others. To do this, we must right click on the top monkey and select "Detach from Symbol"

Detach from symbol

Now we can safely make this icon bigger without affecting any of the other symbols. Notice that the folder color is blue once more:

Folder color is blue again.
Remember to align this icon to the center of the artboard!

Exporting Artboards

How do you get your artboards out of Sketch? With the export function! It can batch export your artboards in PNG format named after your artboards.

Before you export, you must select each artboard and check "Background Color" and "Include in Export" in the right hand Inspector. These are not checked by default! If you do not check this, your artboards will have transparent backgrounds.

Set background color for export.

Repeat the same step with the other artboard.

Repeat for other artboard.

As you can see, you can select different size options (@2x, @3x, etc), add a suffix, or change the file format for each artboard. I usually leave the default settings, especially since our base artboard is already sized @2x for iPhone 5.

Once you have these options set, you can export every artboard by clicking File > Export or shortcut ⇧ + ⌘ + E.

Export your artboards.

On the dialog, make sure all artboards are selected.

Export dialog.

Then click Export and you're done!

Download my final Sketch file here.

Thank you!

🍵 Donate

Buy me a coffee (or tea) to support free content and keep these tutorials ad free.