Sketch Tutorial

A Quick Start Guide to the Cabana Design System 🔥

Way back in November 2017 (cue some mildly strange music and wobbly screen fade) I decided to start building a Design System/Sketch Starter File called Cabana. You can read my original article on that here.

I’ve created a fair amount of articles since that time, some going in to great detail on how I constructed the System, and also how you can work with a Design System at the ready…

But you know what (and even though the instructions included inside of Cabana are pretty detailed in their own right), I’d not given users of Cabana a more detailed instructional guide…

…but that’s what I’m aiming to do here, and give you instructions in a more detailed manner so you can jump on into Cabana and say “Hot diggity damn I’m a Cabana Design System Pro just wait till the rest of the team get a piece of me, promotion here I come”, or possibly something a little more restrained than that?

With this article I want you to be able to come away with not only the confidence to use the Cabana Design System in your daily workflow but also with an understanding of how beneficial to your workflow a System like Cabana can be.

Before we begin, grab yourself a Coffee, a copy of Cabana, and let me show you how to put this little Design System of Joy into practice.

📋 First things first

  • Grab a copy of Cabana here
  • Install both the Poppins and Open Sans fonts
  • Fire up your copy of Sketch
  • Let’s do this!

When you first open up Cabana you’ll be presented with 4 Pages of unadulterated awesomeness…

  • Please Start Here
  • Style Guide
  • Components
  • Design System Demo
  • Symbols

Let’s of course first focus on the Please Start Here page. Makes perfect sense right?

👉 Please Start Here

On this page is where the majority of the Design System magic happens. Ooh la la!

Here you’ll find 3 separate Artboards…

  • Colors
  • Typography
  • Various

🎨 Base Colors

Let’s take a look how to adjust the Base Colors inside of Cabana shall we?

We’ll focus on the Primary Color here, and I’ll show you how simple it is to make just the one adjustment on this page and have it propagate throughout the System. It’s some Sketch/Design System sorcery at work right here!

Simply drag your cursor around the Primary Color block, this will in turn select both the Fill and Border Color. Don’t worry about those little labels being selected, all Titles and Labels are locked down, un-selectable, and not moving anywhere!

Then, from the Inspector, simply update the Fill & Border Color to something more suited to your project at hand, and then click the Sync icon for these new styles to apply the changes.

If you quickly jump over to one of other pages, be that Symbols, or Components for example, you will see this simple Color adjustment in all its propagated glory.

This kind of time-saving would surely make Back to the Future’s Doc Brown shout “Great Sketch!”.

Inside of the Cabana DS (Design System) you also have the following Colors to assist you from the start…

  • Secondary
  • Tertiary
  • Black
  • Grey
  • Light Grey
  • Success
  • Warning
  • Error

With the rest of the available Colors, you can use only what’s required for the project at hand and leave the rest as they are. Not a problem. I rarely find myself using the Tertiary Color for example, but it’s just there for when a project may call upon it, and you guarantee if it wasn’t there the ‘next’ project would call for it! You know how it goes?

🎨 Color Overlays

The Color Overlays are simply there for consistent branding and legibility purposes throughout your project. With the options of Primary, Secondary and Black to choose from.

To get an Overlay into place, for example the Primary Overlay, you simply need to hop across to the Inspector and choose the Hex (#) Color Value you currently have set for your Primary Base Color, and then with the Overlay selected paste in this Hex Value and click on the Sync icon. All done!

I’ve even popped in a Demo Image so you can get a rough gauge of how your chosen Color will look when overlaid. Feel free to tweak the Opacity if required and then remember to Sync any changes that you’ve made.

You can go ahead and repeat a similar process for the Secondary and Black Color Overlays if needed.

🇦 Typography

Don’t let that multitude of fonts in front of you send you running for a copy of Photoshop. Keep calm and listen on. It’s all going to be fine I promise :)

The Cabana Design System currently uses 2 Font Families; Poppins, for Headings, Buttons etc…

…and Open Sans, for Body, Lead etc…

They are referred to as Font Family #1 (Poppins) and Font Family #2 (Open Sans).

This just enables you to easily change the font families to something more suited for your project without the need of going through your Text Styles and changing the font family names.

For each Font Family you have Styles ranging from Uber (for those larger than life Headings suited for Web use) all the way down to Tiny (more suited to smaller text on a Mobile device).

Both Font Families have each and every Style attached to them, allowing you the freedom to switch between the 2 Font Families with ease when working on a project.

To easily change one of the Font Families to suit your current project, simply drag your cursor around one of the blocks of text (you can either select all the blocks or just the colors that you’ll be using in your project).

Again don’t worry about selecting any of the titles (ie; Font Family #1 (Black)), these are all locked down.

In fact you can zoom right out so all the Families are visible on your screen (handy if you’re working with a smaller screen) and still confidently select the blocks of text without inadvertently selecting other elements on the Artboard.

If you take a look at the image below you will see that I’ve dragged my cursor in from the top left of the Artboard without the worry of selecting any of those pesky (but handy for reference of course) titles. Happy selecting days!

Then from the Inspector Panel, change the Font Family, and click on the Syncicon to see your changes.

Please Note: Any Color, Font Size, Weight and Alignment adjustments will all be saved when you click on the Refresh icon. Only the actual Font Family will change. So don’t worry about losing any of those tweaks you may have made before you click on the Sync icon.

Also note that Sketch may seem unresponsive if you change all of the Text Styles at once. Just give it a moment or two whilst it makes all those text updates.

Now you may notice the Yellow (Warning) color does not make an appearance in the Typography options. This was purposely done as I find it extremely rare that you’d apply Yellow Type to a design. Blocks of color, yes, but for Typography and the possible Accessibility issues it can bring I didn’t include it.

That’s not to say you couldn’t apply it yourself if required, but from my own personal experience I have rarely, if ever, called upon Yellow Typography in a design, so it makes no sense to include it.

Please remember that Layer Styles and Text Styles are 2 separate entities inside of Sketch and the color that you set for example your Primary Base Color will not propagate across to the Typography with the Primary title. You will need to copy and paste across the Hex value then Sync to see the changes. This is just the way Layer, and Text Styles work in Sketch. Sorry to disappoint there folks.

💡 Shadows

Here you can choose from a selection of subtle, soft drop-shadows to enhance elements inside of your project. To remove a shadow from an element simply choose the No Shadow option from the Shared Styles panel.

To make adjustments to any of the Shadow options, you can edit the X, Y, Blurand Spread values in the Shadows panel, and for any Opacity changes simply click on the Color and adjust the Alpha value there. Once you’ve made any changes you will see the Sync icon appear, click on this to update your changes. Done & Done!

If you decide to make any adjustments to the shadow strength, just make sure to click the Sync icon once your changes have been made.

To use the Shadow Layer Style in your project, simply create a Shape Layer, and this could be a container or image, and then from the Inspector panel choose on of the Shadow Layer Styles, for example Shadow > Shadow 40%.

If you decide that a Shadow just isn’t right for your chosen element you can simply switch to the Shadow > No Shadow Layer Style.

Simple with sprinkles on!

🌄 Gradients

Think of the Gradients inside of the Cabana Design System as another optional extra. They’re not required, the project you’re working on may have no need whatsoever for them but they’re there if you ever needed to call upon them. I’m just trying to save you a little bit of time if you were ever in need of them on a project. Always thinking ahead!

To simply change any of the Gradients inside of Cabana, just go ahead and select the gradient you’d like to change (for example Purple Rain), then adjust the Gradient Fill in the Inspector and once you’re happy with the results you Gradient Wizard you, click on the Sync icon to lock in your tweaked Gradient.

If you want to change the label of the Layer Style also, follow the steps I mentioned above, and instead of clicking on the Sync icon, select Create new Layer Style from the dropdown and name accordingly.

All of the Gradients have an 80% Opacity applied to them so you can easily go ahead and overlay them on your images, but please feel free to tweak the Opacity to suit your requirements.

🖼 Duotone Image

Now, like the Gradients before, you could look upon the Duotone Image styles as a small optional extra, and not necessarily required for the project you have ready to go, but like those Gradients I just mentioned, they’re there for if you needed them (Yes. Duotone is still On-Trend) and saves you the extra work of creating them at a later date.

To edit the Duotone Images that are already available, simply select one (for example Blue Moon) and then from the Inspector tweak away at the various Color Blending options. Here you can choose from Blending options such as Screen, Multiply and Lighten to find something that blends well with the Color Values you choose.

You can also select one of the Fills and click and drag to rearrange it in the Inspector, and try out various combinations until you’re happy with the end result. Go wild for the Blend!

When you come to use your preferred Duotone in a project, simply insert a shape layer, choose the relevant Duotone Shared Style and then insert an image of your choice (preferably a Black & White image for the effect to be more noticeable).

📐 8 Point Grid Guides

Lastly onto the 8 Point Grid System, of which I’m a real advocate of, and use in pretty much all of my projects.

Why? Well, because creating an aesthetically pleasing and structured composition to a Project each and every time, is difficult to do without such a Grid System in place, and ‘flying blind’ is not the way to do things when working on a Client Project.

“Let’s go 16pt here, and, erm, let’s go with 15.75pt here, and oh go on then, 14.5pt here for good measure”.

Nope. Not cool!

With a strong Grid System such as the 8pt one used inside of Cabana, you can feel secure in the knowledge that elements within your project have defined, consistent spacing relationships with one another, and not only that, but that yourself and the developer are able to work from the same specified Grid System from design through to development and avoid spacing and alignment issues all the way through production. Happy folks all round!

With the 8pt Grid Guides in Cabana, you can go ahead and insert the Shared Styles into a Project, group them and then show/hide the Group as required when working. If yourself and your Devs are using a tool such as Zeplin, you can then make the 8pt Share d Styles visible to your Developer so can then easily reference them in production.

I hope this Quick Start Guide to using Cabana as helped you get started on your Design System journey in some way.

And if you happen to be one of those folks who hasn’t had the pleasure to use such a System like Cabana (Really? 😉) you can grab a shiny, new copy of Cabana right below…

🎁 Want to rapidly improve your design workflow in Sketch? Grab a copy of the Cabana Design System right here.

Use the offer code MEDIUM25 to receive 25% OFF.

Thanks for reading the article,


Designer, Author, Father and Lover of Sunny Days 🌞

Design + Sketch

The best collection of articles, tips, tutorials, and stories on designing and prototyping with Sketch and beyond

Marc Andrew

Written by

Designer. Developer. Tutor. Creator of Cabana — Design System for Sketch and Founder of kissmyUI

Design + Sketch

The best collection of articles, tips, tutorials, and stories on designing and prototyping with Sketch and beyond