UPDATE: Sketch has vastly improved Symbols and this article is no longer relevant. This article was very relevant about a year ago and is still worth a quick glance to help you appreciate the concept and power of (nested) symbols.

Nesting Symbols Like a Boss

10x-ing your productivity with Sketch 3.7’s new features

Sketch gave us symbols in version 3. But Sketch 3.7’s nested symbols is the crowning of that original feature. Let’s just jump in to how to use this feature to achieve amazing efficiency in design.

Tab Bar with 5 Potential States
Practical Use Case for Nested Symbols: You have a top bar with five tabs. You have to mockup many screen states. How do you save yourself a crazy amount of design time? Create symbols for commonly used components and make your own component library. But we’re gonna get even awesomererer.

One symbol will be the base of the five different states of the tab bar. So if you decide to change an icon, it automatically propagates to all five used states.

Step 1: Make the base symbol for your top bar with 5 icons.

Notice how all states are active, but we want only one active state at a time.

Step 2: Make that base Tab Bar a Symbol

Step 3: Go to the Symbols Page

Notice the title “TabBar” became purple, and in the layer list there is a purple icon besides the symbol.

Step 4: In the Symbols page, insert the TabBar symbol

Insert an instance of the symbol from the Insert Button and make five copies. WARNING: Use insert; do not copy the Symbol. Once you’ve inserted your first symbol you can copy it four more times.

Step 5: Make a 50% opacity blue rectangle which will cover over the inactive tabs

This is my little trick for this use case; you’ll have to find your method for yours.

Make sure you put the blue rectangle over one of the inserted instances of the symbol and not over the base symbol.

An inserted instance of the symbol can not be edited (that’s a good thing). If you try, it will just take you to the original Symbol.

Step 6: Select the inserted symbol and the blue rectangle, and make them into a new Symbol.

See how a new Symbol is created to the right after your make them into a Symbol. (You can go ahead and delete the group of two layers to the left. It’s not part of the symbol).

That’s it. You’ve created your first Nested Symbol.

I will quickly finish off the other four positions and show you why this is so awesome.

The Base Symbol + 5 Tab State Symbols.

In my Symbols library, I now have 5 reusable states:

The base Symbol will not get used in my design.

Now, watch this awesomeness!

All I have to do is simply edit the base Symbol, and the changes show up in all 5 states of the tab bar. Want to change the star icon to a heart? Just edit the base Symbol. Now you can reuse these 5 Symbols as many times as you want throughout your design and only edit it in one place.

Step 7: Recommend this article ;)

If you like this article, show your love. All comments and feedback are welcome.