Sketch Tutorial

Using Nested Symbols to Create Tons of Social Assets in Seconds.

“Hey, can I get a profile photo for Facebook? And Twitter? And Google Plus? And Pinterest? And Tinder?”

Jon Moore
UX Power Tools
Published in
6 min readApr 18, 2017


Launching a product is a lot of fun. Even if it never goes anywhere, you’ll always have that initial rush of what it feels like to go live. That feeling where the sky is the limit, and you’ll see 10x growth in just a matter of weeks. Ahh, what a time to be alive.

🚀 Product launching in T-10, 9, 8…ah crap what size header do we need for Product Hunt again? Hold on. Ok, T-10, 9…shit I forgot the favicon. What’s that, there are twelve favicon sizes now? Ok, for real now…T-10, 9, 8, 7…oh crap we forgot Google+…💥

It’s a trivial step when you’re launching a product, but I don’t think I’ve gone live ONCE without forgetting an asset one of our social accounts, iOS, or the web. Usually you get so burnt out by launch time you’ll let anyone handle it, even if it means uploading a 64px PNG to a site wanting a minimum image size of 128px. “But what if the difference between success and failure was that retina-enabled favicon?” Ha, kidding. Could you imagine if people were so fickle? Pff.

Instead, you are the fickle one. You care, because when you’re counting all the money bags being delivered to your front porch because TechCrunch called you the next Airbnb for Apple dongles, you will sit and stew about how your product’s Instagram logo looks blurry.

Luckily, nested symbols in Sketch makes this pretty easy as long as you have all your artboards sized for the various assets you need to make. Don’t, worry I’ve included a download with all the artboards you need 🤗.

In this article I’ll show you how to generate all these assets using just a couple tweaks to a base symbol.

More symbols than Neil Peart’s drumset. Lol. Yes I know it’s “cymbals”.

Step-the-First: Make styles and symbols for your brand colors

Each fill color is both a style and a symbol. For this exercise, you really only need to make symbols with a rectangle of your brand colors. I always include black and white in case we end up needing a B/W version of the product logo.

Step-the-second: Create a flexible base symbol for your product logo

Note: This doesn’t work all that great for wordmark logos, but that’s mainly the internets fault for assuming every profile photo fits nicely in a square or circle. For this reason, I often have a logomark representation of the product that will fit nicely into favicons and profile photos. See below:

The logo consists of four pieces (from bottom to top):

  1. background — This is a nested symbol for the background fill which uses the fills we made in the previous step. This allows you to switch between a light or dark background. If you don’t need one, simply set it to none.
  2. bg-overlay — In the previous step, we also made a few overlay rectangles with different blending effects. This allows you to add some depth to the background color giving it a gradient. It’s a separate piece so that you can easily turn it off.
  3. logo — This is the combined vector shape of your logo. For solid color logos, you will set this layer as a mask so that the color on top of it will fill the logo. This allows you to easily swap out a branded, black, or white version of your logo based on what you need. If you have a multi-color logo you can skip this step and remove the top-most layer.
  4. logo-fill — This layer fills your logo using the fill symbols from the previous step. Because the logo layer is a mask, it will only fill the logo and not the background of the shape.

When you look at this symbol in practice, you can see the layers reflected as symbol overrides. In this example, I’m making an iOS icon so I set the background to have a fill, set the overlay to give it a gradient, and made the logo fill white:

For the favicon, you often don’t want a background color, so I’ve removed that symbol and filled the logo with the brand color:

Step-the-third: Using your logo to create a simple pattern for header images

Most of the social sites now require that you have a large header image as well. If you are lucky enough to have a talented graphic designer on hand, then you, sir or madam, should just go ask them to make you something custom. For the rest of us, a quick way I do this using the same base symbol is to simply make a repeating pattern out of the logo:

I make one row of logo symbols using Anima App’s Auto Layout. Then I simply duplicate the row and stagger it. It’s pretty elementary, but it’s one step above a solid background fill, and at least gives you something to upload for your social sites while you spend more time creating custom assets (jk, you’ll never get around to it).

You can give yourself more options by using the Looper plugin for Sketch. I haven’t used it yet but it looks pretty rad.

Step-the-last: Export your assets into nice, neat folders for dev

An article of mine would not be complete without giving you one tip for making dev your BFF. For this step I use a pretty simple plugin for exporting each page to folders.

To make this easy, ensure that you sort each asset group into pages and that each artboard has all the right export settings. I usually use 1x, 2x, 3x and SVG…just provide a ton of options so dev doesn’t bother you 😉

Using the Pages to Folders plugin, export all these formats nicely into folders:

That took like 0.2 seconds. Now you’ll have more time to go distract your coworkers!

And that’s it! We just created a TON of social assets in like 4 minutes. That gives you plenty of extra time to go watch the next Apple Keynote, or find succulents on Amazon for your standing desk.

There’s some free stuff below, and if you like using nested symbols to be a Sketch Superhero, you can get an entire design framework for $48 here. It’s the Bootstrap of the design world 👌🏼

When I’m not forgetting to design social asset images, I’m working on Sketch design tools at UX Power Tools to make you a better, more efficient designer.

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