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Making us Blush: we talk inclusive illustrations with Pablo Stanley

“We see every screen as a canvas waiting for you to turn it into something beautiful.”

“Our goal is to make art more accessible to all while championing illustrators and the importance of art in digital experiences,” explains Pablo Stanley from his San Francisco studio. We’re chatting with him — remotely, of course — about Blush, a new plugin that brings inclusive, custom illustrations into your Sketch designs.

Pablo has been a big name in the design world for a while now, working hard to help others get the most out of Sketch. He became a Sketch Ambassador in 2016, and since then he’s created inclusive illustration Libraries for everyone to use in Sketch — Avataaars and Humaaans.

“With the power of Sketch Libraries and Symbols, all the components in each illustration were editable, so it was super fun and easy for designers to make their compositions,” he explains. He’s used that experience to co-found Blush, which combines his own illustrations with work from other artists, and brings in more complex systems for people to use across their designs. But despite officially being Blush’s CEO, he prefers to be called, simply, a ‘Doodler’. “To be honest, the term ‘CEO’ makes me feel a bit self-conscious, like I’m above others. We’re really a collaborative team that makes decisions as a group,” he says.

“I’ve been a massive fan of Sketch plugins since day one — they amplify the things you can do as a designer, and you get to choose the superpowers that you want in your arsenal. The community has done a fantastic job, so we wanted to contribute with our own plugin.”

With Blush’s new Sketch plugin, Pablo and the rest of the team are continuing his mission to make art more accessible, and giving everyone a simple way to add beautiful illustrations to Sketch designs. “Blush is a tool that brings illustrations from artists around the world to everyone,” he explains. “The cool thing is that you can customize every piece of a doodle to create your own compositions!” As a result, you’ll always be able to find something that fits your design — and suits your audience. So everyone feels welcome.

“Inclusion is embedded in Blush,” Pablo explains. “The illustrators who’ve created collections have made sure to include people with different backgrounds, abilities, and beliefs in their illustrations. So people can tell their stories with doodles that represent them or their audience.” To help with that goal, the plugin randomizes the components of your illustration when you create one from scratch, so you won’t ever see the same one twice.

“We believe that this can help us avoid unconscious biases we might have when creating a character,” says Pablo. “You can still change any element to your liking — things like the hairstyle, upper body, lower body, skin color, and accessories.”

Illustrations by Irene Falgueras

The power of personalization

Blush started life as a web app — which is still available, and great if you just want to grab a quick image while you experiment with your initial design ideas. But by building a native Sketch plugin, the Blush team have made it easier to browse and customize doodles right next to the Canvas and in the context of your designs.

“Imagine improving your UI with pictures, creating a banner for your blog posts, bringing some flair to your slides, and adding some visuals to your graphs!” says Pablo. It’s as simple as opening the plugin, selecting a collection, choosing a picture, and customizing it to your liking. “The cool thing is that you can close your Sketch file, return the next day, and if you want to make an edit to your illustration, just open the plugin again, and you can keep editing!”

Best of all, all the artwork has a worry-free license, so you can use it for personal or commercial purposes at no extra cost. It all comes back to the team’s desire to give more people access to great artwork for their designs. “We want to give everyone the ability to bring doodles into their creations,” Pablo enthuses. “We see every screen as a canvas waiting for you to turn it into something beautiful.” The result of their mission? Anyone can mix and match artwork from illustrators across the globe, without needing to worry about finding somewhere to put attribution — unless you want to, of course.

For designers looking for even more control over the illustrations, there’s also a paid tier that gives you SVG versions (“the power of vectors!”), print-resolution PNGs and other advanced features. “Having SVGs gives you control over every layer of the doodle, which is perfect for creating custom artwork, changing specific colors, or making animations,” he says.

Illustrations by Mariana Gonzalez

And for Blush, this is just the start. “I can’t wait for people to see what we’ve got,” says Pablo. “Some of the new stuff we’re adding includes icons, individual illustration elements (rather than just compositions), and 3D objects.” The team has plans to add animation in future, too. “It’ll allow people to first mockup their design on Sketch, and export a Lottie file or MP4 that they can use in the implementation.”

Giving something back

Pablo’s previous projects — Humaaans, Peeps and more — have taken the form of Sketch Libraries, with multiple overrides for each illustration. The Blush plugin was a chance to bring them together in one place. Best of all, it was an opportunity for Pablo to give back to our community by making it easier for everyone to get beautiful custom artwork.

“I’ve been a massive fan of Sketch plugins since day one — they amplify the things you can do as a designer, and you get to choose the superpowers that you want in your arsenal,” says Pablo. “The community has done a fantastic job, so we wanted to contribute with our own plugin.”

But beyond giving something back, Pablo‘s passion for great artwork was a driving force for Blush. “We’ve had the chance to collaborate with illustrators we admire to create some stunning collections for our users,” he smiles. “You’ll find illustrations on everything from people, plants, and food to cityscapes and abstract art.

“I feel lucky to be able to collaborate with such talented artists. Their work is the lifeblood of Blush. They have put so much love and care into every little pixel, every vector, and each brushstroke. It’s a gift for every creator who wants to tell their stories with doodles.”

You can download the Blush plugin from the Blush website, or create your own custom illustrations using the web app.

Header image illustrations by Vijay Verma.

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