Pencil is a wireframing tool that we can use to sketch a mock up of our application’s user interface. The great thing about Pencil is that it is lightweight, easy to use, and tightly integrated with Firefox. On top of it all its a free open source application ! At the end of the article we will give you a simple demo on how to use Pencil to create a Brizzly like wireframe.

Why do we create wireframes ?

A wireframe is a sketch of a page-layout idea.A wireframe focuses on the information design of a page to ensure that the design fits into what the user needs. A wireframe usually consists of different shapes (such as boxes, ovals, and diamonds) to represent content, functional, and navigational elements. These shapes displays their placement on the page.

At first it may seem like a waste of time creating rough sketches of a page. A wire frame is important to get your users to focus on the importance element on your page. Creating a rough sketch of a page, without fancy visual elements, shift the user’s attention to important elements such as sizing, layout, and placement of your page components. We will start to get a better understanding on what the client really want and need out of the software when the user starts focusing on the important elements of a page. Creating a wire frame let you and your users collaborate effectively and identify potential design problem early.

Getting Started with Pencil

Download Pencil from Pencil’s add ons page. Once you install Pencil, it is accessible from ‘Tools’ > ‘Pencil Sketching’.

This is what Brizzly looks like. It’s a pretty cool web application that aggregates your Facebook and Twitter within a single page.

This is the end result of the wire frame. The main shapes in this wireframe are, rectangles, text boxes, and tabs. The next section of the article will give a simple example how to create each shape.

Creating a Rectangle

The first step of creating a wire frame shape is to drag a shape from the ‘Shape Collections’ menu onto the canvas.

Resize the rectangle to a suitable width and height.

We can customize the text, border, and background color of any shape in Pencil. Right click the rectangle and select ‘Properties’ to open the Properties windows. This is the background properties screen. Set the Rectangle background color to white (#FFFFFF).

Click the ‘Border’ tab and adjust the border properties. Set the border color to black (#000000) and change the border weight to 1.

The text properties screen let us customise the font type, size, style, weight, colour, brightness, and opacity of the text.

Creating Tabs

The home, draft, picture tabs are three tabs that are stacked on top of one another. Drag three ‘Tabs Panel’ into the rectangle. Resize each tab so that each tab shows side by side.

Open the text properties screen to adjust the font color of ‘Pictures’ and ‘Draft’ tab. Set it to Grey (#989898).

Creating Text

Drag the ‘Text’ shape onto the canvas to create each of menu. We can adjust the text appearance by accessing the text properties window.

Useful Tips for Changing Color

Color is one of the most essential part in delivering a pleasing wireframe. The most precise way to change  colour of a shape is by specifying the colour’s HTML code.  Figuring out the HTML code for a particular color can be difficult. We can use HTML colour cheat sheet from to look up the right HTML code for a particular color.

We also like to use colorzilla to pick colors from the screen and use it in Pencil. Click on the eye dropper icon at the bottom left corner of Firefox to pick color on the screen. We can also open up ColorZilla’s color picker by double clicking the eye drop icon. Just copy paste the Hex code into Pencil’s color HTML code.


Pencil is easy to use wireframing tool. Pencil integration with Firefox make it possible for us to use other Firefox plugin to help create a better wireframe

Download Pencil
Download Colorzilla
W3C HTML Color Cheat Sheet