Sketchy vs. Pixorize vs. Picmonic: Which is Better? [2022 Edition]

Sketchy, Pixorize, and Picmonic are similar in many respects: all three resources consist of numerous vivid and humorous videos that are intended to support the initial memorization and long-term retention of medical information.

Each learning program, for the most part, covers much of the same USMLE Step 1-relevant material. Each is widely used by students at medical schools in the United States and abroad.

How are Sketchy, Pixorize, and Picmonic unique from each other, and which is superior?

We have provided an overview of these resources that, hopefully, can help you to decide which one is a better fit for you.

We have detailed some of the most important similarities and differences between these resources, and also embedded example videos of each.

Sketchy vs. Pixorize vs. Picmonic: Similarities and Differences

Medical education has changed significantly over the past twenty years.

More medical students than ever before are now using online resources, instead of traditional textbooks, to excel in their coursework and prepare for the USMLE Step 1 exam.

Most medical students would probably agree that the greatest intellectual challenges of medical school are not related to the depth, but rather the magnitude, of information.

From microbes to drugs, biochemical pathways to immune-mediated diseases, and beyond, medical students must master enormous amounts of information in limited periods of time.

(A sample video of Sketchy Medical.)

Over the years, numerous resources and strategies have been developed to support the memorization of medical information.

Mnemonics, flash cards, coloring books, review books, and more have been carefully crafted to support the development of the neural networks that permit the growth of medical knowledge and ultimately the practice of medicine.

More recently, however, a few resources have engaged a unique memory-boosting approach known as “memory palaces”: colorful mental imagery that offers a “code” for information recall.

We hope to provide you with balanced insight into three of the most well-known “memory palace”-based resources used by medical students: Sketchy, Pixorize, and Picmonic.

Similarities between Sketchy, Pixorize, and Picmonic

By encoding medical information within memorable and often humorous imagery, Sketchy, Pixorize, and Picmonic permit the retention of extensive amounts of medical knowledge.

On test day, one need only recall the imagery, and know how to interpret it, in order to remember the information necessary for answering questions correctly.

In other words, these resources simplify the process of memorizing medical school content by consolidating extensive information into simple memorable images.

Images are introduced in an “active-sketch” video-based format, usually starting with a relatively blank image that develops as the video progresses and the narrator explains the meaning of each portion of the image.

All three resources thus consist of numerous sketches, with associated engaging videos, dedicated to topics across medicine, from microbiology to pharmacology and more.

For the most part, the images are distinctive enough from each other that memorizing the fine details of numerous unique sketches is manageable for many students.

Each image contains unique, thought-provoking memory hooks that convey underlying medical information.

For example, a child holding two red balloons could be representative of a gram-negative diplococcus.

If the child were standing near a man clutching his head, representative of meningitis, one could deduce the relevance of gram-negative diplococci to meningitis.

Neisseria meningitidis, a gram-negative diplococcus, is a common cause of meningitis in adults!

(We invented this image ourselves, by the way! It is not actually in Sketchy, Pixorize, or Picmonic.)

(A sample video of Pixorize.)

Some medical students insist that watching the videos, and occasionally reviewing their associated image, is sufficient to retain the relevant information long-term.

For many students, however, it is not enough. Fortunately, Sketchy, Pixorize, and Picmonic each have associated free Anki Decks that support mastering (and remembering) the meaning behind each video.

Stylistically, there are considerable similarities between all three resources. The images (and associated videos) of each are cartoon-style, full-color, and try to extensively incorporate humor.

From a surface-level view, the three resources might not seem too different.

However, the resources each bear a substantially different “flavor” that carries a lot of weight.

Given the amount of time that you would potentially invest in each resource, you would want to choose one that both fulfills your study needs and that is also at least somewhat engaging (to you).

In addition, the imagery and narration style of each resource is certainly important, too, and you might agree that it is substantially different between the three.

Eating a piece of chocolate cake, when your favorite dessert is key lime pie, might not be a deal-breaker if you only needed to do it once.

But if you needed to eat dessert every day for the next year, and you could only have one type for the entire time, shouldn’t you stick with the better fit?

Differences between Sketchy, Pixorize, and Picmonic

Now that we’ve covered their similarities, how are these resources different?

For a given topic, Pixorize and Picmonic tend to produce a unique image for each sub-topic, while Sketchy consolidates sub-topics into a more detailed shared image.

This means that Sketchy videos are, on average, considerably longer than Pixorize and Picmonic videos, due to their need to cover more information.

On the flip side, this also means that, for a given topic, there are more Pixorize and Picmonic images (and videos) than Sketchy ones, since Sketchy consolidates content to a greater degree.

In fact, Picmonic videos are, on average, considerably shorter than Pixorize videos and there are a lot more Picmonic videos than either of the other programs.

Based on video length, from longest to shortest (on average): Sketchy > Pixorize > Picmonic.

Based on number of unique sketches, from most to fewest: Picmonic > Pixorize > Sketchy.

Some students prefer the simpler imagery and shorter videos of Pixorize and Picmonic, while others prefer the longer videos and more detailed imagery of Sketchy.

(A sample video of Picmonic.)

Another considerable difference between Pixorize, Picmonic, and Sketchy relates to the artistic and narration style.

All three resources tend to have vivid and humorous (and thus memorable) images shared by narrators that try to keep the listener entertained.

However, the artistic style of Pixorize, Picmonic, and Sketchy images is clearly distinct, and the tone and quality of narration is also different to the extent that some listeners may prefer one narrator over another.

When memorizing potentially hundreds of images and listening to a narrator explain hours’ worth of content, one should find the images artistically appealing, and the narrator engaging!

Sometimes, students find certain stylistic aspects of the resources particularly engaging (or annoying).

The intro theme to Pixorize videos might be catchy after the first listen, but after hearing it thousands of times over the course of two years, it might make you want to tear off your headphones.

Take the time to carefully examine each of the three resources and consider which “clicks” best with you.

Relative Cost of Sketchy, Pixorize, and Picmonic

Finally, perhaps one of the most important differences between Sketchy, Picmonic, and Pixorize relates to price.

How much is Sketchy Medical?

Sketchy Medical offers three subscription plans: 6 months for $299.99, 12 months for $399.99, and 24 months for $599.99.

How much is Pixorize?

Pixorize offers a bulk medicine and USMLE subscription plan at $185 for 6 months and $249 for 12 months.

You can also subscribe to individual plans specifically dedicated to immunology, pharmacology, or biochemistry content at $120 for 6 months or $150 for 12 months.

How much is Picmonic?

Subscribing to the Picmonic Medicine Library, which includes all medical school-relevant content, costs $27.99 for 1 month, $137.94 for 6 months, $203.88 for 12 months, or $323.76 for 24 months.

For ease of comparison, we created a table that outlines the difference in pricing between the resources more clearly.

Note that this pricing information is based on data from the time that this article was published and represents the cost before discount (which some students may receive).

Sketchy MedicalPixorizePicmonic
6 month plan$299.99$185$137.94
12 month plan$399.99$249$203.88
24 month plan$599.99$323.76

In general, Sketchy is more expensive than both Pixorize and Picmonic.

On the surface, the difference in cost does not appear to be explained by the number or quality of added tools that each resource brings to the table.

There are a few additional tools offered by Sketchy but not Pixorize, such as end-of-video quizzes and review cards that point out salient facts.

Picmonic has end-of-video quizzes and an adaptive content algorithm that is intended to promote space-repetition-based review (an important learning approach that is thought to boost long-term memory).

The content of Sketchy, Picmonic, and Pixorize has expanded in scope over the past few years.

Initially, Sketchy was the “master tool” for supporting the memorization of microbiology and pharmacology content, while Pixorize was that of biochemistry and immunology.

Now, all three resources have images and videos dedicated to most of the topics covered on the USMLE Step 1 exam.

Some students, however, still prefer to mix-and-match Sketchy and Pixorize, using both resources for topics that they cover particularly well while avoiding their weaker elements.

Picmonic seems to receive less attention among medical students.

One could hypothesize that Sketchy has captured most of the market share, followed by Pixorize, and then Picmonic, but this is only based on observation of online forums.

For a detailed breakdown of the precise differences between Picmonic and Pixorize (including cost), check out this table.

If you are interested in learning about additional study resources, consider reading our articles on the best textbooks for medical students and best prep books and other resources for the USMLE Step 1 exam.

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