An Introduction to Figma Variables

The recent rollout of Figma variables marks a significant shift in the digital design landscape, introducing Figma variables as a foundational tool for modern design workflows. Even though they’re still in open beta, variables in Figma already offer a level of abstraction and flexibility that was previously more familiar to developers than designers. 

The introduction of Figma Variables simplifies the design process, effectively bridging the gap between design and development. 

To learn more about this handy Figma tool, keep reading!

A 3d cartoon character holding a wooden sign with logo for Figma Variables

What are Figma Variables?

Variables in Figma are versatile tools for storing values that can be repeatedly used across various design elements and in prototyping tasks. They are crucial for efficiently developing designs, maintaining design systems, and orchestrating intricate prototype interactions.

With Figma variables, you can

  • Establish design tokens to streamline the management of design systems.
  • Switch a frame to different device sizes and automatically update spacing according to a preset spatial layout.
  • Test text layout in multiple languages by altering the text content in a frame.
  • Craft a dynamic checkout cart design that computes the total cost depending on the selected items.
  • Develop an interactive quiz prototype that uses conditional logic to display correct or incorrect responses to user inputs.

Variables in Figma are primarily utilized in three areas:

How to create variables in Figma

Types of Figma variables

Let’s explain different types of Figma variables, which are color, number, Boolean, and string variables, as well as their specific applications.

Color Variables

Color Variables in Figma are created within an object’s “Fill” or “Stroke” properties. Designers can define a specific color as a variable, which can be applied to various design elements. The primary advantage of using Color variables in Figma is maintaining a consistent color scheme across your project and theming, such as switching from dark to light mode or having the same design in different colors.

If you need to update the brand color, you adjust the variable, and all instances where it’s used will automatically reflect this change. Variables are versatile and perfect for applying buttons, backgrounds, and text. It ensures that your design remains cohesive, even when there are extensive changes to the color palette.

How to create color variables in Figma

Number Variables

Number variables in Figma help standardize numerical values such as dimensions, border widths, and spacing. This feature is particularly useful in creating a consistent look and feel across different design elements. You can apply this measurement across multiple elements by creating a number variable for commonly used measurements, like a standard padding of 20 pixels. If this measurement needs to be changed, updating the number variable will automatically adjust all linked elements.

How to create number variables in Figma

Boolean Variables

Boolean variables in Figma represent a true or false state. They are instrumental in controlling the visibility of design elements or their states, such as toggling the visibility of an element in an interface.

These variables are vital in crafting interactive prototypes, enabling designers to show or hide elements like pop-ups or notifications based on user interactions. For example, you could use a Boolean variable to manage the display of a navigation menu, changing its state based on whether a user clicks a menu icon.

How to create boolean variables in Figma

String Variables

String variables in Figma are used predominantly for managing text-based content. They are particularly effective for labeling, such as button texts, headings, or instructional content.

Implementing string variables ensures that any updates to the text are uniformly reflected wherever the variable is used, which is immensely helpful for tasks like localizing text for different languages or spreading updates to text labels.

Using string variables, designers can maintain consistent language and tone throughout their design, which is crucial for branding and user experience.

How to create string variables in Figma

How to manage Figma variables

The management of Figma variables is centralized in the Variables modal. This user-friendly interface is where designers can access all their defined variables. The modal presents a comprehensive view, making navigating through the variables being used in a project more manageable.

Figma allows users to handle up to 5,000 variables per collection. This high limit mainly caters to the needs of large-scale projects, ensuring that designers have ample capacity for managing extensive variables.

The difference between variables and styles

If you’re new to Figma variables, you might be wondering – how are variables in Figma different from styles? Let’s see.

While both serve as foundational elements in design systems, being sources of truth and updatable across team libraries, they still have distinct roles. Two key distinctions exist between styles and variables: the types of values they use and how they appear on the screen.

What's the difference between variables and styles in Figma

Single Color Values

In digital colors, each shade has its specific value. For instance, white is denoted as #FFFFFF in the HEX code. Some shades, like #808080, can have added transparency, say 50%. These represent single-color values.

Combining Colors

You get multiple values when you mix two or more colors. A typical example is gradients, where different colors blend. Color variables are limited to one color (solid colors).

Flexibility of Color Styles

Color styles, unlike variables, can handle both single and mixed color values. This includes solid colors, gradients, images, GIFs, videos, and various blending options. Color variables can only hold single color values.

Usage in Design

Both variables and styles can be used for coloring and outlining design elements. Variables can be used as styles.

Figma variables are made to hold one or more values, but they can only show one value at any given time, similar to looking at one card in a deck at a time. 

Variables can change value depending on their context and parent elements (like frames or sections), allowing you to easily switch a light-mode mobile screen in English to a dark-mode tablet screen in German if variables are well set up. Styles are only used for consistency, while variables can also have logic assigned to them within a collection.

How to Organize Figma Variables

Efficiency in managing Figma Variables is crucial. Let’s dive deeper into the efficiency aspect of managing Figma Variables, such as bulk editing and organizing Figma variables into groups and collections.

Bulk Editing Features

One of the standout features in Figma is the ability to edit multiple variables at once. This bulk editing capability is a time-saver, especially when dealing with large numbers of variables. For instance, if a series of color variables need to be adjusted to a new color scheme, this feature allows all relevant variables to be updated in one action rather than editing each individually.

Bulk editing not only improves efficiency but also ensures consistency across the design. It’s instrumental when making widespread changes affecting various project components.

How to bulk edit variables in Figma

Organizing Variables into Groups and Collections

Organizing Variables in Figma into groups and collections is a strategic way to manage them effectively. Groups can be formed based on the variable type (like color, number, string, or Boolean) or their application within the design (like branding elements, UI components, or typography settings).

Collections are broader categories that can encompass multiple groups. For example, a “Brand Identity” collection might include color, language, and spacing groups. This hierarchical organization allows designers to easily navigate and access variables, particularly in complex projects with many elements.

With well-organized variables, you can quickly locate the exact variable they need, apply changes, and ensure that these changes are reflected accurately across the project. This organization is essential for maintaining a clear structure and ensuring that variables remain manageable.

Tips for Using Figma Variables

Now that you’ve grasped what Figma variables are and how to use & organize them, let’s move on to a couple of our tips that will help you supercharge your handling of Figma variables.

Make sure to stay consistent with naming

Consistency in naming your variables is crucial. It helps you and your team quickly identify and understand what each variable is for. Think of it like naming files on your computer – a clear, descriptive name means you don’t have to open it to know what’s inside. Use names that describe the variable’s purpose, like “button-color-bg-primary-active.”

Such clarity prevents confusion and speeds up the design process, especially when working in teams.

An inconsistent naming convention is depicted (incorrect) on the left. A consistent naming convention on the right is displayed (correct), utilizing hyphens and lowercase.

Group your variables

Think of collections like folders on your computer. You can keep your workspace tidy and logical by grouping related Variables in Figma into collections. This is particularly useful for large projects with many variables.

Use Figma variables for different contexts. 

Variable modes in Figma allow your designs to be flexible. For example, you can use these modes to switch between light and dark themes or to adapt your design for different languages. Set up different variable values for each mode (like different colors for light and dark themes) and switch between them as needed. This feature is a game-changer for creating designs that need to adapt to various user preferences or settings.

Publish Variables to Team Libraries

When you publish your variables to team libraries, they become available across different files. This is extremely useful for maintaining consistency across multiple projects or collaborating with others. Once a variable is published, any changes will automatically update across all files where it’s used. It’s like updating a shared document – everyone gets the latest version.

Use Aliasing for Design token implementation.

Aliasing allows you to link variables together. All linked (or “aliased”) variables update when you update one. This is particularly useful for implementing design tokens, a set of design standards (like colors, typography, and spacing) used across your projects. For example, suppose you have multiple shades of a color that need to be updated together. In that case, aliasing them means you only need to update one, and the rest will follow suit automatically.


Figma variables have already brought a breath of fresh and transformational air into the world of product design. They allow designers to maintain a consistent look across their projects, make their workflow smoother, and help seamlessly connect the design with the development phase. 

For those just starting out or already navigating the waters of product design, getting a good handle on variables in Figma will elevate your design skills to the next level.

If you wish to additionally bump up your knowledge and speed up your career trajectory, check out our Advanced Figma Video Course! This course will turn you into a Figma expert by covering all advanced aspects of Figma and bringing your design skills to the next level.

Our Advanced Figma Video Course includes 18+ hours of engaging videos, including a whole module covering Figma Variables and other essential topics like Practical Auto-layout, Components and variants, and Advanced Prototyping. You’ll also tackle practical assignments and gain valuable insights to add credibility to your portfolio.

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