12 Things You Can do to Learn Graphic Design

How to learn graphic design? There’s more than one way. Still, here are 5 simple steps to get even total beginners on the right track.

Graphic Design
Graphic Design

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Professional graphic design is a discipline that requires a lot of talent, hard work, and special knowledge. Luckily, thanks to modern technology anyone can design graphics nowadays. 

What does a graphic designer do?

By definition, graphic designers create visual designs that communicate certain messages to a specific audience. This can be in the form of a logo, website, packaging, illustration, or anything else in between. 

Graphic designers need an array of skills; from technical skills such as drawing and using a particular design software, to teamwork and communication skills which are critical for any creative and collaborative project.

So, how to learn graphic design if you’re a total beginner? Here are 5 simple steps to guide you through the process. 

Understand the basic design elements and principles

Think of it this way - if you don’t know basic subtraction and division, are you going to be able to do advanced algebra?

Design elements are the components of a graphic, such as lines, shapes, typography and colors. 

The fundamental design principles are the rules and ways these elements are combined. For example, the principle of balance ensures the design looks like a cohesive whole. Principles like hierarchy, proximity, and scale help the most important elements in a design to shine through and convey information clearly.

Read more about the essential principles of graphic design here.

Take deep dive into typography and color

Yes, these are two basic design elements. So, why are we giving them a separate mention?

The rules of using lines, shapes, and texture are a lot more flexible. However, with typography and color, there’s a lot more theory you should be aware of. 

Color theory is the study of colors, based on the color wheel. It helps us to categorize colors (e.g. primary and secondary, complementary and contrasting, warm and cold, etc.) and learn how to combine them. 

Color psychology is an evolving study of human reactions to color. For example, there are many studies that suggest red evokes feelings of hunger, passion, or anger, while blue has a more calming effect.

Since graphic design often communicates marketing messages,typography is often one of the most vital elements. Five basic types of fonts are serif, sans serif, scrip, monospaced and display.

In order to choose the best font you should understand their different qualities, as well as concepts like kerning (space between the letters), cap height (the height of upper case letters) and bowl (closed curved parts of the letter) and more. This will allow you to adjust fonts to your needs and maybe even create custom fonts one day.


Learn to use white space

White or negative space is the empty space between other visual elements. Non-designers often think that the existence of empty space means a lazy designer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Negative space ensures the balance of the design and allows vital elements to shine. It can be especially critical in web design, as more “breathing room” often means a better user experience. Not to mention that a busy interface can also mean visitors will overlook or struggle to find vital elements, such as a CTA button or navigation bar.

Read some design books

Can anyone learn graphic design? The basic type, for sure. However, you certainly can’t learn graphic design online alone.

Like every other discipline, you need to do a bit of studying. Whereas graphic design course online provide a great practical perspective, design books will take you deeper into the topic of graphic design. Courses can teach  you how to design, but books are there to answer why certain things make sense.

Here are some reading essentials you should know about:

We also have a great list of design books you can check out. It includes some helpful general reads, and books on specific topics, like fonts, or negotiating with clients. 

Select a graphic design software

Yes, there are plenty of great online design tools like Canva that allow everyone to design basic graphics. However, if you want to learn graphic design like a pro, then you need to master at least one professional design software.

Going with classics like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator is preferred. Most clients and design collaborators will be familiar with them, and probably able to download and use source files. 

Still, it’s best to consider what type of design projects you wish to specialize in. Illustrator and Photoshop are probably the best choices for digital design. But if you want to work in editorial design, specialist graphic design program like InDesign or QuarkXPress are a better choice.

Take a design course

Once you understand which design tool is the most useful for you, it's time to get some practical knowledge. There are lots of online design classes you can take, so knowing exactly what you want to learn can help you find the right one.

For example, if you want to learn to design social media graphics, a course that combines marketing and visual communication is the best choice. If you want to become proficient at a single design software, then seek a course that covers this area in more detail. 

Of course, you can also try to find in-person courses. These usually cost more and take longer. However, you usually earn some sort of graphic design certificate.

Copy work you admire

The prep is done, so you can finally design something yourself. The best way to learn to design graphics is to start by copying other people’s work.

Try to make the exact same design first, and then allow yourself to experiment with color, layout, shapes, etc. 

This is the best way to really learn the basics of graphic design, before you can start experimenting creatively.

By dak studio

Get creative inspiration

Speaking of creativity - it usually  doesn’t come out of thin air. Just like every good writer must read a lot, good graphic designers need to spend a lot of time researching the work of others.

Social media, especially platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, are a great place to find creative inspiration, but also connect with people from the industry. Of course, you should also search widely on portfolio platforms like Behance and Dribbble. 

Start designing and build your style

Not even the best designers in the world are good at everything. So, as a beginner,  you should focus on one area of design and a narrow skill set. 

This will help you hone in your graphic design skills and also build a unique sense of style. When looking to hire a graphic designer, many employers will select potential candidates based on their unique personal style. 

Develop your design process

Aside from technical design skills, an efficient design process requires a lot of thought and attention. If you wish to land a design job, potential employers will often interview you to understand your process, as well as how you communicate and collaborate, etc.

Create a design workflow that makes sense for you. It might not seem like much when you only have a couple of projects on your hands. But as your design career develops, this will help you balance multiple projects and work more efficiently.

Seek feedback

You can definitely learn graphic design online, but you can never improve without human input. Once you have built a portfolio of work, it’s critical to ask more experienced designers for help. 

They will be able to give you actionable feedback, and ask insightful questions about your design process. 

This is another reason regular networking and nurturing professional relationships is essential for all aspiring graphic designers. If you blatantly ask a total stranger for help and feedback, they’ll probably refuse. A person who’s work  you’ve been following and engaging with is more likely to help you out and share some of their valuable knowledge.

Why you shouldn’t become a self-taught designer

So, can anyone learn graphic design? The answer is yes.

However, although it doesn’t take a lot of time to learn some basics of design, creating professional graphics can be time-consuming.

You’ll need years of design practice before you’re able to produce good design fast. Moreover, keeping on top of all the design trends and latest developments in the design industry can also eat up a lot of your time.

Then again, you’re probably here because graphic design can be expensive. And your small business or startup budget simply doesn’t allow for regular design help.

That’s where you’re wrong! An unlimited design subscription is the most affordable and easiest way to get professional design for your business. One flat monthly rate covers unlimited requests and revisions, and a vast range of design projects. 

ManyPixels is a leading unlimited design service. With 6 years of experience, and thousands of happy clients, our designers know how to deliver quality work fast. Why waste your time learning to design graphics? Get professional design whenever you need it for a price you can afford.

Book a free consultation with us to see how we can help. 

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.

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