Graphic Design for Beginners: Top Tips

With so many brands vying for customer attention in a sea of digital content, it’s more important than ever to use effective images that draw people to your message and brand. But having Photoshop loaded on your work laptop doesn’t automatically make you a designer, and a bad visual can annoy viewers (at best) and attract the wrong kind of attention (at worst). 

Good design is not something you can master overnight. There's simply too much to learn. The principles of brand identity, layout, and white space, color and typography, how to convey a message — not to mention complex design software.

So how do you, as a non-designer, avoid common mistakes and navigate a suite of design applications to create eye-catching visuals without getting bogged down by too much information?

We've collected a library of quick tips, cheat sheets, and online courses to help you master the basics and design beautiful creative assets for your business in no time. 

Why learn graphic design?

Why should you spend time learning about graphic design for beginners and consider this as a  career field?

1. Graphic design skills are in demand

For starters, it’s an in-demand career path. Research suggests that the job market for graphic designers is expected to increase by 4.6% between the years 2016 and 2026. CareerFoundry echoes a similar sentiment, placing graphic designers at number seven on a list of the top 10 most in-demand design job titles for 2022. 

2. Graphic design offers plenty of career options

Another perk of learning graphic design for beginners is that it’s applicable to just about every industry. Graphic designers can assist with a variety of services, including business promotion, software, trade shows, and product packaging, to name a few. And because there are so many different types of services graphic designers can help with, the graphic design skillset is relevant across all industries, whether you work with product or service-based clients.

3. Graphic design work keeps you on your toes

While some professionals prefer a consistent day-to-day workflow, graphic design means every day is different. New projects and work vary across the board, so there’s never a dull moment. The types of tasks that you work on will differ depending on client needs — one moment, you could be working on a logo design, and the next a full branding guide. There’s no telling what each day will bring, but it’s guaranteed to be a mix of types of work, unique tasks, and clients spread across industries and sizes.

4. Graphic design lets you flex your creative muscles

Graphic design provides the opportunity to tap into your creative brain, and Entrepreneur suggests that reaching our creative potential in our work is paramount to feeling fulfilled and living a meaningful life. Sure, there are technical skills in design, such as using particular software systems and understanding design basics. But good graphic design also requires creative expertise. Coming up with new and unique designs means you’ll need to tap into your creative brain as much as possible.

Graphic design courses for beginners

Are you convinced and ready to learn graphic design? It can be tempting to dive in and try to learn everything all at once but don’t overwhelm yourself. We’ve rounded up some graphic design for beginners courses to help you get started.

Free graphic design courses

Paid graphic design courses

Basic design fundamentals everyone should know

Want to take your learning a few steps further? Let's dive into some basic design fundamentals and resources for you to uplevel in these areas.

Typography

Your choice of typeface gives your design character, in addition to legible text. A stylish font is pointless if it’s unreadable, and using too many different fonts can be overwhelming to the eye. In general, limiting yourself to two to three complementary fonts in your design is recommended.

Color theory

Achieving harmony with color is essential for an eye-pleasing design. You don’t want your design to be either too bland or too chaotic. Some basic formulas for color harmony include using analogous colors (three colors that appear side-by-side on a 12-part color wheel), complementary colors (any two colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel), and a color scheme based on nature. 

Hierarchy 

What’s the most important element of your design? Don’t overwhelm your headline by overlaying it on a bright, bold image, for instance. Prioritize each of your design elements and keep that priority in mind when placing them, determining size and color, etc. 

Grids and balance

Grids create guidelines for how visual elements should be positioned within your design layout and help determine proper proportion and balance. The golden ratio, or the ‘“rule of thirds,” is commonly used with grids to create an eye-pleasing result. And by placing certain elements outside of the grid, designers can naturally draw the viewer’s eye to these break-outs. 

Another way to learn graphic design? Study others’ work

Start a collection of designs that you like, taking the time to define what you like about them and why. By analyzing successful designs and adopting certain elements into your own creative assets (without copying the design outright, of course), you can learn what works and quickly improve your visuals. 

Some common design mistakes to avoid: not using enough white space, placing too much text on one line, and using too many fonts and colors. 

Additional resources: 

Graphic design software: Three options (and how to learn them)

When it comes to software for graphic design, there are a few choices on the market that seem to reign supreme – and they’re all from Adobe. Below, we’re breaking down some tips and helpful resources for each of the most popular options: Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. 

And when you’ve improved your graphic design chops and need to manage the ins and outs of your creative projects? Adobe Creative Cloud integrates seamlessly with Wrike. 

Photoshop Tips for beginners

Unfamiliar with Photoshop? We have a few quick tips and extra resources to help you get started with this popular design software. 

  1. Crop your images to create the best composition. If you find the horizon is off, you can level it by dragging any corner of the image box to rotate your photo. 
  2. Use the Healing Brush to erase any spots on your image left from specks of dust or scratches on the camera lens. 
  3. Bump up the contrast by brightening highlights and deepening shadows using the Levels window.
  4. Go easy on the color saturation. You can boost saturation to make your image more colorful, but too much can make it look glaring and overwrought. 

Additional resources: 

Illustrator tips for beginners

Illustrator is another popular software option used to create vector graphics. Vector graphics can be enlarged without compromising the integrity of the original image, so you get a crisp image no matter the final size (unlike bitmap graphics created by Photoshop, which can look jagged and blurry when scaled up). 

Additional resources: 

InDesign tips for beginners

InDesign is built specifically for designing printed materials, including brochures, ads, business cards, books, and more. It’s the tool you use to put the visual elements you create in Photoshop and Illustrator together into one place or publication. 

One of the trickiest aspects of print design is being artistic while also making sure your work can be printed without any technical issues messing things up. You'll need to understand things like bleed, file format, image resolution, measurements, and more. 

Additional resources: 

Take your creative campaigns to the next level

Of course, having the right graphic design chops is crucial. But, when it comes to organizing your work, using collaborative campaign management software helps ensure that everyone on your design team is using the latest, approved creative assets and that what’s produced is in line with brand guidelines. It’ll save you hours (and headaches) and result in a better finished product. 

Wrike’s all-in-one solution for creative teams streamlines the administrative side of creative projects and includes proofing and approvals and an extension for Adobe Creative Cloud. 

Start your free trial to give it a try, with nothing to download or install. 

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