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How to Learn Graphic Design for Free: 12 Methods

Creative Market July 19, 2024 · 7 min read

You don’t always have to spend money to make money. There’s plenty of free information available and it is now possible to learn how to design online. Whether you dream of breaking into design or working on freelance graphic design projects, here are twelve ways how to learn graphic design for free.

FreeWaysToLearnDesign

1. Learn Your History

You might think that graphic design’s path through time is irrelevant, but understanding the cultural and technological shifts that have led to current trends is essential for being the best graphic designer you can be. For a comprehensive look at the history of design, see DesignHistory. For a more pop-cultural approach, try DesignIsHistory.

2. Understand the Basic Terminology

Do yourself a favor and study this. It’s a basic glossary to start familiarizing yourself with the graphic design industry and professional designer lingo. That should help you understand more when you’re taking a graphic design course or listening to a graphic designer speak, as well as when you eventually apply for a job or freelance opportunity in the field.

3. Navigate the Design Blogosphere

You already have a head start on this one. Creative Market is just one of many graphic design blogs worth a read. Take some time and pick out blogs that speak to you and your aesthetic. We recommend DesignTaxi and Smashing Magazine to help you learn graphic design from scratch and build up your skill level over time.

4. Follow Your Favorite Graphic Designers on Social Media

@psahre is the owner of one of the most influential design firms in the country.

@timothyogoodman is on the faculty of the New York School for the Visual Arts Design Wisdom:

@jessicawalsh has received multiple awards for her graphic design work. Design Wisdom:

These designers post great articles, artwork and inspiring advice. There are lots more to follow on this roundup that should help you in learning graphic design.

5. Research the Greats

If you want to know how to start graphic design for free, it’s worth taking some time to understand the minds and perspectives of great designers of the past. There is plenty to learn from the geniuses that have shaped our field, so study them carefully. Start with these movers and shakers: Saul Bass, Paula Scher and David Carson.

6. Study Other Designers’ Work in Online Marketplaces

Here’s another proven and effective way how to learn graphic design for free. The internet is the best way for new designers to display their work. Study what is selling and what isn’t, and try to identify why one professional designer might be popular and successful, while another struggles to make their mark.

7. Use Free Adobe Alternatives

If you’ve been around this space for enough time there’s one truth that you’ll eventually have to come to terms with: design software isn’t cheap. Until you can afford the pro tools, use the many free alternatives available. Pixlr is a great Photoshop alternative. Inkscape is closer to Illustrator/InDesign. Snapseed (iPhone) and Snapseed (Android) are amazing on-the-go design tools for your handheld device.

8. Take Free Graphic Design Courses

Design school can very expensive. Save yourself some cash by learning to code and design online. CodeHS and Code.org are two great places to learn for free. There are plenty of other free certified learning sources with online courses in graphic design, like the Udemy competitive classroom marketplace and Canva Design School.

9. Watch Great Design YouTube Channels

Great is the operative word here. There are plenty of poorly made design videos that will only teach you what not to do. Seek out the gems, such as TastyTuts or Learn Digital Design. These channels are run by experienced graphic designers who share their skills and insight into the design process with viewers from around the globe.

10. Watch TED Talks on Design

TED Talks are like free mini-master classes, so you should have a basic understanding of the graphic design world before watching. The more you know about the field of graphic design and the role of the graphic designer, the more you’ll get out of each talk. Here is a curated list that we created to inspire you.

11. Practice by Recreating Your Favorite Work

Take a look at some famous graphic design pieces and try to recreate them. As you do so, don’t just trace them. Instead, envision the entire creative process behind the designs: what was this person thinking about when he/she decided to include this? What was the communication goal here? Put yourself in that designer’s shoes and try to create graphics and visuals in that same style. The more you practice the design process, the more you’ll understand digital design principles and build the design skills you need to succeed.

12. Make Something New

There’s no better way to learn than by doing. Don’t underestimate fun, free design projects that take you out of your design comfort zone. No matter how rough or overwhelming it gets, finish these projects. At the end of the day, these are the opportunities that allow you to explore your graphic designing range and grow as a designer. Plus, the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Even if you make mistakes along the way, that’s all part of the learning process.

FAQ

Can I learn graphic design on my own?

You certainly can. Indeed, a lot of beginner graphic designers tend to learn better on their own than as part of a group, as it allows them to take their time, learn at their own pace, and hone their techniques, rather than feeling pressured or forced to follow a group dynamic. Some ways to learn graphic design solo include practicing with graphic design software, looking at YouTube tutorials, or taking an online graphic design course.

How do beginners learn graphic design?

Lots of ways. It all depends on their favored learning style. Many designers start out by taking graphic design courses and classes, whether that be at a physical school or just online. Others prefer to teach themselves the necessary graphic design skills through practice and repetition. They might download some specific software, like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or other software and then gradually learn how it works, building practical skills and creating their design portfolio in the process.

Can I learn graphic design on YouTube?

YouTube is a goldmine of free graphic design courses and information on everything from graphic design history to how to build a graphic design career. You can absolutely use it to learn the fundamentals of graphic design, and even seasoned graphic designers often turn to YouTube tutorials and guides to fine-tune their graphic design skills.

Is it easy to learn graphic design?

It depends who you ask. Many graphic designers who are naturally creative and good with technology find that it comes easy to them and they can speed through graphic design courses and graphic design classes without much of an issue. Others, naturally, find the design process trickier to understand and need more time to learn the ins and outs of web design and what it takes to be a graphic designer. As with anything, the more time and effort you put into graphic design, the better you should become.

Are there any free graphic design courses online?

Yes, there are many free courses you can find online focusing on graphic design, web design, photo editing, and all the other skills and methods to create visual content. Examples of free online graphic design courses include the Canva Design School, Udemy: Introduction to Graphic Design, and Envato Tuts+. It’s worth trying more than one free online graphic design course to see which suits you best.


What are you waiting for? Now that money isn’t holding you back, go ahead and get started. With some determination, patience, and this great list of tips, you’ll be designing like a pro in no time.


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