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12 Free Ways to Learn Design

Creative Market September 1, 2021 · 4 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 free ways to get started.


1. Learn Your History

You might think that 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 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 industry lingo.

3. Navigate the Design Blogosphere

You already have a head start on this one. Creative Market is just one of many 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.

4. Follow Your Favorite 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 design work.
Design Wisdom:

These designers post great articles, artwork and inspiring advice. There are lots more to follow on this roundup.

5. Research the Greats

Take 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

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 some designers are successful while others remain unpopular.

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 Online Classes

Design school can very expensive. Save yourself some cash by learning to code and design online. CodeHS and are two great places to learn for free.

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.

10. Watch TED Talks on Design

TED Talks are like free mini-master classes, so you should have a basic understanding of the design world before watching. The more you know about the field, 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.

12. Make Something New

There’s no better way to learn than by doing. Don’t underestimate fun, free 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 range and grow as a designer.

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

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  • I love this! So many sites will show you a graphic telling you what to do, and then not provide any other info. You guys totally rocked this by providing some awesome places to start! 7 years ago
  • Glad you liked it @Jessica Zellat ! 7 years ago
  • Thank you so much for this article. It's very helpful for a newbie like me. 7 years ago
  • I love it..Thanks for sharing.I am new learner here.Please give me more tips regarding this article. 7 years ago
  • Awesome post! This is exactly the kind of post (and incentive) new and self-taught designers need. :) 7 years ago
  • Thanks! 7 years ago
  • Thank you, especially for suggestion to use less expensive tools as we start out. Cost matters... 7 years ago
  • Anonymous
    I would add "Constantly challenge yourself". It helps to improve skills and be better. 7 years ago
  • Thanks for the online TastyTuts+ LDD. Will definitely check them out. 7 years ago
  • Start doodling ... when you happy :) . And learn something. Woow, I think my doodle is good , mmm I will upload it and what people say about it ?... Learn again - again and "Suddenly" become designer... he2 :) 7 years ago
  • Good description on getting started - I would recommend for those of you that do learn design and want to try and turn your passion into a profession to check out - the best place for you creatives to get a start with web design and monetizing your studies! 7 years ago
  • Wait, isn't Code HS paid? I'm brushing up on my skills with Codecademy (100% free) and Code School (free introductory tiers). 7 years ago
  • This is so awesome. Thank you. 7 years ago
  • I think out of all these, number 11 will give you the most bang for your buck. You can read about design history all day long and know every important designer in the 20th century. But it won’t make you a good designer. It takes practice. Design isn't a subject like psychology or history. It’s more like pottery. Also if you teach yourself w/ free blog posts and videos, you'll create a curriculum that can be confusing. Sometimes the authors are writing for beginners. Other times they’re writing for professionals. For each thing you read, it’s up to you as the beginner to figure out where you fit in. And how can you know what's relevant if you don't know the subject? You’ll get there eventually but your progress look like a squiggly line. It’s definitely possible though! Btw if anyone is interested I’ve written a lot about this stuff. My profile has more info. 7 years ago
  • Thanks for sharing :) It helped me a lot. akashwebdesigns 3 years ago