Are you ready to launch your career in graphic design? The good news is that in 2021, you no longer have to spend an arm and a leg in tuition fees, nor dedicate four years at design school to learn design or become a professional graphic designer.
Learning graphic design doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can certainly do it on your own time thanks to a few high-quality, free online courses. In this post, we’re sharing the best free online graphic design courses to jumpstart your career the self-taught way. Ready? Let’s go!
1. CalArts Graphic Design Specialization
The California Institute of the Arts offers an extensive graphic design specialization program for free through Coursera. These five beginner-level courses are each led by a faculty member at CalArts and are packed with insights from industry professionals.
Through this graphic design specialization, you’ll learn the fundamental skills needed to begin a career as a professional designer, how to master visual communication and gain a solid understanding of how graphic design plays into other areas like interface design, motion graphics, and editorial design. Here’s a quick rundown of each course:
- Course 1: Fundamentals of Graphic Design
- Course 2: Introduction to Typography
- Course 3: Introduction to Imagemaking
- Course 4: Ideas from the history of Graphic Design
- Course 5: Brand New Brand
To get free access to the course material, simply choose to audit the class via Coursera.com.
2. Canva Design School: Graphic Design Basics
Get a solid foundation of graphic design in this quick, jam-packed course offered by the folks Canva. Canva’s Graphic Design Basics class is comprised of twelve bite-sized lessons, each covering a foundational element of graphic design along with an activity that puts your new knowledge into practice.
You’ll get a taste of invaluable design know-how from defining your intended message, crafting moodboards, color wheel and typography essentials, and plenty more. This course is perfect if you don’t have a lot of time to invest in learning a new skill, or just want to dip your toes in the water to get a better understanding of how to think as graphic designers do.
3. Logo Design Fundamentals
Branding is one of the most fundamental aspects of graphic design, and a specialty many designers choose to focus on. If you want to dive deep into the world of brand identity design, Udemy’s Logo Design Fundamentals is a great place to start.
In this course comprised of fifteen lectures, learn what makes for a successful logo design, understand your client’s needs, and build out a brand identity system that can effectively be used across many types of different applications. In this branding crash course, you’ll learn everything you need to know to be able to craft a successful logo design from start to finish.
Art by George alexandar
4. Introduction to Graphic Design History
What better place to start your graphic design learning journey than where it all began? In Kadenze’s Introduction to Graphic Design History, learn all about how design has touched nearly everything in our lives—from our society, our politics, to our ideologies.
This history of Graphic Design crash course was adapted from the same class taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Dive deep into design history and gain a deeper understanding of the role Graphic Design plays in our world, its evolving styles, and revolutionary techniques.
You’ll come away equipped with a solid understanding of what defines successful graphic design and view the profession through a whole new lens.
5. Adobe Illustrator for Beginners
Learning the principles of graphic design should be the foundation of your education. But what use is it if you can’t put these principles into practice? To actually produce and create great design work, you also need a few hard skills under your belt—for example, knowledge of certain design softwares.
Adobe Illustrator is many designers’ software of choice, and in this three-hour Adobe Illustrator crash course presented by Envato Tuts, instructor Dan Scott explains everything you need to know about the program to start bringing your ideas to life.
Learn the basics of designing custom shapes, lines, and brushes, and also learn how to use and manipulate text, and work through creating custom logomarks and icons. You’ll also learn sneaky secrets for creating beautiful color palettes, gradients, and patterns. Plus, the video will take you through essentials like saving and exporting your work for both print and web. There’s plenty of exercises throughout the course so you can apply what you’ve learned right away.
Bonus: Take your graphic design expertise to the next level and add Adobe Photoshop to your list of tools through this free Envato Tuts class.
Art by Joanna Nowak
6. Graphic Design Basics: Core Principles for Visual Design
Skillshare also offers a completely free class that covers the five basic principles of Graphic Design in only 35 minutes. This course is for anyone who wants to explore and experiment with images and text to communicate a message. Learn ideas and principles that can be applied to any visual layout from a book, magazine spread, web page, poster, etc.
The class is taught by directors of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art, so you’ll see plenty of examples of graphic design projects created by students at MICA. Get ready for a helpful crash-course in core design elements like symmetry, scale, framing, hierarchy, grids, and at the end of it all, put your new learnings to the test by creating a basic page layout in the design software of your choice.
7. Live Graphic Design Courses: Creative Live
Creative Live is a fantastic resource to learn Graphic Design from industry experts from all over the world. However, if you want to access these courses for free, you’ll have to do some planning ahead (free courses are conducted in real-time!). Simply scroll down to the Free and upcoming classes section to enroll in a live course of your interest and mark your calendar.
Each course is tailored to a specific aspect of design from portfolio building, how to think like a designer, to more niche areas of the industry such as book cover design, drawing basics, and plenty more.
8. Applying Design Principles
Whether you’re completely new to graphic design or simply want to brush up on your existing skills, this extremely useful course taught through Alison will equip you with the tools you need to start putting basic graphic design principles and design theory into practice.
Studying some of the most successful designs in recent history, you’ll not only master fundamentals like composition, balance, contrast, and hierarchy, but you’ll also learn how to apply these to both print and digital projects—whether you’re working on editorial assets, web design, social media graphics, and everything in between.
The class is completely free, but if you want to earn a certificate to feature on your resume or design portfolio, you’ll need to purchase a subscription to Alison.
Art by Jonathan Holt
9. Creating Brand Systems: An Overview of Combining Logos and Type.
In this twenty-minute free Skillshare course, the creative team at True Hand takes you through their step-by-step approach for navigating a client brand identity project. You’ll learn all about how to define a brand narrative for a client while diving into the design process and learning how to generate custom assets like illustrations and typography.
Rather than focusing on creating one logo, you’ll learn about the importance of creating a family of assets that can be used across a variety of applications—from business cards, signage, apparel, and more. This modern approach to building an all-encompassing brand identity system will also teach you how to effectively collaborate with clients and really give you a taste of what a successful branding process should look like.
10. Adobe’s Discover Graphic Design
Last but not least, if you’re looking to simply dip your toes into the world of Graphic Design, Adobe’s Discover Graphic Design resources are the perfect primer before diving into higher-level concepts.
While this isn’t a full-fledged course, the blog posts Adobe shares are great for exploring different areas of graphic design to see what really jives with you. From picking between serif and sans-serif fonts, gathering visual inspiration, or covering essential info like what a vector file is, there are plenty of insights to be learned here!
Art by Alex Davis
Learn graphic design for free online
Thanks to the internet, you can become a graphic designer at your own leisure and at no cost at all. Take advantage of all of these incredibly useful design classes, resources, and tutorials to start your learning journey today. And remember, just like any other field, mastering design will take some time, effort, and lots of self-discipline. But if you’re truly committed to getting a job in this exciting field, know that it’s possible and affordable.