Getting Started with Graphic Design

There are many graphic design tools out there, and you should use what you are most comfortable with. If you have no experience with graphic design this page includes tool recommendations and basic tips to help you get started.

Planning #

Brainstorm your end goal before beginning your project. It could help make the creation process less frustrating because you will have a more straightforward idea of what you want to create and what you want it to look like. Draw out on a piece of paper a rough idea of what your project will look like, and have text, images, and color themes pre-planned. This part of the process, while seemingly small, is an important step if you want your poster or infographic to be the best it can be.

If you need help with this part of your project, the Speaking and Writing Center is a great resource to help plan what you want to say and how to say it. Additionally, Peer Tutors can help with understanding material you might need for any kind of subject-specific project, and Simpson Library Research Help can assist with finding sources for your content.

Getting Started #

Beginner-Friendly Tools #

These tools are easy to get started with but may lack some useful features the Advanced Tools have. Most of these tools are free. Check out our DKC guides to get started with any of these tools:

  • Canva – A free online graphic design and simple video editing tool.
  • Procreate – A digital art and animation program (Purchase required, only for iPad/IOS ). 
  • Piktochart – An online tool to create digital design projects.
  • Vectr – Software for designing and editing vector graphics.

Advanced Tools #

These tools are some of the most powerful you can find for this type of project but may be overwhelming for a beginner. Some of these tools require purchase or subscription. Check out our guides to find out more:

  • Adobe Photoshop – A one stop shop for digital photo and graphic design (Available through AppsAnywhere and HCC lab computers or with a paid subscription).
  • Adobe Illustrator – A vector graphics and design program (Available through AppsAnywhere and HCC lab computers or with a paid subscription).
  • Adobe InDesign – A digital layout and design program (Available through AppsAnywhere and HCC lab computers or with a paid subscription).
  • GIMP – An image manipulation computer software.
  • Inkscape – A vector graphic design program, similar to Adobe Illustrator.

Tips and Tricks #

  1. Know the difference between raster images/graphics and vector images/graphics. Vector graphics can be scaled infinitely, whereas raster graphics have a finite number of pixels and look bad when scaled too much.
    1. Rasters vs. Vectors – Adobe’s guide to raster images vs. vector images.
  2. Work constructively, not destructively. Working in multiple layers will prevent accidentally damaging a design.
    1. Layering in Photoshop – Adobe’s guide on using layers in Photoshop.
    2. How Are Layers Used in Animation and Graphic Design Software? – An article about layers in animation and graphic design.
    3. Why Use Layers in Graphic Software? – An article justifying the use of layers in graphic design software.
  3. Don’t include unnecessary words or images. Less is usually more in graphic design! Images should also match what you are informing, entertaining, or persuading your audience about.
  4. Use a limited amount of fonts and colors. Having too many fonts can be confusing and draw attention away from the main point of your graphic. Using a set of two or three repeating colors and one font is recommended.
  5. Know the dimensions of your project beforehand. Depending on the platform you select, it may be difficult or cost a fee to change the dimensions of your project once you’ve started. Knowing what size your design needs to be is important so that this issue does not arise. Many programs and software provide specific dimensions based off of specific platforms.

Accessibility Considerations #

Want More Help? #

Updated by Haley Gosman 04/15/24