How To Get Started With Graphic Design

How To Get Started With Graphic Design - millennial blog business advice

*Ask Rachel* ICYMI You can submit any question on any topic via the contact form on my site. My advice back to you will likely get featured on the blog in this series! This post contains affiliate links.

Last week, in the “Ask Rachel” series, I tackle how to stay motivated and organize your day to get all the thins done. The same reader also asked:

How did you progress with your photoshop (or which ever software you use) skills? I graduated college in 2015 with a communications degree and I would like to learn more about graphic design without enrolling into a masters degree program and getting further into debt. I feel I have more soft skills than technical skills which prohibits me from applying to jobs I see.

Teaching one's self photography and how to get started with graphic design are some of the biggest questions I actually get IRL, so I am excited to talk about this on the blog. Overall, I've done all of my own graphic design. I had an intern that helped with e-course slides and my old Instagram/Twitter quote graphics, but the bulk of everything TCM related you see is all me!

Before I jump into the DIY of graphic design and editing, I want to say that I DO believe in hiring designers when appropriate. When moving my site from SquareSpace to WordPress, I looked into hiring a designer. However, all the designers I contacted were $5,000+. Eventually I will be 100% okay with investing that type of coin into my design, however, I hadn't even had my first blogiversary yet.

If you are going to invest in a designer, invest in someone truly unique so your site won't look like every other one out there. I find that a lot of lower priced designers will just buy and install a template and add a few tweaks, which is easy to do on your own! You should also invest in someone if you are truly horrible at design and don't want to learn/deal with it. I prefer to teach myself (and my clients) so neither are tied to a designer to make minor tweaks in the future.

But I digress, this isn't about web design, this is about graphic design (even though there's some overlap!).

How I Taught Myself Graphic Design

And how you can get started with graphic design too!

The Platforms:

I started with Canva. They have tons of templates for different layouts and I used those as my jumping off point. I also scoured Pinterest to see which pins were trending. I would try to replicate things I saw on Pinterest in Canva. Playing with different fonts, shapes, and angles.

Overtime I progressed from Canva to Photoshop. I don't use Photoshop regularly for graphic design (since it's slow on my Mac and all my templates and designs are accessible from anywhere with Canva). But I used it for all my wedding invites, printed decor, and menus:

Photoshop gives you more control and clarity than Canva. Their gridlines make it easier to line things up just right, and you can add more custom font elements, and it feels more polished IMO. For learning photoshop I primarily watched youtube videos! Occasionally I would ask a photographer friend of mine if something just wasn't clicking, but Youtube was a life saver!

The key with both of these platforms though is what you bring to it.

The Elements:

Both Photoshop and Canva are kind of pointless if you don't bring your own elements to it, IMO. Don't get me wrong, you will still be able to do quite a lot on the platforms, but it will probably feel generic and like everybody else's stuff. Photoshop doesn't have graphics or icons to insert into the template like Canva does. However, Canva's search feature isn't great and their free elements are often so reused on-line that it can feel contrived after a while. Now if you are using Canva's premium plan, it's definitely worth it since you have SO many more custom fonts, photos, and the like and way fewer people are using the paid options!

What really up levels graphic design are finding unique elements. I recommend exploring:

Hand drawn effects.

I have no experience actually doing this, but I know Adobe Illustrator has the capability to give you a hand drawn effect on graphics. There are tons of videos out there to help with this.

Purchasable Downloads & Freebies. 

I love Creative Market. Each week you get 6 free design element options delivered to your inbox! Everything from fonts, to stock photos, to logos, to water color elements, and more! They have a ton of purchasable/downloadable options as well (it's where I bought the font to do my wedding stuff!).

As well as the initial bird and font in my first logo:

the confused millennial millennial blog logo


Graphic Burger has a ton of options (paid and free) too. Their elements are typically a little more business or professional centered. For instance, they have a lot of product mock up options.

One thing to look out for when purchasing/downloading elements from sites, is compatibility! Check if the download comes as a .jpg, .psd, .txt, etc. file and ensure you have access to software that can open the file type!

For additional help, I also love Brit + Co's classes! They have paid and free classes on SO many topics. Everything from social media, to photo/editing/graphics, to weaving and interior design! It's a maker's paradise!

Color Picker

Color is another major design element, so I wanted to talk about another free tool that helped me: color picker plugin for Google Chrome! I am sure there are tons out there, but if you ever stumble across a great color you want to incorporate into a design, you'll want this on hand. Essentially just install the plugin to your web browser, and move the eye dropper over the color. You'll get the hex code and can easily plug that into whichever platform you are using!


With any skill, hard or soft, it takes practice to refine! Make sure to ask for feedback, or compare the finished product to trending images on Pinterest or google. Some action steps to play with:

Fonts: Mix fonts as well as weights, styles, and sizes

Angles: Practice tilting, pulling, flipping, and zooming your images or elements

Spacing: Play with line height of text, white space, borders, margins, and so on. Spacing is a major hot point for me. I like things to be easy to read on various platforms and never feel smooshed.

Colors: Experiment with the gradient, shade, and transparency of colors. Simply tweaks can change the entire feel of a graphic!

[RELATED] How To Create An At Home Photography Studio On A Budget

Lastly, if want a little motivation here's how things progressed for me:


66 thoughts on “How To Get Started With Graphic Design”

  1. I have never used Canva, but instead dove right into Photoshop. I am fortunate though, in that I had Adobe Photoshop at my art college. Before my blog, I hadn’t used it since 1994, so as you can imagine, I felt a bit rusty. Luckily, everything came back, and it was quite intuitive for me. I only had to look up a couple of tutorials on line.

  2. I have templates on Photoshop that makes everything so much easier and I alternate between those three. These are wonderful tips though!

  3. April Kitchens

    I’m still in the beginning stages of graphic design using canva and I love it so far. I’ve been creating all of my graphics there. I would love to upgrade soon to Photoshop though.

  4. I had no idea there was a color picker extension for Chrome! How cool! I love using Photoshop. I remember taking a class in college focused on Photoshop/InDesign and everything has kind of evolved for me from there!

  5. Photoshop is so great to know and really helps in the blogging industry!

  6. I like these tips a lot. I’ve definitely improved my graphics over the last 18 months since starting my blog and a lot of it was just what you said, learning angles, using Pinterest for inspiration and trying to brand myself.

  7. I’ve been to art school (for illustration, not graphic design) and Canva is life!! Design is supposed to be fun and a way to communicate, and I enjoy just playing around. Also, Canva’s slightly limited options compared to Photoshop make decisions easier. Sometimes I spend way too much time on moving text around by tiny fractions in Photoshop and could get way more done in Canva. 🙂

  8. This was so good. I know nothing about graphic design so it was helpful! I work with someone who is like a graphic design genius and I pick his brain a lot. I’ve learned a lot just from working with him.

  9. I am so glad I stumbled across Canva – they’ve been amazing. I’ve definitely gotten better at editing my photos and doing my graphics over the past few months, and I’m actually looking forward to switching over to photoshop for a few things in the future! Glad I generally only use 2 fonts in each of my graphics as well as Kate below me pointed out!

  10. I swear by Canva. I use it for social media graphics, press kits, invites, Pinterest board pins. It’s so easy and i love the fact that most elements are free, but if you do find a paid one most are a $1! Such a great tool.

  11. These tips are so amazing. I am terrible at it. Thankfully my husband does it 🙂

  12. I have so much to learn and will start with Canva. Thanks for the inspiration.

  13. Christine Goulbourne

    I am still learning about graphic design and I had never heard of Canva before reading this article. Thank you!

  14. Ashley Vickney

    I NEED THIS SO MUCH! Also I really need to learn about picking my fonts lol. I normally stick to the same two but want to learn how to branch out. I love your stationary for your wedding!

  15. I’m not much of a graphic designer but I have dabbled in photoshop, Canva and Lightroom. Though I like photoshop the best I also use Canva fairly often because it is so simple and straightforward (so important if blogging isn’t your career and/or you have a tight schedule).

  16. “However, Canva’s search feature is terrible and their elements are often reused so often on-line.” I almost screamed when I saw this. I could not agree more! That is the one thing that prohibits me from committing fully to Canva. I hope that when I get some time off this summer, I can explore Adobe and get my hands more into the aesthetics of my website.

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