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11 Extremely Helpful (And Free!) Online Graphic Design Courses

Brush up on your graphic design skills with these free online courses.

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In our visual world, graphic design is an increasingly important skill for all kinds of creatives to have. For photographers and creatives in the fashion world, knowing the basics of Photoshop and the principles of graphic design is crucial for giving your work that professional edge. For illustrators and artists, graphic design is a fundamental part of the job—all the more reason to keep expanding your design skills and knowledge.

Improving your graphic design skill set doesn’t have to mean going back to school, though. There are lots of free online courses that can help you hone your design talents, offered by universities, graphic design experts, and online course hubs like Udemy. We’ve searched for the best free graphic design courses out there to help you budding designers and other interested creatives brush up on the foundations of typography, color, essential graphic design software, and lots more.

1. Alison Online

Alison calls itself a “new world of free certified learning.” The site is full of different types of courses that often lead to earning a test-based certificate. This can add a new qualification to your resume. Having a certificate in a subject actually goes a long way to secure a job or freelance opportunity. Alison has several options to build graphic design skills, such as a certificate course in Visual and Graphic Skills, one on Design Principles, and more specific classes like Photoshop Essential C6 Tools.

2. Udemy: Introduction to Graphic Design

Udemy features videos by independent teaching contractors with prices depending on the length of the video, the teacher, and the field. Essentially, Udemy is a competitive classroom marketplace. This means classes are rated, and the quality of the class is illuminated by ratings just like on Yelp. There are frequently sale specials on the site, so watch out for deals on the classes you want. Many of the courses on Udemy are free, too. This Introduction to Graphic Design is a great example.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers online opencourseware. Opencourseware is the most egalitarian form of education. It exists online as a free database of courses through professional academic teachers and course writers. Most of these graphic design lessons are related to an overarching class on another topic, such as web coding, but they are still helpful and trusted resources.

4. Skilled Up

Skilled Up is a website that provides a lot of different courses. Each course costs a different amount, but fortunately there is a free course called Visual and Graphic Design. Many of the other courses are very affordable, with $19.99 being the average cost of a class through Skilled Up. If you like the style of courses on the site, these might be worth checking out.

5. A Brief History of Typography

Typography is key to the work of a graphic designer. In almost all instances of graphic design you will see some use of type. Each font adds a different feeling and style to a design. In this document, you can find a comprehensive but simple introduction to the history and nuances of typography. It’s a great introduction for any aspiring beginner graphic designer.

6. Teach Yourself Graphic Design: A Self-Study Course Outline

In this article, Sean Hodge outlines all the resources you need to create a self-taught course on graphic design to replace a traditional education. The article lists books, online resources, and is broken down into helpful subtopics. It’s an incredibly comprehensive list of information that could be the primary basis for learning graphic design. It is at the very least a helpful supplemental resource.

7. Veerle’s Graphic Design Blog

Veerle is a Dutch graphic designer with a website dedicated to all things graphic design. The site includes tutorials, tips, and tricks. She includes helpful insight on working with clients, developing a portfolio, as well as simple solutions to problems many graphic designers might face. Most importantly for the new designer, Veerle offers tutorials and tips for using design software. This blog is delightfully well-designed, and is worth a visit if only for some inspiration.

8. Canva Design School

The Canva Design School offers an online free course called Introduction to Graphic Design. It’s a self-paced course divided into four modules. This course covers basic information on fonts, colors, images, backgrounds, layouts, and shapes. The course is fairly comprehensive, and a great starter for someone looking to learn the basics of design.

9. Envato Tuts+ Illustration and Design Courses

Envato has created a dense and helpful tutorial archive to help with almost any software and process in design. There is the whole gamut of topics, including Illustrator, Photoshop, Cinema 4D, Rhino, and many more. There are over 990 courses in Envato’s design and illustration database. If you are stuck with a problem you don’t know how to solve, then try this site, you’ll probably find a solution.

10. Creative Pro

Creative Pro is an online design magazine that has a great How To section. Most of the videos and articles are for experienced designer problems. This is a great resource for designers who want to expand their skills. Beginners could pair these more specific how-to articles with some of the other resources listed here for a well rounded auto-didactic education in graphic design.

11. CreativeLive

CreativeLive offers a range of online courses geared towards designers and artists. Not all the courses are free, but some are, and you can also find good deals on many of them. Offerings include HTML and CSS for designers, an introduction to typography, fundamentals of Adobe programs, and more.

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