30 Graphic Design Tips Every Beginner Should Know

Graphic designs infuse everything from electronic gadgets, magazine ads, TV commercials to brand clothing. If you’re a graphic design beginner lacking experience and need some tips and pointers, look no further.

Graphic design might seem intimidating; however, if you consider the 30 graphic design tips and tricks provided throughout this article, you should feel confident enough to share your work with anyone.

hand holding a cheerful designed newspaper in front of a patterned wall

Getting started with graphic design

1. Start with a clear concept

Graphic designers are a creative bunch. They are skilled at visualizing great ideas in their minds first before turning them into stunning designs. A concept is like a young seedling before it grows into a magnificent tree (design). 

Begin with a clear idea or concept and sketch it onto sheets of paper. Record all the details of what you saw in your mind’s eyes and don’t leave anything out. Use it as a map to guide your design.

2. Keep it simple

Simplicity is the soul of a good design and simple designs are often the most effective and memorable way to present photography images. Deleting extra elements in the image background will guide viewers to the style you want them to see.

Try asking “what do I need to delete?” instead of “ what else does this need?” when getting to a stage in a project where you sense that the design isn’t working.  

3.  Use typography effectively

Typography is the style or appearance of a text. It can also refer to the art of working with text – something you probably do all the time. Kearning, leading, tracking, and hierarchy are common typography terms in graphic design.

Well-crafted texts can mean the difference between an ordinary project and an extraordinary undertaking. Choose appropriate fonts and use typography effectively to convey your message

4. Make it visually appealing

One of the tip for visually appealing graphic designs is to combine it with high-quality photography. The right image can set the tone for a design piece and can be used to give the viewers an emotional response.

Photos and typography in headlines work well for advertising and designs. Use color, texture, and imagery to make your design aesthetically pleasing.

5. Use contrast

Good designs use contrast to increase visibility and improve legibility. Contrast is a fact of life and a matter of simple physics. If something is too low in contrast, it just can’t be easily seen, and the target audience will soon lose interest.

For example, yellow works well on dark backgrounds but not on white or light ones. Use contrast effectively to create visual interest and guide the viewer’s eyes.

6. Consider the grid

Grids provide an invisible structure to your composition, and they are used to guide the placements of all visual elements in your design. Grids help bring balance and unity to a graphic design when every element in a complex composition floats around and looks unprofessionally chaotic.

Common grids in graphic design are column grids, modular grids, baseline grids, pixel grids, hierarchical grids, and manuscript grids. Use a grid to organize your design and maintain consistency.

7. Keep it balanced

Balance is the visual weight of elements in a composition and one of the key principles in graphic design. Balance adds structure and creates emphasis and dynamics. 

To achieve balance, you should place visual elements in an aesthetically pleasing arrangement to fulfill the purpose of a particular look and feel. Common balances to try are symmetrical balance, asymmetrical balance, and radial balance.

8. Use white space effectively

White space is the ‘empty space’ of a page. It gives order and breathes the elements of a layout. White space is not  an area to be filled, but rather, it is to be ‘understood’ as an element in the composition.

White spaces create a focal point in graphic design, so you should use them effectively to add visual interest and prevent clutter.

9. Be consistent

Visual consistency in graphic design means sticking to one or two styles of fonts, and colors and using them consistently. For example: pick one font and adjust size and color to develop a visual hierarchy in your graphic designs. 

Consistency improves user experience and encourages familiarity. Familiarity communicates trust to the target audience so they can expect the same experience when they see your designs. Ensure your design elements are consistent, including typography, color, and imagery.

10. Choose appropriate colors 

Color creates focal points, and each color has an emotional value of a certain feeling. Beginning photographers need to know that color changes the mood of prospective viewers and how they’d perceive the graphic designs.

In practice, designers need to consider the inherent value of each color when selecting colors for type. Choose colors that are appropriate for your message and target audience.

Refining your design style

11. Know your audience

Understanding your target audience will help you make design decisions that are relevant and impactful. Putting yourself in the viewers’ shoes and imagining how they’d interact with your designs can provide valuable insights.

These insights, when jotted down and organized, are valuable information in guiding you to find the right inspirations for the next design.

12. Make it legible

Nothing is more frustrating than looking at an illegible design and not knowing what the design is conveying. Many elements can cause your graphic design to be illegible, and you can make it legible by simply making a few tweaks.

Typography fonts or pixels in images are common issues that can make designs illegible. Ensuring your design is legible and easy to read before publishing is the tip for good graphic design practices. 

13. Use images effectively

In graphic design, images are more than just decorations and the hook that draws in the viewers. Compelling visuals can help you connect with the audience and make a strong impression before they’ve read a single word.

A quick beginner tip to source suitable images for your graphic design is to look for high-quality ones that are sharp, clear, and distortion-free. Use images effectively to add visual interest and vividly convey your message.

14. Use scale effectively

Scale in graphic design refers to the size of one object relative to another. The scale adds depth and when used well, it could play tricks on the viewer’s mind in your graphic design.

Scale can also establish a hierarchy and help emphasize certain parts of the design. Use scale effectively to create visual interest and guide the viewer’s eye.

15. Experiment with new ideas

Like in photography, the tip to creating successful graphic designs is to have a curious mindset. Ask yourself: ‘how about I hide the texts in plain sight?’ Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things.

Taking the less traveled paths is the key to finding inspiration and discovering new possibilities many have overlooked.

16. Make it unique

Graphic design beginners learn the skills by following the tips given by other seasoned professionals. Although there are merits in mimicking other graphic designers’ styles, don’t forget that you are just as good as those seasoned designers.  

We are very unique in our own way (like the fingerprints), so make your design unique and memorable by adding your own personal touch.

17. Take risks

Taking risks is scary because you fear potential losses, but sometimes taking risks can lead to the most innovative and impactful designs. The truth is, risks won’t become as bad if you have plans to manage them. 

For example, you can test-run your wildest design ideas on anonymous platforms and observe how the audience responds before putting your name out there. 

18. Learn from other designs

Learning from other designs while taking manageable risks can sometimes lead you toward unexpected pleasant surprises. Studying other designs and learning from what works and what doesn’t is the tip for all graphic design beginners.

If you combine this process with a few of your personal touches, can you imagine the kind of success you are going to have?

19. Stay up-to-date with design trends

Graphic design trends are like organic matter that lives, breathes and changes over time. Stay up-to-date with design trends, and incorporating them into your work where appropriate will prevent your designs from falling out of touch.

Nothing is stagnant in graphic design, and it’s great for those who adapt to the change and be ahead of the curve.

Growing and expanding your graphic design business

20. Use a design process

Use a design process, such as the design thinking process, to guide your design. You can also create mini-design systems and set them up in place to increase speed and improve efficiencies.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel, and make the process overly complicated; try focusing on what works well for you instead. 

21. Know the rules, then break them

Designing rules and tips are great learning guides for graphic design beginners when they first start; however, these rules are not chains to tie you down once you have mastered them. 

Knowing the design rules and when to break them to serve your purpose is a skill set to add to your designing toolbox.

22. Learn from your mistakes

Success is built on trial and error. Mistakes are necessary and valuable in finding the right path to successful designs. Don’t get frustrated and give up easily without revisiting past mistakes. 

Keep a journal to document your mistakes and use them as an opportunity to learn and grow as a designer.

23. Seek feedback

Constructive feedback helps improve your designs so you know how to make them better. Seek feedback from others to get different perspectives and use it well to improve your design.

Word of caution: Feedback should be used as grains of salt. If it’s too much, you’ll feel discouraged, and if it’s too little, your growth can stall.

24. Be adaptable

Be adaptable and open to change, as graphic design is an ever-evolving field. Being adaptable means your ability to be agile, learn new skills, fail fast, and bounce back faster. 

Being adaptable doesn’t mean perfection, but your ability to evaluate the situation, identify what’s not working, and take action to make it work for you again.

25. Collaborate with others

It’s common to get stuck in a rut and feel uninspired when it comes to designing. Three heads are sometimes better than one, as different people can help you brainstorm and come up with new design ideas.

Try collaborating with others to gain new perspectives and create better designs that you have not thought of before

26. Make it versatile

Make your design versatile so it can be used in different contexts and for different purposes. A graphic design tip is to have your designs modularized and can be quickly modified to fit various future design needs. 

Try using third-party platforms to create and save winning ready-to-use templates. You can drag and drop the elements in place whenever you need them.

27. Know the print and production process

The graphic design production process is complex and could be time-consuming as print shops are always busy with overwhelming requests. Understanding the print and production process can help you make design decisions that are practical and cost-effective. 

This knowledge will come in handy when working with clients to plan budgets for design projects.

28. Keep your portfolio up-to-date

Keep your portfolio up-to-date to showcase your work and skills to potential clients and employers. Up-to-date portfolios invite interest as it provides relevancy, and shows your skills are not out of date.

You can make updating your portfolio a habit every time you finish a project. This way, you can ensure that your portfolio is always up to date and ready to be reviewed by your new clients.

29. Get involved in the design community

Get involved in the design community to network, learn, and be inspired. Sign up and attend conferences, forums, and events to satisfy your curiosity and discover the latest development in the graphic design industry.

Social media platforms are emerging communities where like-minded graphic designers can hang out to meet online and grow professionally. Don’t be shy to introduce yourself to the community and start making connections.

30. Have fun

Many would argue graphic design is one of the best jobs in the world. You have freedom to set your hours as designers, and you can work anywhere in the world from your laptop without having to work a nine-to-five in an office.  

Designers get to create amazing content and the work is meant to be enjoyable. So, embrace the process and enjoy the journey!

Sign up to try the Format portfolio builder for the cost of a coffee, and build an aesthetically stunning graphic design portfolio that’s yours only.

Ready to Get Started?

Let your graphic designs shine with a unique online portfolio website.

Start Your Free Trial