This blog post was originally published November 20, 2016.
Have you always had an artsy side but haven't figured out how to best use your gift of creativity? Or maybe you wish you could help out your pastor by doing some of the graphic design for the church. Maybe you've never pursued graphic design because you don't have the money or the time to go back to school to get a degree as a graphic designer. Sure, you've been able to figure some things out on your own, like doing some minor photo editing here and there in Photoshop, but what about having the ability to make professional looking print materials, logos, or websites?
The good news for you is there has never been a better time to learn graphic design—in fact you can even learn how to use fancy software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator—all online!
Take a look at our list of favorite resources and online classes that will enable you to learn graphic design from the professionals, and keep reading for additional tips on how to get the most out of your self-taught "classes."
Treehouse offers a 14-day free trial that allows you to have access to hundreds of design courses including Illustrator Foundations, and Logo Design Basics. You also have the option of signing up for $25 a month or you can take advantage of their pro membership for $49.
Treehouse also offers a 209-minute Photoshop Foundations Course that will provide a solid foundation from which to build when it comes to graphic design. Not only will you learn skills that will apply specifically to designing websites, but you'll also learn the following Photoshop skills so you can design print materials as well:
- Type tools
- Vector shapes
- Workflow basics
As an online learning resource, ed2go offers hundreds of different courses. Some of the classes geared toward graphic design include: Introduction to InDesign CC, Adobe Value Suite, and Designing Effective Websites. Costs vary from class to class.
If you're looking for an intro to Illustrator class, ed2go is a great online resource that offers a six-week class for $149. Learning how to use this particular software will come in handy for serious graphic artists. During this class, you will learn how to use the shape tools to draw objects and the pen tool to create shape gradients. You will even learn to add 3D special effects that will help you to make eye-popping designs. Other important Illustrator skills you will learn include:
- Building an Image
- Using color
- Patterns and pattern brushes
- Typography and design
If you want to learn creative skills from the industry experts, Lynda is a great online resource. You can sign up for a 10-day trial for free or acquire a basic membership for $19.99 a month. Doing so will give you access to over 4,000 courses, including 600 design courses like Graphic Design Tips and Tricks, Pastel Drawing with Photoshop, and Design Aesthetics for the Web.
Another useful design software is Adobe InDesign. If you want to learn how to use it, you'll want to check out InDesign CC Essential Training. InDesign can be a graphic designers best friend, especially if you're into making interactive PDFs, booklets, magazines, and newsletters. By taking the InDesign CC Essential Training course on Lynda.com, you will learn how to do the following:
- Set up a new document
- Insert text
- Place graphics
- Format objects
- Build tables
- Create PDFs and export them to EPUB
This might come as a surprise to you, but YouTube is actually a great resource when it comes to learning graphic design. There are many YouTube channels that feature professional graphic designers dedicated to teaching graphic design. One of the best parts about learning through YouTube videos is that they are absolutely free!
Some of our favorites graphic designers on YouTube include:
- Stephen Looney: Graphic Designer Tips YouTube channel - Stephen Looney specializes in Adobe Illustrator and is also great for teaching logo design and the print layout design process.
- Karen Kavett: Graphic Design, DIY, and Crafting Videos - If you want to learn things like how to make large patterns using Photoshop, Karen Kavett is your gal.
- Roberto Blake: Helping You Create Awesome 7 Days a Week - Roberto Blake creates a lot of tutorials that focus on learning all the Adobe design products including InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
- Becky Kinkead: Design, Tutorials & Creativity - Offering a fun and informative way to learn graphic design, Becky Kindead's videos normally run less than five minutes and teach stuff like typography and logo design.
- Nathaniel Dodson: tutvid - If you want to learn a little bit more about Photoshop or increase your web design skills, you'll need to check out Nathaniel Dodson's YouTube channel.
There are many more videos on YouTube that will help you learn about graphic design. The chances are pretty good that you will be able to find a new favorite graphic designer no matter what specific skill you hope to learn.
So now you've chosen your favorite avenue to learn—how do you make sure you're not going about it the wrong way?
Teaching yourself church graphic design isn't something you can just hop into and get going. Your time is valuable—if you want to maximize your time and effort toward building this new skill set, here is our best advice:
Don't Be Afraid to Play
No matter what type of graphic design software you are using, it can be a bit overwhelming. Cropping photos, changing the colors of the font, adding layers, drawing different shapes - it's all enough to get your creative juices overflowing.
While it can be hard to know where to even begin, don't be afraid to start playing around a bit. If the software you're using contains a toolbar, use your mouse to hover over each tool to find out what it's called, then go ahead and see what it does! If you have some graphic design experience, most likely there are many different functions and tools that you haven't even touched yet, so allow yourself to do some creative exploring. But remember, it's not just all about play, there are some things you'll have to learn as well.
Getting Back to Basics
After you feel like you've played around with the software and are becoming a bit more familiar with it, it's time to get down to business. Learning the basics is essential when it comes to teaching yourself graphic design. As much as you want to, you can't possibly create an eye-popping piece without knowing the basics. Some of the beginning elements you'll need to learn that will help you maintain consistency include:
You'll also want to take time to learn about color and how RGB is used for web design and CMYK for print. Fonts are another key factor, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the different font families and typeface.
Learn to Love Your Software
Your software is going to make all this design and creation possible. Some programs are much more tedious and have a higher learning curve than others, and there are guaranteed to be times you can't stand the software you are using. If you feel you are limited by your software, you may want to try a different program. Finding software that you really do love will make the learning process much more enjoyable. There are many ways you can become an expert with your software. Some of them include:
- Take a class
- Find someone who is already an expert and who can answer your questions
- Use online tutorials
- Another good way to learn is to literally type the name of the command you're trying to learn about into YouTube. Many people have great channels full of free videos.
Of course, you won't be able to use any ol' software that suits your fancy. If your goal is website design, you should learn Adobe Photoshop. If it's brochures and books, InDesign or Microsoft Publisher will work best. Just remember, patience and persistence is key when it comes to learning new software.
Collect Inspirational Designs and Try to Replicate Them
No matter what stage of learning you're in, whether it's playing around with new software, getting a good hold of the basics, or you are mastering your software, be on the lookout for designs that inspire you.
You can find these in magazines, print ads, newsletters, or even online. Maybe there is a flyer or a brochure that another church produced that you really like. Then when you think you're ready, try to reproduce them on your own.
Chances are you will gain confidence as you begin to realize just how much you have learned. If you can't figure out how they put a picture in a round shape, simply ask your go-to design expert or Google "how to give an image a round shape."
Don't Be Afraid of Feedback
Getting feedback from others can be a bit scary, especially if you're not that confident in your abilities yet. However, getting constructive criticism is vital for your emerging church graphic design skills.
Someone may point out a font that just doesn't look right, or ask you to use a more vibrant color. Sometimes it may be easier to take advice from someone you don't know. If this is the case for you, there are plenty of online communities where others can comment on your designs.
Here's the bottom line:
We can give you all the resources in the world, but only you can take control of how well you're going to learn and how much time you're willing to put into this. But at the very least, we want to set you up for success.
In addition to all of these great tips and resources, we've developed a church-specific resource to help you have the best graphic design for your church. Check out the Church Graphic Design Kit for free templates, how-to guides, icons, and more!