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derekpaperscissors's avatar

What's the first thing(lesson, software, program, etc.) you should learn or study about in graphic design?

Asked by derekpaperscissors (624 points ) August 6th, 2009

I want to learn more about graphic design and not just be an admirer of the numerous works published out there. Would you have any suggestions, tips, lessons, and applications that I should start out with?

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11 Answers

samanthabarnum's avatar

Color theory. If you have an eye for it, it’ll come easy. Continue. If color theory doesn’t come easy, don’t continue. Composition is the same as color theory, in terms of steps that I’ve posted.

Start and end with Photoshop. Period. There is no better alternative, it’s the industry standard. If you get Photoshop, read tutorials, yes, but teach yourself—you learn better if you teach yourself.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I agree with @samanthabarnum. Color is a powerful element of composition. If you want to do design work, you should learn both photoshop and illustrator. There’s people who tutor things like this so you don’t need to go take a university course.

cookieman's avatar

1. Composition
• balance/motion
• symmetry/asymmetry
• positive/negative space

2. Color Theory
• warm/cool
• monochromatic
• contrast
• saturation/desaturation
• color wheel relationships

3. Typography
• visual hierarchy
• letterform anatomy
• font selection/societal expectations

Learn these, then come and talk to me about software.

PS: Some life drawing, sculpting and painting never hurts either.

tramnineteen's avatar

I also agree with @samanthabarnum Learn some basic color theory and composition. Look at the great stuff and learn from examples. I also second that if it doesn’t some somewhat naturally you might bag it, I think having an eye for art is crucial and might not be able to be learned, only honed. Also, photoshop reigns supreme. Illustrator too for certain applications.

derekpaperscissors's avatar

good stuff guys! :) i’ll start reading/looking around for these elements. I have some background in photography so I’d hope that can help me with some of these as well.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Forget about computers and start with traditional media – paper, pencil, graphite, ink, watercolor, pastel, then move up to acrylics and oil on canvas. If you aren’t any good at it, a computer won’t help.

When Pierre August Renoir was old, he had developed severe rheumatoid arthritis that rendered him almost unable to use his hands. His students had to hand him his brushes so he could work, yet he still produced paintings of astonishing beauty. When asked how he could do this, he replied,

“You paint with the eye.”

mirza's avatar

Never use Comic Sans

tramnineteen's avatar

I partially disagree with @IchtheosaurusRex. If you have great ideas but can’t get mediums you use by hand to work then you may blossom on the computer.

If you paint exactly what you envision but it still looks like crap then you might want to become an accountant instead :)

Bri_L's avatar

I have to disagree with @samanthabarnum in that A. you have to start with color theory and B. if your bad at it you can’t design.

You will, of course, need to learn color theory but it can be learned without basic design concepts. And if you have trouble with it you can get help to understand it better. It does come easier to some than to others just like everything.

Photoshop is a fantastic program but in the end it is just a tool. Just like a pencil. If its complexity interferes with your learning or practicing the concepts of design, if you are focused more on how to use the program than your design the I suggest not starting there.

In fact I would follow @IchtheosaurusRex. Designing starts with brainstorming. Simple blocking out of spaces for pictures and words and content. Quick thumbnail sketches. If you have not used Photoshop, don’t worry about using it for that. 99% of the people I work with in the industry don’t.

For someone who has never had a class a good author of books if your just interested and want to see what it is about is Jim Krause.

And finally remember with the programs and the books everything there is also available to everybody else. So there is no replacement for what your already doing. Keep looking at design. I hope I helped.

sonic232's avatar

What everyone else has suggested is great, but I don’t see any alternatives to Photoshop hanging about in the answers :(

Sumo Paint is an excellent web-based alternative from what I’ve tested.

And let’s not forget GIMP, the opensource image editor. Both of these options are FREE and do not require any moral ambiguity on your part to use if you don’t want to drop a ton of money on an editing program.

Keep in mind that Photoshop is ONE of the most feature rich photo editors out there, but there are plenty of alternatives, many of them free, that give you at least 85% of Photoshop’s functions in a single package.

Jewel's avatar

Good advice from all, but design ends in production of some kind. Knowing how it will be produced will make you an excellent designer for printers and others to work with, and make you happy with the results of your hard work. Unfortunately, most designers have little idea what is involved in actually getting the design onto something, resulting in a pretty but unworkable mess being handed to the production team. Having spent 25 years in commercial printing companies, silk screen companies and photographic studios, I have been the one to take these designs and transform them into workable form. Having another artist rework your finely crafted artwork can be devastating. You can avoid that with some knowledge.

Take a little time to decide what kind of design you want to focus on. Then get yourself a job in those companies and learn how your work will look once it is put through the mechanical side of production.

I am surprised that no one mentioned page layout programs. Lots of attention paid to Photoshop, which is grand for photos, but is not a page layout program.
Illustrator is great for vector art, general layout and design.
CorelDraw has gotten better and it’s files can actually interface with Adobe programs.
My favorite is QuarkXpress for page layout, Freehand for art elements, and, of course, Photoshop for photos.

Just learn all you can. A part-time job in a production environment would make it clear what things you need to concentrate on, and you get paid to learn!

Good luck!

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