10 Best Graphic Design Courses Online

Arek Dvornechcuck
Branding Expert

I'm a strategist and designer based in New York who help brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch

Whether you're starting a new career, or just need to polish up your skills, here's the list of top graphic design courses available online.

Having some solid graphic design skills is crucial in today’s digital world and therefore good designers are in high demand.

It's a rapidly growing industry—think about it—basically every business needs some graphic design work.

Whether it be a logo design, branding, website design (UX/UI), editorial design etc.—businesses hire creatives to get things designed.

So whether you want to make a career change or just need to polish up your skills—its important to take the right steps.

The easiest way to master graphic design is by enrolling in an online course to be able to learn straight from experts.

Why?—Because by learning from professionals will get you there much faster than if you had to figure it all out on your own.

However, with so many courses that are available online it can become pretty intimidating, because you don't know what courses are worth your time.

That's why in this article I’ve rounded up the absolute 10 best graphics design courses that you can find on some of the leading learning platforms for creatives such as Skillshare, Coursera, Udemy, MasterClass and more.

10 Best Graphic Design Courses Online (Free & Paid):

  1. Graphic Design Fundamentals—$19 or $13/mo
  2. Core Principles for Visual Design—FREE with trial
  3. Graphic Design Basics—Totally FREE
  4. Basics of Adobe CC—$19 or $13/mo
  5. Graphic Design Course—$15/mo
  6. Customizing Type—FREE with trial
  7. Graphic Design Specialization—FREE (paid certificate)
  8. Fundamentals of Graphic Design—FREE (paid certificate)
  9. Graphic Design for Beginners—FREE with trial
  10. Graphic Design Masterclass—$21.99

Depending on your goals and interests, these courses cover the basics of graphic design in general, such as typography, composition, color etc. to more advanced stuff and industry tips and tricks.

How To Learn Graphic Design?

The reality is that getting into graphic design space isn’t as easy as you might think—there is a lot of competition out there.

These days everyone with some basic knowledge of Photoshop or Illustrator claims to be a graphic designer.

However, being a good graphic designer is much more that just having some basic knowledge of Adobe software.

How To Learn Graphic Design In 5 Easy Steps.

Graphic design is the process of communicating things visually—so first and foremost, you need to become a good communicator.

In order to become a good communicator, your must first understand graphic design history and where it comes from.

Then you need to learn how to use different elements of visual visual language to communicate things effectively.

Add to it creativity and your own expression—and you will end up with what makes a successful graphic designer.

Here are the five basic steps to help you get the most out of your learning curve:

  1. Research graphic design history—Knowing the history and the current state of graphic design industry will give you the confidence you need to be able to become a successful designer.
  2. Understand core design principles—As a designer, you’ll need to understand the core design principles to make your designs more creative and impactful.
  3. Master graphic design process—Having a structured process to follow will help you be more efficient and effective when working with your graphic design clients.
  4. Follow great designers—You need to surround yourself with great designers, follow them and mimic their work to polish up your skills and get more creative.
  5. Build portfolio and get hired—If you want to get hired and land big projects, you will need to develop your own style as clients hire designers based on their past work.

Similar to most disciplines, you’ll need to get acquainted with the basics before you can master more advanced stuff.

Ready? Let’s get started—Check out my list of top courses to help you master graphic design in 2021.

1. Graphic Design Fundamentals

The most unique thing about Timothy Samara's course is his demonstration of how design theory manifests in actual projects (PS. I also interviewed Timothy on my podcast)

Dive into the world of how real designers work and think.

With an extensive career behind him, Timothy’s design services have spanned from web design to print media, to interface design, and to building brand identity.

Graphic Design Fundamentals—a free graphic design course by Timothy Samara.

Timothy Samara is a New York–based graphic designer and educator whose twenty-five years career has so far focused on visual identity and branding, communication design, and typography.

By walking through Timothy’s creative process, you not only see how design elements impact an overall product, but you also get a rare view of the problem that designers solve and how they solve them.

In this course, you'll learn to:

  • Identify and apply fundamental graphic design elements.
  • Add essential design skills to your toolkit.
  • Approach and manage the creative process through varied projects

This class is designed for beginners and intermediate graphic designers as well as more experienced ones who are looking for a brush-up on the principles.

One of the most popular courses (best reviews) about graphic design that you can find on Skillshare.

‍Enroll in this course now

2. Core Principles for Visual Design

Renowned designers Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips present this fantastic beginner course covering the core elements of graphic design.

Learn the fundamental principles of graphic design.

Whether you’re a beginner or looking for a refresher, Ellen and Jennifer will teach you how to assess your designs for balance and effectiveness.

Core Principles for Visual Design—free graphic design course on Skillshare.

This 36-minute online class provides real-world examples that you can use right away in your design projects.

I was fortunate enough to host Ellen Lupton in my podcast, where we discussed how to use storytelling in graphic design work.

Overall, this course is excellent for graphic design students and creatives who want to build a solid foundation in graphic design.

The course also includes a practical project that you can use to build your portfolio to sell and market yourself as a graphic designer.

Basically, your will understand everything graphic design—from fonts and letterforms to posters and brands.

The class is available for free on Skillshare if you enroll in 30 day free trial (premium membership $20/mo).

Enroll in this course today

3. Graphic Design Basics

The second course on my list covers the basic as well, but in a more practical way—a quick and easy course brought to you by Canva.

Get a quick yet very practical overview of the basics.

This course comprises 12 lessons, each covering the primary elements of graphic design along with an assignment that puts your knowledge into practice.

Graphic Design Basics—free graphic design course by Canva.
Graphic Design Basics by Canva

You’ll get a feel for how designers work every step of they: from mood boards, typography essentials, color theory and everything in-between.

Overall, this course comes with resources that can assist beginners and intermediates to help them hone their skills.

If you just want to dip your toes in the water to get a clear understanding of how designers think, this course is right for you.

The course is totally free of charge and available publicly—no need to sign up, just click and start learning.

Enroll in this course now

4. Basics of Adobe CC

Adobe CC is a robust set of tools for designers, but it may seem confusing to new users when to use what program—this course teaches you the basics of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

Understand & Use The Design Power Of Creative Cloud.

Jason Hoppe is an Adobe Certified Expert and trusted CreativeLive instructor that will help you dive into each of the three most common used apps in graphic designw orld.

Basics of Adobe CC—Jason Hoppe
Basics of Adobe CC—Jason Hoppe

This is a very practical course that costs only $39 to enroll and you get over 5 hrs of videos with great expert tips and tricks.

Jason will teach you how to integrate Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign into a more streamlined and easy to follow workflow.

While other courses on my list don't focus on tools specifically—this class goes into the nitty gritty of how to actually execute your idea on computer.

Learning how to use Adobe CC straight for the expert can empower you with pragmatic knowledge that will help you get the work done more efficiently.

In this course, you'll learn to:

  • When and why to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign
  • How to create shapes and lines in Illustrator
  • Basic color corrections in Photoshop
  • Build multiple pages and layouts in Indesign

Don't have Adobe Creative Cloud yet?—Check out my other blog post where I feature some of the best Adobe CC discounts.

Enroll in this course now

5. Graphic Design Course

Since you already have an understanding of the graphic design process—In this course, an award-winning graphic designer David Carson, teaches you how to challenge predictable design.

Learn intuitive approach to creating work that makes an impact.

This course goes beyond the basics and talks more about creativity itself, as David introduces you to some of his guiding principles—relying on intuition and pushing yourself to take risks.

Graphic Design Course with David Carson
Graphic Design with David Carson

In this course, David's aim is to help you develop a mentality that keeps you attuned to unpredictable moments that can make your work better.

David shows you how he uses innovative typography to reinforce the message he wants to send.

He shares why he believes that every decision about font choice, spacing, color, and layout has the potential to deepen the impression your work can make on people.

David is best known for his typography, but his bold photography treatments are essential to his designs as well.

In this course you'll learn:

  • What makes logos successful and how to iterate on different logo directions.
  • Using the color in your work and creating a design that reflects the true essence of a brand.
  • How to work with clients, starting form the brief through collaborating with clients to achieving the most compelling results possible.

Overall, going through this course, David offers big-picture advice for designers, ranging from where to base yourself to the merits of working for free.

David also shares a simple yet powerful exercise to inspire you to think about your future, what you want to accomplish as a graphic designer, and what you are doing to make that happen.

‍Enroll in this course now

6. Customizing Type

Join design icon Aaron Draplin as he shares tried and true techniques for customizing type–an essential skill for graphic designers of all levels.

Master typography for every branding, logo, and identity project.

Draplin teaches you to avoid "default" typeface settings and to take ownership of your design by managing the forms, in-between spaces, and relationships of the letters you're working with.

Customizing Type—Aron Draplin

In this 90-minute class, you'll follow along as Draplin digs for antique typographic references and then creates several type treatments of his own to design merchandise for Portland, his beloved hometown.

In this course, you'll learn to:

  • Customize letterforms
  • Discover reference material
  • Own the space between characters
  • Sketch type from scratch
  • Prep a file for print
  • Rebuild typefaces from scratch

Over 31,000 students enrolled in this course.

The course is totally free if you sign up for 1 month free trial and cancel it before 30 days are up.

Plus if you decide to keep it on, the subscription only costs you $13/mo and you'll have access to many different courses on Skillshare.

Enroll in this course now

7. Graphic Design Specialization

This course is offered by CalArts and has over 224,544 students enrolled so far—which makes it into the most comprehensive graphic design course available on the internet.

The most hands-on design course for creatives.

According to the instructors, graphic design ‘lives’ among us, and they’re committed to teaching you how to be good at it.

Graphic Design Specialization—free graphic design course on Coursera

Note: This specialization course is not a single course as it encompasses four other sequences that will help you understand the science behind graphic design.

You will get exposed to the fundamental skills required to make sophisticated designs: historical context and communication through images and type.

Here’s a general overview of the aspects you’ll learn in this course:

  • Editorial design—You’ll learn how to craft and edit designs professionally.
  • Interface design—In this area, the instructors teach you how to create vivid designs that are aesthetically pleasing.
  • Motion graphics—You’ll learn how to play around and tweak your designs for improved visual appeal.

Finally, you’ll get a certification from Coursera once you complete the course.

Click here to enroll now.

8. Fundamentals of Graphic Design

This 4-week course covers the foundational elements of graphic design, including typography, image-making, working with shapes, and composition.

The best live design class to help you master fundamentals.

This course is taught by Michael Worthington—the founding partner Counterspace LA—an established author and professional in matters designs.

Fundamentals of Graphic Design—free graphic design course.

Get to know more about Michael as he walks you through his professional career journey and talks about challenges that graphic designer face.

The significant advantage of this course is that it is not just about listening but doing and implementing—it offers practical exercises and homework assignments.

The course is divided into four weeks, with each week covering a specific topic:

  • Week 1—Fundamentals of Image-making
  • Week 2—Fundamentals of Typography
  • Week 3—Fundamentals of Shape and Color
  • Week 4—Fundamentals of Composition

Once you’re through with the course, the instructor provides more valuable resource for students who want to further pursue their studies in graphic design.

Enroll in this course now.

9. Graphic Design for Beginners

This graphic design course is taught by Derrick Mitchell and is offered through Skillshare.

The most in-depth graphic design course for beginners.

Even though the lessons covered in this course are in-depth, Derrick had to compress everything about graphic design in just 90 minutes.

Graphic Design for Beginners—free graphic design course.

This course is geared to help you learn how to design and use mockups in Adobe Photoshop—an essential skill to present your design work.

You’ll learn how to make your designs look fresh and creative and how you can apply basic design “tricks” to give your mockups an air of professionalism and conviction.

Like other courses on this list, this course comes with a hands-on class project, which you can use as part of your portfolio.

Overall, this course helps you master all the skills you need to become a successful graphic designer that works with big clients.

And if that’s not enough, the instructor walks you through his thought process in design while pointing out the mistakes he’s made in the past so you can avoid them in your career.

Enroll in this course now

10. Graphic Design Masterclass

This is the ultimate course that covers basic design tools like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign to help you master Adobe CC and produce your graphic design work faster and easier.

Learn how to make effective designs in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

The course instructor is Chad Neuman, Ph.D. who will teach you about basic design theory, branding, and logo design in this very practical course that focuses primarily on using graphic design software.

Graphic Design Specialization—free graphic design course.

The course was updated in 05/2020 with close to 19,903 students enrolled and now cost only $13.99 discounted from $199.99.

Overall, this course is geared towards beginners who want to learn the basics of graphic design and its application.

Even better, intermediates who want to learn more about graphic design can still enroll in this course.

Throughout the course, you will apply new skills to an example of logo and branding package design project which you can present to potential clients.

In this course, you'll learn how to:

  • Create effective designs in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.
  • Apply color theory and typography practices
  • Design an online ad, an infographic, and a postcard.

You will need a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, but if you don't have one—no worries, you can use a 30-day free trial.

The biggest advantage of enrolling in this course is that Chad teaches you how to apply color and typography in your work to produce better designs.

You will also learn about various design principles such as repetition, proximity, alignment, contrast, rhythm, and negative spaces.

If you’re ready to learn additional skills in graphic design at no extra cost, enroll in this course today!

Enroll in this course now

How To Choose A Graphic Design Course

No matter if you're a newbie to graphic design, or you already have some skills—my list includes something for everyone.

Choosing a perfect course might pose a challenge as there are countless of classes available online—so how to know which one is best for you?

Graphic design is a very broad term and encapsulates many sub disciplines like typography, color theory, layout and grid and so on.

Depending on where you are as of now in your career, you might want to solidify the basics with some courses for beginners, or supplement your skills with more advanced classes for professionals.

Graphic design is an ever evolving discipline—with new tools and techniques popping up literally every month.

That's why you need to constantly refresh your skills and look for new and faster ways to execute on your ideas.

You have to be up to date by updating your skills systematically if you want to gain competitive edge as a graphic designer.

I recommend you to do not overthink it and just check out a few courses that seem interesting to you—remember that even if you already know some of the basics, repetition in the mother of skill.

That's why its always a good idea to learn from different experts and professionals—even if the material overlaps a bit, it will ultimately solidify your knowledge and open your eyes to different perspectives.

Conclusions

Becoming a graphic designer does not have to be done at school these days.

In fact, nowadays so you have so many courses online, that it doesn't make much sense to spend years in design school to get your diploma.

You would be much better off spending this time learning from some of the best designers in the field, developing your style and building your portfolio.

If you go through at least a few of these graphic design courses from my list, I promise you that you will become very good at your craft.

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