If you’re running your own website, you may find that it quickly becomes an expensive proposition, especially if you’re having to “farm out” your graphic design. The most highly-ranked websites have great graphics and are frequently updated, so hiring a professional to manage graphic design can become cost-prohibitive for many startups. But learning graphic design on your own isn’t impossible, and doing your own graphic design can be a fun and creative departure from blogging and technical upkeep.
Choose the Right Tools
Most businesses and companies use PhotoShop for their graphic design needs, and while this is a wonderful and user-friendly program, a lot of startups prefer GIMP, a free program that you can download from the Internet. There are major differences between GIMP and PhotoShop, but many of the techniques can translate from one to the other, meaning that if you learn GIMP, it’ll be easier to learn PhotoShop later. PhotoShop is much easier to use and more user-friendly, but GIMP can be a perfectly acceptable way to do graphic design, even if it takes a little bit longer to learn.
Find a Tutorial
There are hundreds of tutorials on YouTube or Lynda.com that help you with learning the basics of GIMP or PhotoShop. Going through some of these tutorials can help you to get started, and provide you with some ideas for practice projects to help you hone your skills.
The simplest graphics to create are going to be text-based logos, so begin with something like that. Adding icons or graphics to logos can be your next big project, and quotation graphics should come next. A quote graphic takes a free stock background, adds a layer of color to lighten or darken it, and then tops it with a famous quote. These are wonderful for Instagram and Tumblr.
The Harder Stuff
Once you have the basics down, try an infographic. These graphics combine the skills you’ve learned with layers and text into a graphic that shares beautifully on Pinterest or Facebook. As a general rule, avoid photo manipulation or creating something from scratch until your skill level increases – while these can be fun to play with, they’re notoriously difficult for beginners to master.
Learn from One Another
Communities like DeviantArt are a great place to meet other graphics junkies, as well as a great place to find free resources like brushes, stock images, and tutorials. But whenever you’re using a tool designed by another person, remember that the resources are a creative production, so make sure that you follow the instructions and use proper attribution or avoid using copyrighted material.
Any works in the public domain are works that are not protected by copyright. As a general rule, these works are designed by creators who have been dead for 50 or 70 years, but check your country’s laws about copyright before making an assumption. Quotations and short excerpts (usually 2-3 sentences) can be used in graphics under Fair Use, as long as those quotations are properly attributed to the creator.
Many online works are protected by a Creative Commons copyright, and specific information about these copyrights can be found at creativecommons.org. The CC licenses can be tweaked to meet a creator’s unique feelings about the sharing of materials, and many graphic designers will want to protect their own creations using a CC license once they begin creating new and unique designs.
Graphic design is a fun, creative way for web designers and social media experts to create compelling, engaging content, and it’s a tremendous blessing for those of us who have a great vision and want to share that with the world.