You can learn graphic design at home, for free. Seriously. There are so many free courses to learn graphic design online, but you need to know where to look. Here’s a list of the best places I’ve found online that have free courses to learn graphic design online, via LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, Skillshare, YouTube, and Envato Tuts.
Linked In Learning: Learn It All In A Month
LinkedIn Learning, previously Lynda.com, offers a ton of graphic design courses. With a LinkedIn account you can get access to LinkedIn Learning Premium, which is normally about $35 a month (CAD). Fortunately, there’s a one month free trial that gives you full access to all the courses without paying a cent. I did this a few months ago and it was totally worth it.
The best free courses I found for graphic designers on LinkedIn Learning are:
- Layout and Composition: Advanced Principles by Sean Adams
Aaron Draplin Takes On a Logo Design Challenge
- John McWade’s Graphic Design Tips & Tricks Weekly
Since it’s tied into your LinkedIn account, each course you take can be automatically added to your LinkedIn profile. This can make you a much more attractive prospect to future employers or clients. There are over 700 courses on LinkedIn Learning just for graphic design. If you have the time, do the free one month trial and take as many courses as you physically can in that month. You will learn a ton, totally for free. Just remember to cancel your subscription before the trial ends, otherwise you’ll end up paying for the next month (Which is still worth it, but it depends on your budget).
Coursera: Graphic Design Specialization
Coursera actually has an entire graphic design specialization of 5 courses you can take to get a certificate.
They’re taught by the California Institute of the Arts. Typically, you’d pay a monthly fee ($69) to take the courses, but you can actually choose to audit each of the individual courses for free. You don’t get the certificate, but you do get the knowledge without spending a cent. So that’s a win.
The courses are all introductory level, so if you’re wanting to learn graphic design without much of a budget to do so, this is a great option. The courses included are:
- Fundamentals of Graphic Design
- Introduction to Typography
- Introduction to Imagemaking
- Ideas from the History of Graphic Design
- Brand New Brand
I haven’t taken any of the graphic design courses here yet, but I have taken a few other Coursera courses. For the most part, the classes are very professional and you learn a lot. You don’t need to take all five classes at once, or really ever. It’s entirely self-paced, and each course can be taken alone, with or without the rest of the specialization.
Skillshare is one of the most popular educational sources online for creatives. It’s primarily a paid service ($11.75 CAD/month) with a monthly subscription, but there’s also a lot of high quality free content available once you register an account.
You can find some pretty specific free content like digital illustration using Procreate on the iPad, or some broader topics that cover beginner design principles. Ellen Lupton has a bunch of free courses available which are fantastic.
The best free courses on Skillshare are:
- Graphic Design Basics: Core Principles for Visual Design
- Demystifying Graphic Design: How Posters Work
- Typography That Works: Typographic Composition and Fonts
- Designing Repeat Patterns: From Icons to Apparel and Beyond
YouTube: The Futur & The Futur Academy
The Futur provides the highest quality free courses to learn graphic design on YouTube that I’ve seen to date. Channels like The Futur and The Futur Academy offer a ton of high quality educational videos for designers.
Most of the videos are more intermediate level than beginner, but even new designers will get something from here. The topics on The Futur Academy range from typefaces, choosing colours, logo design, and design critiques. The best videos I’ve seen on the Academy channel are:
- How To Use Color – Color Basics
- Graphic Design Tutorial: Typography Design & Art Direction Part 1 + Part 2
- The 3 Rules of Good Logo Design
While the videos from The Futur and The Futur Academy aren’t technically courses, they’re just as good. I’ve learned so much from them I had to include them here. You watch enough of them and you’ll learn a ton about design. Plus, they upload new videos to both channels all the time.
The Futur’s main channel offers some truly amazing content to teach designers the business of design. This is an invaluable resource for freelance designers as well as all creatives. The best videos on this channel are:
- Pricing Design Work & Creativity
- Typography Tutorial – 10 Rules To Help You Rule Type
- How To Improve Your Layout and Typography Critique
Envato Tuts+: Learn Software & Design Basics
I’ve been using Envato for a long time, for stock photos, music, and WordPress themes. I only recently discovered that they also have a fantastic collection of graphic design courses. Within the courses they offer, a small amount of them are completely free. There are fifteen free courses in total, with topics ranging from beginners Photoshop to script lettering. I think the best courses from the bunch are:
- Mastering Script Lettering
- Create An Isometric 3D Text Effect in Adobe Illustrator
- Typography Poster Design in Adobe Photoshop
I really wanted to include free courses to learn graphic design from other popular online educational websites, but much of the free content really wasn’t up to par. A quick look at Udemy’s free design course offerings did not impress me. A lot of the free courses are just sneaky advertisements for non-industry standard design programs that don’t really teach you anything useful. The rest of it is full of poor quality videos that only teach bad design habits. Some even direct you to find pre-made graphics online for logos or to work from generic templates.
In other words, the free Udemy design courses only really teach bad design. Avoid them if possible. As for the rest of Udemy, there does seem to be some quality educational paid graphic design content that isn’t too expensive.
Another popular online course website is EDx, which is similar to Coursera but smaller. I couldn’t really find any real graphic design courses there. There is a course called Digital Design, but it turns out it’s more geared to 3D design than graphic design.
The Best Free Courses to Learn Graphic Design Online – In Summary
As you can see, if you want to only take free courses to learn graphic design, you absolutely can. Even if you only watch the courses/videos I’ve listed above you’ll learn so much.
If, at some point, you want to invest some money into your design education, I think LinkedIn Learning or Skillshare are probably your best options. Or you could check out the The Futur’s list of courses on their website, though you’ll learn so much just on their YouTube channels alone.
Are there other free courses to learn graphic design that I should add to this list? What are some of your favorite free courses to learn graphic design online? Let me know in the comments below!
If you’re on a budget but want to start learning graphic design there are some great books out there to read. One of the very best and least expensive is Know Your Onions: Graphic Design: How to Think Like a Creative, Act like a Businessman and Design Like a God by Drew de Soto. (Currently $23 CAD)
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