While there are a lot of good online design courses available, there’s also a lot of fluff. If you’re just starting in design, it can be difficult to differentiate between the two. I’ve been there, and now with years of design experience, I have narrowed it down to my 10 best online graphic design courses (from beginner to advanced).
By the way, if you are looking to upskill or even change careers, you are not alone. Consider reading The Best Online Courses for Remote Jobs and Online Business, for our top places to upskill, improve your qualifications, and even receive official certifications.
FYI: This post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking on a link.
Today, we’re surrounded by a digital world. This rapidly changing time has created a great need for creative visual artists. In the past, graphic designers were required to have a bachelor’s degree but that’s no longer the case.
With specializations needed in user experience (for various devices such as mobile and desktops), website design, social media design, and photo editing (just to name a few), you can now get certified in as little as a few months by taking an online course on graphic design — saving you time and money.
After training in graphic design concepts and applying your learning with hands-on practice, it’s possible to find your dream remote graphic design job.
Whether you’re ready to invest in your new profession or are looking for free courses online, I have compiled great options that will prepare you for a profitable design career.
If you’re wanting to work from home as a graphic designer, check out our article on Where to Find the Best Remote Graphic Design Jobs.
Before choosing graphic design courses online, there are several factors you will need to consider.
Online graphic design courses can take a few hours to several months to complete. You will need to consider your commitment level when choosing a course. If you’re ready to switch careers, you’ll need more training. If you’re familiar with the field of graphic design or you just want to freelance in a specialization such as photo editing, you can usually find a couple of shorter courses that will help you transition.
Are you ready to invest in your new career or do you need free graphic design courses to see if design is right for you? Fortunately, both options are readily available. If you’re switching careers, consider investing in paid courses that will provide you with key information like where to find jobs, how to work with clients, and how to manage your time.
Not all online graphic design courses are for beginners. Carefully read the course description to see if there are any prerequisites like software or basic design concepts. If you are new to the field, you should look into courses that provide graphic design basics and an overview of design principles. Intermediate to advanced learners can focus on courses that challenge current design knowledge and provide new techniques and design trends.
Having a computer and graphic design software is a must. Although you don’t always need an expensive computer or the latest software, depending on the type of graphic design you choose, video editing, for example, the tech requirement costs can add up. You will need to invest in the proper equipment before starting any online courses. If you are unsure what to purchase, you can always ask the course creator or a graphic design mentor what they recommend.
Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at my 10 must-try courses to becoming a kick-ass graphic designer!
Skillshare has over 31,000 courses taught by creators who are working in their field. Creators are from all over the world and you can learn about virtually any subject matter. Skillshare has a 14-day premium trial so there is no excuse if you want to learn a new skill.
Since anyone can create a class on Skillshare, it can be difficult to choose a course that you will get the most out of your time. While Skillshare praises its creators, it also offers “Skillshare Originals.”
These original courses are created by Skillshare’s in-house team and often feature current influencers and industry leaders.
Graphic Design Basics is taught by designers Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips, co-directors of the Graphic Design MFA Program at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).
This course is based on their textbook, Graphic Design: The New Basics, and offers classic principals on how to succeed in design. Great for all levels but beginners will get the most out of the class.
As a graphic designer, typography is one of the most important elements of your projects. Typography can explain your subject matter, catch the reader’s eye, and even evoke an emotional response. Taking a deep dive into typography can take your graphic design work from amateur to professional.
Coursera provides access to over 3,000 courses and professional certificates. Over 170 universities and companies like John Hopkins University and Google have provided course programs so you can advance your career on your own time while saving money too.
You can earn unlimited certificates so no matter how many times you change course, you can still get certified with Coursera.
Introduction to Typography is taught by professor and entrepreneur, Anther Kiley. He has taught at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).
The course is 2 of 5 in the Graphic Design Specialization and you will not only learn about the importance of typography but complete a peer-reviewed typesetting exercise along with a full-scale poster design. After taking all five courses, you will earn a certificate of completion.
Once you understand the basic principles of graphic design, it’s time to learn the software. Graphic designers most commonly work with Adobe products such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. While this software works for print design, it is also used in part for web design and social media.
Udemy has an excellent masterclass in Adobe software by creator Lindsay Marsh. Lindsay has created 20 courses and studied at Parsons, The Pratt Institute, and NYU. She has over 15 years of experience in graphic design and is currently freelancing in the field.
After purchasing one of her courses, you gain access to her Facebook group where you can ask questions and get advice for all things graphic design.
The Graphic Design Masterclass was recently updated in September 2020 to include a step-by-step process to becoming a graphic designer, brainstorming techniques, book design, and Photoshop presentations.
Once you have completed Lindsay’s course, consider putting your skills to the test in her follow-up course (I swear we’re not besties with Lindsay).
Using your new software skills and confidence in your career path, get closer to making a profit from a job you love.
Learn how to create images for digital marketing campaigns (Facebook and Instagram), photo retouching, Golden Ratio, infographics, logo design, magazine covers, and more. Lindsay will even show you how to create an online graphic design portfolio so you can land your first job.
Talking about creating a design portfolio and landing your first job, check out How to Start a Graphic Design Business for Freelancers
HubSpot Academy is known for its inbound marketing certification, but did you know it offers graphic design courses too?
HubSpot currently offers 2 courses, graphic design principles and best practices, and graphic design essentials. Complete both courses in just over an hour. These are great for beginners or a refresher for those who create imagery for digital marketing.
Building a brand or revamping a brand is a common graphic design request. More than likely, part of that project will include the brand’s social media. Canva is a cloud-based graphic design software that offers a free version and a paid pro version.
Canva makes it easy to craft social media templates that look professional in just a few minutes.
Canva has a “learn” section on their website that offers short lessons on branding, presentations, and more. Its most popular course includes everything you need to know regarding designing for social media including short interviews with 3 social media experts.
Even advanced designers need a refresher. John McWade, founder of Before & After magazine and former senior staff author at LinkedIn Learning provides insight into typography, layout, colour, and more. Each episode presents a technique that can be completed in under 10 minutes.
Once you hone your skills as a graphic designer and find your design style, finding an avenue for passive income is key to building an income that doesn’t rely on a 9-5 or consistently finding freelance clients.
However, if you don’t have any marketing skills or don’t know where to start, passive income can be difficult to accrue. Fortunately for you, there is a Udemy course that gives you an in-depth look at how to generate passive income.
Learn the exact steps course creator, Angelina Samadhi, used to generate over $350K just by selling her graphics online. The course includes pricing strategies, free traffic, finding your niche, and even setting up an eCommerce store.
While some graphic designers are expected to complete a bachelor’s degree, it certainly isn’t the only way to land your dream design job.
A good number of accredited schools offer professional online graphic design certificate courses, ensuring that those who are short on funds or looking to enter the job field quicker can have a fair shot at employment after completion.
A certificate can benefit a graphic designer looking to build an up-to-date portfolio or simply add a useful skill to an existing job; for example, if you’re a social media manager, it might be useful to know how to edit photos and design posts.
Certificate programs generally consist of 8-13 courses, offer a flexible schedule so you can still work full-time if needed, and offer completion in less than 2 years.
To earn a certificate, a high school diploma or GED is typically required. Sometimes a college degree is required if the certificate is specialized.
Most certificate programs start with the basics and do not require the student to have prior knowledge of graphic design. However, some require a general knowledge of design software so it is best to check with the certification program before you begin.
You can search the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD) directory for accredited institutions or the Professional Association for Design (AIGA) for graphic design degrees and certifications by State that are NASAD accredited.
User experience design, often referred to as UX design, is an up and coming sector of graphic design. Since graphic design is always evolving due to technology and society, it is important to gain graphic design skills that provide work advancement opportunities.
BrainStation’s UX Design Bootcamp provides a fast-paced 3-month certification program in which students are provided with hands-on learning, user behavior, needs, and motivation training, interface and responsive design, and guidance on getting hired after finishing the program.
Tuition is $15,000, but if you are serious about UX Design, don’t let that figure deter you. Completion of the program allows you access to hiring partners including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Spotify, Samsung, and more.
The New York Institute of Art and Design (NYIAD) is offering an online Graphic Design Course. The NYIAD is a well known, well trusted provider of online education.
The course is an introduction to Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustration. After completion of the course, students will be able to become certified in Photoshop and Illustrator through the Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) Certification Exam.
This certification allows students the opportunity to enter production-level web or print design jobs or even start their own freelance design business.
Students will receive video instruction, over 100 on-screen tutorials, and produce a well-rounded graphic design portfolio. All projects are reviewed by a professional graphic designer who provides one-to-one feedback.
I hope you found the best online graphic design course for you from amongst our top favorites. Now that you know what you need to consider before choosing an online course and the best options available, I’m confident you’ll be upskilled, up-paid and kicking goals in no time.
As a little refresher, our top pick is this course titled Graphic Design Masterclass – Learn GREAT Design.
Do you know some rad graphic designers who are more ‘show’ than ‘go’? I’m sure they’d appreciate it if you shared this article with them so they can upskill and fall by the wayside.