Best free or very cheap resources to learn graphic design software and everything else about it?

I can only learn with e-books or very good written guides, i can’t learn with videos because i don’t understand spoken english very well and also i lose my concetration, when i read something my mind absorb the information far more easier, thus or youtube aren’t for me, i like videos if they have subtitles only but there aren’t any so i would rather learn with books, the problem is that the best books cost a lot of $ and i can’t afford any money at all, i can barely afford anything, can anyone suggest something? i want to learn everything about graphic design, i really like it but im stuck, self learning is tough.

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Learning software isn’t about reading manuals. Using software is all about making it DO what YOU want it to do. Don’t let your design be limited by your software knowledge. It’s all about the creation of actual work. Unless you are doing work constantly, work that is offering you design challenges, you won’t learn the software proficiently.

You might think this is really silly but for Indesign and Illustrator, just download and read the user manual.
I keep those two PDFs in a folder on my desktop.
They may even be available in your native language.
You won’t remember it all, but at least you’ll retain enough of it to be able to go back and look when you need to.

As for photoshop, I’m no help there. If I have to make it do something I want it to do, I have to watch tutorials. And I might be looking up the same way to do something three months apart because I just don’t do the same thing over and over. There is just no book description that works with that program.

As to other software, which ones?

I mostly just open the programs, dive right in and start figuring out how it works. When I get stumped, I’ll Google the problem I’m having or open the user guide. Like you, I don’t learn all that well from videos. I do, however, sometimes find Adobe’s manuals useful, but never before I’ve spent a lot of time just playing with the software to see what it does.

Interesting, im kinda confused tbh because when you ask people about how to become a graphic designer, they say learn software first but the question is what’s the most efficient way to learn software? shall i learn software through serious work and ignore studying manuals/guides? e.g. instead of studying manuals, i will just try to master how to make a professional logo right away through tutorials and this will help me grasp some of the software functions at the same time. Studying software is really too general especially when it comes to photoshop, its a chaotic software, i doubt you can learn it without actually working with it on some project. So do you think i should study specific stuff like logos,brochures etc and ignore general stuff? Generally can anyone suggest specific steps on learning graphic design? e.g. on coding you just have to go through a language guide and then you start creating stuff otherwise it;s very hard to do something serious, on graphic design do you create stuff right away and you master it on the go? i remember i learned word and some canva when i made my book, i didn’t study them before hand, i just googled what i couldn’t figure out, of course photoshop is more complex but it’s not a programming language, googling stuff may work.

Lastly, do you think there is some merit on studying design theory right now? or should i focus on work first and then go for theoretic stuff?

In a university program, you would learn these things in tandem, with various classes focusing on each in a well-planned curriculum of required courses.

The subjects you mentioned are all interrelated and build upon each other, so I wouldn’t approach them in a strictly sequentially way, as in I’ll master this first before moving on to that.

If you’re trying to do this on your own outside a formal school environment, I’d probably suggest spending more or less equal amounts of time on all the things you mentioned.

When learning on one’s own, people tend to spend more time on what they like best or find easiest. I might suggest making a special effort to avoid getting caught in that trap and, instead, spending more time on those things you find difficult.

One big pitfall in trying to master a big, diverse subject on one’s own is that there’s no teacher guiding your progress to make sure that you don’t neglect something important.

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Just a suggestion, but if you would use paragraphs, it would make your posts easier for us to read. :slight_smile:


I’m not sure who these people are who are telling you to learn the software first. Several of the good colleges out there don’t even let you on a computer until you have a solid grounding in theory, somewhere after your first two years.
You won’t learn to build good logos by just using the software.
There is a lot more to a logo beyond the pretty picture, and a lot more behind the pretty picture that makes it a reproducible logo.

Marketing theory, color theory, psychology, demographics, metrics and research all go into making a good logo. The art is secondary to all that and more. Then there are the mechanics of the logo itself. Is it properly constructed to be reproducible in any medium from web to print to a sign on the wall. Are colors properly identified so they can be reproduced across media.

Also understand that a lot of the so-called logo tutorials you will find online don’t take any of the mechanics into account. I sent Adobe an nastygram about one of their tutorials because what they had shown was not properly informative and certainly not the most “cost effective” way of creating a logo (ie if I have to take your file apart to use the pathfinder to clean it up, you are going to pay my company the hourly desktop charge at $$$ per hour. Yes, 3 figures. Low 3-figures, but so unnecessary.) I just looked and that particular POS tutorial is still up and running. So no, I don’t recommend tutorials for learning to make logos.

Yes, I think people learn software and assume that graphic design follows automatically. It doesn’t. Knowing how to use software is useful, but it only makes you a software operator. Not a designer.

READING books on composition and colour theory seems odd to me. However, you could study composition and colour theory by LOOKING at books, magazines, examples of graphic design. Studying is a good way to learn, as long as you are critically thinking while studying.


I like the graphic design theory but can you self learn this stuff without spending money? i have found some books but they cost too much. Googling looks questionable.

Are you attempting to do graphic design as a profession or are you just a hobbyist?

Graphic design is no different from any other trade profession. You go to school, you learn a little bit, you get a job as a junior, you learn a lot more from someone who can teach you the ropes. Even with a solid grounding, it takes years to learn to do it right.

I’m not sure where you are located, but here in the US it is practically impossible to get a job without a 4 year degree and close to 2 years of industry experience. And that’s an Entry Level job.

I get not being able to afford books, or classes. Have you at least considered ways to make that happen? Loans? Scholarships? Are you near a city with a fairly sizable library that may have the books for you to borrow?

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A comprehensive education in graphic design will include the study of history, criticism, aesthetics and technique. It seems a lot of people who are starting out, and trying to self-teach, limit their focus to technique… on how to use the tools. It leaves them with an inadequate skill set, and that will hurt them when it comes time to find paying work.

You can piece together textual resources to teach yourself the history and techniques, but you have to get criticism and aesthetics through meaningful interaction with knowledgeable designers.

Best approach if your finances are limited might be to find a local graphic designer to apprentice under. Offer to run errands or do menial tasks in exchange for them teaching you what they know. The Renaissance produced artists like Michelangelo and Da Vinci with that approach to art education.

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Get used copies (in very good condition) of Adobe’s Classroom in a Book series for the programs you want to learn. Work through them quickly, then resell them The books have a high resale value (until the next version comes out). Net, you should only be out a few dollars.

A local graphic designer is not going to take on a totally unskilled “apprentice.” Especially not a freelance designer. Most are far too busy trying to find work for themselves for tomorrow to take on an unschooled helper, especially with the multitudes of half-qualified students clamoring to be interns, and the absolute time suck it is to “teach what they know” to just one of those already half-educated interns.

You would probably have to PAY the designer for such an arrangement, as if the designer were a private tutor.

There aren’t enough errands in the day (unless you want to count grocery shopping and doing laundry) and while you might graduate to production work at some point, even that has to be taught and monitored. After you learn to use the programs proficiently.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to take a few night classes at a community college for low cost/free. I know at least in the United States, it is easy to get affordable education at community colleges.

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Hello, I am also stuck in this dilemma. I want to learn how to do graphic design. Is there an affordable graphic design software? Or do I have to subscribe to one every month?

you can find similar programs, but Adobe CC is the program used in the industry. There is a monthly subscription (discount for students).

Check out the program Gimp to start with. It is similar to Photoshop.

Great info! Thanks for sharing!

Look for old “Adobe Classroom in a book” for whatever programs online. You can find them for about $5 each. They are old, but they cover all the most important tools and techniques you need and follow a simple straight forward lesson plan.

You might be able to find an older Educational copy of the software, but this is the big dilemma for new artists these days.

Where are you from?
There’s a lot of videos in YouTube in many languages where u can learn about colour theory or art… those kind of thing teach you in school.
I hope you can find what you need, if it’s for free, the better. But remember that we spend a lot of years studying so we can work as professional GD.

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