How to start?

I want to ask for some advices…

I’m a teen and a beginner in design. I’ve won some not serious design contests. I’m interested in what I need to start filling my portfolio with attractive works? Maybe You can advice some principles of operation, books, good designers or freelance exchanges?

Thank You!

Welcome to the forum cereus.

Graphic design can take you many different directions. Decide which direction you are most interested in, and then the books you need will be obvious.

Do some volunteer work to fill your portfolio. Don’t try to get paid yet. It will only distract you from learning.


Are you still in school? Does your school have any art or design subjects? Can you talk to your art teacher to see if there are any resources they can help you with at school?

Are you contemplating going to school to learn design? When I was a teen and had to apply for various design schools, we had to have an application portfolio. So anything you do right now could be working towards that application portfolio. Don’t be afraid of replacing less strong work with better work as you improve. Seriously, talk to a teacher or a recruiter about what is in a portfolio.

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Thanks a lot for answer! I’ll try to search for some volunteer work…

Every single time I’ll go with the same answer when someone asks this question. In the long term, get yourself educated. Go to university and learn your craft. It’s a long haul.

Once you have your degree and then get your first job is when you really start learning the trade, but for 90% of people you need the degree to get you through the door (there will always be exceptions) if you want to play in the big leagues. That said, in all the years,I’ve never once been asked about it, it’s all about the portfolio. I just don’t think I’d have even got in the door without one. It is just assumed you do (and, of course, it’s on your CV (résumé))

Sorry if this sounds off-putting. There are too many charlatans out there these days who seem to want it all too easy. They want the glory without the effort, because being a designer is a cool job and as a consequence are extremely lightweight. Don’t become one of them. It doesn’t work that way. It can be cool, but often it is hard work and long hours. What it is though, is hugely rewarding.

The old adage that, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly, applies here. If this is to be a life-long career, it’s worth putting the hard yards in now, in your formative years. Nothing worth having ever comes easy. (How many clichés can I get into one paragraph?!!)

It may be hard work, but it’s worth the effort. I wouldn’t swap the 18 hour days, the frustration, the deadlines, for anything. I am lucky enough to have worked on some great projects with some great people who I’d have to pinch myself when talking to. I would never have had these opportunities if corners had been cut in that journey. It’ll give you a great life if you do it thoroughly and get yourself a good education and good experience.

I think it’s a great idea to get ahead of the game and get some experience before you start college. Helps both your portfolio and understanding of what it’s all about.

Just my 2 cents’ worth, for what it’s worth

Good luck and enjoy it.


Yes, I’m still in school. But my school doesn’t have any art or design subject… Now I’m searching for design cources.
Thank you for advice! I’ll try to find design school…

Take any and all drawing classes available. Too many designers have immense talent but can’t draw a lick. Draw something, anything, everyday - even if it’s just a 5 minute sketch of a tree.

By doing this you are getting three huge benefits:

  1. When you sit with a client you want to be able to do a thumbnail sketch in 30 seconds or so, just to see if what your client is telling you is what you are providing. You have to be able to pull their ideas out of their heads and present them back to because most people cannot visualize ideas.
  2. You’re training the smallest muscles in your hand - meaning, the more you do it, the easier it is.
  3. You are training your eyes. If you can see it. [with practice] You can draw it.

Outside the box:
The printing industry, especially Flexographic and Lithographic (i.e. not digital), is a great place to find an internship in the US, in Europe you can try for an apprenticeship. You can learn how printing works so that when you do your designs, they will print correctly.

A basic foundation in the history of graphic design and practical application will help you hit the ground running. Although there are many resources that are available to learn the graphic design on your own. But don’t set your thinking to high at first, as it will take some time to study for years to become great and successful.

My starting advice to myself (and to you!) when I was a beginner would be:

  1. Practice. No matter how much you read on the topic, it’s all meaningless if you don’t put it into practice. At first it’ll seem hard, and there’s going to be a steep learning curve in the beginning - but persevere and compare your work from a month ago to your current work. If you’ve practiced consistently, the improvements will be noticeable, and the sense of accomplishment is honestly what keeps me going!

  2. Related to point no. 1, set personal goals for yourself. No matter how small your goal is (example: produce 5 figure sketches today), as long as you have something to work towards, you won’t feel as if you’re working towards something that’s far and meaningless. I’ve been there, and setting goals + accomplishing them can put you in the headspace where you feel confident to move forward with bigger things. This applies for learning and practicing.

And finding creators on Youtube/art streams on Twitch that you like can help too! I personally learn a lot from these people, especially in drawing livestreams where you can ask questions and have a good chance of getting an answer; or, the artist usually will give out pointers and you can watch their work process, which can help you learn something new.

Hope this helps in some way - there are tons of free resources and tutorials out there on the web for you to get started, but remember to get your basics down pat and practice before you worry too much about your portfolio (esp. since you’re still in school).


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