Want to Teach Yourself Design? 15 Easy Tips for Beginners

Paul Schetelich

Lead Designer

If you cringe at the thought of handling web design on your own, you’re not alone. Though many people claim to know a thing or two about design, the truth is that most of this knowledge is very limited. Unless you went to school specifically for web design, it’s just too massive of a topic to be completely fluid in it. But, this shouldn’t intimidate you from trying. Knowing the basics of web design is extremely helpful and will allow you to master a host of new things related to it.

Let’s take a look at these tips for beginning web designers. You can avoid common beginner mistakes and set yourself on the path to great web design success.

1. Tutorials are Your Friend

Let’s make that best friend. As you begin to explore the various web design programs that are out there, you’ll need to get comfortable using them. Check out the tutorials that are posted on YouTube or the software’s website. They are simple and easy to follow, and you can explore the software at your convenience.

2. Learn to Master Photoshop

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If there’s one program that you’ll need to learn how to use, it’s Photoshop. Photoshop is an extensive program, so give yourself plenty of time to read the literature, watch the tutorials and even take a few classes. Adobe offers Photoshop Courses at discount, but you can find a wide selection of online courses for free.

3. Get Inspired from Others’ Work

One of the best ways to get familiar with web design is by looking at the various works of art already on the Web. Study as many designs as you can, and follow websites or social media accounts that inspire you. But, be careful not to steal anyone’s work. It’s totally fine to be influenced by others, just make sure that you’re incorporating your own elements as well. Web designers take copyright rules seriously, as they should.

4. Stay Organized with Downloads

First of all, you don’t need every brush, clipart, and plug-in out there. Only download what you need, as most essential tools will come with Photoshop anyway. But for those extras that you do see yourself using, keep them in the correct folders so that you stay organized and know what you have.

5. Start an Idea Journal

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A diary or journal is a great place to start jotting down all the big ideas that come to mind. As you find examples of work that you like online or in the real world, record them in a notebook. It’s impossible to remember everything off the top of your head, and anytime you need encouragement, all you have to do is open the journal.

6. Get to Know Other Designers

If you want to be a designer, you need to mesh with the designers. Take every opportunity to network whether it’s on the forums, at school/work or on social media. Depending on your job, it may be easy to build this network. But if you don’t spend a lot of time with other designers, follow some interesting design blogs, comment on their work and start building relationships that way.

7. Be on the Forefront of Trends

When you check out information online, make sure that it’s current. Design tips from 2008 are not going to help you out today. Explore the latest trends in web design, and don’t be afraid to try some of the new things that designers are experimenting with. At the same time, you don’t need to try everything new. Only pick the concepts that will flow with your style of design.

8. Build Your Portfolio - You’re Client #1!

This is such an important step, yet many young designers fail to build out a professional portfolio, and then they don’t have anything to show for themselves. Your portfolio will be a testament to your work, and people will want to see it. As you get more clients, your portfolio will naturally grow. In the beginning, be your own client and think of a website that you would like to design. Every story needs a beginning.

9. Eat, Drink and Sleep Design

Don’t practice web design on odd days or even days or weekends. It’s your passion - and hopefully your career one day - so build it into your lifestyle. Practice makes perfect after all, so the more you experiment with Photoshop and different design elements, the more comfortable you’ll become in offering new things to clients.

10. Ask for Feedback

One of the best ways to see your work from someone else’s viewpoint is to ask for feedback. Design is personal, so it’s not always easy to take constructive criticism. That said, it’s part of the job and you’ll need to learn to take it. Don’t let your emotions guide you. Take the criticism constructively and build on it. This is good practice for when you deal with picky clients.

11. Think Creatively, but Simply

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As a young designer, it’s better to do your initial projects well rather than trying things you’ve never heard of just to be trendy. As you excel at the projects, you’ll gain a strong customer base and be able to dive into more complicated projects. At the same time, don’t leave everything up to the default settings. Create your own effects so that the work is truly yours.

12. Avoid Making Comparisons

It’s natural to want to compare your work to others when you’re still figuring things out. Usually designers do this because they’re not sure how their work stacks up to the competition. While it’s fine to look for insight, avoid comparisons. Your work is different and should be in a category of its own. If you compare it to work that’s less, you’ll be overconfident. If you compare it to work that’s better, you may lose your motivation.

13. Pay Attention to the Details

The details matter. This is what will separate your work from others. Think about the typography, background, logo or menu buttons and how they affect your design. If you ignore these small but significant details, it could make your overall design look lazy.

14. Make Your Own Clipart

So many designers head to the Web when they want to find clipart for their projects. While there is some great clipart out there, you risk losing time if you don’t find a piece that suits you. If you’re in a pinch, use what’s on the Web. Otherwise, make your own clipart in Photoshop.

15. Be a Great Influence

You may be a beginning designer today, but one day, you’ll be an expert. Remember that we all have to start somewhere, so as you climb up the ladder, be a good influence on young designers. For some reason, designers aren’t always supportive of each other, something you may have seen on the forums. By treating fellow designers poorly, it makes you look insecure about your own abilities.

Web design is not just about technique. It takes practice, persistence and patience. Most importantly, you must believe in yourself and not be afraid to be unique, even if  it means that not everything will be well received. As you start your journey in web design, take the time to experiment in Photoshop, network with other designers and establish your own distinct style.

About the Author: Paul Schetelich

Since the days of sidewalk chalk and finger paints, Paul has been creatively crafting the art of design. With a B.A. in Graphic Design from Monmouth University and a Masters from the Califano School of Art - Paul quickly moved up the ranks at SEMGeeks from Junior Designer to the Lead Designer. With 4+ years of experience in web design Paul is ready to conquer the digital atmosphere.

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