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A Beginner’s Guide on How to Become a Better Graphic Designer

As a beginner who wants to become a better graphic designer or web designer we all start learning on our own by reading tutorials around the web. We search things that we like to learn, such as a button effect tutorial, typography, web layouts, illustration, and a lot more. Along the way we end up hopeless, thinking that we can’t be as good as already established designers and then just stop there. Have you been there? I’ve been at that point. And I’m telling you, don’t look down on your skills because every person who strives hard will eventually reach success.

Striving for success without hard work is like looking for fruit in places that you didn’t plant seeds! Useless!

-Rev Run

Be Curious of the things that you cannot do

So you were probably searching the web and came across a great and well-designed website and you were like, “oh, wow! What a lovely design!” Then you probably asked your self these questions:

  1. How did they do these buttons, the shadow effect and 3D effect?
  2. What color scheme did they use?
  3. What is the actual width of the website?

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
- Pablo Picasso

Quick Challenge

First, I’ll assume that you know the basics of Photoshop. Here’s the thing you need to do. Don’t look for a tutorial out of it first, because you probably will end up searching the wrong effect you want to achieve, but instead, open up Photoshop and try to copy the effect of the button.

Sounds hard, right? Since you don’t know how to replicate the technique yet. But what’s good about this is that you will explore the Blending Options Panel and while playing with it, you will probably come across with other bunch of effects until you achieve the effect. I know, I know it will not be a 100% accurate imitation, but the good thing is that you will learn something while playing.

Second, you are curious of what color scheme they used? Well, it’s easy to find out how. Take a screenshot of the website and paste it on Photoshop, then use the Eye Dropper Tool(I) to inspect and find out the color.

For a quicker process, here are some browser extensions:

Finally, here’s how to know the width of the website. It’s basically the same process on how to pick a color, but this time using the Ruler Tool(U).

Browser extensions:

Here is a simple challenge for you to figure out yourself.

Using Blending Options and find out how to make the following buttons as shown in the screenshot bellow without using Stroke.


Post your answer on the comments section and also your thoughts about this article.

By doing so you are learning on your own and that is great, it will boost up your knowledge and creativity in Photoshop.

Read Tons of Tutorial

We all know that not everyone is used to learning and discover something by themselves. Every beginner needs a step by step guide to accomplish certain task that they want to achieve using Photoshop.

The solution for this is to read tons of tutorials that are available on the web. Start with the simple ones.

Here are some great tutorials to improve your Photoshop skills.

If you already know the basics of creating web layouts, banners, and business cards, instead of looking for tutorials look for Quick Tips , this will boost your workflow, make it much faster and much easier.

Now Experiment!

So now that you know the basics and techniques it’s time to experiment a design. I call this Freestyle, you have the freedom to do anything, think creatively based on the knowledge you have learned.

There ain’t no rules around here. We’re trying to accomplish something.
- Thomas Edison

So here is an example:

If you want to apply some Stitches to your design, based on your knowledge in Photoshop you will think that you can do this by doing the following steps using:

Line Tool(U)

You might think, “hmm.. I think I can do this using Line Tool(U), Adjust the Options and decrease the Opacity in the layer options panel.”

Type Tool(T)

This time there is a part on the layout where you can apply a Stitch on an Ellipse Logo. Then you might say, “I can’t do this using Line Tool,” then start thinking of other alternative of doing so.

Then you might think, “hmm.. I think I can do this by using Text Tool(T), because Text Tool works on Shapes Path. I’ll try to create an Ellipse of about 20px less than the actual width of the base shape, adjust the text spacing in Character Panel, and finally decrease the Opacity.”

Great! You just achieved what you wanted to do based on your knowledge using two tools. It feels like you are a pro now. I know that feel, bro. smile

But seriously, what I’m trying to say is don’t just limit yourself on tutorials, try to think creatively, believe that you can do something in a different way where it can be much easier.

Join Design Communities

After all the hard work of practicing and experimenting you may have created a masterpiece. Now you are looking for a place to showcase your design. I suggest joining deviantART, this is a great design community for starters.

Here is my first Web Interface that I uploaded on deviantART.

Design community alternatives:

Why you need to join a Design Community?

  • Connect and Socialize with other designers with the same interest.
  • Develop skills and experience while sharing your design skills and knowledge with others.
  • Being Active makes your name known. Which is good because you are marketing yourself for free by just participating and showcasing your designs.
  • Probably you’ll Meet your first Client. smile

Some designers create things to show you what they did. I design things to tell you what I solved.
- Brian Yerkes

Join Design Contest

During the time I was in college I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in a design contest in school where top designers from each class were required to join. After that I asked my self, “are there design contests on the web?” and gladly there are. I found out from my friend on deviantART.

During that time, I was on the stage and I have already showcased tons of my designs but still I haven’t got any client and I wanted some cash from all of my hard work. For me, the best solution that time was to join a design contest.

So how do Design Contests work?

Buyers or contest holders run a design contest based on a category like web, print, or logo. Everyone can participate on the design contest and can win.

Where to Join?

Note when joining  a contest:

  • Take this as your first client and meet their needs.
  • Give your client at least 2-3 design alternatives.
  • Show some interest and talk to client on the feedback section.

By doing so, you are letting your client think that you are really interested and he/she will probably choose your work. Then you will be rewarded with a pot of dollars.


  • You will learn to design based on a real word design project. If you will take the contest seriously and gather research based on the Design Brief they attached.
  • This can really boost your creativity.


  • I will say, you have a 1% chance of winning.
  • Requires hard work.
  • Makes you hopeless.

Way back in 2010 I participated on tons of contests from the websites that I mentioned. I wasn’t selected as a winner and that made me really hopeless indeed. But still I participated actively. Then finally the day arrived and I won.

My Winning Entry

One day I read something about Spec Work (Speculative Work). After reading I realized the time and effort that I put in joining design contests that went to nothing. This made me stop joining design contests and thought of other solutions where I can earn money.

Here is a great article to understand what is Spec Work.

I thought I will never join a design contest again but last May 2012 I experienced a down time where I really needed to find money aside from my Job. So what I did was I participated on a design contest again and it really helped me solve my problem during that time.

Here is a good article for you to read.

Share your Ideas by Guest Posting

When I realized that joining design contests is not good for me, I asked my self ,”what if I’ll share my knowledge about designing in Photoshop? The same with the tutorials I read before by great authors.”

That is when I decided to write a tutorial. What I did, I contacted a bunch of web design blogs and asked them if I can write a step by step website template tutorial for them. Most responded negatively. They didn’t think that my level of creativity will suit their website. But there is this one blog that accepted me to write about the said tutorial. Guess what blog? Yeah,  it’s 1stWebDesigner. Which really placed a big smile on my face and I felt really motivated that I will soon provide the blog a great detailed tutorial.

Here is my very first tutorial.

I suggest that you should do it too. Don’t be afraid to write and share your ideas by Guest Posting. I assure you that you will enjoy, earn money and learn more.

Here is a guide for Guest Posting:

Also, there are lots of benefits while you are guest posting about Graphic/Web Design. Which is mentioned in Rakhita’s Article:


If you are just starting to learn web/graphic design I suggest that you follow through the things that I mentioned. Strive hard to be good on your preferred niche, that’s a guarantee that you will achieve your goal to become a good web/graphic designer someday. Just don’t forget to keep on learning and listen to other designers’ feedback because this will really help to improve your skills.


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10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Become a Freelance Web Designer

There are literally hundreds of reasons why you should become a freelance web designer, and three of the best reasons are financial freedom, creative freedom, and you can work just about anywhere you want to.

But let me tell you why it’s a bad idea.

You probably have hundreds of reasons to hate your current job.

Maybe you call in sick occasionally because you just need that extra day off more than you need the money they pay you.

Or perhaps you’ve been delaying that request from a friend from two weeks ago?

Simple reasons, big consequences.

10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Become a Freelance Web Designer

I can cite 100 reasons why you shouldn’t become a freelance web designer, but no one would actually read that list, right? So, here are the top reasons why you shouldn’t be a freelance web designer. For now, at least!

Your goal is to answer NO

1. You are indecisive most of the time.

An office mate once asked you to take the lead on the company party, set it all up and bring it to life, and you managed to pause for over a minute without talking, when you should have simply said “Let me think about it”, “Yes” or “No” depending on how you felt at that moment. Or maybe there was a time when you didn’t ask for a colleague’s help simply because you were shy?

Remember, if you can’t decide instantly, always say you’ll think about it and don’t pause or stare blankly at the person you’re talking to.

Now, why is this grounds for you not to become a freelance web designer?

When web designers work with clients, it’s all about how smooth communication goes for every aspect of the business. From proposing a design, down to signing of contracts or wrapping things up. A moment of hesitation can make or break your credibility, because clients want service providers who are very sure about what they’re doing.

There are a lot of “what should we do here” and “what do you think is best” questions when it comes to web design, and often you’ll need to answer almost instantly because time is of the essence. If it takes you several minutes to think of a solution, or solutions, you’ll have a hard time keeping your clients.

2. You are quick to decide on things.

Contrary to the point above, being too quick to make decision can hurt your career as well. I’m talking mostly about saying yes to every request, accepting every revision request, and basically being a slave to your client’s wishes.

You should learn to say no, or at least hold off on your decision and ask for some time to think about it.

If you are quick to agree or disagree on things, you’ll find yourself either flooded with tasks to do or with clients that leave you after one project.

Solution to 1 and 2

The best move? Think ahead. Learn from your past conversations with clients or employer, read online about what questions to expect, try to peek into the future as much as possible so that you will not be as surprised.

And when it’s totally something new to you, you can always ask for time to think about it. Much safer that way, right?

3. You think it’s easy money.

No, just no. Freelancing is not easy money, nor is it as advertised, “be your own boss”. You know what makes it harder for freelance web designers? It’s not just about satisfying prospective clients with their designs, it’s also about how they market themselves, how they manage their financials, how they outplay several thousands of active competitors, and how they make people want to get them to design for them no matter what the cost.

It’s not easy money, it’s even harder than your current job.

With your current office job you’re not actively searching for clients. Your employer also makes sure you pay enough taxes, and most likely you don’t work over 50-70 hours a week with just one full-time job.

That is totally different from freelancing, especially for freelance web designers who have to always be in the “mood” to be creative or even more challenging, putting out client fires.

To give you an idea, this is the whole process of a friend of mine when it comes to his clients:

  1. Talk about the requirements, colors, width, and other stuff.
  2. Send several wireframes/sketches (in my experience with him he sent me five different designs) and ask client to choose.
  3. Once client chooses, he starts designing in Photoshop based on the wireframe chosen.
  4. If client says he has the freedom to choose his own colors, he presents his design in different colors.
  5. Once every aspect of the design has been agreed on, that’s when the HTML/CSS conversion happens.

Mind you, this conversation happens between two people, no supervisor or manager in between. And the conversation and delivery happens in a matter of hours or less than a week from start to finish depending on how big the project is.

And that is just one aspect of it. Discussions about pricing, contract, and other non-design related stuff comes as well.

Decide, is it easy money? If you enter freelancing with that thought, you’ll be caught unawares and you’ll fail miserably hard.

4. You don’t have at least 5 web design projects you can be proud of.

I know that starting out as a web designer is already hard, but you can’t really hope to be successful if you don’t have at least five great web designs in your portfolio. It doesn’t matter if they are made from your previous job or just for the sole purpose of populating your portfolio, what matters is they can get people’s attention.

They will also serve as a testament that you’re great with what you do. You don’t buy from an online seller without good reviews, right? It works pretty much the same with web design. Clients look for people who can handle their web projects, not people who can promise great designs.

Show them what you can do!

If you have been delaying on building that dream portfolio of yours, you should altogether quit the idea of becoming a freelance web designer.


Build your own portfolio site NOW.

Take your time, build your portfolio right now and start populating it with your great designs. Do it now and you won’t regret it!

5. You have lots of bills and no savings.

Dipping yourself into the world of freelancing is a great risk. Without the proper skills, tools, and guidance you won’t probably get any client at all for months. That is why you shouldn’t even think about freelancing if you still have financial responsibilities and you’re exhausting your monthly paycheck because of those.

If you are properly connected with the right people, you can maybe pull it off. But it’s a great risk as well, since the flow of clients isn’t always on.

Let’s say you already have the skills, the portfolio, and everything is basically in place, except for clients. Do you have a plan to find people who are looking for a web designer? It’s not everyday that people want to have a website designed, and that’s the problem.

Good thing there are many ways web designers can combat this dead end, and one of the best is by converting clients into passive income sources. We will this on 1WD in detail at a later date, so be sure to sign up to our newsletter or follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

Anyway, entering the world of freelancing is a great risk. Trust me when I say don’t do it if you don’t have enough cash in your bank to live at least three months without any income.

Relevant titles:

6. You think web design means only Photoshop.

If you define web design as simply designing a web template using Photoshop, then you should reconsider your title, that’s just called graphic design (to stretch the term).

Being a web designer means three things:

  1. You are good at converting concepts to reality through Photoshop (or other image editing tools).
  2. You are good with converting the image file to a working HTML/CSS website.
  3. You will most likely think of becoming a web developer as well.

Okay, let’s talk about 2 and 3.

If you’re thinking of entering the world of freelance web design, you should have decent skills with HTML and CSS because this is the current standard. If you are new to this as well, I highly suggest that you start mastering them now.

A lot of web designers are limiting themselves because they only focus on Photoshop, HTML, and CSS, and can’t add functionality because they can’t code, something that will make their careers in freelancing a better experience. This is optional, of course, but if you are thinking of becoming a web developer as well, you have a bright future ahead of you.

7. You hate revisions.

You thought that being a freelancer means no boss, right? Unfortunately, that’s totally off the mark. Someone pays you to do work for them, and they’re the boss. In every web design job no one ever satisfies any client on the first design. There will always be revisions, several of them.

Let me tell you this: clients love revisions. They feel like they’re in control, like they know what they are doing. Do you have to comply? Well, if it’s against your better judgement then talk them out of it, but if you can’t, well, they’re paying!

8. You don’t like talking to people.

Being a freelance web designer is different than being a freelance writer and web developer in many senses. Freelance web developers and writers operate in a more systematic manner, while freelance web designers don’t, they operate 50% objectively and 50% subjectively.

It doesn’t go this way:

  1. Client sends his requirements
  2. You work on it
  3. You submit it
  4. Client approves or ask for revision

Reality is harder:

  1. Client sends his requirements
  2. You discuss it with said client
  3. You work on it
  4. You submit it
  5. Client asks for revision
  6. You work on it
  7. Client asks for another revision
  8. You work on it
  9. Client decides on a different route
  10. You get tired of his farce
  11. But you still work on it because you have already started
  12. You suck it up and finish the project until your client is satisfied.

This is reality. It’s full of talking, negotiating, and contemplating suicide at every revision.

9. You’re not committed to excellence.

If you can’t blow your clients away with your design, they probably won’t leave great testimonials for your service. Big clients actually look for testimonials from previous clients. Without them, you probably won’t land a big project.

Committing yourself to excellence is one way of defining yourself as a web designer. Your work should reflect your personality, so if your work is excellent and you have fantastic testimonials, new clients will assume that you’re worth working with.

If you are used to saying, “I guess it’s already okay” or “that’s good enough” then freelance web design is not for you.

Web design is art, and everything you do is a masterpiece. If you have just-okay pieces, what can people expect from you?

10. You didn’t read everything on my list.

If you didn’t read every single word of this post, you are:

  • indecisive – you opened this page to read, not to just scan and go.
  • not willing to learn – well, duh?
  • not committed to excellence – reading this post will only take 10 minutes of your time, tops.
  • thinking that freelancing is easy – you think you know everything about freelancing?

If you are seriously thinking about becoming a freelance web designer, and if you are here to learn just that, then why did you skip to the end?

If you’re one of the few who actually read and pondered these points, great! That’s the perfect attitude!

Question: Do you still want to be a freelance web designer?

If your answer to every item here is NO then by all means start freelancing ASAP!

But if you answered YES at least once then you should fix that problem before doing anything else!


This One Advice is All it Takes to Become a Successful Freelancer [Video]


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