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!
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:
- How did they do these buttons, the shadow effect and 3D effect?
- What color scheme did they use?
- 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
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).
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.
- Getting Started: Exceptionally Great Beginner Photoshop Tutorials
- 50+ Easy to Follow Photoshop Poster Tutorials
- Template Show: How to Design a Gallery Layout in Photoshop
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.
- 4 Simple Steps To Make Silhouettes Using Photoshop
- Using Retro Style Images And Banners For Advertising
- Quick Tutorial – Creating a Letterpress and Embossed Text Effects in Photoshop
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:
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.”
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. :)
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. :)
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.
Michael is a Web & Graphic designer based in Philippines. He started designing during his teenage years and most of his skills and knowledge are self taught. He's dating with Photoshop for about 4 years now and been flirting with HTML & CSS from 2011 to present. See his works at burnstudio. Other than that he loves Coffee and his Girl.