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What Skills Do I Need to Become a Graphic Designer?

Updated on June 26, 2017
retta719 profile image

Married to the comic book geek of her dreams and mother of four amazing young men, Loretta has been working from home full time since 2001.

Are you an artistic type of person? Do you like to work with computers? Do you enjoy taking other people's ideas and turning them into something more tangible?

Graphic designers use their artistic abilities to create graphics for printed and electronic media. They help businesses establish their brands by creating logos and other visual representations of their ideas and products. They may also handle layout for web pages and printed materials, and they may design fonts for particular applications.

Graphic designers have a wealth of job opportunities that they can pursue in today's economy, but many choose to work as freelancers or start their own design firms. Graphic design is a sound career choice, because there is always a need for it.

Are you interested? Here is a list of skills and qualifications that are helpful.

Many graphic design positions at larger companies require applicants to have a Bachelor's degree or higher in graphic design. Some employers looking to fill technical and assistant designer positions, however, allow applicants with Associate's degrees.

That said, if you're planning on freelancing or offering services through your own website, no degree is necessary, but having a formal education can sometimes make it much easier to get clients.

Ability to work with graphic design software is a must. Students at graphic design schools will learn how to use some of the most popular programs. But after your schooling is completed, it's up to you to stay current on new versions and entirely new software.

Artistic ability is very important in graphic design. Prospective design students must usually submit portfolios for consideration before they can be accepted into a program.

Attention to detail is crucial in graphic design. It's the little things that can make or break a project.

Graphic designers should be highly motivated self-starters who are able to work independently. They must be able to work within deadlines and budget their time.

Graphic designers should be good communicators. They need to know the right questions to ask clients, and they need to be able to translate their ideas into art.

An eye for style is helpful to the graphic designer. Design techniques and trends are constantly evolving, and expectations are constantly changing. Moving along the flow of the industry is very important.

Is this the right career path for you?

Being a graphic designer requires a love for design and the willingness to keep your skills current throughout your career. But it can be a very rewarding pursuit.

High quality, original graphics can help propel a business to the top, and they can make a good web page outstanding. If you are creative and want a career with great potential, graphic design might be for you.

GIMP Free Graphics Editing Software

You've probably already heard of GIMP if you're into graphic creation. It's open source free software for creating graphics, and is often compared to Photoshop. Many successful graphics designers call it "Photoshop Without the Price Tag" and use it in place of the popular expensive program.

You can download GIMP for free at

If you need a little help with the program you can follow their free tutorials on using the program as well.

This course from Angela Wills at Web Design Mojo is a really great introduction to making graphics for internet marketers (or for yourself, course)

Inkscape Free Graphics Editing Software

Inkscape is another open source graphics editing program that's great for vector formats. While you may not have heard it's name as often as you hear about GIMP, it is still free and comparable to some of the popular and often expensive graphics programs available today. You'll find it is frequently compared to Illustrator or CorelDraw.

You can download Inkscape for free at Free Graphics Editing Software

Another popular free open source graphics creation program is It features an intuitive and innovative user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. An active and growing online community provides friendly help, tutorials, and plugins.

You can download for free at

What are your thoughts?

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    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 4 years ago

      This is very similar to my sister's path - and I wish I had been more artistic because it's a field that has always interested me. Good collection of resources!

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 5 years ago

      This is information I was looking for as the thought of doing my own graphics crossed my mind only a couple of hours ago. Thanks for sharing. Featured on Blessed bySkiiesgreen 2013. Hugs and Happy Valentine's Day.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is really great and useful lens ... I always wanted to get a little bit more knowledge about graphic designing ... but unfortunately there was newer enough time to actually start. Maybe one day:).

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago


      I am a freelance graphic designer, you can find me at

      I am cost effective and have many different skills, ive worked on childrens book

      cover illustrations to custiomized tshrit designs, I also work with website

      graphics such as banner and advertising, to logo and corporate id, plus

      much more. photoedting,portraits,photo manipulation,audio video editing

      and multimedia publishing. I am looking to work with anyone who feels

      they could use my services.

      kind regards


    • amitsarkar lm profile image

      amitsarkar lm 5 years ago

      Great stuff. I have created a lens on logo designer. Have a look on it.

      How Designers Create an Unforgettable Brand Logo

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      excellent resource - am a big fan of GIMP!

    • Srena44 profile image

      Srena44 5 years ago

      great lens

    • profile image

      TamarWrites 5 years ago

      My older daughter is thinking of this as a career path.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Good introduction to graphics design. Keeping up with new software is important.

    • Vortrek Grafix profile image

      Vortrek Grafix 5 years ago

      Good lens. Like the way you included free graphic design software. Been using for years. Very impressive if one uses the options a bit creatively. No point in paying for "commercial" quality software. Given reasonable tools, the true graphic design gift is in the mind anyway.

    • profile image

      calliewalls 5 years ago

      Not bad graphic designer although your or old or not nothing stop the imagination in design

    • profile image

      calliewalls 5 years ago

      Not bad graphic designer although your or old or not nothing stop the imagination in design

    • profile image

      smadamij 5 years ago

    • profile image

      lillymia 5 years ago

      @gypsyman27 lm: i dont like you,you smell to much

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @AnnaAdam LM: not very good are you

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am a frustrated would-be designer. Years in the wrong career / profession now finds me at a cross-roads in my life at the age of 46 really wanting to take that leap of faith and get to grips with a course in graphic design and a new career designing company logo's, branding and more... My only fear is am I too old, have I left it too late? This web-site gives me hope!

    • profile image

      inspirationz 5 years ago

      great reading your take on the requirements needed to be a graphic designer. I'm just starting out but I'm familiar with, inkscape and gimp which you mention :)

    • profile image

      gradientcat 5 years ago

      Very interesting lens, I always wondered what was involved in becoming a graphic designer.

    • coldsore lm profile image

      coldsore lm 5 years ago

      I like the appearance, presentation and layout of your lens. You've done a great job of customising it and creating a unique look.

    • AnnaAdam LM profile image

      AnnaAdam LM 5 years ago

      Very informative for those who want to become Graphic Designer.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I'm still new to graphic designing, and though I completed a course in digital arts, I wished I could have been a better graphic artist. I was originally a student of law, and as I look back on the years I spent as a law student, I should've realized that I would be better off as a freelance writer and graphic artist than being stuck in the legal career which has taken me nowhere. As of the moment I'm getting used to the software, though it's still a long road before I can call myself a fully-fledged graphic artist.

    • gypsyman27 lm profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 6 years ago

      I switched from art to engineering when I was a young man, I have regretted that decision on occasion. I would have been happier as an artist, I work as an artist now on my own. This after over a quarter of a century as an engineer. I enjoyed reading this and I use gimp instead of photoshop. See you around the galaxy...

    • profile image

      PamelaCox 6 years ago

      Creativity is what makes a graphic designer successful, if he doesn't know how to be creative in his own way, then that will be hard for him to be on the top.


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    • profile image

      PamelaCox 6 years ago

      Creativity is what makes a graphic designer successful, if he doesn't know how to be creative in his own way, then that will be hard for him to be on the top.


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    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 6 years ago from Missouri

      Graphic design makes a great hobby, too. Blessings!

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 6 years ago from Virginia

      Making the web better, one lense at a time is your mission. Thanks for the great information.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 6 years ago

      Good resources here!

    • profile image

      moonlitta 6 years ago

      This is a wonderful resource for aspiring, young people who want to know about the professon. Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very helpful Lens, I never heard of Inkscape, so I'm going to take a look! Thank you so much for sharing.

    • hsschulte profile image

      hsschulte 6 years ago

      I love this lens. I've been looking for a way to help my niece get started. She is very talented. Thanks!

    • retta719 profile image

      Loretta 6 years ago from United States

      @anticloud: That's actually a good addition - varying opinions are okay in this field, not everyone is going to love everything, not everyone is going to do things the same way, it's a very "flowing" field to work in and not so cut and dry like other jobs. I couldn't think of another word there, flowing may not be right, I think it's time for the afternoon coffee refill....

    • anticloud profile image

      anticloud 6 years ago

      I *am* a graphic designer and I thought it would be interesting to read another perspective on my field. I don't necessarily agree with everything you have here. But for the most part you seemed to hit the spot.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love creating so I dabble on this but I have no patience learning the software.

    • artshock profile image

      artshock 6 years ago

      I could never deal with the deadlines...although I do my best work under pressure...

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 6 years ago

      Excellent useful lens. Thanks

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 7 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Very good advice in this lens.

    • retta719 profile image

      Loretta 7 years ago from United States

      @julieannbrady: Very true! I think it's because the programs are becoming more easily available (including some of the free ones) and easier to use - definitely easier to use! 10 Years ago I probably couldn't have even made a square with shadow behind it without ripping my hair out.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      Well, I actually had a job as a graphic designer oh, more than ten years ago. Today, so many more people have this skill than back then.