Are you looking to start your graphic design journey, or just want to take your current skills to the next level?
We took the recent launch of the Vectornator Academy with free course material as an opportunity to compile a list of the 16 best graphic design courses for you!
Nowadays, there are no barriers to gaining knowledge in this exciting field from the best universities or specialists anywhere in the world because you can enroll in online classes.
You just need to choose the educational course that best suits your current graphic design skills and your goals for further career development.
We've searched for some of the best graphic design courses online to help you learn how to become a professional-level graphic designer. But, as you may know, there are many graphic design courses out there, and it can become challenging to know which course to take or which one will be the best to help you reach your graphic design goals.
There are several online courses offered by universities, online course hubs, and graphic design experts, but we're looking at 16 great graphic design online courses that will help you elevate your graphic design portfolio.
These graphic design classes will help you with layouts and creative processes and introduce you to design trends. Some of these courses are also certificate programs that provide you with a shareable certificate after completing the course.
Sharing a completion certificate on your profile or resume proves the certified learning you've done and shows off your skills and areas of expertise. It's also a sign of continuous personal and professional development, which prospective employers or clients always look out for.
If you pursue continued learning to hone your skills, you'll also stay in the loop of cutting-edge trends and design tools.
What is a Graphic Design Certificate?
Simply put, a graphic design certificate is a document that shows you've successfully completed a particular graphic design course. That doesn't necessarily mean that you're a graphic design or illustration expert, nor does it qualify you as a professional designer per se.
It simply shows the hands-on learning you've done and that you have a solid foundation in graphic design theory.
As you'll see in our design course list below, many online courses offer lessons in different aspects of the graphic design process. Some are aimed at beginners, while others are aimed at experienced designers.
The great thing about doing short online courses is that you can make it work for your particular skill level and time constraints. We also love that many industry experts have created online courses to share their knowledge and real-world projects, so you can learn from the best!
You might need to take several courses that tackle different graphic design perspectives covering topics such as graphic design principles, professional logo design, identity design, publication design, how to run digital design projects, and visual communication.
Once you understand the basics of design and you've mastered some essential design skills, you can look at enrolling in courses that offer more in-depth lessons in the creative process and its practical application in graphic design.
The graphic design course market is vast, so we've hand-picked 16 of the top graphic design courses designed to facilitate your comprehensive development as a creative design specialist. We've split them into three categories:
Intro to graphic design courses
Graphic design courses for beginners
Intermediate, in-depth graphic design courses
Graphic Design Courses for Beginners
1. The 101 Vector Design Course
The free 101 Vector Design course on Vectornator Academy is the first hands-on series led by our in-house designer, Aysel. She'll take you through everything you need to know about designing with vectors on iPad.
The course is split into two parts: beginner and intermediate. Aysel will guide you through the Vectornator interface and its essential tools and features in part one. Each short episode has downloadable files to help you complete a design project. By finishing part one, you'll have added five new designs to your portfolio.
Here's what you'll learn:
What are vectors and their uses
How to navigate the Vectornator interface with ease
How to use the most critical vector tools to create any design imaginable
How to use colors, color effects, and color palettes
The most important gestures for faster workflows
Composition and color theory
Learning to create powerful vector graphics is a valuable skill for every creative professional. And our course is designed to expand your knowledge and increase your career opportunities.
Every easy-to-follow chapter contains exercises developed by our professional designers. You can learn at your own pace, stop, and replay the lessons as much as you need.
2. Kadenze: Introduction to Graphic Design
What better way to start this list than this introductory course on graphic design by Brockett Horne and Ellen Lupton, two of the leading faculty at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). This online course teaches you everything from “Origins Of Text And Graphic Design” to “International Styles” and “Cultural Revolutions.”
Available on Kadenze, the course will help you build a strong foundation in everything you need to know about where graphic design comes from and what the future of graphic design will look like.
If you're a beginner, you'll love this course because it's aimed at novice graphic designers and allows you to work at your own pace of learning.
As the entire course comprises seven sessions and you're expected to put around six hours of work into each lesson, you can plan to invest at least 40 hours in this course.
All you'll need to enter this course are image creation software and the ability to upload formats like .jpg, .jpeg, or .png for the assignments in each session.
In combination with image creation software, other abilities such as scanning, photographing, or drawing by hand are also good features to have.
Even though it was designed for beginners, the introduction is fast-paced and will test your knowledge with short quizzes. It will also push you to put your skills into practice and start creating.
The course is offered in English, Spanish, Castilian, Russian, Chinese, and Portuguese video transcripts. Some topics discussed during the seven sessions are cubism, futurism, dada, typography, and publishing.
We’re happy to tell you that the course is free to enroll and open for enrollment. If you're interested in receiving a certificate file, you'd need to upgrade to Kadenze's premium membership ($20 per month). The certificate will be included and available once you finish the course.
3. Udemy: Introduction to Graphic Design
If the Kadenze course is not your cup of tea, or if you'd like to combine it with another introductory course to get a more well-rounded perspective, this is a good option for you.
You can take Udemy's Introduction to Graphic Design course in parallel with or directly after the Kadenze course.
Udemy has always been an attractive platform for those eager to gain knowledge in various fields. In addition, they have a fantastic free design course.
The course is designed for beginners who want to create their online portfolio. You'll need access to Adobe Photoshop, which means it's ideal for those who have already dabbled in some image editing. You'll learn the basic principles and elements needed to create effective designs.
This graphic design crash course includes 11.5 hours of on-demand video, a certificate of completion, and access on mobile and TV. At €94.99.
This course is perfect for anyone who wants to start building a successful career as a graphic designer. However, this is not the only design course on this platform. After completing this course, additional tutorials that match your interests will be suggested.
4. Coursera: Graphic Design Specialization by CalArts
CalArts' Graphic Design Specialization program is available on the Coursera platform and is in high demand within the design field. It's expected to do about three hours of work on this course per week, which takes six months to complete. You can enroll for free in this graphic design certification program.
This program is best suited for beginners with at least basic graphic design knowledge and have created a few simple design projects.
As part of the program, students learn to create more complex projects.
This program covers design principles, the history of design, communicating through image-making, and the rules for typography creation. In these comprehensive online courses, you'll also learn to work in interface design, motion graphics, and editorial design.
The fundamental skills you'll gain through this program can help you to complete a university capstone project if you're already enrolled in a degree program. Additionally, all the designs created through this course will be perfect for adding to your professional portfolio.
Coursera's Graphic Design Specialization program offered by CalArts includes five courses:
Fundamentals of Graphic Design
Introduction to Typography
Introduction to Image-making
Ideas from the History of Graphic Design
Brand New Brand
At the end of this enriching program, you'll have a contemporary design portfolio to show others, as well as knowledge of graphic design strategies that you can apply in real-world projects.
In other words, this program is a happy medium between a practical class and design theory. The Coursera platform provides a certificate of completion, which you can add to your resume.
5. SkillShare: Great Graphic Design
Great Graphic Design: Create Emotional, Gripping Typographic Art from Skillshare is a good option for anyone looking to advance their skills in graphic design.
This course will give you the essential tools for leveraging social media as a great opportunity. You'll learn more about how to design using an iPad for publishing on social media.
This short course consists of 12 lessons, with a total of 1.25 hours of video content. The lessons include a class in basic elements of design that covers fundamental principles and how to use creation tools.
The course explores how you can develop color schemes that express your emotions. Experienced designer Sophia Yeshi, who teaches this course, offers various tips and tricks on making your Adobe Illustrator effects more fun and exciting.
The goals are to develop your creative skills, gain a deeper understanding of shape and color, and learn advanced ways of combining graphic design elements.Nic Squirrel, an inspiring artist and illustrator from the UK, also offers a Skillshare class about creating patterns using Vectornator.
6. Udemy: Logo Design Fundamentals
Successful logo design is an essential part of every graphic designer's job, and it's always a challenging task. Udemy's free Logo Design Fundamentals course will prove that you don't need hours of video content or a five-course certificate program to learn a particular design skill: This course only takes 49 minutes to complete!
The course consists of 16 lessons that will show you how to create a logo and teach you to interact with customers appropriately. This shorter class also guides you through preparing and building a branded logo, which directly connects with brand identity.
Even if you're not doing client work yet and just starting up your design business, these lessons will help you create your own personal logo to start your brand and attract customers.
With only 49 minutes of on-demand video lessons by course teacher Lauren, you will:
Understand the entire logo layout
Learn the fundamentals of logo design
Learn the step-by-step development process of a branded logo
Finalize a branded logo
Finish your design project and get it ready for print
All you need to have is Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Reader software and some basic understanding of a design cycle. So, don't miss the course that will allow you to learn everything about creating a branded logo.
Alternatively, you can also check out Ben Nielson's excellent SkillShare course on designing a logo using Vectornator.
7. Coursera: Graphic Design Course by University of Colorado Boulder
Next, we have another free course on Coursera, one that's offered by the reputable University of Colorado Boulder. This Graphic Design course forms part of the Effective Communication: Writing, Design, and Presentation Specialization. It is an excellent option for beginners or those who want to ensure their knowledge is up to date.
The course doesn't require any preliminary preparation, so it may suit you if you want to determine whether a career in graphic design is the right one for you.
If you're a graphic design student who needs to earn university credits or develop your graphic design skills for your capstone project, this is a highly popular option.
The materials of this course will be enough to prepare you to start working on real projects. The instructor of the course is David Underwood, who has worked as an illustrator, designer, lecturer, and teaching consultant at the University of Colorado Boulder since 1988.
Completing this course will provide an excellent base and starting point for those who want to enter the creative industry but don't have a budget to pay for high-level training. However, it's recommended that the learners have some experience in layout software such as PowerPoint, Keynote, or Adobe InDesign.
If you're up for a challenge, this design course is an excellent primer. It introduces you to fundamental design theory, graphic design history, and how the development process of a design project works.
8. Will Paterson's Graphic Design Tutorials
Will Paterson is a freelance graphic designer specializing in logo design and brand identity. In addition, this graphic designer and illustrator uses his YouTube channel to offer free graphic design tutorials on learning how to use leading graphic design software and products.
His tutorials are an excellent and highly accessible way to learn the basics of how to start your graphic design journey without needing to enroll or pay course fees. He also publishes content that provides a wealth of information for intermediate and advanced designers as they progress in their skills.
Will’s course on Vectornator is ideal for learning how to work with our graphic design program, specifically how to use the Pen Tool in our free app for iPad and Mac.
He also offers tutorial series for many other leading platforms, such as the products offered by Adobe Creative Cloud.
Suppose you want to learn how to use the tools in Adobe CC, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer, Adobe XD, or others. In that case, Will’s tutorials will be the place to start.
9. Masterclass: David Carson Teaches Graphic Design
Masterclass finds some of the top experts in their fields to create compelling and informative guest lectures in just about anything you can imagine.
David Carson is a pioneering designer in the graphic design field who is famous for "breaking the rules" of good design. He teaches a week-long design school workshop in New York once a year. This online Masterclass course enables almost anyone to learn from his approach, which is all about learning to go with your gut to create the best design work you've ever made.
His Graphic Design Masterclass spans 11 video lessons and is just over two hours long in total. The short course covers intuitive approaches to design, using typography and photography, how to design an effective logo, collage art, magazine layouts, and how to work with clients.
In learning to combine conceptual tools with graphic design basics such as color theory, this course will help you enhance your graphic design projects with fresh inspiration and a new approach.
The assignments help apply what you're learning, and there are no prerequisites to taking this course – you just need access to some creative materials and media. It's a robust class for learning about your intuitive creativity and unleashing new ideas.
10. CreativeLive: Art & Design
Creative Live is an online creative workshops platform suitable for both designers and artists (and anything in-between). They have new On-Air Art & Design classes every day that you can access to learn about graphic design and more. They have paid and free courses that are perfect for beginners and experienced creatives looking to grow their skillset.
If you want to start learning for free, this platform is a great start. Free materials are available in the form of video tutorials, and you can choose to reserve a spot for their live and on-air events. The CreativeLive platform has also decided to extend its Health and Wellness classes for free to their creative community.
Other course materials are only available with the purchase of an entire course. A whole course is usually in the $30 - $50 price range, but if you want the best value option, you can subscribe for $25 a month, which gives you access to an unlimited number of courses.
Creative Live will help you learn more about image editing and product packaging, as well as how to use basic color palettes and custom shapes to your advantage.
To give you an idea of the variety of topics and courses they offer, here are some upcoming free online events:
Adobe Stock for Illustration: A Head Start to Your Project
Working Successfully with Clients: A Class for Illustrators and Designers
Digital Guides, Products, and ePDFs with Adobe InDesign
Custom Resumes with Adobe InDesign
Workflow, Time Management, and Productivity for Creatives
Adobe Illustrator CC: The Complete Guide
Drawing Fundamentals: Tonality and Shadows
11. MIT: Graphic Design Lecture Notes
This Massachusetts Institute of Technology resource is not an entire course but an open-source lesson from a full-fledged User Interface Design and Implementation course. These exercises are freely available and helpful to novice designers who want to dedicate a few hours per week to professional and personal development.
The lecture notes and activities made available by MIT can help anyone who wants to develop their skills for their graphic design specialization.
This short guide will allow you to learn graphic design techniques and concepts. The essence of the exercises is that you can analyze and understand everything in practice using examples.
Another exciting course that MIT offers is Color Design and Typography. It will help you learn essential design and layout principles and explore image functions related to the use of color and typography – and how to avoid bad typography.
The step-by-step lessons and in-class activities are helpful for you to practice everything you learned during these courses. MIT's open courseware doesn't require a month-to-month subscription or any other fees, and you also have the option to download the course materials so you can learn in your own time.
12. LinkedIn Learning: Become a Graphic Designer
Did you know LinkedIn offers over 16,000 online courses taught by professionals in their field? They also offer personalized courses depending on the career path you want to follow.
The Become a Graphic Designer course will help you build a solid design foundation. It includes hands-on exercises in Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. It's perfect if you also want to become a digital illustrator and learn to use some of the most popular design software.
The course includes a total of 11 sessions of varying lengths. The first session is less than three minutes while, as you progress, you'll take longer lessons and even up to six hours long. Overall, expect to dedicate 26 hours of your time to complete all the lessons.
The experts who teach the course are educators, illustrators, writers, art directors, professors, designers, photographers, speakers, and brand strategists.
If you want to start a career in graphic design, this course will give you a head start. It covers graphic design foundations in typography, layout, and composition.
You'll also learn about color trends and watch dedicated sessions on each of the Adobe products mentioned above.
If you want to start immediately, you can use their free offer that lasts for one month. During that first month, you can explore other graphic design courses and decide whether you want to continue exploring more lessons.
Ah, and did we mention that you will earn a certificate of completion after you complete the course? We all know how good they look on your CV and LinkedIn profile!
13. Doměstika: Minimalist Graphic Design for Big Ideas
The Doměstika online course by Artist and Designer Julian Montague is perfect for beginners pursuing minimalist graphic design skills.
As you may know, minimalist design has become quite trendy in the last decade, and it's here to stay. Staying ahead of the game and learning to create minimalistic designs is a smart career move.
This Doměstika course comprises ten lessons and will help you think more conceptually about how you can use type and images to create complex compositions. Keep in mind that basic knowledge of Adobe Illustrator or a similar vector-based program such as Vectornator is necessary.
The audio for this course is offered in English, but it has subtitles in the following languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Polish, and Dutch.
The main project for this course will be creating a set of three book covers or three posters for a fictional series, using the same graphic style in various themes.
At the moment, the course costs €23.90, and you'll get unlimited access to the course forever. Once you finish the course, you'll be provided with a certificate of completion so you can show off your credential.
Intermediate, In-Depth Graphic Design Courses
14. Udemy: Learn Professional 2D Game Graphic Design in Photoshop
If you already have some experience in Photoshop and digital drawing, why not try creating game graphics? The Learn Professional 2D Game Graphic Design in Photoshop course is 6.5 hours long and was developed by renowned illustrator and designer Jaysen Batchelor. This tutorial costs €23.99, but the price may vary due to discounts.