My favorite graphic design resources | Ballast Notes

Welcome to Ballast Notes, a new venture from Anchored Creative Studio! Ballast Notes are different resources for nonprofits and small businesses looking to DIY their brand, new graphic designers looking to learn more about freelance skills, and more. 

This is part two of a series on how to learn graphic design skills on your own time. To read about my start as a professional designer and tips on how to start your career, check out part one

On last week's blog, I wrote about my design story and some general ideas to help you get started on a possibly creative career or hobby. This week, I wanted to provide some actual, tactile links and ideas to get you started on learning.

Although I took some community college courses in graphic design, I learned almost everything I know from firsthand experience or online tutorials and resources. There's plenty of pros to getting a degree in graphic design or a related field, but I also want anyone interested in design to know that's not the only route you can take! 

Without further ado, some of my favorite resources:

For learning design skills and lettering: 

  • Skillshare: Oh, Skillshare. This is and will always be my #1. With a free trial and low yearly subscription, it's easy to try out Skillshare without committing. There are some really great design tutorials on Skillshare ranging from basics like Photoshop 101 to specific skills like creating a repeating pattern in Illustrator. All of their classes have a project associated with them, so you'll come out at the end actually creating something. 
  • Brit + Co: Like Skillshare, Brit + Co has a ton of really fun and useful online courses in graphic design and other arts. Ranging from digital illustration to how to interview for a remote position, there's a lot of useful topics in their library that show specific skills 
  • I've never personally used Lynda, but have heard great things about their online courses. I've also heard a rumor that some libraries have subscriptions that members can use for free! Most of the courses on this site are longform and build off one another, which can be good for a designer looking to really brush up on their skills or start from scratch. Their classes are also categorized by skill level. 
  • YouTube: Seriously, whenever I don't know how to create something in Adobe, I just go to YouTube. This is my number one way of troubleshooting anything. 
  • The Postman's Knock: This is a site dedicated mainly to calligraphy lettering, but I highly recommend checking it out if that's something that interests you. They have courses called "Learn Lettering for a Latte," where you can download lettering worksheets for just $5 - and trust me, they're worth it.
  • Every-Tuesday: This blog has both some amazing classes you can pay to take and tons of free blog post resources. They also have a great Creative Market account where you can purchase graphics and some lovely fonts for an affordable price. These tutorials are also great for learning specific skills, especially in Illustrator, Photoshop and lettering.
  • Adobe: You've probably seen these tutorials pop up when you load an Adobe program, and immediately close out of them - but they're actually worth checking out when you have some spare time. These tutorials also include the time it takes to run through the tutorial, so you know around how long it will take. Most are fairly quick, and it's a great way to learn to use new tools within the Adobe programs.
  • Other online or local classes: With all the free resources out there, it's sometimes hard to fork over any cash to learn these new skills. But there's a lot to be said for learning in person. Check out local studios, art spaces and more for different workshops to learn new skills and meet new people. Community college courses (in-person or online) are also a great way to learn more in-depth skills at a fraction of the cost of traditional college courses. 

For logo and branding inspiration: 

  • Pinterest: When I first joined Pinterest, it was basically just for recipes and travel inspiration. But nowadays, I almost exclusively use it as a professional resource. It's an amazing way to follow fellow creatives, create inspiration boards, and even collab with clients on the direction for their projects. Also, there's a Pinterest algorithm to find similar pins to what you've already Pinned, so it basically does the work for you! 
  • Dribbble: Dribbble is quite elusive (you need to be invited to join), but you can still browse the great work on the site without joining. You can even search work by colors, which can be especially great while trying to find color inspiration.
  • Behance: Behance is like LinkedIn for graphic designers, and is a great place to both showcase your work and find inspiration. If there's a great campaign or brand whose work I really love, I'll search them to try and find their staff designers or freelancers as a way of finding more in-depth inspiration. 

For fonts and graphics, and more:

  • Creative Market: I get 90% of my fonts and other graphics come from Creative Market. It's an amazing resource to support fellow graphic designers and artists, and is also fairly inexpensive. There's a giant variety of things to check out, from watercolor drawings to mockups.
  • Resource Cards: This is a random little website I found that lists lots of good resources for designers, like iconography sites. 
  • Adobe Typekit: It took me far too long to figure out that Typekit is included in every Adobe membership. Sync all kinds of cool fonts for free with all of your Adobe programs. 
  • Font Squirrel: Free fonts that you can use in all your projects? Yes please! 

Now that you're ready to go with these awesome resources, start creating! As you naturally find your groove with your favorite types of design to create, you may start thinking about the types of paid positions you'll be looking for. Be sure to stop back next week as we tackle that! 

In next week's Ballast Notes, we'll be wrapping up this series on kickstarting your graphic design career or interest with part three, focusing on how to figure out what type of professional position you may want to look for, and the pros and cons to those types of positions.