Graphic design is the process of curating an image for enhanced visual appeal. It can convey a certain mood, tone or feeling and be used for advertising purposes or as a marketing method. 

Graphic design is all around us; it’s in product packaging, website design, magazine covers, posters, billboards, or any type of visual material that attempts to grasp your attention and promote whatever it is conveying.  

But where do you start with graphic design, and how do you learn the trade? Luckily, we have compiled a list of graphic design essentials to kick-start your interest in graphic design. 

1. Essential skills for graphic designers

As a graphic designer, you will need to have sound knowledge of the essential skills needed to start composing images that attract attention and captivate your audience. Learning these skills will go a long way in your graphic design career and give you the tools you need to create unique images. 

Colour theory 

All graphic designers should have a good basis of colour theory, as certain colours will complement one another and convey different moods, i.e.)

graphic design essentials

Red: Conveys feelings of passion, warning, anger and courage.

Yellow: Conveys feelings of happiness, hope, optimism and cheerfulness. 

Blue: Conveys feelings of inspiration, learning, calmness, intuitiveness, honesty and trust.

You should select an appropriate colour scheme depending on the message you want to communicate to your audience. In a world where we see multiple media messages daily, colour theory is one of the best tools a graphic designer has in their arsenal of initially capturing attention. 

Hierarchy of information 

When creating visual messages, it is important that you construct an image with a sense of hierarchy of the most important information. If everything is the same size and format, it will be difficult for audiences to differentiate what you’re trying to communicate and even more so, it will fail to grab their attention. 

You should use a range of titles, headings and alternate fonts to draw attention to the most important key messages in your visual image. 


Another important aspect of graphic design essentials is knowing how to create contrast in your image. Graphic designers will create contrast with dark vs light composition or contemporary vs traditional design. The contrast of a curated image will help to make your image much more attractive and assist your audience in digesting the information. 

Check out this article for how to create an infographic, which covers some of the similar principles of mastering graphic design and using contrast to capture attention.


Formatting refers to how you space out the components of an image, the title, the images, text boxes, etc. This is quite important in learning the graphic design essentials, as it will become the basis of creating an attractive image. 

If your components are too clustered together, then it will only serve to confuse audiences as they have to put in work to decipher what you’re trying to communicate. Ensure your images have clear formatting, drawing attention to the areas that matter most. 

Graphic design essentials for beginners and 5 tips to master the craft 1
graphic design essentials

2. Essential fonts for graphic designers

Graphic designers should have a few essential fonts in their arsenal in order to create captivating images that speak to audiences. In branded identity, there are usually only 2-3 fonts used as it increases the audience’s ability to recognise the brand. 

Some popular fonts for graphic designers include: 


Mulish is a clean-cut modern font with a simplistic yet attractive, design.

Playfair Display 

This font is quite romantic and traditional. It looks great for brands seeking to establish a personal connection with their audience. 


This bold font demands the audience’s attention, it’s impactful and works great when communicating messages with a few words. 

If you are interested in finding out where you can get these essential fonts for graphic design, be sure to check out the video below. 

3. Essential books for graphic designers

If you’re interested in beginning a career in graphic design or simply want to develop your graphic design skills, there is a range of books available to help get you started. Check out three of our favourites below. 

1. Graphic Design School: A Foundation Course for Graphic Designers Working in Print, Moving Image and Digital Media 

This book is regarded as the industry standard for teaching the fundamentals of graphic design. It is useful for both students and small businesses who want to learn the trade. The book contains two main sections; principle and practice. It explores the themes of graphic design essentials such as composition, hierarchy, layout, typography, grid structure, colour, etc. 

2. Graphic Design Essentials: With Adobe Software

For those working on Adobe Software, this is a great book to learn the graphic design essentials. This book pushes you to put your knowledge into practice with its step-by-step instructions. It covers the fundamentals of graphic design, including editing, colour theory and design apps. 

At the end of this book, you will be well-versed in the graphic design essentials. 

3. Graphic Design Essentials: Skills, Software and Creative Solutions

This book has been written by the leading graphic designer, Joyce Macario. It is a great book for learning the essential skills you need to put your creative ideas into practice. It explores graphic design when using multiple different software programmes such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign. 

4. Graphic design essentials course 

Some of us learn differently, and that’s perfectly ok. If you think you are more of a visual learner, be sure to check out this free graphic design essentials course by the industry-leading graphic designer, Gareth David Studio. 

Beginners Guide to Graphic Design | 45 Episode FREE Series

5. Essential graphic design software

Graphic design can be conducted on various different software programmes, but if you are a beginner to the craft, then it’s best to focus on mastering one, before you overwhelm yourself with others. 

Some of the most popular graphic design software includes: 

If you seeking to master the graphic design essentials, it is best to learn so by doing, put your knowledge into practice because you don’t know what you’re capable of until you try. 

SEE ALSO: Animated Video Production | Essential Skills for Web Design.

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