Are you trying to bring your graphic design skills to the next level? As part of our 10 Commandments Blog Series we wanted to share 10 great tips to creating professional digital graphics. These tips are not program specific, but rather general design tips that when utilized will bring your graphics to that professional level.

1. Thou Shalt Never Underestimate Simplicity

It is way too easy to overcomplicate a design. Usually when this happens your messaged doesn’t get across anyway because there is too much going on and people won’t take the time to decipher a mess.

Before you even open photoshop have an idea in your mind (or on paper) of how to craft your design as simply as possible. Try not to overlap elements where not essential. Give your elements room to breathe.

Do a quick online search for similar artwork and take note of how others said what you need to say in a simple way.

2. Thou Shalt Save Often

So, you’re confident your 32 gigs of ram will be more than enough to keep your system running smoothly at all times? You’re wrong! At some point you will experience the dreaded Apple spinning wheel of death or your design program not responding. And when that happens you better hope you recently saved your artwork!

In all seriousness, I have lost a few days of my life recreating artwork I lost because I wasn’t saving files often enough. Learn from my mistake and get in the habit of saving your files on the regular. Most of the time there is a quick key selection for quickly saving your recent file changes.

A good recommendation is to save your file every 10 minutes, an even better recommendation is to ask yourself “how much time am I willing to lose” and save at that increment. Remember… it’s not even just the time it takes to redoing the work, but also remember WHAT you did.

Another good habit to get into is saving right before you are going to add an element that will be CPU heavy (like copying or pasting large or complex elements). These are usually the moments that your system decides it doesn’t like you.

3. Thou Shalt Keep it in the Family

This goes back to keeping it simple. Instead of using 10 different fonts… keep your text in the font family! Most of the time your design will look best if you use 3 different typefaces max on any given design. What I recommend is to use fonts that have multiple weights and styles. This helps you keep things interesting, but also cohesive because all your text is from the same font family. Here are a few fonts I recommend that have large families. Some you may already have, some are free, and some require a purchase to get the whole family, but it can be worth it if you are doing a lot of graphic design:

Gotham Font Example

4. Thou Shalt Offset Dominate Color

Using straight white or black is easy, but it is not creative…. and creativity is what graphic design is all about! Instead try to take a dominant color from your artwork and making it really dark or really light (whichever side of the spectrum will add more contrast).

Say you started with a royal blue…. make that royal blue a really dark blue, or a really light blue (staying within the original colors hue). This is very similar to using straight white or black, but it will give your artwork more cohesion in a very nice way.

5. Thou Shalt Never Use Grainy Images

So you found the perfect image for your artwork, but it needs to be larger… so you stretch it to fit the size needed. Wrong! Any time that you stretch a raster image larger (an image that is full color and not vector), your image will start looking grainy and blurry. Almost nothing ruins a professional design worse than grainy images.

The internet is a huge place… take the time to find a similar image that is large enough for your needs. Making an image smaller is always ok. If you are in photoshop remember to check your artwork at 100% (or view print size) to make sure everything looks crisp.

6. Thou Shalt Never Use Comic Sans or Papyrus Fonts

Just don’t… ever… trust me… it’s for the best!

Comic Sans and Papyrus Fonts

7. Thou Shalt Respect White Space

One design aspect that will set you apart from noobs is making white space a priority no matter what. “White space” refers to the open areas you want to leave around elements, text and ordering your entire artwork. Even when working with small graphics it is better to shrink your elements and leave enough space for them to live rather than to have things touching each other and touching the edge of your design space.

Think of each element like a human being who needs a personal bubble. Once in a great while other elements can come into that bubble, but for the most part leave it empty!

8. Thou Shalt Receive Inspiration, But Never Copy

It is totally cool to find inspiration from other graphics or artwork. It is not cool (and actually illegal) to use someone else’s art without their permission, or to exactly recreate it. When you realize that basically everything creative has already been done it makes it less humbling to let others inspire you, but don’t ever save time by directly stealing from someone else. There are plenty of stock photo/graphic sites online where you can legally purchase photos or vector elements to integrate into your artwork legally. I recommend Adobe Stock (especially if you use Adobe Software).

9. Thou Shalt Always Align

Aligning all your elements can take some time, but it will bring organization and sophistication to your graphics. It will also help your message get across because organized graphics are easier for viewers to interpret. Alignment areas to consider:

  • Horizontal Alignment
  • Vertical Alignment
  • To Justify Text or Not
  • Vertical Center Distribution
  • Horizontal Center Distribution

10. Thou Shalt Create a Color Palette

Using the right colors is an important part of adding emotion or meaning to your artwork. Instead of randomly grabbing colors as you go, find or create a color palette that will help people connect with your message. Doing a quick google search for color pallets or grabbing colors from a similar graphic before you start designing can go a long way in bringing your art to the next level.

Check out our blog post on the power of color in advertising.

Color Swatches

Too Much To Think About?

Some of this might seem overly complicated and thats ok! Just do what you can do and continue to learn your software and knowledge of design tips. Learning the ins and outs of quality graphic design does not happen overnight. This is why we offer design services at Wilde Signs. We also create every type of sign imaginable at the best value per dollar spent (in our opinion).

If you are in need of outsourced, professional graphic design for any type of project please contact us today. Our in-house design team is ready to create something unique, that meets all your needs and will connect with viewers. You can also Learn more about our graphic design services here.