I’ve been a graphic designer for well over 10 years. I’ve spent hundreds of hours in the Adobe Creative Suite Programs and utilize the tools in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign everyday for my life and business.

I get lots of questions from students and readers that are interested in learning more about graphic design, but the most frequently asked is this:

What graphic design program is best for new designers on a budget?

It might surprise you when I don’t automatically tell you that you have to buy the Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop & InDesign). It might also come as a shock when I say that although the Adobe programs are considered industry-standard and offer the most robust tools and capabilities – it’s not necessarily the best program for new designers with or without a budget.

The learning curve in the Adobe programs is steep and the price of these tools doesn’t fit many new designers budgets. That leaves an awful lot of potential designers in a bind – and I’m not a fan of that.

So what graphic design program may be a good fit for you if you’re new and want to learn, but don’t necessarily have a large budget to purchase a subscription to the infamous Adobe Creative Suite?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Why I Suggest Canva to Those Wanting to Learn Design

Let me introduce you to Canva.

When you’re first starting out learning graphic design, there’s a large learning curve because you have to learn how how to use the tools as well as learn and apply design principles.

The tools can come in many forms and have lots of capabilities. I’ve experimented with lots of different design software options – but you want to make sure that you’ve got a good grasp on the basics first thing. Having a set of tools that is robust, but complicated, doesn’t help you learn those basics. Canva does a great job giving you the right tools with just enough options that you can learn the basics quickly and effectively.

If you do have the budget, you may be tempted to go ahead and pay that slightly more hefty price for a subscription to the industry-standard software and that’s awesome. But don’t get bogged down trying to figure out all the crazy features available right off the bat. You’ll still want to be sure you’ve got a good grasp of the basic tools first.

Here’s the great thing about Canva – it provides the basic tools, even though they might not be as flexible as those in Illustrator or the other Adobe programs, for FREE! So you can start learning the skills and getting a handle on the tools, and then worry about paying for more robust tools or a different program, later. Cost effective and smart – right!?

Won’t I Have to Learn All New Tools if I Switch Programs?

Some might tell you yes – and I guess that’s somewhat true. Not all the design programs are exactly the same. So you might have to learn a few new tools or learn some additional features of tools you already use, but even I have to do that every time a new software update comes out. The creators of the design software are always looking for new features to add and tools that make a graphic designer’s life easier – so learning never really stops.

The other thing I can assure you – although there may be some differences, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll pick them up and how intuitive things will seem once you have the basics down.

Yes, the tools may be slightly different, but the things a designer needs and use frequently stay the same – color palettes, lines, shapes, text boxes, gradients, shadows and more – they appear in every program, because they’re the basics for graphic design and Canva provides these basics for FREE.

Will I Ever Need to Upgrade and Pay for a Subscription to Canva?

Canva does offer a paid option that provides you with a few more tools and capabilities. It might be something you want to consider and upgrading might be something you may even want to do fairly soon.

My recommendation, learn the FREE stuff first. Plan out and complete a couple of projects using your new skills in Canva. Decide if you love it and use it enough to make paying for those next tools worth it.

You can read about what’s available in the paid version here. If you’re just starting out, all those bonuses of what the paid version of Canva will get you probably won’t make a lot of sense. But once you’ve jumped in, you’ll start seeing where the paid features could give you a lot more options.

When you’re ready to start thinking to paying up, you may want to check out Adobe Illustrator as well. Yes the price is a bit more, but the tool functions are more robust. Paid versions of Canva and the Adobe Programs aren’t the same – the tools in the Adobe design programs are still a lot more complex and offer a lot more options – that’s why it’ the industry standard. Think of the paid version of Canva as a middle ground and a chance to keep exploring design and decide if you want to pursue it even further.

So What’s the Best Way to Learn How to Use Canva & Get Started in Graphic Design?

There really are lots of options; in fact, if you’re willing and patient enough, you can research online and find many options for free. But if you’d rather skip searching for just the right tutorials online, you can always sign up to find out more about my courses below.

My focus is to teach how to use the tools AND applicable design principles in simple ways to accomplish great looking designs so that EVERYONE can design what they need, without spending a ton or having to “find someone”. I’d love to have you join our course!

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