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7 Signs of An Amateur Graphic Designer

By on April 3, 2012 — Updated on February 20, 2016

Learning is change. This is one of the Principles of Leaning I learned in college. The principle simply means that you can only consider an individual to have learned something if there is a notable change in his behavior as influenced by his experiences.

No change means no learning, means no experience. No employer hires a worker who has no experience unless maybe if the boss is his or her relative.

Every graphic designer has experienced doing bad deigns and got rejected. I experienced that for many times, but it did stop me from exploring something new and making more and more designs. I have listed here seven things I badly did while I was starting to learn Graphic Design.

Perhaps, you can use these points to evaluate your design skills. If you still do these things, maybe you need to consider improving you graphic design skills after reading this post.

1. You still enjoy using multi-colored backgrounds.

Do you still use a rainbow colored background? Silly. Anyway, I also have had loved that.  It is the right time to forget about that multi-colored background.

overcrowded design

A single-colored backgrounds is easier to work with and is neat. Many say that black is elegant but I prefer to use white as main background unless black is required or a brand color should be used.


If you are not familiar with white space, it is the area which is empty but not necessary to be white. Having ample of this, makes your design looks more professional. It also allows the eyes of your readers rest.

This is the common mistake of graphic designers in retail industry because maybe the boss wants to put all the low-priced items in a one page print advertisement.

Overcrowded design is messy and it gives an impression of low quality. Is this what you want your customers think about your product? If yes, go on with your overcrowded design.

3. You still love beveled and embossed and drop shadowed text.

When I first learn creating beveled and embossed and drop shadow text effects, I was very excited to use them in every design I was making. Not only that, I was also so fascinated with ‘outer glow’.

I even used them on images and on the small texts but when I look back on my previous designs, they really look silly. I am not saying that using emboss, drop shadow and outer glow on your designs is bad but as much as possible minimize using them.

If you really have no choice and you need these effects, customize the setting. Do not use the default. See this comparison below.

gold text effect

I suggest cast shadow than drop shadow. Here is my Photoshop tutorial about realistic cast shadow.

4. You often use fancy and well decorated fonts.

Fancy and well decorated for sometimes look sexy, happy and cool. Yes, they are. However, you should have a very good judgment on how to use them properly and sparingly. Readability is still very important because your well crafted copy will become void if no one could read it.

fancy vs. normal fonts

Always remember that when it comes to producing designs, you have to give more emphasis on the message than aesthetics. If you want to use fancy font styles, make sure that you apply them on the bigger text and use the more readable fonts like Helvetica, Verdana or Arial for the smaller ones.

5. You do not observe margin and bleed.

The elements of your designs that are intentionally set on bleed are indeed different from the elements that are cut because you do not use margin and bleed on your design.

Margin is the allowance or the space inside the page from the edge while bleed is the allowance outside the page that is reserved be cut and thrown away. Most printing companies require 5mm bleed.

bleed, margin and trim line

This is very important on print designs because after printing, the edges of the printouts are to be trimmed. And if you have not put an allowance for this purpose, you will just be surprise to see your design with some missing letters afterwards.

6. You don’t care about the quality of the photos.

You never mind the quality of the product photo long as you have the image to use. It is okay for you whether its is full of ‘noise’, blurred, low resolution, overexposed, underexposed, with bad reflections, improperly angled and so on. You only use them for the sake of compliance. If you’re doing this, you are worse than I was.

product photography post processing

Try too look back on the two design at our point No.2, and observe how the way the products are shoot affects the design. Do not underestimate the power of photos because they can speak the words which you cannot express.

7. It doesn’t take time for you start a new design.

About a week ago I have posted, A Good Print Design is Not Done in 30 Minutes, Not Even 1 Hour. You can check it out to find out why it takes time to start a new design to produce a good one. If you want to finish your design so fast, expect that you cannot produce a good and effective one.

So, how do you consider yourself, amateur graphic designer or not? Thank you for reading. Godspeed!

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  1. Sumi Go

    April 3, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    First time to visit your blog and I'm loving it! I love playing on Photoshop but I don't think I'm good enough. These are definitely helpful so I'll make sure to remember these pointers whenever I'm about to design something :) Actually, I'll stand by your tips when I start designing my new blog theme.

  2. Grysh Co

    April 4, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Certainly learned a lot from this one. I suck at Photoshop. Lmao. :)


  3. Hopeful

    April 5, 2012 at 1:52 am

    I want to be an expert designer but I need to start from scratch. I am just using free Photoshop but expired already. Do you know where to get the cheap software for me to use?

  4. Jyppe A. Quidores

    April 5, 2012 at 6:09 am

    Hello 'Hopeful', I have no Idea where do you currently base, if you are in Brunei, I can tell you a store where you can buy some cheap graphic design softwares. ^_^

    Actually, the Photoshop CS6 Beta is now out for free downloading. You get your own copy from or you can google 'Download Adobe Photoshop CS6 Beta – Adobe Labs' or use this link,

    To Sumi and Grysh, thank you for leaving your comments, I'll also visit you blog later. ^_^ I am sorry about my reply buttons because they don't work. I have some problems with my threaded comment system, which I do not know how to fix.

  5. metalpig design

    June 20, 2012 at 9:02 am

    When I’d started as a graphic designer, I used all of the above-listed without any exception. And now, I think I’m already moved-on…. for good. :)
    I invite you to read: Liquid Flowers High Speed Photography Series by Jack LongMy Profile

  6. carmel

    June 21, 2012 at 5:52 am

    Great tips! I was confused why #4 came in after #1. Learning the basic design rules is always important esp. incorporating white space and not using too many fancy fonts.
    I invite you to read: Top Rated Carry-On LuggagesMy Profile

  7. tatess

    June 22, 2012 at 6:04 am

    “7. It doesn’t take time for you start a new design.

    About a week ago I have posted, A Good Print Design is Not Done in 30 Minutes, Not Even 1 Hour. You can check it out to find out why it take time to start a new design to produce a good one.”

    in other fields of job .the more you are experienced to the job ,the faster you do the work but in graphic designing it is the other way around ,hmm, interesting.
    I invite you to read: Health Benefit of Electronic CigarettesMy Profile

  8. RonLeyba

    June 27, 2012 at 12:25 am

    I consider myself as an amateur designer. But thankfully, I am not doing all of the above BAD designs, maybe just a few haha.
    I invite you to read: 8 Basic Camera Shots for Photography AmateursMy Profile

  9. Jerome Ibuyan

    April 5, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Now I know what makes an amateur graphic designer. I’m still taking time to learn Photoshop(CS6 is so easy to use. Fortunately my younger brother is a graphic artist so someone is there to teach me.
    Personally, I’m not a fan of bevel and emboss effects but I love using drop shadow effect. It’s because it adds texture to texts, especially on fascinating fonts.
    Great post!
    I invite you to read: A Comprehensive Visual Guide to Pinterest Image Optimization [Infographic]My Profile

  10. Dario

    September 24, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Fortunately, i dropped all these bad habits at the school.
    The only thing is that i tend to rush because i want to see the finished product, so i would say i have to improve step 7 :)

  11. Jack White

    June 10, 2015 at 3:56 am

    I think that they message here, is that simplicity is always better. When you try too hard, it shows that you are not confident. It really is like dating in a way. People don’t want to be overwhelmed with too much effort. Simplicity makes you look like you can get the job done. This is why signs nowadays don’t show any crazy fonts, but get the message across.

  12. Abhilasha

    August 31, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    I am reading your blog first time and its really informative for me. I am a graphic designer and have to follow the above mentioned steps, in order to make a perfect creative. Keep sharing such article posts.

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