How to Become A Famous Artist in One Week – And Other Myths (Part 4)

If you are thinking about pursuing a career in art and design, or picking up some specific skills, there are multiple paths you can choose from. Here are five of those options:

1. Independent art/design schools

2. Art/Design departments affiliated with colleges and universities

3. Two-year community colleges

4. Classes offered by adult education programs

5. Tutorials and self-guided instruction in books, magazines and websites

We have already discussed Independent art/design schools, art/design departments in colleges and universities, and art courses offered at community colleges and adult education programs. You can read those discussions here, here and here. Today, in our final post on this topic, we look at tutorials and self-guided instruction in books, magazines and websites.

Anyone looking for specific information about how to do something (common or exotic) can thank their lucky stars that they live in this age of the internet. Today “how to” instructions for making or doing nearly anything are just a few keystrokes away. If being online does not work for you, we also live in an era flooded with illustrated instructional hardcopy books and magazines. It’s a wonderful time to be exploring new worlds and developing new skills.

For those of you just getting started learning about art and design – or for established professionals – tutorials and self-guided instruction can be exactly what you are looking for. Two enduring aspects about the world of art and design make tutorials and self-guided instruction particularly relevant and viable:

1. Good artists and designers are constantly learning new techniques and skills. The very nature of the field involves creative problem solving and invention. Even if you’ve taken art and design classes at a private art school or university, as soon as you graduate a totally new challenge will come your way requiring new information or a new approach…and these new challenges will keep coming for the rest of your career. Tutorials and self-guided instruction are primary resources for established artists and designers as well as for people just learning about the field.

2. Successful artists and designers are judged primarily by the strength of their portfolio (i.e., examples of their best work). If you have a strong portfolio filled with interesting and skillful work it will trump most other considerations. A degree from a first-rate art school or university – plus an adequate portfolio – is good. A killer portfolio, with or without a degree from a prestigious school, can be just as valuable. In other words a strong portfolio is the key to professional success. Tutorials and self-guided instruction can enhance the basic skills you are currently learning in school and help you develop a stronger portfolio for your classes. They can also help you sharpen your portfolio if you are learning on your own.

Both online and printed instruction come in a variety of forms. Tutorials are most often focused on specific skills (e.g., how to create effective drop shadows in Photoshop) while self-guided instruction generally covers a broader range of information (e.g., learning the basics of desktop publishing or web design). Beyond specific instruction there are resources that provide insight and inspiration. There are also resources designed to be references you can return to over and over again. Here are a few examples to get you started. has a very large collection of high quality instructional videos covering lots of digital topics. The videos range from introductions to advanced techniques. Some videos are free and you can get a sense of the company’s high production values by viewing a few of them. One small monthly fee gives you access to the entire collection. If you are serious about learning new techniques in any mainstream digital media, is the first resource you should check out. offers bitesize video classes on a wide variety of art and design topics. Classes are focused on learning specific skills. They are taught by other members of the Skillshare community (both professionals and amateurs) who have a passion for that particular topic. Some classes are free. Unlimited access to over 1500 classes is available for a modest monthly or yearly fee.

YouTube has an amazing collection of free video tutorials covering nearly any topic imaginable. Some videos are made by professionals and some by total amateurs. Just type a topic in the search field and hit “enter.” You’ll be amply rewarded. is a commercial site but many of the instructional videos are free. A good collection that covers lots of mainstream products. has hundreds of free instructional videos about this ubiquitous software application. They are culled from a variety of sources and cover several generations of Photoshop.

Of course our ebook Design: A Beginner’s Handbook is an excellent place for aspiring art and design students to start their journey. It is written in plain language using everyday illustrations…and it covers all the basics of design.

Thinking with Type is a book for graphic designers written by Ellen Lupton. It is about the effective use of type in the larger arena of print and web design. uses the old Dating Game format to help you select combinations of type fonts that work together in a design. is a collection of color harmonies showing which colors work well in combinations with each other and what they might look like in a composition. To aid digital and web designers the hexadecimal value of each color is noted., IGNANT, and are frequently updated websites that cover a wide variety of topics ranging from architecture and advertising to photography and video – with stops in between for branding, creativity and marketing. They are three of many similar sites that feature art, design and culture. Follow any (or all) of them on social media and you’re sure to get a daily dose of inspiration and ideas.

These suggestions just begin to scratch the surface of what’s available. A few Google or Bing searches will fill in any remaining gaps.


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