Most people think that understanding and producing quality brochures, business cards, newsletters or ads takes a trained graphic designer, an expensive software or both. This is not the case. Most people can save a great deal of cash and maximize their business advertising budgets by doing some of the graphics work themselves. There are a few basic rules of thumb that can get anyone started with graphic design and there are many many software applications that can jump start the endeavor for free.
First, lets talk about software. Most graphic artist use Photoshop to create their digital marvels, but there are comparable free software applications. GIMP is one of the better free graphic design software applications. It has most of the same tools as Photoshop and many interesting filters and features. There are many others, but this is the most comparable to Photoshop.
After you download your free software, go through the tutorials. These will teach you some of the most basic skills and identify your tools and their purposes.
After you have been through the tutorials, it's time to try a project. I recommend that everyone start with a business card. It is small, has a defined content and will build your confidence with your new software.
The number one thing to remember with all graphic design is color. Color can make or break any graphic design content. If your business is a swimming pool business, use colors that are reminiscent of pools (ie. Blue, turquoise and sandy colors). If you have a restaurant, think of the kind of cuisine you serve. Warmer colors make people hungry. Choose yellows, oranges and reds to make your cards appealing to the eye and the palette.
After you have chosen some colors, add in your basic text. Now its time to make a logo. Take your initials, add in your basic colors and apply an interesting filter to the selected text.
Look at the line of your document. Is there anything that is obstructing the flow of your document. Graphics are meant to complement text, not overpower it.
After you have completed your design, compare your design with professional samples. How does it stack up? You can always get great ideas from things others have done with graphic design. Do not be afraid to surf the internet for graphic ideas. You are sure to find something you can use.
Finally, practice. The more you practice your graphic design skills, the better you will be.