J. Pedro Ribeiro

How to Make the Most of Design Tutorials Without Losing Your Soul

February 25, 2010

How to Make the Most of Design Tutorials Without Losing Your Soul

Design blogs are a great source of articles, news and resources - specially if you use mainstream softwares like Photoshop and Illustrator. One of the most popular posts, and the one I’d like to discuss here, are the tutorials and how good or bad it can affect you as a designer.

A Critical View

Tutorials are a good way for learning new techniques. You can see how the designer uses the software. You can discover filters and functions that you’ve never seen or used before. All just by following a few instructions. But is this enough? Ok, it may take you from point A (empty canvas) to point B (kick-ass final result) but what have you learnt in the process? Did you pay attention to the journey between those points?

Learning, Playing, Copying

I am talking about how to use information. Don’t get me wrong, tutorials are great! I read them frequently and will probable post a couple in this blog too; however, people should be more critical about it and take it to the next level.

The Good, The Bad and The Tips

Below are lists of pros, cons and tips related to the use of tutorials.


  • It helps you learn new techniques and the logic behind each action taken;
  • Makes you think outside the box and do something unusual or different that you’re used to;
  • Enables you to view each step taken by other designers to achieve certain effect;
  • It’s a good way to work out your design skills, you might not use the whole tutorial on your next project, but some details will definitely be part of your design repertoire.


  • If used in a mechanical way you become a designer-robot: you will have to look back at the tutorial every time you want to achieve the same results;
  • Imitation instead of creation;
  • If your learning method is limited to tutorials you’ll never be a self taught person; which is quite essential in the web design business;
  • Easy (and a bit lazy) way to achieve specific effect.


  • Try to understand why the designer is using that specific filter or technique. Is this the only way? Could you achieve the same results using something else?
  • Be different and innovate, what would happen if you skip one step and alter the values of that other filter? You don’t have to do exactly the same as the author suggests, the idea is to learn and not imitate;
  • Whenever possible, use different sources of tutorials and try to combine different ideas to create the same result.

What Do You Think?

What are your thoughts on tutorials? Do you use them often? How do you use them? Use the comments section below to share your opinion.

J. Pedro Ribeiro

I’m a Brazilian front-end developer living in London. This website features some of my latest projects and my thoughts on anything web related.
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