A lot of free ebooks have been on offer over the last few years. Though there will always be a thriving market for design books written by experts (and sometimes it is definitely worth splashing your cash to receive the highest quality content), the quality of free and 'freemium' content has vastly improved. In fact, it's often on the same level as books you'd pay for.
Thanks to the digital age, it's now viable for professionals to utilise the electronic book – a much, much cheaper way to distribute literature than printing a free physical book. If you do have some budget to spend, you could head over to our pick of the best graphic design books – you can be sure you won't be wasting your money.
If you are inspired by these free ebooks, and in need of other incredible freebies to get your project started, check out our selections of the best free graphic design software and the best free fonts for designers.
But what design content can you get for free? A quick search on your favourite search engine will reveal hundreds of free ebook options, making it difficult to extract the best ones. But we've saved you the trouble in this guide. Need something to read your ebook on? Check out our guide to the best ereaders (opens in new tab) out now.
01. Everything There Is To Know About Logo Design
Logo design is one of those apparently simple areas of graphic design that actually contains many subtle nuances. To walk you through what makes for a good logo, including how to incorporate colours and typography, download Blue Soda Promo's free ebook, Everything There Is To Know About Logo Design (opens in new tab).
Running at a trim 25 pages, this free ebook will quickly fill you in on everything you need to consider when creating a graphic to represent either your brand or that of a client.
01. Instagram for Business
Instagram is fast becoming a key tool in the success of a business. Iconosquare and HubSpot have joined forces to bring you this comprehensive ebook (opens in new tab) detailing how to use Instagram for business.
You'll find out how to optimise your use of the social media platform to best sell yourself, and grow your design business. The book covers everything from using Instagram stories and hashtags, to the anatomy of a successful Instagram post.
(Plus see our post on how to boost your Instagram engagement, for more great tips.)
03. Pay Me or Else!
Sooner or later, every designer is going to come up against a client who, for whatever reason, won't pay up come invoice time. Lior Frenkel from nuSchool (opens in new tab) has been in this situation plenty of times, so he's written a book, Pay Me or Else! (opens in new tab), on how to deal with such clients.
It's broken up into three parts: the first is about the best tactics for getting clients to pay up, the second looks into why clients don't pay, and the third part covers strategies for avoiding bad clients and working in a way that covers you in almost every situation.
04. Attention-Driven Design
Attention, says Oli Gardner, is a limited resource; every link and banner you add to a web page, while serving a purpose, also serves to distract your users and deplete their mental energy. If you want to eliminate unwanted distractions from your websites, his book Attention-Drive Design (opens in new tab) hopes to help you out.
In it, Gardner outlines techniques for achieving visual simplicity through psychology and interaction design, with plenty of real-life examples to help you ramp up your conversion rate.
05. The Shape of Design
Starting life as a talk in 2010, Frank Chimero's self-published The Shape of Design (opens in new tab) was an early design community Kickstarter success, getting funded on its first day, and has since become essential foundational reading, not just in design education but in other creative practices, too.
Focusing on the mindset of making rather than tools and methods, it asks: what are the opportunities, problems and possibilities of the creative practice? And once the work is done, what happens when it is released into the world?
06. The DesignBetter.co library
Why settle for just one free ebook when you can have three? The DesignBetter.co library (opens in new tab) from InVision aims to help you build a strong design practice.
This collection of definitive books, written by Aarron Walter and Eli Woolery, explores how the best companies approach product design, design thinking, design leadership and more.
07. 50 Must Read Tips From Designers, To Designers
As the title suggests, this free ebook from Route One Print brings together key pieces of advice from experienced graphic designers – including Jacob Cass (aka Just Creative (opens in new tab)) and Brent Galloway (opens in new tab) – to make your life easier. "From client management to typography, brand identity to finding alternative textures in Photoshop, this ebook offers practical tips for designers and showcases new ways to think about design," says the blurb.
It also promises to reveal which fonts the designers never use. Is it Comic Sans? Helvetica? We guess you'll have to download the 50 Must Read Tips From Designers, To Designers eBook (opens in new tab) to find out. Route 1 offers a whole range of ebooks for designers in fact, including The Freelancer’s Bible (below) and The Design Comedy: How to deal with the 9 stages of client hell.
08. Brand House Book
If you're having problems getting to grips with the world of branding, this free ebook by Roger Lindeback can help you out by taking away all the jargon and relating it to everyday experience.
In the Brand House Book (opens in new tab), Lindeback aims to make branding tangible by comparing it to building a house. He breaks it down into six manageable stages – dreaming, planning, starting work, designing, building and finally getting the details right – with a branding summary at the end of each stage, setting out all the important issues to think through in your brand building process.
09. The Practical Interaction Design Bundle
Not one but three free ebooks in one handy bundle, The Practical Interaction Design Bundle consists of three free volumes from UXPin (opens in new tab), comprising over 250 pages of design best practices and with over 60 examples of the best UX design.
Volumes 1 and 2 of Interaction Design Best Practices will take you through techniques, theories and best practices relating to the tangibles of interaction design – words, visuals and space - while volume 2 tackles the intangibles: time, responsiveness and behaviour.
Topping off the bundle is Consistency in UI Design, covering how and when to maintain consistency in your design, and when to break it to draw attention to elements - without suffering the drawbacks.
10. An Introduction to Adobe Photoshop
If you're after a beginner-friendly guide to getting started with Photoshop, this free ebook by Steve Bark, An Introduction to Adobe Photoshop (opens in new tab), will explain the fundamentals for you, from panels and tools to layers and basic printing.
If it's just a little too basic for you, never fear; there's also an intermediate guide (opens in new tab) available that covers more advanced subjects such as vector tools, smart objects and clipping masks.
11. The Building Blocks of Visual Hierarchy
If you're designing for the web and want your layouts and interfaces to be accessible and visually intuitive, The Building Blocks of Visual Hierarchy (opens in new tab) from UXPin is an invaluable resource.
This free ebook explains how size, colours, space, layout, and style affect visual understanding, provides tips for designing clear visual hierarchies, and includes 18 examples of great sites including MailChimp and RelateIQ.
12. The Freelancer's Bible
Whether you're already freelance or thinking of making the jump, The Freelancer's Bible (opens in new tab) from Route One Print is full of useful freelance advice. It includes tips on how to market your business, find your USP, license your work, manage client relationships, complete tax returns and much more.
13. Flat Design & Colors
The free ebook Flat Design & Colors (opens in new tab) by UXPin dives deep into the most powerful techniques for creating highly usable yet visually interesting web designs.
The design team compiled advice from experts and illustrated their points using examples from 40 companies such as Google, Squarespace, and others.
14. Houdini Foundations
If you're looking to add a touch of 3D art to your designs, Houdini Foundations (opens in new tab) will help get you started. With this free ebook you'll learn all about the tools and techniques you will use as a Houdini artists, then run through three lessons that teach you how to build simple projects from scratch.
15. Design's Iron Fist
Jarrod Drysdale (opens in new tab) is a designer writer who focuses his articles on getting the best out of your work. Design's Iron Fist (opens in new tab) is a sort of continuation of his previous book Bootstrapping Design (now discontinued), in which he collects all of his previous essays into one, free ebook.
Topics such as 'Think like a designer' and 'Get out of a creative rut' are just some of the titles on offer in this selection.
16. Pixel Perfect Precision Handbook
The Pixel Perfect Precision (PPP) Handbook (opens in new tab) from leading digital design agency ustwo (opens in new tab) has come a long way since it was first released. What started as a 108-page simple guide to best practice with pixels and Photoshop has grown into handbook number 3 – a whopping 214-page designer bible.
17. The Creative Aid Handbook
Created by Kooroo Kooroo, The Creative Aid is a free book jam packed full of inspiration and available to download today.
Co-founders Nicole Smith and Richard Tapp explain the concept: "It's a mini resource for your creative projects and food for your creative thoughts. We’ve included our own valuable references and resources we know and trust as a means to help you get your projects done.
"We want to give you the creative push from a direction you may not have thought of, be it informative, inspirational, or simply entertaining."
18. Type Classification eBook
This excellent 27-page ebook details the 10 key classifications for typography, providing the basic understanding you'll need to gain a grasp of the fundamentals of type selection. The Type Classification eBook (opens in new tab) covers a brief history for each of the classifications, as well as the core characteristics of the style.
19. Creative Suite Printing Guide
The Creative Suite Printing Guide (opens in new tab) from Adobe provides all the information you'll need to get the best-quality results possible when printing from Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat.
Over the course of 149 pages the different tools and options within each package are broken down, illustrating how to produce files for print that will provide accurate colour reproduction, pixel-perfect transparency matting and sharp lines.
20. Graphic Design for Non-profit Organizations
Graphic Design for Non-profit Organisations (opens in new tab) focuses mainly on design and best practices for non-profit organisations, but the content is a great resource in general and the teachings can be applied pretty much anywhere.