Online Graphic Design Courses | Penn Foster College

Online Graphic Design Courses

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Graphic Design Certificate Program

If you have an eye for design and a love for working with technology, it's time to explore the possibilities of a pursuing career as a graphic designer. Take the first step toward a new creative future in the online Graphic Design program at Penn Foster College.

Online graphic design courses in this undergraduate certificate program cover everything from graphic design and production using Adobe® software to portfolio development. Whether you want to break into the field or gain new skills for your current job, Penn Foster College offers support that will help you take the first steps. Plus, with our online format, there is no classroom needed – learn it all at home, at the pace that's right for you. We even include all the software that you need for your lessons!

The course credits earned in this program can be transferred to Penn Foster College's Online Graphic Design Associate Degree Program.

Curriculum Details

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The Graphic Design undergraduate certificate program prepares students to use Adobe® software for graphic design and production in a current career or to continue their graphic design education.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Identify different career options available to digital artists
  • Understand the correct use of color and its effectiveness in creating designs
  • Describe the formal elements of design, including line, shape, form, direction, texture, value, color, and composition.
  • Use Adobe Illustrator® to create graphics illustrations for print, multimedia and the web
  • Use Adobe Photoshop® to create high quality photos, graphics for product illustrations, logos, animations, and websites
  • Use Adobe Illustrator® or Adobe Photoshop® to enhance words, phrases or quotations, to communicate effectively with your audience, and use both traditional and contemporary typographic skill
  • Use Adobe InDesign® to design an image, brochure, magazine or web page to reach target audiences with printed publications that can be repurposed into interactive digital documents for delivery on the Web and on mobile and tablet devices
  • Use brand information to design a package that's appropriate for the target audiences
  • Discuss general manufacturing and printing processes related to packaging design
  • Create a digital portfolio to use on an interview for an entry level position

Course 1

Basic Skills Assessment

All applicants are required to complete two Basic Skills Assessments, one in reading and one in math, to determine the level of readiness for beginning their selected program. Additional studies may be required.

GRD101 Graphic Design Orientation 1 credit

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program, and learn how computer technology enables the trained individual to create highly sophisticated images.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal, including your My Homepage and My Courses pages.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
  • Describe the benefits of using computers for artistic purposes.
  • Identify hardware and tools used to create digital art.
  • Explore different career opportunities available to digital artists.

Course 2

GRD105 Color Theory 3 credits

Color sends a powerful message, and the correct use of color can add to the effectiveness of any project.


  • Explain the perception of color, the effect of light temperature on the appearance of a color, and color overtone and its impact on color mixing
  • Describe the principles and structure of color, including light, color schemes, and color proportions
  • Identify color studies with various materials and techniques
  • Recognize color interaction and effects
  • Comprehend how to apply color principles
  • Discuss color harmony and proportions
  • Define and interpret color in art and its psychological effects

Textbook: Color: A Workshop for Artists and Designers


Course 3

GRD110 Introduction to Graphic Design 3 credits

In this course, you’ll explore endless possibilities to create a great design.


  • Identify the basic design principles for communicating visually
  • Incorporate the theories of Gestalt into your work
  • Identify which tools or processes will be best for your project
  • Display skill at four basic principles: contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity

Textbook: Non-Designers Design Book


Course 4

GRD115 Graphic Design and Production 3 credits

Learn and practice the basic skills needed to produce Adobe® Illustrator® artwork.


  • Set up your workspace and draw basic shapes
  • Draw and paint complex artwork
  • Work with gradient meshes, type, and multiple art boards
  • Combine text with graphics
  • Create and use custom swatches, brushes, and symbols
  • Work with effects
  • Prepare artwork for output
  • Create charts, graphs, and drawings in perspective
  • Create a website interface using image trace and live color

Software: Adobe® CS6 Design Standard

Textbook: Adobe Illustrator CS6: The Professional Portfolio


Course 5

GRD130 Photo Image-Editing 1 3 credits

In this course, you’ll learn to use Adobe® Photoshop® to produce the highest-quality images for print, Web, and screen.


  • Modify and enhance images
  • Create original imagery using shape and painting tools
  • Retouch and correct existing photographs and images
  • Extract detailed selections from existing images
  • Apply special effects and filters to images
  • Add type to images
  • Create and optimize static and animated images for delivery on the Web

Textbook: Adobe® Photoshop® CS6 Digital Classroom


Course 6

GRD135 Photo Image Editing 2 3 credits

Continue your study of photo image editing usingAdobe® Photoshop,® and practice your skills through step-by-step projects.


  • Set up your workspace for print and Web
  • Use Bridge to manage your images
  • Create custom colors and describe color processes
  • Use nondestructive adjustment tools to correct and edit images
  • Use retouching tools and keyboard shortcuts
  • Create composite images using layers, layer effects, and blend modes
  • Employ selections and channels to edit and composite images
  • Use vector drawing tools
  • Find, use, and manipulate images
  • Save files in the proper format and resolution
  • Output files for proofing, page layout, printing, and the Web

Textbook: Photoshop CS6 Essential Skills


Course 7

GRD201 Typography 3 credits

Typography is the study of the design of font and the way it is laid out to achieve the desired visual effect. Many graphic design projects involve typography.


  • Define key moments in the history of typography
  • Label key parts of a letterform
  • Differentiate among the five classic typefaces
  • Design with text type
  • Design with display type
  • Use both traditional and more recent typographic skills
  • Create your own design projects

Textbook: Designing with Type


Course 8

GRD205 Electronic Publishing 3 credits

In this course, you’ll learn to use Adobe® InDesign® software to create printed publications into that can be repurposed into interactive digital documents for delivery on the Web, mobile, and tablet.


  • Set up files for single– and multiple–page documents for print and digital publishing
  • Lay out text and images on the page
  • Format and stylize text
  • Use tools and shortcuts
  • Set tabs to align text
  • Set up master pages and styles
  • Use vector drawing tools
  • Modify graphics
  • Locate, use, and manipulate images
  • Create and manage color
  • Output files for proofing and for final print
  • Create special image effects

Textbook: Adobe InDesign CS6 Digital Classroom


Course 9

GRD212 Corporate Design 3 credits

In this course, you’ll learn the components of a successful brand.


  • Interpret branding and packaging design as a communication and marketing tool
  • Identify the market factors that affect packaging
  • Explain the importance of brand packaging design as it relates to the protection against spoilage, breakage, and tampering and as a method of transportation for an enclosed product
  • Distinguish between branding, brand packaging design, and other communication forms
  • Develop a clearly defined strategy for brand packaging design that stands out from market competition
  • Incorporate the use of typography, dimensions, and imagery as it relates to the communicable characteristics of a brand or product
  • Summarize the importance of sustainability as it relates to packaging design
  • Discuss general manufacturing and printing processes related to packaging design

Textbook: Packaging Design: Successful Product from Concept to Shelf


Course 10

GRD220 Web Graphic Arts Design 3 credits

This course focuses on using Adobe® Photoshop® to create graphics, animations, and page layouts for the Web.


  • Set up your workspace
  • Define Web terminology
  • Discuss color processes and create custom colors
  • Use layers
  • Create shapes and objects
  • Create documents for mobile devices
  • Work with wire frames
  • Format type for Web viewing
  • Use layer styles
  • Create website mock-ups
  • Save and optimize images in the correct resolution
  • Create image sprites
  • Automate workflow
  • Integrate images with other Adobe CS6 applications

Course 11

GRD225 Portfolio Development 3 credits

This course is designed to take you through the process of creating a professional portfolio to obtain work in the design field.


  • Prepare a professional verbal and visual presentation that includes a cover letter, résumé, and portfolio
  • Identify and select portfolio pieces that showcase your abilities and experiences
  • Identify weak areas in your portfolio
  • Select and organize appropriate portfolio pieces
  • Compare advantages and disadvantages of digital and traditional portfolios
  • Identify digital portfolio software and technical requirements
  • Produce linear and interactive digital portfolios for delivery on CD, DVD, or the Web
  • Design a user-friendly interface for an interactive digital portfolio
  • Create compelling type designs and layouts

Textbook: The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Portfolio Design


Proctored Exam

Exam information

This assessment will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the program. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Computer Specifications
You will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. You will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows® 7 or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, Microsoft® Office 2013, and an email account to complete your program with Penn Foster.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and PhotoShop are trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Sample Lesson

To view a sample lesson from our Undergraduate Certificate in Graphic Design program, click here.

Undergraduate Certificate in Graphic Design Program Details

In our online graphic design courses, you'll cover topics such as:

This graphic design certificate program is not a degree program, nor does it offer the student a degree upon completion.

Learn key design and computer skills as you take steps toward your dream career in the Graphic Design program at Penn Foster College. Contact us today to get started.

Online Undergraduate Certificate in Graphic Design

Graphic Designers can be found working at advertising agencies, design studios, publishing houses, corporate communication departments, and television studios.

Here are a few qualities that effective graphic designers have in common:

  • Creative: When it comes to design, you often have to think outside of the box.
  • Flexible: Projects may require compromise and different approaches for different clients.
  • Innovative: Design issues will require creativity and unique problem solving.
  • Dependable: Clients and employers rely on you to get the job done.

Having a degree will increase my chances of being put at the top of the promotion list. I suggest Penn Foster programs all of the time to my coworkers. I am in the military, and Penn Foster is a very military-friendly school. I got all of my materials shipped to me while I was overseas for deployment.

- Amy G., Penn Foster College Graduate

I enjoyed very much the ability to become part of the Penn Foster group. The instructors were extremely helpful and kind. They were always there when I needed help or just plain needed advice.

- Ashley L., Penn Foster College Graduate

I am currently in my second semester and Penn Foster College is THE BEST online college for those of us who have full-time jobs and shift workers, because Penn Foster gives us the flexibility to study at our own convenience, at our own pace, and WITHOUT deadlines. And the cost is VERY inexpensive for a two-year Associate Degree.

- Todd L., Penn Foster College Student/

Your program includes:

  • Customized payment plans with 0% interest
  • Learning aids such as Adobe® CS6 Design Standard
  • Goal-setting and progress-tracking tools
  • Instructional support from our experienced faculty
  • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online community, plus immediate membership in the Undergraduate Certificate in Graphic Design academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

Does Penn Foster College provide the necessary software for the Undergraduate Certificate in Graphic Design Program?

Yes, the required software is included in the price of the program.

When do students receive the software? How long after enrolling?

You'll receive the software for this program with the fourth course, Graphic Design and Production.

More FAQs >

The completion of a certificate-level program does not typically qualify a student for employment. Completion of this program may assist students who have previous academic or work related experience improve their chances for promotion or entry-level employment.

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