Shop Talk

Common Design Mistakes to Avoid

No matter how long you have been creating art, mistakes happen. Being aware of these issues can help you avoid them. Here are some common design mistakes and a few tips on how to avoid them.

Poor Kerning

Kerning is the individual space between letters. It can often be overlooked, as most image editors make it very easy to add text to a design. However, depending on the font used, a little extra time spent on kerning can make a big difference.

How to fix it: If you’re using a program like Photoshop, place your cursor between the letters you want to fix, and use the kerning adjustment.


“A picture is worth a whole mess of words, but hopefully not messy words.” Designs are often created to deliver a message without needing text or additional elements. Does this apply to your design? There are times that additional context is super helpful. There are also times where adding more to make sure the message is clear can take the fun out of fan interpretation and personal connection. If so, resist the urge to add too much.


Less is more. In this design by Nick Volkert, it’s easy to see the log is having a bad day. It’s the title of the work, and the lack of text saying something like “Bad Day” is what helps make this design so strong. That expression says it loud and clear.

Lack of Variety

Not all designs need to be packed with a variety of lines, fonts, colors, and shapes. Adding a bit of variation to your work can make the difference between a good design and a great one. Ask yourself what can be done to change things up while still keeping the overall feel of the design. Think about adding toppings to your pizza. There is a fine line between too little, too much, and just right. Explore the balance between what you want to say and what is being said.

Just right. In this piece by Skitchism, there’s variety with the size of the text and even a completely different style for the word “later”. This variation makes the word stand out, like it should have an echo when you say it.

Working Destructively

Working in the digital space gives you the ability to set your files up so you can do more with them at a later date. Nondestructive editing lets you change an image without permanently altering the original. This means your original image stays intact, you can undo changes at any time, image quality doesn’t get worse as you edit, and all edits are saved separately from the original file. This approach gives you the freedom to experiment while always being able to go back to where you started.

How to fix this: The image to the right shows how small pixel artifacts that are hard to find in an image editor show up when you add the design to stickers. By using non-destructive techniques, issues like this can be avoided and are much easier to fix when needed. If you’re having sticker design issues, here are some more tips on how to solve some common problems.

Following the Rules

By all means, learn everything you can about the rules and best practices of illustrative design. Knowing the best way to approach a challenge may make the process of creating art more fun, although breaking the rules is just as rewarding. By understanding why certain rules are promoted, you can figure out how to bend and make them work for you.

Just right. In the example by resident artist Nyki Way, she took many figure drawing and human anatomy courses to get a full understanding of how the human body works. This knowledge allows her to warp and distort the figure to create something new and filled with movement.

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(Header Image: “CMYK-the creation of retro” by elodesigner)

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Art historian, burrito enthusiast, and Email Marketing Specialist here at Redbubble.