Shop Talk

Common Design Mistakes to Avoid

Being an artist can be challenging, especially if you’re just starting out, or have picked up any bad habits along the way. Like dipping your paintbrush into your freshly brewed cup of coffee. Yum.

No matter how long you have been creating art, mistakes happen, but being aware of these issues can help you avoid them. With that in mind, here are some examples of common design mistakes, and a few examples of what can be done when you create something just right.


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.


As they say, a picture is worth a whole mess of words, but hopefully not messy words. Often, a design is strong enough without adding any text or additional elements to it. There may be an urge to add more in order to make sure the message is clear, but that can take all the fun out of interpreting art and feeling a personal connection to it. Resist the urge to add too much.

Just right. 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. However, adding a bit of variation to your work can make a good design, a great one. Ask yourself what can be done to add a bit of variation while still keeping the overall feel of the design. It’s like adding the last final touches to already tasty pizza. Adding a little here, changes this there, and now it’s a pizza that deserves to be photographed before being devoured.

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. When working non-destructively, use layers, masks, and smart objects. This will help, for example, when you need to extract your images from background.

How to fix it. The image to the right shows small pixel artifacts that are hard to find in an image editor, but show up when you add the design to stickers for example. Using non-destructive techniques, this is easy to avoid and remedy if needed. We’ve written some tips here on how to fix this issue.

Not Breaking the Rules

Learning all of the rules and best practices when it comes to design and illustration is a great idea. Knowing the best way to approach a particular challenge can make the entire process of creating art more fun, although breaking the rules is just as rewarding. Understanding why certain rules are promoted, allows you to know exactly how to bend them 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.