Graphic Artist vs Graphic Designer: Understanding the Difference

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Whilst both professions are ideal for those interested in digital and creative arts, the career paths for a graphic artist versus graphic designer differ. Understand the two jobs and learn about graphic designer and graphic artist jobs, salaries, and more.

[Featured Image]: A graphic artist wearing a white blouse and red sweater works on graphic designs on her laptop.

For creative individuals interested in digital technology, working as a graphic artist or graphic designer can be a satisfying career. Both professions blend creative expression with digital tools, but they can differ in scope and projects.  

The duties, software, and skills of graphic designers and graphic artists overlap, but learning the differences can help artistically driven people pursue a rewarding and fulfilling career. In this article, you’ll learn about the skills, educational requirements, work environments, salary differences, and job outlooks that set these two professions apart.

What does a graphic artist do? 

A graphic artist is a creative professional who produces visual material to communicate emotions, stories, and other messages to audiences. Graphic artists work in traditional and digital media and rely on artistic principles that may be abstract or novel. 

Whether producing fine arts or cartoons graphic artists are artists. They often use software, digital photography, hand drawings, painting, collage, and other creative tools to create many different kinds of projects, including:

  • Book covers

  • Still or moving images and storyboards for film or television

  • Printed designs for home decor or clothing

  • Backdrops for animation or video games

  • Art for advertisements

What does a graphic designer do? 

Graphic designers are also commercial artists, but they combine visual and text-based content to meet clients' needs. Graphic designers ensure readability and aesthetically pleasing layouts of material using a set of best practices that allow for effective communication strategies.

Graphic designers understand complementary colour palettes, optimum use of white space, readable fonts, and visual hierarchy that naturally attract the eye to the information clients want their viewers to see. The seven principles of graphic design are:

  • Pattern

  • Contrast

  • Emphasis

  • Balance

  • Scale 

  • Harmony

  • Rhythm and movement

With these design principles and best practices in mind, graphic designers work with an in-depth understanding of a brand and its elements, including text, logos, images, and illustrations. 

As a graphic designer, you  may create:

  • Flyers

  • Digital banners 

  • Print advertisements

  • Posters 

  • Magazine layouts

  • Branding guidelines such as font designs and logo creation

What skills set these two professions apart?

Graphic artists and graphic designers have slightly different skill sets. Graphic designers must determine the clearest and most aesthetically pleasing way to present words and images within a specified space. They use problem-solving skills to encourage viewers to interact with the product.

On the other hand, graphic artists focus more on communicating feelings than solving problems. They are more like storytellers who create a narrative and are less driven by specific rules. 

Additionally, whilst graphic artists can work in the same companies as graphic designers, artists may work more often as freelancers. Designers tend to work within a creative team that includes copywriters, editors, and creative managers who execute marketing strategies. Graphic artists more often work separately from a team.

Educational requirements

Whilst graphic artists and graphic designers can learn skills through apprenticeships, self-study, or years of practice, aspiring professionals are likely to have post-secondary degrees and certifications.


Graphic designers typically need a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related arts field, but they might also pursue a diploma programme or certification after Class 10 and 12. Coursework may include classes in:

  • Studio art

  • Principles of design

  • Computerised design

  • Printing techniques

  • Website design

  • Commercial graphic production

  • Marketing

  • Writing

  • Business

Graphic artists may be self-taught but can also have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, graphic arts, or fine arts. They can specialise in a specific area such as design, illustration, or photography and can take classes in:

  • Animation

  • Video graphics

  • Digital arts

  • Drawing

  • Game and interactive media design

Certifications and training

As a graphic designer, it’s important to be knowledgeable about design principles and the latest computer software used in the industry. Both professionals must create a strong portfolio for potential employers or freelance clients to review. If you’re an aspiring graphic artist or designer, online training and certification programmes can be good ways to build a collection of work that demonstrates your skills and talents. 

Work environment 

With either profession, your work environment will vary based on the client and employment situation. You might work in a studio or at a publishing house or advertising agency. There may be travel involved if you need to set up displays for clients. 

Graphic designers are frequently part of a robust creative team in a collaborative agency, working at a computer, either in an office or at home. They may work for companies focusing on print, television, animation, and other media. 

Employment for both may be full-time, part-time, or contract, and the assignments may be short or long-term. Professionals in these creative roles must often juggle many projects at once. Some graphic designers and artists are assigned to one client, whilst others work for multiple clients.


According to AmbitionBox, the annual salary for a graphic designer in India is ₹3.0 LPA [1]. A graphic artist in India can expect to earn a base salary of ₹2.5 LPA [2]. Salaries may be impacted by your location, industry, and experience level. 

Next steps  

Ready to take the next step toward becoming a graphic designer or graphic artist? The Google UX Design Professional Certificate is an online course that’s suitable for beginners and intermediate learners. The programme consists of seven courses to prepare you for an entry-level job in the graphic design and graphic art fields. Upon completion, gain exclusive access to career resources like resume review, interview prep, and career support. 

Article sources


AmbitionBox. "Graphic Designer Salary in India," Accessed June 2, 2023.

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