Graphic Designer Salary in California

Posted on January 23, 2023 | Updated on October 27, 2023

Whether they already live in the Golden State or are thinking about moving there, professional artists probably wonder what is the graphic designer salary in California? One thing to keep in mind is how many different areas the state covers. A salary in Los Angeles may vary greatly from the salary in Fresno.

Potential employees also must keep in mind the cost of living for the state, which can be considerably higher than some other locations in the United States. A graphic designer salary in California may seem impressive on the surface. However, when you factor in the cost of buying or renting a home and fuel costs, the rate might be undesirable.

How Much Is a Graphic Designer Salary in California?

According to, the average graphic designer salary in California is between $52,260 and $61,492. A new graphic designer will make much less than one with years of experience or specialized training. When the median is around $50k, you can’t expect to make that fresh out of college with zero experience in the field. 

How much education you’ve received can also impact your earning potential. Someone with an undergraduate degree in graphic design and a master’s in business administration has the option to work their way into management positions and increase their earning potential. 

How can you know what to expect out of a graphic designer salary in California? We’ve delved into the research that shows how much you can expect in different areas and levels of experience. You can use this information as a resource for publications, career management or personal needs. 

How Much Is a Graphic Designer Salary in California-Los Angeles?

The highest 10% of graphic designers can make nearly $100,000 per year. When considering a position in Los Angeles (LA), you must factor in how far your graphic designer salary will stretch to meet your basic needs. It may take years to reach the highest levels.

The average graphic designer salary in LA is $24.13 per hour, which is 10% above the national average for the same position. However, those with more than 10 years of experience, can expect around $31.06 per hour. 

Numbeo’s Cost of Living Index takes into account the estimated monthly costs for a single person living in LA. You can expect to pay around $1,086.40 before rent. estimates rent for a one-bedroom will be around $2,807 per month, with around a 5% increase each year. You might think to yourself that you’ll work in LA and live nearby in Santa Monica or Venice, but rent there can be even higher.

How Much Is a Graphic Designer Salary in Santa Clara, California?

LA isn’t the only place in California you might find a job. Graphic designer salaries in places such as Silicon Valley are quite competitive. While the cost of living isn’t less, you may be able to garner a bit higher wages or better benefits from big tech companies in the area.

Indeed estimates the average base salary of a graphic designer salary in Santa Clara, CA is around $26.27 per hour–about 20% above the national average. 

Numbeo estimates you’ll pay $1,128.97 without rent for a single person in Santa Clara. Trulia lists a one-bedroom, one-bath for $2,695 per month. Some young singles save money by renting a room in a home or taking a roommate or two. 

Should You Move to California?

Now that you have an idea of the average costs to live and graphic designer salary in California, you might wonder if you should make the move. There are both pros and cons to moving to the state. 


  • Beautiful weather nearly all year long
  • Tons of opportunities for leisure and entertainment
  • More job opportunities than some areas
  • Excellent colleges to expand your knowledge


  • Expensive home prices and rent costs
  • High cost of living
  • Fierce competition for highest paying positions
  • High state taxes and issues with energy

If you have family living in California or you’ve always wanted an adventure, it may be worth it to give a position there a try. On the other hand, if your family and friends live far away from the coast and you don’t have a compelling reason to move, you may want to avoid some of the expenses and aggravation of a highly populated state. 

Tips to Make the Most of Your Graphic Designer Salary

If you’ve been offered a position with a firm located in California, you can make the most of even a median wage in some creative ways.

Freelance on the Side

In the beginning of your career as a graphic designer, you may find you need to take on some freelance work on the side to keep income flowing into your bank account. Low starting salaries in the industry make it difficult no matter where you live. 

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the lowest 10% earned $31,000 or less per year. It’s difficult to survive on that amount no matter where you live, but especially in California. 

Freelancing also gives you an opportunity to network with a variety of industries. You might find you earn more income from a medical manufacturer than a small marketing agency, for example. 

Seek a Company With Great Perks

Your salary may be stretched a bit thin until you gain experience and begin gathering raises. One thing you can do is ask for perks as part of your employment package. For example, some companies pay a gym membership or offer a stipend for vacations. Others might have add-ons such as paying for your smartphone.

If the offer doesn’t already include some additional perks, ask for them as part of your package. Not having to pay for a gym membership is money in your pocket and may help you while you gain experience. 

Work Remotely

Another option that works extremely well for many graphic designers is taking on a position with a California company that allows remote work. You will benefit from the higher salaries in the area while living in a lower cost of living location, such as the Midwest or some southern states. 

If you’re earning 10% more than local companies pay, but your cost of living is based on the going rate in your area, you come out ahead. If you get offered a graphic designer salary in California that you don’t think is sustainable in that area, inquire about working from home and see if they’ll allow you to stay in a place you can afford or perhaps have family support. 

Seek Awards and Experience

One way you can garner a higher salary as a graphic designer in any major city in California is by expanding your experience and showing off your skills. Enter contests, volunteer to design for nonprofit organizations and create a portfolio of your best examples.

The more familiar your name is to others in your industry, the more likely a company will offer to pay you what you want to make. Graphic design isn’t one of the highest paying careers, but it allows people to tap into their artistic side. You’ll create something from nothing that is lasting and makes a difference for the brand you work for. 

Don’t be afraid to enter contests, gather feedback, improve your work and build new skills. The more marketable you are as a designer, the higher salary you can demand. 

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