Goran Trbuljak was born in 1948 in Varaždin. He graduated in 1968 from the photography department at the School of Applied Arts in Zagreb.
He studied painting and graphic arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he graduated from in 1972. Winning the scholarship of the French Governement, he studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He returned to Zagreb and entrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Art in 1970, where he studied cinematography until he graduated in 1980 with his first feature film.