Canva is an online graphic design platform that allows users to create social media graphics, presentations, posters and other visual content. Users can choose from many professional designed templates, and edit the designs and upload their own photos through a drag and drop interface.
When you log in to Canva, you’ll land on the homepage. To start designing, click on ‘Create a design’ in the toolbar, or simply type your chosen design type into the search bar.
You can create the following design types:
Canva has pre-set the ideal dimensions for each design type, whether you’re creating a logo, letterhead or Facebook post. You can also set custom dimensions by typing “custom” into the search box.
Once you’ve chosen what kind of design you’d like to create, you’ll find yourself inside the Canva editor. This is where the magic happens! To help you get familiarized with the parts of the editor, here are its most basic parts:
Menu bar: this is the menu bar on the very top of the editor. From here, you’ll be able to access the features like Undo, Redo, Resize, Share, Download, Order prints, and others. You’ll also be able to see your design’s saving status from here.
Side panel: this panel that appears on the side of the editor is where you’ll be able to access the templates and elements you can use in your design. It’s divided into 6 tabs dedicated to Templates, Images, Text, Uploads, Folders, and Apps.
Canvas: at first, this is the blank white space occupying the majority of the editor. Consider this your main workspace since this is where you’ll work on your designs.
Templates are your shortcut to good design (you can also design from scratch, as you’ll later in this post, but templates are the best way to get started quickly). In the side panel you’ll see a range of templates that you can choose from – you can also search for a specific theme in the search bar. Every template is fully customizable, which means you can change the fonts, colors, images – everything! – to your tastes.
Click on a template to edit it. To change an element, click it and then edit it using the toolbar at the top of the editor – this is where you can change things like color, size, transparency, and more.
Once you’re happy with your design, it’s time to publish it. Click on the ‘Publish’ button in the menu bar and you’ll see a drop down list of all of your options.
You can download, share to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, or even order professional prints delivered to your door. There are endless possibilities, so head here to read more about publishing your design.
Be careful with one thing: if your design has any premium items (pictures, fonts, etc), you’ll have to confirm the purchase before you are able to download your design without watermarks.
Canva’s free templates provide a shortcut to good design: they’re fully customizable, so you can change the colors, images and more to suit your taste. They have tens of thousands of templates for every design need. But sometimes you need something completely custom-made. How do you ensure what you create actually looks good?
To begin, choose your design type from the Canva homepage. These are set to the optimal dimensions for each graphic, whether it’s a social media post, flyer or more. Or you can use custom dimensions by searching for “custom size”. You can choose from pixels, millimetres or inches.
The background for your design could be a color or an image.
Different colors tell different stories. Purple is associated with individuality, orange relates to activity, and green conjures images of nature. Think about what colors best suit your needs. For help choosing a color palette, try Canva’s Color Combinations tool.
To use a photo as a background, first add a grid. Once placed on a grid, photos can be resized, cropped, flipped and layered to create a variety of visual effects. Next, search for images or upload your own. Then, drag and drop your image onto the grid: it will snap to fit. You can add filters to change the brightness, saturation and clarity of the photo. This can help when layering text and elements.
Your design might include text, icons, photos or illustrations. These need to be combined in a way that is visually appealing.
Keep it simple. Don’t overload your design with too many elements, as it can confuse the visual message of the image. This is something designers call visual hierarchy, which involves the arrangement of elements according to their importance. Try playing with size, color, and placement in order to see what works best.
Harness the power of negative space. Negative space, also known as white space can be any area within a design that is free from text, images, or embellishments (it doesn’t have to actually be white). Designers love it because it can help create grouping, add emphasis and improve legibility.
The look of your fonts can have a huge impact on your design. Choosing one font is hard enough. But your design may need more than one typeface. I suggest you never use more than two fonts in a design, as too many fonts tends to make a design look “messy”. You’ll want to choose complementary fonts, which add visual interest while working well together.
Canva has hundreds of pre-set font combinations to choose from. You can find these in the ‘Text’ tab, in the side panel.
Or you can create your own combination. Again, simple is best: if you’re choosing an elaborate font, ensure you pair it with a simpler font so your design is balanced. Canva’s Font Combination tool can help, and Traditional combinations like a sans serif font and a serif font can be very powerful. Don’t forget about readability. If your fonts are too complicated, they can detract from your message.
Here’s a tip: typographic hierarchy establishes the order of importance given to different design elements. By applying different fonts, color and scale to your text, you can dramatically change the way your message is received.
You don’t have to study for hundreds of hours to be good at design. But, like most things in life, you’ll get better with practice, so don’t be disheartened if your first design doesn’t turn out perfectly. Instead, keep practicing and keep creating. You’ll be creating brilliant, polished images in no time!
Canva revolves entirely around intuitive controls and editing elements on your canvas is almost a no-brainer. It wont replace Adobe Photoshop for everything, but it’s a good alternative for simple tasks!
While many Canva elements are completely free to use, most images you’ll see on search results are Premium, and will cost you $1 per image once you download your design. You can, however, easily upload you own photos or graphics, so you definitely can use it without the Premium paid version. You can find royalty-free images in websites like Unsplash and upload them to Canva.
Canva is an amazing tool for the clueless, and can come in handy for professionals too. The simplicity and richness of the tools will get you coming back for more every day – I personally use Canva to create all the designs related to this blog and its social media pages and it has made my life much easier. I just love it!