Canva: The Simple Way to Get Great Designs

I recently asked the subscribers to my email newsletter what topics they wanted me to write about more. One clear favorite was a tutorial on creating images to use for blog posts, social media and other marketing. That made me very happy, as it gives me the chance to talk about Canva, a tool I’ve been using since 2013. I am “Tech Sharon”, after all. 🙂

canva tutorial

I use Canva to create most of the blog headers, quote graphics, infographics, posters and other images I use online. I like it so much that I recently subscribed to the premium version, Canva Pro (they were offering a great deal). Don’t worry; the core functionality is available for free.

Canva is supposed to make graphic design easy. It certainly delivers. I’ll start with an introduction to the interface (just in case you’ve never used it before), then I’ll walk you through how I use it.

Canva: An Overview

When you login to Canva, the first step is to choose the type of design you want to create. The most common types (social media images, blog headers, Facebook covers, infographics, posters and cards) are immediately available or you can click the “more” button for even more options.

All designs are pre-sized. If you want to create your own graphic from scratch, click the “use custom dimensions” button in the top right hand corner. 2016-09-06 09-48-17

When you have selected your base graphic, click it you go to the design dashboard, where a blank canvas is waiting for you. 2016-09-06 09-50-00

On the left menu you have buttons for layouts, elements, text, background and your own photo uploads. Each of these can be used to customize the design you choose.  Select any of those and you have a huge array of pre-made designs, as well a grid that you can fill yourself (you’ll have to scroll a bit to reach those).

If you see the perfect design, all you have to do is click on it and it auto-magically appears on the canvas in front of you. 2016-09-06 09-51-18

One task that’s often time consuming is finding the right image to illustrate a project. Canva makes this easy, with a database of around 1 million images you can search through. Many of these are free, but some aren’t, indicated by a little dollar sign in the corner.  Even the paid ones only cost a dollar, though you only have access for a short time. 2016-09-06 09-53-24

The text icon, as its name suggests, allows you to add text to your design. It starts you out with three default sizes and fonts but you can change these with only a couple of clicks once they are on your canvas. 2016-09-06 09-54-36

Similarly, backgrounds gives you access to a number of free or paid backgrounds for your design as well as a color palette. A default color palette is available but you can also press the little plus icon to choose from a color wheel and create your own colors.

Creating Blog Headers with Canva

So, that’s Canva in a nutshell. Now, here’s how I use it to create headers for my own blog posts.

Step 1: Login to Canva and choose the blog header template.

Step 2: Scroll through the templates and find one that works. In this case, I chose the one with a blue background square that said “attracting an audience” shown earlier.

Step 3: Click on the chosen template to add it to the canvas.

Step 4: Click on the text to change it to the title of my own post.

Step 5: Change the font size so the text fits the space.

Step 6: Remove any unwanted parts of the design by clicking on them and pressing the trash icon. 2016-09-06 09-57-54

Step 7: (optional) remove the background image and find one that better suits your needs. In this case, I wanted an image that better reflected writing. Since I couldn’t find what exactly what I wanted in Canva, I located an image on Pixabay and uploaded it. 2016-09-06 10-00-03

Step 8: Return to your canvas and add the new image.

Step 9: Save. Canva usually indicates when there are unsaved changes. Click on the file menu to trigger a save.

Step 10: Download your design. You can download as a JPEG, PNG or PDF, depending on your needs. 2016-09-06 10-01-10

While this sounds like a lot of steps, they don’t take long, and you can have an attractive blog header within 5 to 10 minutes.

Canva works well for pretty much any design. It’s particularly useful for social media images and Facebook covers. I’ve found that creating infographics takes a little longer because there are so many elements, but I’ve done a couple I’m happy with (usually the simple designs, I will admit).

Editing Tools in Canva

Canva includes editing tools for text alignment, text placement and text transparency and there are even more tools for images. Not only can you crop and flip them, but you can use filters to change their appearance. You can move any element on the page and there’s even an undo and redo button in case you make a mistake.

Note: with pre-made grids, it can take a while to get the images where you want them because they tend to snap into place so sometimes it’s better to start with a blank canvas.

Another great feature is that once you have a design you like, you can easily clone it. Just click on the arrow to the right of the image and hit copy to create a new version to work on. This is what I do so my blog title graphics look mostly the same. Finally, Canva gives you a public profile where you can selectively share your designs. (Here’s mine.)

Cool Features in Canva for Work

Now, the free version of Canva is more than enough for most people, but Canva Pro has more to offer, especially for brands. For example, you can create a brand palette of colors and then you will automatically have access to pre-colored versions of the most common designs. You can also create your own library of custom design templates. 2016-09-06 10-03-41

Canva for Work also allows you to have a team of people working on designs, though there’s an additional cost for this. And you can sort your work into multiple folders (there’s a limit in the free account).

My favorite feature, hands down, is the magic resize button. If you have an existing design (such as an image for your blog), you can open it, hit the magic resize button and create a version at a better size for social media. Or you can quickly transform your blog header into a cover image for Facebook or Twitter, a Pinterest or Instagram post or even a Kindle book cover. 2016-09-06 10-04-50

Canva: The Verdict

After using Canva for about three years, I can’t imagine not using it.  I highly recommend it. Please ask if you have any specific questions about how you can use it in your business.

2 thoughts on “Canva: The Simple Way to Get Great Designs”

  1. You are “Tech Sharon” in my eyes! Thanks for this, Sharon. I’ve been toying with the idea of using something like Canva (Microsoft’s Sway) and this shows me why it’s a good thing to learn.

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