How to Use Canva to Create Professional Graphics

how to use canva

Last Updated: 12/18/2016

Canva.com is hands-down one of the most useful and powerful tools in my arsenal. I’ve been using it for a multitude of graphics tasks for well over a year now. I can almost guarantee if you try it, you will use it. Why wouldn’t you? ūüėõ

I’d like to show you how to use Canva to create professional graphics for everything from your blog posts to social media.

What You Will Learn

  • What Canva is and what you can create with it
  • How much you can expect to spend for Canva
  • How to use Canva

What Is Canva?

Canva is a browser-based design application¬†software as a service (SaaS) app for designing web and print graphics…I mean if I had to explain it in my own words. Ahem. Canva combines a robust library of templates, images, icons, and illustrations that make it possible to create items like:

  • Social media posts
  • Facebook covers
  • Letterheads
  • Business cards
  • Invitations
  • Resumes
  • Wallpapers
  • Flyers
  • Banners

And soooooo much more! There are tons¬†of templates and they add new ones all the time. It’s all driven by a drag and drop interface that allows anyone to be a designer. Sound overwhelming? It’s not. They’ve organized everything under headings so you can find what you need.¬†Even as an avid Photoshopper, I have found plenty of room in my life for Canva.

what is canva

Sounds Cool, How Much?

FAAAAREEEEEEEE! Yes, I said FREE. There are in-app purchases in the form of stock images and design elements such as icons, etc., but there are plenty of free options and you also have the ability to upload your own images and elements. This is usually what I do. I’ll find something to use on Pixabay or somewhere like that and just upload my own stuff rather than having to pay. Y’all know I’m cheap.

I have bought a photo here or there in the past. They also have Canva for Work which is designed for teams. It’s $119.40 a year or $12.95 a month. You can also try it out for 30 days free. The benefits include:

  • Being able to add team members
  • Upload your brand kit – the graphic assets of your company
  • Upload fonts
  • Branded team templates
  • Photo folders

Of course if you don’t have a need for any of that (which I don’t), you can use it free. Also, their stock images and elements are $1 apiece which is a decent value especially since Dollar Photo Club stopped taking new customers. For the record, they also have an iPad app.

Great, Show Me How to Use Canva

It’s pretty straight-forward, but if you’re the type who likes to see how something works before you try it, then I’m here to accommodate you! There’s also some features worthy of mention that might not be readily apparent. Let’s dive in. Also, I’ll include a video at the end for those who like it that way.

When you head over to Canva.com, you have three options for logging in:

  • Log in with Facebook
  • Log in with Google+
  • Sign up with an email and password

Boom. Done.

Canva will load their main interface which shows your designs…when you’ve made some.

canva

The navigation is simple. You get the left sidebar, and the Create a design area at the top.If you click the plus sign in the dotted square, Canva will open all of the templates they offer under the following subheadings for easy reference:

  • Social Media Posts
  • Documents
  • Blogging &¬†eBooks
  • Marketing Materials
  • Social Media & Email Headers
  • Events
  • Ads

If none of the templates meet your needs, you can create one with custom dimensions in pixels, millimeters, or inches by clicking the Use custom dimensions link in the top-right corner.

custom dimensions

Since I’ve got to do it anyway, I’ll show you how I use Canva to create the Featured Image for my blog posts.

Select the Blog Title template under the Blogging & eBooks heading.

blog title templateThe Canva design interface opens in a new tab/window depending upon the settings of your browser.

canva design
There’s a lot happening on this screen. To the right, you have your canvas where you design your graphic in the white space. To the left are your tools and some pre-made blog title graphics in case you need ideas, inspiration, or you’d like to customize one that is already made. I’ll break down the tool tabs for you, but let you explore them on your own. Cool? Cool.

  • Search – displays a search box where you can search Canva’s library of one million+ images
  • Layouts – default tab displaying the pre-made templates as described above
  • Elements – displays the following categories of elements available for use in your designs: Holidays, Grids, Frames, Shapes, Lines, Illustrations, Icons, Photos, Charts, and I <3 Canva
  • Text – from this tab, you can add headings, subheadings, and body text. There are also a few pre-formatted text elements available on this tab
  • Background – choose from 18 free backgrounds and tons of paid ones. You can also simply choose a solid background color here with a hex code (Learn more about color hex codes.)
  • Uploads – here you can upload your own images and design elements. It also displays any you have uploaded in the past

There a few other tools scattered about the screen, a zoom control, undo button, share button, etc…pretty standard stuff.

Here’s My Steps

  1. I’ve got my Blog Title template open. So, I’m going to check out the I <3 Canva¬†category in the Elements tab since this post is about Canva. Here, I found the Canva logo I need for my design. However, let’s say I were writing about Twitter. I would go online and find a Twitter logo and upload it in the Uploads tab to use in my design.
    TIP: PNG’s usually have a transparent background when you’re dealing with logos as opposed to JPG’s which tend to have a white square. Obviously, these wouldn’t look as good in your designs.canva blog title template
    When I click the element to the left, Canva loads into the canvas on the right. As you can see, there are resize and rotate anchors to make adjustments. There’s also some drop-down controls in the gray bar above the elements. These will be specific to the element you are working with and will let you adjust size, transparency, color, and more. When you click and drag an element around the canvas, Canva will display guides to tell you when it’s centered or in line with other elements. Easy peasy.
  2. I want to work with a text element next so I click the Text tab.canva text element
    From here, I can add three types of text by clicking them to the left, or dragging and dropping on my canvas. There are also some pre-fab text elements below that. I don’t use these often because you’re pretty much locked into the way they are set up. Since I’m doing an image for blog that will appear on my blog posts¬†page and at the top of my post, text will be the main part of my graphic. I begin with the title of the post or an attention-grabbing variation thereof.
  3. I click Add heading. Canva loads the element into the canvas with the default settings.add heading
  4. I format my text using the tools in the gray bar. I changed my font to Archivo Black. Canva uses a nice variety of Google web fonts. I can always find something that works. You’ll see clones of old reliables like Arial (Arialle in Canva) and Times New Roman (Times Neue Roman). I resize accordingly. Black is working for me, so I leave it at that. If you click the trash can icon, it will remove the element you are working with currently.¬†The drop-down arrow on the far right of the gray bar allows you to Bold, Italicize, Center, Hyperlink, and adjust the Transparency. These options do vary in what’s available for what fonts. You just gotta play with it.
  5. I’m going to upload an image to use with my design since it’s pretty boring. I click the Uploads tab, click the green Upload your own images button at the top, navigate to the image I want to use, and upload it to Canva.
    The green arrow is pointing to the image I just uploaded. Other than that, you can see images I’ve uploaded for other projects all around it. I also wanted to mention that Facebook button that is grayed out. I’ve never used it, but what is does is import the images you’ve uploaded to your Facebook profile to use in your designs. Obviously, you would need to sign in with Facebook or connect it to your Canva account to use this feature.
  6. To use my uploaded image, I click it to the left in the Uploads tab to load it in my design to the right.insert image
    I actually uploaded a different image to use. Here it is all positioned. I’m getting there.
  7. Add my URL to my image. I only do this to the Featured Image. I slap my URL on there so when my image shows up in an image search, people know where it came from. I also use these same images when sharing my posts via social media, so it also plugs my blog there as well.add url
    I usually center this at the bottom, but I can’t do that because of my image. I may still move it to a different spot because it’s not really doing it for me where it is. That being said, I have a tip for you.
    TIP: You can actually use Canva to watermark all of your images by using white text or an element such as your logo, and then adjusting the transparency so the overall design shows through it.
  8. I click the Background tab. It’s time to make everything stand out.canva background
    I select this free nice dark blue gradient by clicking it to the left. Canva automatically changed my font to white for me. As you can see, I also moved things around a bit, and I’m liking this much better. I think I’m done.¬†It’s kinda late, but I should mention that Canva auto-saves your design as your work.¬†Once you’re done, your design is ready to download or share to Facebook, an email address, or Twitter.
  9. Download my design. Click the download button in the top-right corner of your screen. Select your desired option from the drop-down menu.
    You have 4 options as you can see above. My personal preference for web and social media graphics is the PNG.Another first-time thing for me was finding out what the Make Public button does: It’s not really a button, it’s actually a toggle that makes your design public. By making your design public, it then appears in your Canva proflle as you can see below. You can see it’s the first time I’ve even bothered to see what it does. You gotta go all in when you’re writing a guide. ūüôācanva profileAlso worthy of note, by making your design public, it also appears in a feed that is available to the Canva community via the Get design inspiration link in the left navigation.
  10. Upload the design as the Featured Image of my blog post.

What Are You Going to Make with Canva?

Yeah, you! The possibilities are really endless. I’ve used Canva to design book covers, all kinds of different graphics including infographics, social media posts, and headers just to name a few. It’s truly an asset to my business and with a price tag of FREE I just can’t beat it with a stick!

If you found this post useful, please consider sharing it with your contacts. If you have something to add to this guide, I’d love to hear it and how you’re using Canva. Please leave a comment below. ūüôā Add me on Canva.

=>>¬†Also, if you’d like to learn social media marketing and how Canva can help you put together the perfect social media post, check this out.¬†<<=

I almost forgot! I promised you a video. This is one I made from one of my other channels as I don’t have a YouTube channel for this blog yet. Bear with me! Anyway, this talks about using Canva to make Kindle ebook covers, but you can get the gist here.

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