Canva Review: An Intuitive Design Tool for Non-Designers
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Because of blogging and social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest, images are more important than ever!
That's where Canva comes in.
If you've done ANY kind of marketing in the last few years, you've probably heard of this powerful DIY graphic design web tool.
Maybe you've poked around in Canva before, or maybe it's still totally new to you, but I want to make one thing clear right off the bat: Canva is a fantastic tool for ANYONE who needs to make graphics for the web!
For an affiliate marketer or niche site owner in need of graphic design, Canva is a user-friendly option to make logos, featured images, infographics, social posts, and more. Aside from being free to use, the best thing about Canva is the fact that a non-designer can jump in and make some pretty cool images and graphics without a steep learning curve.
So, when does it make sense to use Canva versus more traditional graphics software? I'll tell you all about the pros and cons in this in-depth Canva review!Try Canva for free today!
Canva is a perfect tool for any non-designers who want to make decent-looking images and graphics for their marketing projects, from social posts and banner ads to business cards and flyers. It offers a drag-and-drop builder for intuitive image creation. Canva also comes with a huge library of stock assets, templates, and photos. The free version is full-featured, while Canva Pro offers even more assets and quality-of-life enhancements for Canva power users. Try Canva Here.
- Fast and easy-to-use online design application
- Allows you to connect social accounts and publish designs directly to your pages
- Free version offers plenty of value – premium version adds more great features at a reasonable $10/mo
- You can access Canva and all of your saved designs from any web browser
- Streamlined image creation that includes everything you need in a single tool
- Shared teams makes it easy to collaborate and share with others
- A minimal learning curve lets users jump right in without extensive graphic design software experience
- Drag-and-drop builder is mostly easy to use, but can be clunky at times
- Stock images and templates are pretty generic and cookie-cutter
- Some pretty basic graphic design features – like alpha transparency for PNGs – are only available to Canva Pro users
- It's better at “assembling” images, rather than actually creating custom graphics and images from scratch
- What is Canva?
- Who is Canva for?
- How to Use Canva
- Advantages of Canva
- Disadvantages of Canva
- Canva Review: Features and Pricing
What is Canva?
Canva is an online cloud-based application that simplifies visual design work through an intuitive drag-and-drop editor (see Canva vs Piktochart). The tool comes with pre-built templates, stock images, layouts, fonts, vector graphics, and illustrations that you can use for your projects.
One of the most attractive things about Canva is that it's totally FREE to use – though it does use a freemium model that restricts some of its best features to paying customers.
Similar to the difference between buying a DVD or paying a monthly subscription for Netflix, you can purchase individual items like photos a la carte in Canva or opt for a subscription to Canva Pro.
What can you buy in Canva? It features everything from social media post templates to textured backgrounds, starting at just $1 each. If you or your team plan on doing a lot of graphic work with Canva, it could make sense to go for Canva Pro instead. The price is just $10 per month if you pay for a year upfront, or $13 per month if you pay on a monthly basis.
Either way, if all you need is some basic design and image creation, Canva is MUCH more cost effective than pricey photo editing and vector graphics programs like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or Pixelmator Pro. These programs are much more sophisticated, but they can take months to learn how to use – and they just don't come with the wealth of stock photos and vector graphics that you can get right in Canva.
Who is Canva for?
If there's one thing to take away from this Canva review, it's that you don't have to be a graphic design genius to make decent stuff with it! As a matter of fact, Canva is specifically built for regular people without a ton of design experience.
Personally, as a professional writer, I've worked closely with graphic designers throughout my career. That's how I know that I'm definitely not a pro at graphic design… But even I have been able to use Canva to create graphics for social posts, blog posts, and more!
If you're a marketer or business owner, Canva is a great way to create a decent-looking image quickly – something that's a lot harder to do if you're starting from scratch with a blank artboard in Illustrator. Trust me, I've been there!
How to Use Canva
There's no better way to see Canva in action than to create something from the very beginning. Fortunately, this is SUPER easy to do!
Step 1: Make an Account
Assuming you're brand-new to Canva, your first step will be to sign up with your Facebook account, Google account, or an email address. If you're already an existing Canva user, you can simply log in.
If you're new, the first time you log in, Canva has an onboarding dialog box pop up. The first screen prompts you to choose what you're using Canva for, in order to offer you personalized design templates. Most of us in the Niche Pursuits community are “Small Business,” so that's what I'll pick for this Canva review.
Next, it'll prompt you to try Canva Pro for free for 30 days. If that's something you're interested in, feel free to give it a try. Just know that you don't have to use your free 30 day trial right now. It'll still be available to try later.
The next screen will prompt you to invite other team members to join your free team. If you collaborate with others, this can be worth doing, because it helps everyone access the same shared designs and branding elements across a team account.
Lastly, we see a screen for creating our very first design. You can search for the type of project you want to work on in the search bar, or manually select it from the list below. For this Canva review, let's try making a Facebook post!Check out Canva here for FREE!
Step 2: Create Your Design
As soon as you sign in for the first time, a small tutorial box will pop up to guide you through the process of making your first design. This comes from a small “Help” button that includes lots of other little tips that you can access whenever you want.
In terms of your first design, here's how Canva breaks it down.
1) Choose a Template
First, we need to choose a template for our Facebook post. Because this is the free version, we only have about 8,000 templates to choose from, instead of the 400,000 assets that comes with Canva Pro.
I'm making a hypothetical post for the Niche Pursuits Facebook page, so I'll search for marketing to pick a template that might work for that.
I decided to go with an image that kind of reminds me of the brand colors of Niche Pursuits. Even though it's a Halloween themed template to start out, I know it won't take too long to make changes so that it works as a post for what I'm wanting to make.
One of the cool things about Canva is that it handles the dimensions for you, so I don't need to worry if this graphic I'm making is the right size for Facebook. I can just focus on making a decent design! Here's what I have as a starting point.
2) Add Photos or Upload Your Own
Now that I've got a template going, it's time to decide if I want to include a photo in my image.
I'm not loving that skull in the background, so I'll delete that.
But what should I use instead?
Well, let's pretend this Facebook post is promoting a hypothetical new training course on how to get into the mobile phone apps business, kind of like this mobile phone app blog post. Of course, we know this training course is 100% fictional, because Spencer isn't selling online courses anymore. Just play along!
Now, I could try to find or take my own photo for this Facebook post, but for the purposes of this Canva review, I'll just use what Canva has available in its library of stock photos. (And yes, they are all clearly, painfully stock… If this Facebook post were super important, I'd definitely upload a custom photo.)
After going through the photos tab in Canva, I find a free stock image of a phone on a table. I click it and position it where I want it. Now, our Facebook post looks like this.
3) Replace Existing Text or Add Your Own Message
Now, it's time to customize the message and the font color.
This template started with a “spooky” font called Rye – probably because I'm writing this near Halloween – but it's obviously not supposed to be a Halloween-themed post!
So, we'll need to swap that font out with something else. The white text at the top doesn't stand out from the background at all, so I'm just going to get rid of it. Maybe I'll upload an official logo to use there instead.
I also think the whole thing would look more branded if I changed the foreground green and the background gray colors to the official Niche Pursuits brand colors. They were close before, but not quite right.
Last but not least, I'm going to change the copy of the text itself. Here's what we have now!
Before I'm done, I'll make a few more adjustments by adding a slight vignette and a blur on the photo. This gives the image a little more character and helps the text pop. There are also filters I could mess with if I wanted to, but I don't think I need them for this image.
And voila… An image for Facebook! Not bad for about ten or fifteen minutes of “design” time.
4) Download or Print Your Design
Okay, now is the moment of truth!
First, let me give my image a name:
“Niche Pursuits – Mobile App Business FB”
Now, I'm going to the upper right corner of the page where it says “Publish to Facebook.” The option here obviously changes depending on the type of graphic you've chosen to create – since we picked a Facebook post at the beginning, that's why we're seeing Facebook here.
You can actually connect your Facebook and other social accounts directly in Canva to save some steps for publishing. I'm not going to do it in this case, but I could easily publish this post directly to our target Facebook page.
However, many marketers schedule out posts far in advance, and Canva isn't a social media management tool.
So, if you'd prefer to schedule your post, or you have some more design work you want to do with the image in another program, you have the option to download the final Canva image to your computer as a PNG, JPG, PDF, video, or GIF.
Keep in mind that some of these options – including the GIF format or a PNG with a transparent background – are only available with Canva Pro, the premium version of the tool.
One last option is to share your new image with others for feedback or to hand off the project. Just hit “Share” and you can send an invite to new collaborators via email. If you already have team members added to your account, then you can just type in their name(s) and share the image with them directly.
Like with Google Docs, you can also just copy a shareable link and set the image's access to “view” or “edit.” This allows you to share your creation via email, text, Slack, Skype, or whatever communication tool the kids are using these days (but we also put together a quick and easy guide for how to save an image from Google docs if you prefer).Try Canva for free today!
Step 3: Manage Your Files
When I first clicked on “Create a Design” and selected “Facebook post” as my project, Canva created a file for me.
It automatically set the dimensions to a 940px x 788px image, which is an ideal size for a Facebook post. However, if you do want to change the size for any reason, you only get the option to adjust it with Canva Pro.
Throughout the process of designing and making changes to this Facebook post, Canva automatically saved my work for me. You can manually save the image if you want to, and you can also make a copy if you want to experiment without worrying about getting back to where you started.
Canva also gives you plenty of “undos” and “redos,” which are made through keyboard shortcuts Command-Z (ctrl-Z on PC) or Command-Shift-Z (ctrl-Z on PC) respectively. There's also an arrow you can click at the top to undo, if you're old-school that way.
As soon as you create an image, the projet is automatically saved to your account. The free version of your Canva account comes with 1 GB of storage space, but this gets bumped up to “unlimited” space with a pro account. You're also able to create up to two folders to organize your designs with a free Canva account, which gets bumped up to “unlimited” with Canva Pro.
As you create new designs, it's super easy to find them. Just click back to the home page, and under the carousel where you can create a design, you'll see “Your Designs.” This is where all of the graphics you've created can be accessed.
Since we've only created one graphic so far – our Facebook post – that's the only thing we see in our list.
We can click the thumbnail of this image to go back in and keep making changes, share it, download it, or publish it to Facebook.
Canva Review: How-to Guide Recap
And THAT'S the whole process! We did it!
While there's some variation here depending on the type of graphic you're making, these are the steps for basically any project, not just for Facebook posts.
Now, in terms of quality, is this Facebook post the greatest image ever conceived? Will I win awards for my graphic design prowess?
Uh, nope… Obviously not! (Thanks for the ego boost, though!)
On the other hand, is this image good enough for a Facebook post?
I think so!
We started our Facebook image with a Canva template, but from there I customized the image enough to make it look unique, and I changed the colors and added a logo to ensure that the image stayed true to the Niche Pursuits brand. The final product is pretty simple, but it gets the job done!
It's important to understand that Canva isn't really your best option for sophisticated or custom design work. Most of what you do in Canva will appear fairly cookie-cutter, because you're basically piecing together existing elements that are readily available in the tool, rather than making stuff from scratch.
In professional graphic design work, you'll often create or source your own custom backgrounds, vector elements, photographs, and typefaces. But there's nothing wrong with putting an image or graphic together quickly that looks pretty good!
If nothing else, Canva lets you save your graphic design budget for more important projects, like your brand logo, ebook layout, or HTML templates for your email campaigns.Try Canva for free now!
Advantages of Canva
Canva has a LOT going for it!
Right off the bat, the biggest draw is that you don't need to be a design pro or computer genius to make great graphics in Canva. Seriously, this is one of the most intuitive visual editors I've ever used, even easier than the very best WYSIWYG WordPress builders like Divi or Elementor.
And unlike with Adobe software, you don't need a super computer with gobs of RAM to use Canva. It doesn't take any longer than a typical website to load and I experienced no slowdowns while actually editing my images.
I also appreciate that you can truly use Canva for FREE.
The key here is that you're able to upload your OWN files, even with the free version, which means you aren't dependent on the assets that are provided in Canva. This one option makes Canva infinitely more useful!
Rather than just using Canva's included templates and photos, you can:
- Cruise the web for free stock photos to upload.
- Find images on a professional stock photo service like Shutterstock or Dreamstime.
- Create your own photos and graphics and use Canva to put it all together.
Lastly, the team feature is a huge benefit, because even if YOU have professional design software, your collaborators may not. Canva's free version gives everyone on your team shared access to all of your brand's assets and projects!
Disadvantages of Canva
As I said, I actually REALLY like Canva as a design tool! It's a lot easier and faster to use than other graphic design programs. Even pro designers may use Canva if they just want to slap together a quick image.
But there are certainly some downsides.
I think the biggest downside is that Canva serves as more of an image “assembler” rather than an image “creator” tool.
What do I mean?
Well, in Adobe Illustrator, you can actually create shapes. You can use the Pen tool to make totally custom illustrations. The program lets you use gradients, make complex masks, and install brand-new fonts with Typekit. It's also easy to load and edit other vector files from anywhere on the web – and you have much more flexibility in the creative process overall, including making new artboards, saving files, and exporting your projects.
Similarly, Adobe Photoshop lets you fine-tune photos with a lot of amazing features. You can really get into the weeds with adjustment layers, masks, custom vector shapes, fonts, and effects. Honestly, anything you can do in Canva, you can definitely do in Photoshop as well (check out Canva vs Photoshop).
What this means is, Canva won't take the place of professional design software when you want to create something from scratch. In addition, Canva is missing a few of the most useful features from those programs unless you upgrade to Canva Pro, including:
- Alpha transparency for your image backgrounds
- The GIF file format
- Installing custom fonts
- Resizing images and custom dimensions
- Color palettes
The free version of Canva is still useful, but if you need any of these extra features, you may have to find some irritating workarounds or take some extra steps to get it done.
The last caveat I'll give is this: Canva won't make you a graphic designer. It does come with a great set of tutorials and plenty of blog posts about design, but it's still on you to learn basic principles of design like composition, negative space, color, contrast, and so on. This isn't a fault with the program – it's just important to realize that the ultimate quality of your projects still depends on your eye for design.
Canva Review: Features and Pricing
Canva allows you to create designs with pre-made templates for a huge range of project types. The list of projects you can make is massive, going well beyond just social posts to include:
- Banner ads
- CD covers
This is pretty handy. Sometimes, I'll even pop into Canva to see what they use as dimensions for a project, even if I'm going to make it somewhere else!
As far as pricing, Canva uses a “freemium” business model.
The main functionality of the tool is available for free – but the included free assets they give you are pretty limited if you expect to use Canva a lot. Here are some of the unique features that come with Canva Pro.
Canva Pro Has More Design Assets
I honestly think the main advantage in favor of Canva Pro is that it offers access to more than 400,000 additional photos, illustrations, and templates. This is an incredible value!
There are plenty of other places where you can get stock assets, but Canva streamlines the process by letting you drop them into your project with just a click. As soon as you have access to all of these photos and templates, you can just click a few of them, move the elements around where you want them, and end up with a finished image in about five minutes!
In today's fast-paced world, being able to save this much time using Canva Pro is a huge selling point.
Canva Pro Has Brand Kit
The brand kit feature of Canva brings it more in line with the Library feature in Adobe Creative Cloud.
This makes it possible to save your own brand colors, upload custom fonts, and save templates that your team can use to make branded images even faster. If you and your team regularly depend on Canva to make images for social media, the brand kit functionality is incredibly important.
Canva Pro Has Canva Animator
One cool feature of Canva Pro is an animation tool that helps you take your designs and create videos or GIFs from them.
I have a fair amount of experience with Adobe After Effects and other vector animation tools. In keeping with the simplicity of Canva in general, Canva Animator is a REALLY basic animation tool. It comes with a few animation presets like bounce, slide, and fade to give your image some motion – from there, you can export the finished product as a GIF or a video.
Honestly, I'm hoping this feature gets more robust over time. It's pretty limited right now, but it's certainly nice to have it as an option!
Is it Worth Paying for Canva Pro?
This post isn't specifically a Canva Pro review, but I will say this: Canva Pro is reasonably priced for what it offers.
I think part of the reason it's so affordable is because it's clearly non-essential. You can get by with the free version and use Canva to help you put together images based on photos and vector graphics that you create or find elsewhere. But if this is your tool of choice, you'll find it to be a great value.
You should note that the monthly price for Canva Pro is per team member, however. With a sizable team, you might paying more than you expected, though this still pales in comparison to the cost of an Adobe CC subscription.
I hope this Canva review has helped you understand what Canva is for, who should use it, and what its main pros and cons are.
As I've said before, I think Canva is absolutely worth it, even for professional designers who have the chops to use more powerful tools. I love the drag-and-drop builder, the ability to collaborate with others, and Canva's convenient access to tons of free and paid content for creating memorable images and graphics.
If you haven't jumped over there yet, I highly recommend you give Canva a test run.Try Canva for free today!
Have you used Canva before? How has it worked for your business?
Share your thoughts on Canva compared to other design software in the comments!
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