I’ve never been an Adobe girl. I’ve dabbled in InDesign, had a brief fling with Premier Cut Pro and experimented a little with Illustrator – but I’ve never been able to achieve that flawless technique my designer friends seem to exude.
But I’m a creative at heart and I longed to be able to create the beautiful graphics and logos my favourite bloggers shared across their sites. So I started looking for an alternative and before long… I stumbled across Canva. A free online designing website (not sponsored – unfortunately), Canva has been my go-to girl for designing every single piece of content I’ve ever needed. From blog headers and invoices to logos and branding, I rarely use anything else in both my professional and personal artwork.
On the surface, Canva can seem quite a basic design site but over the years I’ve picked up some truly valuable tips and tricks for getting the most out of my free account – and today I’m sharing them with you!
So grab your laptop, a hot cup of coffee and let’s get to work:
1. Ctrl + right-click allows you to expand or shrink a text or image box without it ‘snapping’ to the size provided. This is a great tip for when you’re going against the Canva grain and adopting a little more creative flair to the standard grids that come with a Canva template.
2. Always download your files in the recommended format. I used to ignore this rule out of pure spite but my JPG images repeatedly turned out grainy and small, and swapping to PNG was one of the best decisions I could have made.
3. Feel free to customise the text size you want by literally typing in the number yourself. Canva has the capability to adapt to any font size required of it, so don’t worry about restricting yourself to the sizes provided.
4. If you drag an uploaded image from the left-hand menu bar into the upper left corner of your template, the image will fill the entire template like a backdrop. However, if you want the image to stand alone, simply click on the image in the bar and it will appear in the centre of the template with free movement.
5. The Canva app is actually a really great companion to the web version for creating Instagram stories. It provides some truly beautiful templates for you to pop images and text onto and it’s surprisingly easy to use for a micro-design app!
6. In their latest update, Canva has added the amazing feature of Brand Guidelines. This allows the user to store and save their three main brand colours and fonts, making it so much easier to build a branded asset from scratch!
7. To create a beautiful collage, there’s a really simple process to follow. Open a new square template, add a four-square grid, upload your chosen images into it and then download it as a PNG. Open up a new template and upload the previous collage before adding it on top of the new template. Simply adjust the spacing or colour of the spaces accordingly to your brand colours and you can create something really minimalist.
8. When creating a series of images, always make sure to copy and edit your images – rather than editing the original. This keeps the original template safe, as unfortunately Canvas ‘undo’ settings aren’t always that reliable.
9. Canva is also a great tool for print designing, as it allows you to add in print margins and bleed. Simply head to File in the top menu bar and choose from the drop down options for your ideal print frame.
10. Creative Market is a recent find for Canva, and it’s incredibly impressive. A digital shop with some really beautiful bundles of Canva templates, it’s a useful tool for anyone else like me who spends their live designing on Canva. I definitely recommend you all take a look!
FEATURES TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF
11. Illustrations. Yes, some of Canvas illustrations can be a little tacky. But if you take the time to actually narrow down your search, they can provide some lovely minimalist graphics to really bring your design to life.
12. Font Search. One of the best things about Canva is its huge library of fonts. However when your font starts with X, Y or Z it can take you hours to scroll down to it. I always make sure to use the font search feature when I’m designing in a hurry.
13. Text Templates. Whilst I rarely actually stick to the layout of the Canva-provided text templates, I often use them as inspiration. Seeing which fonts work well together and offering up ideas for unique font composition is one of their most usable features and shouldn’t be ignored.
14. Stock Images. Unsplash is an amazing source of beautiful stock photos, but if you don’t fancy opening a million tabs to find the right picture, just head to the Canva image bank. They use many of the same photos as Unsplash so it’s likely you could find the very image you were hunting for right in the same site.
15. Notes. Canva allows its users to add notes to their designs, as well as autosaving them at the last complete point, which is great for collaborative work. Adding in commentary, edits or updates is such a good way to keep track of any changes or notes when working in a team on a design.
16. For designing minimalist graphics, the neutral palette is always the best colour scheme to adopt. Neutral oranges, beiges, creams and greys make for really beautiful, simple backdrops and can help a design to feel more luxurious and modern.
17. When it comes to script or handwritten fonts, it’s always a good idea to test your font before dismissing it. The example text doesn’t always deliver the best use of a font, but when applied to your chosen text it can often surprise you.
18. Canva is one of my favourite tools for designing Instagram themes and feeds – before I have the images. When working for clients or even just for myself, I set up a grid of nine squares and just add in stock images to get an idea of the composition I want for my feed. Taking note of colours, content, mood and visual style, I build up a rough idea of what I’m aiming for before finding matching images from my brand.
19. Adding a frame to your design can help to add synchronicity when designing in a set – such an Instagram feed. Even a simple white border around a colourful or busy image can make it feel neat and minimalist, creating a standard for your visuals.
20. If the Canva library doesn’t hold the shape you need – build it out of the standard shapes they do. I once built a baby’s head out of simple Canva circles and triangles, so it’s 100% possible with a little touch of creativity.
I hope my tips have helped any of you struggling to get to grips with Canva, or wanting to upgrade your design experience! I will always be an advocate for the low-budget alternatives to pricey high-end software, so if you want to take a look at some more of my Canva creations, why not give my socials a follow @nikki_mccaig!