Let's face it; if you're not a graphic designer, creating graphics can be a daunting task. While most of us recognize when something looks good, actually creating something that looks good is another skill entirely. The folks at Canva, an online graphics design application, understand this and created a tool that practically guarantees that anyone can create a great design.
Better still the tool is free, easy-to-use and operates from within a browser It's also available as an iPad app. To help you get started with Canva, here's a quick how-to.
How to Create Graphics with Canva
Go to Canva's website, and sign up using your email address and password, or you can connect using your Facebook account credentials. Follow the quick tour to familiarize yourself with the application. A beginners challenge helps you find and size images to build a sample design, and it takes only minutes to complete.
You'll find other similar tutorials at Canva's new design school that help you with basic design theory, plus other program features that are worth a look later on, but for now, you can start on your own design.
Figure 1: Canva's new Design School teaches you how to use the program and helps you brush up your graphic design know-how.
Your First Canva Design
Starting from the home screen, click the type of design you want—you'll find templates for everything from blog graphics and Facebook posts, to flyers and invitations. If you need a special size graphic, click Custom Dimensions and type in the dimensions you need.
Once you've selected your design, you get to choose a layout from the ones displayed on the left of the screen. Later on you can build your own, but let's start with a pre-made layout and customize it.
Figure 2: You can easily customize design layouts, which makes them great choice for creating quick-and-easy designs.
You change the text by clicking on any text element and typing over what's already there. A small toolbar offers a choice of fonts, font sizes and colors for the type. A drop-down menu contains more advanced formatting tools.
Choosing Images and Elements in Canva
On the left side of the screen, you can search for images and other elements such as shapes, icons, speech bubbles and the like. Free elements are clearly marked and appear first when you search— anything else costs $1 each.
Figure 3: Free elements are clearly marked as such, and they always appear first in search results.
Any image or element that shows a cross-hatch watermark in your design costs $1, and you pay for that when you download the design. If you choose only free content, then you won't pay anything at all. You add any element to your project by just dragging-and-dropping it into your design.
And you can easily remove any element. First click on the element that you want to remove, and then click the Trash Can icon on the mini toolbar.
If you have an item layered on top of other element when you really want it underneath, click on the item to move, and click either Back or Forward on the toolbar to move it down or up the layer order. You can easily change the color of most items such as shapes, frames, and icons by selecting the item and then choosing another color from the color picker—or click the plus icon (+) and select one from the color wheel.
Figure 4: A color picker lets you change the color of almost any object.
Click on Uploads to add images from your computer or from your Facebook photos collection. Canva stores these images in your account, and it's a good place to keep your logo and other branding collateral so you can access the images whenever you need them.
When you are finished with your design, click Download or Link. Now it's time to pay for any element that isn't free. You can download the graphic as a PNG image for use on the Web or as a PDF. You can also get a link to the image if you prefer.
Figure 5: You can save your design as a .png or a .pdf file. Or you can simply share its link.
Your Canva designs reside on your Canva home page—available and accessible if you need to edit them. You can also click the icon in the bottom-right of the design to make a second copy of the design. That feature lets you reuse a single design for multiple purposes—like making a series of presentation slides, for example.
You can create an unlimited number of designs in Canva and use them for your business. However, there are some limits for designs that use stock images. You can learn more about that license here.
If you have few design skills and little time to spare, Canva's templates and layouts ensure that you can create good looking graphics with ease. If you have good design skills, Canva lets you create one-off designs using a range of cutting-edge, custom-designed elements that you simply drag-and-drop into place. So, unless your business has an under-employed graphic designer on hand, Canva is a must-have tool for creating designs quickly and easily.
Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com
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