Whether you're a social media guru, someone who creates artwork for the local community centre or podcast creator, you need some way to create the message.
A tool that I've been using for all my social media artwork, to promote my podcast and this very blog, amongst others, is Canva. Specifically Canva Pro.
It's an online creativity suite and it works brilliantly.
It's like an all in one production house for visual media.
Over the years, the team at Canva have been adding more and more functionality, to make it, in my humble opinion, the best there is!
Through this article I will touch on some of the functionality available, much of which is free; but the power comes with a Pro subscription. I'll highlight the differences below.
Please note that the links within this article are affiliate links. All this means is that if you click on them and sign-up for Canva, then I may be paid a small commission. This in no way affects the price - it's the same whether you click here or go direct.
It appears, when you first launch it, that it's purely for social media, but when you dig a little deeper, it offers more:
and much more...
Once you've created one format, with Pro it's as simple as clicking a button to re-size the design for use somewhere else.
You may create an design for Twitter, but need it for Facebook and Instagram too. It's so easy to use the re-size tool.
Within Canva you can create a complete folder structure, in any way you like.
I've created a folder for each product, and have uploaded media to use into their own separate folders. In the left-hand margin I have quick access to the folders I've set as favourites.
Recent designs are also displayed, for quick access.
If you're using this for a business (or even if you're not), then there is a 'brand kit' section, where you can define the colour palette for your designs, and add logos, all for easy access.
You can also assign the fonts you use the most, and they will be automatically applied to new designs.
Create a design
Creating a design is as simple as clicking on the 'Create a design' button at the top of the screen and selecting a template.
Once selected, a new tab will open, with a blank template. On the left you can choose a ready-made template, to base your own design, or you can search for a specific theme. There are hundreds to choose from.
Whilst many are free, as a Pro user you will have access to over 420,000+, with more being added all the time.
Within the toolbar, at the top of the screen, you can access additional tools to help you; a ruler, guides, show the margin, check the version history amongst others, all to help you create the best design.
Of course, you can just start with the blank page. Click on the 'Photos' in the margin and you'll have access to an almost never-ending supply of images for use as a background, or to use in your design.
Where you see the 'Pro' symbol, then these are available as a Pro user; otherwise pick from an enormous range of images.
Whilst images are important to any visual medium, and again, Canva doesn't disappoint, with a huge catalogue of images that can be used. Of course, you can also use your own photos and images - just upload them when you need them and they'll be held forever (or until you delete them!)
The Canva library also contains a number of videos that you can use, for free and also, for the ultimate design you can also add music too.
If you don't want an image, then use one of the many backgrounds that Canva provide.
You can also upload your own media to use in your designs.
Elements are also useful, and there are hundreds of variations, which can be modified by you, as you use them, to add some punch to your design. Creating a single post for your social media could take ages if you're not careful!
For Free users, there are hundreds and thousands of images and graphics to use.
Canva offers Pro users over 75 million premium stock photos, videos, audio and graphics free-to-use.
The power of Canva isn't only with their range of images, video and music, but also with the effects and integrations they have to further manipulate your design.
A main part of Canva is the use of elements to help make your designs stand out. There is a huge range of stickers; both static and animated, that will add some 'WOW!' to your creation.
When you add an image, click on the Effects button to see what happens.
You like the picture of the dog, but are not keen on the background?
Simple - with the Background Removal Tool, you can get rid of the background. It's pretty amazing.
Create a mockup of your product - see your image on a t-shirt, book cover, mobile phone - the possibilities are almost endless.
Use various tones, add shadows, add frames, even give it the 8-bit look with Pixelate.
By linking up a number of apps, you can do some wonderful things:
Want to use your Bitmoji? No problem.
Need to insert a Google Map? Go right ahead.
Want to add a QR code to your design? Easy.
There's much more too.
Your design won't just be pictures though. You'll want to add your words too.
Whether a headline or a complete paragraph, there are a boat-load of fonts to choose from, to suit the style that you want to portray.
When you start a design, you'll be presented with a number of preset formats and ideas; but you can just go and create your own. The possibilities are endless.
Using your design
Of course, once you're ready, and you want to 'do something' with your finished product, again you have options.
Firstly, and most obviously, you can download it to your desktop. This can be done as a JPEG or a PNG file type (bear in mind that PNG files are quite large and not always the best way to do it). For most applications, the JPEG will be more than sufficient.
Canva Pro users can also publish your creation direct to the various social media sites, using the Canva scheduling tool, which makes it easy to post when you need to.
Once you've created the design, just select Schedule from the menu, choose a date and time and connect your account. That's it.
However, you can also share your design in a number of different ways.
As you can see here, there are countless ways to share.
If you've created a presentation, you can even Present and Record it, then share the link.
With Canva Pro you have up to 100GB of storage space available, to store your designs as well as any media that you've uploaded.
Canva free users have 5GB of storage.
On the Canva Pro version, you can even export as an animation! You know, those little fades, wipes and slides for text and images.
Canva also offers a printing service. This is ideal for absolutely anything - business cards, posters, invitations, mugs, t-shirts, phonebooks, stickers.... the list goes on.
For websites or bloggers, you can just embed the image directly, which means that any changes you make in Canva will automatically push to your blog. No more need to update, download and re-upload.
This part of the site is inspired. Canva are really putting their efforts into helping you create the best images possible.
They don't just provide the tools, but there are courses and tutorials galore to help you on get the best from Canva.
There is also some interactive training, where you can try the various functions.
There is a lot of information and it really helps to gain a better understanding of what Canva can do.
You will need to put a few hours aside just to watch these!
For those on the move, Canva also have a mobile app; and it is OK for creating a quick image, or to start an image off; but it is rather clunky to use as a full-time editor. It has definitely improved over time, and most of the functionality is available at your fingertips.
It's a great place to quick-start a design.
It's not a biggie - most people would create on a laptop, with a large screen, but it's great to have the option.
This will allow you to collaborate on designs. You can edit designs or leave comments for your colleagues.
With the Brand Kit, you can store your logos, fonts and brand colours so that you and your team always stay on-brand.
Adding users will cost £4.99 per user per month.
It's important to note that your designs are always private unless you share them.
Canva also have Enterprise and Education plans. Nonprofits can apply for free use of Canva Pro.
Now that you've read through the basics, here's a quick reminder of what you will get with the Free and Pro plans.
250,000+ free templates
100+ design types (social media posts, presentations, letters, and more)
Hundreds of thousands of free photos and graphics
Invite members to your team
Collaborate and comment in real-time
5GB of cloud storage
Everything Free has, plus:
Create 1 Brand Kit and upload your own fonts and logos
One-click design Magic Resize
420,000+ free templates with new designs daily
75+ million premium stock photos, videos, audio and graphics free-to-use
Save designs as templates for your team to use
100GB of cloud storage
Schedule social media content to 7 platforms
So, what does all this cost. Well, as I've already said, the Free plan is, well, Free.
For basic design, Canva is completely free to use, and there isn't a necessity to pay.
However, if you want to be able to resize designs for different uses; have access to millions of images, videos and graphics and up to 100GB of storage space and more then this is available with Canva Pro.
Canva Pro costs £99.99 per year, which equates to £8.33 per month. It's a no-brainer really.
If you want to pay monthly, then it's £11.99 per month (and there's no contract so you can stop whenever).
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I use Canva to create 99% of my social media posts. Also, all the imagery for my podcast episodes were created in Canva.
Initially, I used the free version, but I now couldn't do without the extra functionality available with Pro.
If you haven't tried Canva, then I recommend you sign up for their no obligation FREE 30 day trial of Canva Pro.
This will allow you to try all the functionality before committing. Although, I believe, once you've tried it, you'll see the value it offers.
Canva are constantly adding more functionality and I can't wait to see what's next.
Will you be giving Canva a go?
Do you already use Canva, whether in a team or individually?
What do you think?
I'd love to hear from you.
All prices are correct at the time of publishing. Please check the Canva website for the up-to-date information
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from these links then I may receive a commission. This does not affect the price you will pay. Thank you.