Are you one of those people who loves designing, but can’t quite get to grips with the likes of Photoshop? Are you looking to take your website to the next level? Well, Canva could be the design service you are looking for.
While some of us are looking for the most powerful design software, there is no shame in admitting that we like the idea of shortcuts that still look great. If you are looking to make incredible infographics, website graphics, social media posts, posters, and much more, Canva might just have everything you need.
What Is Canva?
At this point you are probably wondering what Canva is, or you know and you just want me to get on with the article (if you do, feel free to skip ahead).
Canva is a design service that gives businesses, organisations and individuals a simple design platform that helps them to create professional looking quality graphic designs. It has a whole host of powerful design features that can make creating quality graphics easy.
Canva users have the option of over one million quality photographs, graphics and fonts, and there is even a paid version with more options for $12.95 a month ($9.95 a month if you buy a year subscription. We are going to get to the paid version later.
It’s design tools let you easily turn an idea into a stunning design, whether that is for your website, social media account or a physical product.
How Did Canva Start?
Canva’s story started in 2007 when Melanie Perkins was studying at the University of Western Australia. Melanie taught students how to use programs like Photoshop and InDesign, but found that many struggled with the complicated nature of some of these programs.
Melanie, Cliff Obrecht (co-founder) and some others got together to build a simple to use online design tool, that would go on to become Canva.
How Does Canva Work?
The first thing you will need to do is make an account on Canva, which is a straightforward process. There are various options for accounts from education to personal and business. You can sign up with your Facebook, Google, or email account, which makes it nice and easy.
Once you have created an account, you will be greeted by the homepage of Canva. This is where you can dive straight into making your designs from a blank page, or you can opt to follow a template.
Before you start, there are some other things you should take note of. The left side bar is where you will find all your account information and other information like designs that are shared with you, other templates and a place where you “create a team.”
The main page will also show a number of pre-made templates that you can customise, along with designs that you have previously made. Some of the templates include the following:
- Social media
- Facebook post
- YouTube Channel Art
If you don’t want to use a template, you can start from a blank sheet and use your own customised dimensions.
Picking A Template
When you pick a template you will be taken to the design screen. This is where you can let your creative juices flow and is the heart of Canva.
As an example we chose a social media template. This comes in at 800×800 pixels and you will be greeted by a blank, white page on the design screen.
On the left of the screen you will have some pre-set templates you can drag and drop onto the blank page. You can modify this to your liking, from changing the text to pictures and everything in-between.
The other option is to search for graphics, images, vectors or text in the search bar. This will give you a range of options to choose from that you can simply drag and drop onto your design. You may notice that some things have a price next to them or a ‘pro’ sign. This is because they are either only available for Canva for Work members or at an additional cost. We will get to Canva for Work later in this review.
Starting from Scratch
If you want to start from scratch and not use a pre-set size or template, it’s as easy as entering the dimensions you want. You will once again be greeted by a blank white page, where you can drag and drop anything you want from the search section.
Uploading Your Own Images & Graphics
For those who don’t want to use the images, graphics and other bits and pieces Canva provides, you can upload your own. This gives you complete creative freedom over your project and it is as simple as selecting the ‘uploads’ tab, and then selecting the image you want.
In the ‘uploads’ tab you can see all the images you have uploaded to Canva already, and they are all available for any of your projects.
Finishing Your Design
When it gets to finishing your design, there are a few options you can choose from. If you simply want to download your creation, you will be given the option of downloading it as a JPEG, PNG, or PDF.
Another option is to share your design with other people (there is also an option that lets them edit it). You can also share it to your social media accounts and link it to your website or blog.
The last option is to make it public, so other Canva users can view your creation.
Other Things You Can Do with Canva
Make a Team
Canva gives you the option of creating a team of members, which makes it easier to share designs, folders and projects. Up to 50 people can be added into a team for free, with more being able to be added if you sign up for Canva for Work.
Build a Brand
Another feature of Canva is that it lets you build up a brand. This brand can be used to essentially ‘sell yourself’ and let other users see the amazing designs you have done.
We haven’t delved too deep into these features as what we really needed Canva for is to make some nice looking designs.
Is Canva Any Good?
At this point, you are probably thinking is Canva for me and is it any good? We have found that Canva is an excellent addition to our arsenal of design software. Is it the best? Certainly not, but it is great if we need to make a design quickly or a design that is relatively simple.
The intuitive drag-and-drop controls make adding, editing and removing elements on your canvas as easy as can be. This means that even the clueless will be able to produce some amazing designs relatively simply.
We managed to make this simple infographic for our website DogOPedia in a short timeframe, without any help from more complicated design tools.
While Canva makes designing easier, it is by no means only aimed at amateurs. We can see a real benefit for more experienced designers and the simplicity will keep you coming back for more every day.
Problems We Encountered
Canva is an excellent tool, but we have run into a few problems with it. When we made an infographic with an absolute ton of assets, we did find that Canva experienced some significant slowdown on the design page. The search functions and menus of Canva worked perfectly fine, but the slowdown was more than a bit irritating.
We tried this on a few different machines and internet connects, and found the result was the same on all of them.
Now, you could say that a program like Photoshop would be better suited for creating large infographics, but we wanted to see what Canva’s capabilities are.
Another problem we encountered was that lining up assets can be a bit of a pain occasionally; however, if you are keeping the design simple you shouldn’t have a problem.
The last issue we really want to cover is that it can feel a bit limited at times. Canva is a free to use program, so we can’t really knock it here, but it can be a bit frustrating when you really want to do something exciting.
All these issues are really just nit-picking in all honesty. Most users are not going to be making massive infographics and the limitations of the drag-and-drop system only show themselves on rare occasions.
How Does Canva Compare to Something Like Photoshop?
So we’ve discovered that Canva is an excellent, simple design tool that has a few drawbacks, but how does it compare to something more powerful?
Comparing Canva to Photoshop is interesting. While these two design tools are vastly different and can be used for very different designs, there is some crossover. Photoshop is undoubtedly more powerful and you can do so much more, but if you are just looking for something for social media pages or simple website graphics, Canva comes surprisingly close.
We found ourselves reaching for Canva in situations where we wanted to create quick, simple graphics that look pretty good. This shows that there is some merit to Canva’s simple approach and we see ourselves continuing to use the tool for a range of different designs.
When it gets to something more complicated, we were obviously choosing Photoshop, as it is so much more capable.
For those who lack any experience with more complicated programs like Photoshop, or are new to using design tools, Canva is an excellent place to start. It is free and you can master it in lightning speed compared to a program like Photoshop.
What About Other Alternatives to Canva?
Now, Photoshop isn’t really a direct comparison to Canva. It’s much more expensive and requires a lot more training, but what about design tools that are similar to Canva?
Admittedly, we haven’t tried that many, because between Photoshop and Canva we have everything we need. This is a testament to how good Canva is, and useful it is.
Other programs you may like to look at include Stencil, Snappa and DesignBold. There are even design tools specific to mobile systems like Desygner and Adobe Spark.
The main benefit of these apps is that they offer some new templates, graphics and images that you may not be able to find on Canva. All of their design tools are fairly similar, and they are all great for making some excellent looking designs.
While these other programs are excellent, we can’t say that they offer us much more to pull us away from Canva.
So What’s the Difference Between Canva, Canva for Work and Canva Enterprise?
The simple answer is, a lot. The three options all have their benefits and you can view the differences below.
Obviously, Canva for Work and the Enterprise version offer vastly more than the free version. The 1GB storage limitation of the free version can be quickly used up if you are regularly using Canva (although you can always delete designs).
Access to an extra 400,000 free photos, illustrations and templates is also handy, as sometimes it can be little bit difficult finding the right one in the free version.
The real benefit of Canva for Work is when it comes to working with other people on designs and if you need to regularly resize work as well. There are a few other differences as well like the ability to export designs as GIFs and upload your own custom fonts for your brand.
The Enterprise version offers all the bells and whistles of Canva for Work, but with a bit more for large teams of people. It is limited to teams consisting of more than 30 members and you’ll need to contact Canva for pricing.
Is Canva for Work Worth It?
Now, for the real question. Is Canva for Work worth the monthly subscription fee? At $12.95 a month or $119.40 a year, Canva for Work certainly isn’t going to break the bank, but you don’t want to waste your money as well.
If you are someone with a large stockpile of royalty free pictures and graphics, we personally don’t see a massive upside to Canva for Work. Additionally, those with design tools like Photoshop probably won’t see a massive benefit as well, although the 400,000 photos and illustrations can come in handy.
For those using Canva as their only design tool, Canva for Work is definitely a cut above the free version. It will let you create some tremendous designs and is so simple to pick up. We can definitely recommend it for people who want to improve their social media pages, websites and much more!
The great thing about Canva for Work is that you can try it for free for 30 days, to see if you like it.
Things We Like About Canva
It’s incredibly easy to use. The ability to quickly create good looking designs with little effort is a big plus in our minds. Canva can save you a lot of time and its simplicity means that anyone with half a brain could probably operate it. If you don’t want to learn to use complicated programs like Photoshop, this is the design tool for you.
Access to a wide range of photos and illustrations. The massive quantity of excellent images and graphics is a big plus of Canva. It is so handy being able to quickly search for particular vectors, photos or illustrations that look great. These can then be dragged and dropped into your design. For those who need a bit more, you can either pay for individual designs or subscribe to Canva for Work.
You can use it anywhere. The ability to create great looking designs from anywhere in the world is a great bonus. Sometimes we don’t have access to our own computers, but we can always get to Canva.
Setting up an account is easy. Making an account on Canva is dead simple. Either use your Facebook or Gmail account to speed up the process.
It’s great for teams. The ability to create a team of Canva users and then work together on designs is great.
You can use it to get exposure. While you are obviously going to get more exposure on other platforms, the ability to build your brand on Canva is great.
It’s fast and works well. We have only experienced a couple of hiccups when using Canva, and it has almost always been responsive and fast.
Great pricing for Canva for Work. If you need a bit more out of Canva, the paid version definitely adds a lot more for its small monthly or yearly cost.
Things We Don’t Like About Canva
It’s not great for large infographics or designs. If you have a lot going on in your design, Canva can begin to become a bit unresponsive and laggy. While this is annoying, you will have no trouble with less complicated designs.
The range of photos and illustrations in the free version can feel a bit limited. We can’t really complain here because its free, but we do find that good free photos and illustrations can be buried under a load of paid ones. With a bit of patience, you will probably be able to find something suitable for free. The other option is to pay for the designs individually or get Canva for Work.
Limited design tools compared to more complicated programs. Canva’s simple design tools are both a blessing and a curse. The drag and drop system can sometimes feel a bit limited and its harder to make something really special.
We are big fans of Canva. Not just because its free, but because it is genuinely useful and has helped us save time. The ability to create amazing designs with the simple drag and drop system is excellent.
Canva can really help those looking to improve their social media accounts, website or any other thing where they need great looking visual designs.
While Canva won’t replace more complicated designs tools, it is an excellent addition to our arsenal. It is used for more simple creations and when we don’t have access to programs like Photoshop. The great range of photos and illustrations also come in handy, and some may find that the paid version is worth it for that.
We don’t really have any major issues with Canva, and the ones we listed above are really just nit-picking. It is definitely worth checking out and we recommend you try out Canva for Work as well.