Have you ever discovered something that you were so excited about you wanted to share it with the world? Maybe your new favorite show, a great book you recently finished, or if you’re like me: A marketing tool that makes your life So. Much. Easier.

Me, thinking of sharing this with you.

Here’s a little story: About eight years ago, one of my coworkers told me about this new tool she found called Canva. It allowed you to make really cool images for free. As a social media manager, this was the holy grail. I was always looking for ways to make custom images for my clients. And this tool was not only easy to use, but it made my meager design skills look pretty good. My clients were thrilled. My social media posts looked great. I was hooked.

It’s been almost a decade, and my love for Canva has only grown. I use Canva every day for the blog posts you see on LOCALiQ and for our social media posts. I’m a Canva enthusiast. And I’m here to help you become one, too. Allow me to introduce you to this simple guide for how to use Canva.

 

Canva guide table of contents

In this guide to Canva, I’m sharing:

Here we go!

 

What is Canva?

Canva is an online graphic design tool built for beginners for both business and personal use. Canva’s mission is to “empower everyone in the world to design anything and publish anywhere.” And they live up to it—letting you easily create shareable images from your desktop or from the app.

how to use canva - canva homepage

Launched in 2013, Canva has continued adding helpful features, sharing options, and even integrations to make getting your designs where they need to go—and in the format they need to be in—extremely easy.

With Canva, you can create designs for your business like:

  • Social media posts
  • Presentations
  • Posters
  • Calendars
  • Business cards
  • Logos

The list goes on and on.

how to use canva - example of the types of designs you can create on canva

See?

 

Why use Canva for your business

So you might be wondering why you would want to use Canva for your business. Here are some of the top reasons.

1. It’s free

Canva does have a premium offering that isn’t free, but you can take advantage of most of its functionality for free. This includes creating images from pre-made templates, creating images with custom sizes, and using some of the design and graphic elements Canva offers.

You can also download these assets for free in a number of file formats.

benefits of canva - its free

2. It’s (pretty) easy to use

Canva was built to be easy for the average person to use. And it really is once you understand how to use it (which we’ll detail with step-by-step instructions in this post!)

Like any marketing tool, practice makes perfect. And after playing around for a little bit within Canva, you can easily get a handle on the elements it offers for your designs.

3. You can create images fast

There are times when it’s best to work with a graphic designer. For instance, you want to invest in high-quality and well-designed images for your website and printed materials like menus. But there are times when you might need a quick event poster or social media post right away, and it’s something you could make if you had the right tool. This is that tool.

how to use canva - premade templates for brochures in canva

It once took me six hours to create a brochure, so I would have loved 1,243 brochure templates at my fingertips.

Plus, because Canva already has pre-made templates you can take advantage of for each of the outlined use cases, you can easily create images to use for your business in a snap.

4. It’s versatile

As I mentioned, Canva gives you the opportunity to create a lot of different types of designs. This versatility is helpful when looking for a marketing tool to help with your design needs. You don’t have to worry about skipping around to different programs or problems with file compatibility—you know you can make pretty much anything you need with Canva (on desktop or on the app!).

5. It’s collaborative

Canva isn’t just easy for one person to use—it’s easy for teams to use, too. You can share your designs so others on your team can edit. Or if you created a design you love, you can share it as a template so others on your team can use it for their own creations. This is helpful if you have multiple employees helping with social media or asset creation.

benefits of canva - collaborate with your team

As a remote team, we take advantage of this feature all the time. It’s cool to see your teammates working on the same design and making updates in real-time rather than having to save down a file, markup edits, and then make changes.

6. It’s great for social media

Canva is the perfect tool to create social media images—and make sure they’re sized correctly. With Canva’s templates, you can easily choose the specific social media site you want to create an image for and go from there. With the premium offering, you can even resize your creation for different social sites with the click of a button.

 

How to use Canva: Step-by-step

Now to the fun part: How to use Canva! I’ll walk through the steps for creating a new image from start to finish. And I even created a helpful little tutorial video for you to show you the steps in real-time.

1. Create a Canva account (if you don’t have one)

The first step is super simple—it’s just creating a Canva account (unless you have one—in that case, you can sign in).

To create a Canva account, you’ll navigate to Canva.com, click “Sign up,” enter your information, and you’re all set.

how to use canva - sign up for account or sign in

Technically, you can use Canva without creating an account, but we suggest creating one because it will save all your designs in one place and allow you to log in from different browsers or the app to continue editing and creating your designs.

2. Choose your design type (or determine your custom size)

Now, the fun starts! To begin using Canva, simply click the “Create a Design” button. From here you have three choices:

  1. Choose from a suggested templated size (such as Instagram post, Facebook cover photo, and more)
  2. Create your own custom dimensions
  3. Upload a file or photo to begin editing

how to use canva - choose your design template

Choose the option that works best for the design you’re hoping to create to get started.

3. Look through pre-made templates

One of the biggest benefits of Canva is that you have a library of design templates at your fingertips—even when you create a design using custom dimensions. This makes creating new designs simple, and you can easily edit the template to align with your brand identity.

You can find templates on the left-hand side of your page. You can scroll through the options or search for some templates that meet your needs, such as:

  • Quotes
  • Promotions
  • Events
  • Contests
  • And more

Canva also has grouped its templates into suggested buckets to make finding the right one easier for you.

how to use canva - premade canva templates for instagram

(Speaking of winter Instagram posts, we created winter Instagram captions with curated Canva templates.) 

4. Choose a template–or decide to design from scratch

To select a template, you’ll simply click on the design you want. If you’re using the free version of Canva, you’ll want to make sure you select a free template. You can see if a template is free by hovering over the design and looking for the FREE designation in the lower right-hand corner.

how to use canva - choose free template

If you want to test multiple templates, you can add a new page by clicking “+ Add page” and clicking on the next template you want to try.

If there aren’t any templates you’re interested in, you can also start your design from scratch. For beginners, I suggest choosing a template that has some elements you like so you can get a feel for your options. Remember, you can edit anything in the design, including font, all colors, shapes, and more.

5. Add or edit design elements

Now that you’ve chosen a template (or decided to start from scratch), it’s time to add or edit your design elements. I personally like to get my design to a good place before adding or editing my text.

You’ll want to get really familiar with the editing pane at the top of your page—this is where you will be able to choose the types of edits and changes you want to make.

how to use canva - use edit pane within canva

Here are the controls you have available for design elements:

  • Color: This is where you’ll choose the color of the element or your background. You can choose from a color wheel or add in the specific HEX code (this is especially useful for your brand colors!).
  • Edit Image: If you have any type of image in your design, such as for the background or in a frame, you can edit the image by removing the background (a very helpful feature!), adjusting the brightness, contrast, or saturation, adding a filter, adding a color tone, and more.
  • Crop: You can crop your image or design element.
  • Flip: You can flip your image or design element either horizontally or vertically.
  • Animate: This is a cool feature that allows you to add some movement to your design. If you use this feature, you’ll need to download your design as an MP4 Video or a GIF.
  • Position: This lets you choose whether an image is behind or in front of other design elements. You can also align elements to the page or to other elements within your design. This is helpful when you have textboxes or want to make sure your designs are spaced evenly.
  • Copy style: This allows you to apply a style or format to a specific element. It applies to color, font, image filter, and more. This can help you easily match your design elements for cohesion.
  • Transparency: This allows you to adjust the transparency of your specific design element or image.
  • Link: You can add hyperlinks to your designs—this might be useful if you’re creating a PDF or a presentation.
  • Lock: This allows you to lock specific elements of your design so they can’t be moved or changed.
  • Copy: This lets you make a copy of a specific element.
  • Group/Ungroup: If you select multiple elements, you’ll also get the option to group or ungroup items. This will let you move or resize them together.

How to change or edit an element

To change an element, you simply click on what you want to change and select the edit you want to make. For example, if I want to change the background of this design from the image of the ocean to a solid color, I would click on the image, click on the “Color” option in my editing pane and select my color. I can do the same thing for the box on top of the image and for the stars.

how to use canva - change or edit an element

How to replace or add an image

Now say I want to edit the image in the circle because I’m sharing a customer quote and want to share an image of my customer. To upload an image, all you have to do is drag your image from your desktop over to Canva or click “Uploads” on the left-hand control panel. You can also create specific folders and upload images to the folder of your choice.

how to use canva - upload an image

Next, you’ll drag your newly uploaded image to the frame. Once your image has replaced the old image, you can double-click it to make adjustments such as zooming in or zooming out of your image or repositioning it within the frame.

How to add a new element

If you want to add more elements to your design, Canva makes it easy! You click “Elements” in the left-hand control panel, and you can either search for what you’re looking for or scroll through the suggested element options.

how to use canva - add design element

For my example, I’ll add another image. To do this, I’ll scroll to “Frames” and choose one that I like.

I could also add an illustrative element, like stars, and change the colors from yellow to a brand-compliant green. To do this, I’d search “stars” under elements and choose one that I like. If you’re using the free version of Canva, you’ll want to choose an element marked as FREE. Then I can move the element wherever I’d like on the page, click on it to change the color, and resize or flip it.

how to use canva - add new design element

6. Add or edit text

Now that your design is in a good place, it’s time to edit your text.

You have even more options for editing when it comes to your text. In addition to the options we already covered for editing a design element (which you have for editing a text element), you also have:

  • Font: You can change the font of your text. Canva has pre-loaded a good amount of free fonts, and you can even upload your own font if you have a premium subscription.
  • Font size: You can specify the font size in the box or you can drag and stretch your text box to make the font larger.
  • Font styles: You can choose from Bold, Italic, Underline, and Uppercase (meaning all your letters will be uppercased) for font styles.
  • Alignment: You can choose from left-justified, centered, and right-justified.
  • Lists: You can add bullets or numbered lists.
  • Spacing: You can make the letter and line spacing closer or further.
  • Effects: You can choose from specific text effects such as Shadow, Neon, Hollow, and more.

As you can see, there are plenty of options available to personalize your designs!

How to edit text

To edit existing text in a design, you’ll click into the text box and add your text. You can copy and paste or type in directly. When you’re in the text box, you can also change the font, size, and color and apply any of the styles we covered.

For example, I’m going to edit the text in my design to a quote from my customer along with her name and title and then change the font and colors to align with my brand.

how to use canva - edit text using editing pane

How to add new text

Adding new text is also simple. You can either click into an existing text box and click “Copy” or you can go to “Text” in the left-hand control and choose from text styles.

how to use canva - add new text

After you’ve added the new text to your design, you can make edits or changes.

7. Download your Canva creation

Once your design elements and text elements have been edited, changed, and added, it’s time to give your design a final look before you export it! (But, don’t worry—you can make changes after downloading).

Downloading your design is really easy:

  1. Click “Download” at the top right-hand of the page.
  2. Choose your file type. You can choose from PNG, JPG, PDF Standard, PDF Print, SVG (for premium subscribers), MP4 Video, and GIF.
  3. If you have more than one page in your design, choose the pages you want to export. If you export more than one page, it will export as a zipped/compressed file.
  4. Click “Download”

And, voila!

how to use canva - download design

If you want to share your Canva creation rather than downloading it, you’ll just click “Share” and enter the names or emails, or you can grab a share link.

 

Canva tutorial video

Here’s the video I promised. In this Canva tutorial, I’ll walk through how to create an Instagram quote image in less than five minutes.

Canva has also created a library of tutorials you can check out for more in-depth how-tos.

 

Canva features for businesses to try

Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s talk a little bit about some of the cool features you can expect from Canva for your business.

Pre-made social media templates

In my opinion, Canva’s pre-made social media templates are what make it such a great free marketing tool for growing businesses. The ability to get perfectly-sized social media images with some designs that are pretty much good to go is a busy business owner’s dream!

I curated some free social media templates I love for you here:

Canva presentations

If you don’t want to use Powerpoint or just want to spice up your presentations, Canva has some really great presentation templates to help you out. You would follow the same process to make edits and changes to the design elements and text, and you can export as a PDF to present through your pages. Or you can present directly through Canva.

how to use canva features - presentation templates

This is also a helpful feature if you’re trying to collaborate with other team members or want an easy way to access or share your presentations on the go.

Canva logo maker

Another feature small businesses love, especially, is the Canva logo maker. Canva has created some pre-made logo templates you can choose from and personalize. This is a great feature if you’re starting a new business or looking for inspiration before working with a professional designer to create your logo.

how to use canva to create a logo

We put together tips and Canva templates to help you design a small business logo here.

Sticker creator

Another cool feature Canva added is the ability to design your own custom stickers you can then print (or have printed directly through Canva). Branded stickers add a nice touch to packaging or customizing boxes, bags, or other items. Plus, stickers are very cost-effective.

But you don’t have to stop at branded stickers. You can also use the Canva sticker templates to create fun stickers that add a little flair to your business–and make your customers happy!

how-to-use-canva-sticker-maker

Background remover (premium feature)

This is a cool feature because it can elevate your images super fast without having to learn Photoshop. You can use this to make nice quote images or to crop out noisy backgrounds of your images. This feature is only available for premium subscribers.

To remove a background in Canva, you:

  • Add your image to the design
  • Click on your image
  • Click “Edit image” in the edit panel
  • Click “Background Remover”
  • Click “Apply”

how to use canva to remove image background

Brand kit (premium feature)

One feature that I personally love is the brand kit option from Canva. With the brand kit, you can upload your logos, colors, and fonts so they’re easily and readily available to you and those on your team.

how to use canva for branding - brand kit

This helps you keep all your designs cohesive, which is a big benefit for your business. And it makes it easier for you and your team so you don’t have to keep adding your HEX colors to every new design.

 

Go forth and create with Canva

Now that you know how to use Canva, it’s time to make some creations of your own! Canva is a valuable free marketing tool to add to your arsenal that can help you craft winning social media posts, stellar presentations, and more—all while keeping your brand identity clear and cohesive.

If you love free tools like Canva, you might also love our free website grader! Find out how your website stacks up and get actionable tips for improvement. 

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