The ability to create custom images is important for small business marketers. In the past, that meant hiring a graphic designer to help with this task, but now marketers have a variety of programs they can use to create anything from banners to flyers to social media posts. While there are several graphic design programs to choose from, Canva is emerging as the top choice for many small business marketers.

What is Canva?

Canva logoCanva is a graphic design platform that can be used to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents, flyers, and other visual content. The platform includes templates for users to use. The platform is free to use and offers paid subscriptions like Canva Pro and Canva for Enterprise for additional functionality. To get started, the free version of Canva is plenty for what most small business marketers need. It offers a large library of templates for flyers, social media images, and more, along with font choices, free images, and even the ability to edit photos. You can create graphics from scratch or customize existing designs to suit your needs.

What can you create in the free version of Canva?

For a free program, there is a lot you can do! Here’s a partial list of what you can design in Canva:

  • Brochures
  • Business cards
  • Calendars
  • Flyers
  • Gift certificates
  • Greeting cards
  • Invitations
  • Labels
  • Letterhead
  • Logos
  • Menus
  • Photobooks
  • Postcards
  • Posters
  • Presentations
  • Resumes
  • Stickers
  • T-shirts

Think that’s a comprehensive list? We just scratched the surface! Here’s a full overview of all the designs you can create in Canva.

Getting started using Canva

image optimizationWhile the program makes it amazingly easy to hit the ground running, here are a few items that would be good to have on hand before you get started:

  • Your logo (.png and .jpeg version, ideally)
  • Brand colors
  • Images you’d like to use in future graphics
  • List of team members to access your Canva account

While the free version of Canva is all most marketers need, the Pro version gives you a few extra perks, such as creating a brand kit (brand colors, fonts, etc.), more comprehensive photo editing, and capabilities to post on social channels.

After signing up for Canva, go ahead and upload your logo file(s) so you can use it as you create new graphics to brand your content. You can also go ahead and upload any images you know you’ll be using in future graphics. To do this, go ahead and click the “Create a Design” button on the top right-hand side of the screen. Choose any design from the dropdown menu or put in custom images; it doesn’t matter since we’re starting by loading images and your logo, not creating a design. Simply look to the left side of the screen, click “uploads.” You could also choose a template under “Design anything” to get to the upload option. Once you’ve selected a template, look to the left of the screen: you’ll see several options for designing. The second or third option down on the left side is “uploads.” Click that. Then, select “upload media,” choose where you’re uploading from (likely “device,” which is your computer), then click “open” once the image is selected. Repeat for every logo file, image, etc., that you want in your library. While you can do this each time you create an image, it’s nice to have a few items already loaded that you know you’ll be using!

If you want to really organize, you can create folders to organize your items. The free version allows two folders; Pro and above add more. To create a folder, again look to the left-hand menu, click the “Folders” icon, and then select “Create new.” Name it and share it with any team members you’d like to also have access to. The dropdown on the right of the member field allows you to choose access levels. Now you can drag and drop individual items into whichever folder it belongs in. Now you’re ready to start creating graphics!

Creating your first graphic

optimize graphicFrom the home page, select a template (we’ll use “Instagram Post as an example) and start with a new blank design from the choices given. Once you’ve chosen the blank template, you’ll see your back at the familiar screen with the menu on the left-hand side. You can either go to the “templates” icon on the left and choose a premade template to get you started or create a design from scratch. Let’s try one from scratch! Choose one of the images you uploaded from the “uploads” tab (or one of the folders you created if you did that). Click on the image you want, and it will automatically appear in your blank template. Drag to resize to fit the Instagram post image size.

Want text overlay? Choose “Text” from the left-hand menu and choose a basic size (you’ll be able to resize in a moment). Type whatever text you’d like in there, highlight the text, and look at the top of the menu above your design; you’ll see options to change font size, type, and color. The font menu is a lot like Word, so have fun with effects, etc.!

Ready to add your logo now? Go back to your uploads, select your font, and then resize however you’d like. You can drag the text or your logo to wherever you want it on the graphic, making it larger or smaller. Once the design is how you want it, you have the option to download it by clicking “download” and choose the format you’d like (.png, .jpeg, etc.). Now you have your first design!

Get familiar with all the resources available to you in Canva that can be found in the left-hand menu, including backgrounds, elements (shapes, etc.), videos, music, and more.

Get more instruction

unknown instructionCanva has a comprehensive how-to video library, so when you’re ready to get more in-depth, hands-on training, or have a question on how to do something, check out their tutorials. They cover everything from creating a team to sharing to designing from your phone. There are additional resources in the footer of their site, including:

  • Font combinations
  • Palette generator
  • Color wheel
  • Design size guide

Canva is a fantastic way to handle the simple graphic design needs that your small business may have. Of course, for more comprehensive designs, it still makes sense to engage the services of a small business marketing professional or a graphic design pro. However, for day-to-day graphics you may need for social media or email marketing, Canva is a fantastic, easy-to-use resource. Master these graphic design basics using Canva, and you’ll be on your way to elevating your small business marketing graphics to a new level!

Patty Hughes
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