When you have no real experience with creating or designing graphics, you might appreciate a tool like Canva to do most of the work for you.
That’s the premise behind what has become one of the more prominent options on the web. The Australian firm has been around for eight years now, and is far better today than it was even a few years ago. Basically, you have a vast array of tools and templates to work with in developing whatever your vision entails.
The beauty of this setup is you don’t really need to have a graphics or artistic background to use it. It’s entirely online, and includes access through the website or apps for iOS and Android. That also includes tablet apps that work particularly well with a stylus for precise edits.
Much like its namesake, Canva serves up a canvas of sorts. You can start with a blank slate or opt for a template that gives you a background. From there, you have visuals pieces and elements to include based on what it is you’re trying to build. There are many to choose from, so the possibilities will appear endless.
The versatility extends to what kind of assets you can design. From a work perspective, you can jazz up your presentation slides, add infographics to documents, develop letterheads or even content you would post to social media. Those are only some of the examples, as the creativity involved here is really up to you.
In a sense, you have to think Photoshop meets Illustrator, despite both of those being Adobe programs. Adobe has nothing to do with Canva, though you could certainly utilize both to come up with what you have in mind.
For instance, Canva doesn’t limit you to only using its own assets. If you want to bring in a photo, illustration, chart, graph, or whatever else into a project, there’s no stopping you. Provided you’re not infringing on any copyright, of course. The layout options are pretty extensive, letting you crop, blur, rearrange, resize and adjust as you see fit.
Being entirely cloud-based, you’re also not at risk of losing your work. Work in a desktop web browser or mobile app, and your progress is saved at all times.
While it’s free to try Canva out, and even use its base features without paying a dime, the good stuff will cost you. Canva’s Pro subscription ups the toolset considerably, giving you tons more templates, stock images, graphics, and even video and audio. It also gives you 100GB of cloud storage over the 5GB you get in the free tier.
Canva also makes it obvious that it’s tailored the service to teams, be it as small as a handful, to as large as a whole enterprise. For Pro, you’re looking at $16.99/month or $156 for the year.
If you’re looking at that and thinking, “wait, I’m just one person, why should I pay for four more,” that’s just the way it is. There is no individual option, so Canva made Pro available to up to five people for that price. Broken down, it’s actually a good deal, though comes out looking pricey if you’re just on your own.
You can try Pro for a 7-day trial to gauge its usefulness, but I suspect that it will depend on how much you work with graphics. While Canva is perfectly suitable to beginners, it’s also equally weighted towards experienced graphic artists. There’s enough on the table to make anyone comfortable.
What makes this platform such a killer is its interface, which heavily relies on drag-and-drop sequences. You pull something from the side panel and move it over to the canvas. The available tools let you make whatever adjustments you’re able to make, and you essentially repeat the process until the intricate details come in.
It just works, but I should caution that precision won’t match the likes of professional graphics programs, like Illustrator, for instance. You can’t really mess around with pixels, nor do layer masks or play with opacity, sharpness and colour. That may sound like a lot’s missing, but it’s not something that surprised me, personally. I’m talking about really advanced processes that would probably work better on other programs from Adobe’s Creative Cloud anyway.
What’s available here is still nothing to scoff at. Canva has the air of a graduated process as you keep using it. There are plenty of tutorials for it online, but I found self-teaching myself with dummy projects was a good way to acclimate. The point is that it’s a platform anyone can use without feeling lost and intimidated from the outset.
It’s hard to argue with spicing up otherwise dreary or boring work projects, but that’s what you can do here. Not to mention that it can be a real asset if you’re self-employed and need to create visuals to help with your business. Canva plays up these factors a lot in its ads, and I don’t think they’re misleading.
But before you dive in and start paying for it, give it a try under the free tier first. You’ll know pretty quickly how much you truly like it.