Skip to Main Content

Create a Digital Design with Canva

What is Canva?

Canva is a free, web-based graphic design tool for creating a variety of designs, including:

  • Posters
  • Infographics
  • Social media posts
  • Banners
  • Presentations
  • Cards
  • Resumes
  • Brochures
  • Business cards
  • Videos

Canva is easy to use with its drag and drop format, and provides access to photos, images, fonts, and themes within the tool.

Sign up for a free account at

Review the terms of use and security information to make sure you are using the tool properly and you are protecting your privacy. 

Canva Pros and Cons


  • Pre-made templates
  • Includes drag and drop features
  • Designs are downloadable in multiple formats
  • Multiple fonts for use
  • Ability to share and collaborate
  • Various colour schemes to choose from
  • Offers a ‘design school’ for new users
  • Many excellent stickers and graphics
  • Ability to upload photos
  • Search and filter templates


  • Unable to resize templates
  • Limited design freedom once using a specific theme
  • Specific templates will print in undesirable size
  • Not all images and elements are available with a free account
  • Cannot import data from other applications

What should I think about before starting my project?

Before you jump into creating your design, take some time to think about what you are creating and who you are creating it for. 

  1. Purpose
    • What are you making? Is it an infographic or poster? Or a social media post? Is it an assignment or for a personal project? 
    • If it is for an assignment, take a moment to read over the assignment instructions and then think about the purpose of your visual document. 
    • What message are you creating and what will you use to communicate it? 
  2. Audience
    • It may be that you are working on an assignment for a course, but the answer is probably more than just your professor.
    • Think about why your instructor is asking you to create your project and who the audience could be.
      • What does this audience already know?
      • What is the audience interested in?
      • Do they have a specific vocabulary you should draw from? Or are you trying to be as open as possible in your language? 
    • Think about what your audience wants and make sure your design meets that need. 
  3. Plan
    • Design is about using colour, graphics and text to communicate a message.
    • Brainstorm ideas about the text, graphics and layout you want to include.
    • Think about colour combinations and fonts. 
    • Remember that this is just a plan and it can change as you begin to create it.
  4. Explore
    • Once you have a basic plan and outline, you can explore Canva, or a different tool, to see how you can make your plan become a reality.
    • Take time to see what graphics are available in the free version and determine if you will need to find different images or graphics outside the library in Canva. Use the Find Audio, Images and Videos for Remixing guide to know where to search. 
  5. Create
    • Start creating your design in Canva
    • Pro Tip: make sure you select the proper dimensions from the beginning. You can't resize a project in the free version of Canva. 
  6. Share
    • Canva allows you to export in PDF, PNG, and JPEG without a watermark. 

How do I start a new project?

To edit a readymade Canva design:

  1. After logging in to Canva, select 'Create a design' in the top right-hand corner.

Canva homepage with 'Create a design' highlighted in the top right corner

  1. Browse the design categories to choose the one you'd like to create (poster, presentation, logo, etc.).

Drop-down list of design options

  1. A new tab will appear with the blank design you've chosen.
  2. Start designing by browsing and selecting one of Canva's ready made templates (optional and customizable), or start with a blank design and add in your own original background, images and text.

Canva workspac with the Design widget is at the top of the left side navigation panel

To create a Canva design with custom dimensions

  1. Click 'Create a design’, select 'custom size' at the bottom of the menu.

Circle around 'custom dimensions' in the drop down menu

  1. Input the width and height you'd like your design to be in pixels (px), millimeters (mm), inches (in) or centimeters (cm)

input custom dimensions

  1. A new tab will appear with your blank design.

When creating a custom size design, you will not have access to Canva's readymade layout templates.

How is the design page organized?

The design page is divided into two main sections. 

The right side of your page is your workspace. Here, you will see the page you are working on. You can use the slider in the bottom right-hand corner of your page to zoom in and out of your design.

Box around the right side of the design page

The left side of your screen is your toolbar. You can click through the navigation bar to access:

  • Design
  • Elements
  • Brand Hub
  • Uploads
  • Text
  • Draw
  • Apps

Canva design space with navigation column on the leftmost side of the page highlighted.

Additional widgets like Photos, Styles, Background, projects and Audio will be added to the left side toolbar based on your usage.

How do I change the design background?

  1. Select 'Background' from the left navigation menu.
  2. For a solid colour background, select a colour at the top of the background menu.  
    • You can also create a custom colour here by clicking on the colour palette icon next to the solid colour choices. 
    • You can also select or create a solid colour by clicking on your design then clicking the colour square above it.
  3. If you want a design for your background, select from the free options provided by Canva (located below the colour options).
    • You can also select an image from the photo widget in the navigation bar to add to your design, by right clicking and selecting 'set image as background'

Background options in the left navigation menu

How do I add images, shapes, lines, etc.?

  1. Select 'Elements' from the left navigation menu.
  2. Choose one of the options that appears i.e. shapes, lines, grids, etc.  If you are looking for a specific image, you can also type the keyword into the search bar and Canva will gather a bunch of results to choose from.  
  3. Click or drag the element to have it appear in your design.
  4. Select the element within your design and drag the corners inward and outward to change the size. You will know when you have selected your element because a box will appear around it.
  5. Within your design, you can change the size, location, colour and orientation of the element you added using the menu that appears above your page.

Note: There are both free and pro (paid for) elements.  Elements will be clearly marked as free or with a crown for pro.  If you include pro features in your design without a pro account, it will include watermarks and prompt you to pay when you download your design to remove the watermarks.

To delete elements on your design:

  1. Select the element you want to delete.
  2. Hit the 'backspace' or 'delete' key on your keyboard, or select the trash icon hovering above the element.

How do I add my own images?

  1. Select 'Uploads' from the left navigation menu.
  2. Click 'Upload files'.
  3. Select the files you would like to upload from your computer, then click open.
  4. Once the image has fully uploaded, click it to add it to your design.

Downloads folder open with an image selected

Uploaded image added to the design page

How do I adjust the transparency of an image or element?

To adjust the transparency of an item in your design:

  1. Click on the item you want to adjust until it is surrounded by a box.
  2. In the toolbar across the top of the screen, click on the checkered square for ‘Transparency’.
  3. Use the slider tool to adjust the transparency of your item. 

How do I change the order of my images?

You can adjust the way your items and images layer with one another by changing the order of your items. 

  • Right click on the image you want to move. A menu will appear, select 'Layer' for a secondary menu with layering options for the image.
    • ‘Send to back’ will put your image at the back of your design, with all other items appearing on top of it.
    • ‘Send Backward’ will send your image back by one layer. 
    • ‘Bring Forward’ will bring your image forward by one layer
    • ‘Bring to front’ will place your image at the very front of your design, in front of all other images. 
  • You can also select 'Position' from the top toolbar, this will open an editing pane on the left side of the page with all arrangement selections available for the selected element. 
  • Adjusting the order of your images will help your design make visual sense.



How do I group or ungroup images in my design?

To group images so that they remain stuck together:

  1. Highlight the elements you want to be grouped together. Once highlighted, an option to ‘group’ will appear above the selected elements.
  2. Select ‘group’ to stick your images together into one.

To ungroup these elements:

  1. Click on the group until it is highlighted in a box.
  2. Click ‘Ungroup’ in the toolbar hovering above the element. Your elements will now be independent from one another again.

In a template, it is common that a lot of elements will be grouped automatically. If you want to change the layout of your design by ungrouping these elements, right-click on the section you want to ungroup, and select ‘ungroup’ in the pop-up menu. Your elements should now be independent from each other.

click ungroup in the pop up menu

images are now independent from each other

To re-group your elements in a template, highlight the elements you want to be grouped together until they are highlighted in a dashed. Then, right-click. In the pop-up menu, select ‘group.’

select group in pop up menu

How do I add text?

  1. Select 'text' from the left navigation menu.
  2. Click or drag heading, subheading or body text to add it to your design.
  3. Change the size, colour, font, orientation and organization of your text using the top menu above your design.

subheading box on the design page with a box around the editing options above it

How do I change my text from lowercase to uppercase?

  1. Begin by adding a heading, subheading, or textbox to your design. 
  2. In the tool bar across the top of the design space, click on the ellipses (...) to view more advanced text options. 
  3. Click on the uppercase tool to convert your text from lowercase to uppercase, or from uppercase to lowercase. 

How do I use an HTML colour code?

HTML colour codes are a unique combination of numbers and letters that code for a specific colour. This step is useful when creating designs for particular brands, as most major brands have specific colours that they use to make sure everything they create and post appears cohesive. For example, the University of Guelph has a colour palette that represents the University brand, and each of these colours have a different code. For this example, we will use Guelph Red.

  1. Begin by clicking on the colour square above your design to open up the colour options.
  2. In the search bar at the top, insert the colour code you are looking for. 
  3. The particular colour you need should appear.
  4. You can also use HTML colour codes to change the colour of text or particular elements.

HTML colour code inputted in the colour search barTo explore Canva’s ready-made colour palettes:

  1. Select ‘Design’ from the left navigation menu.
  2. Select ‘Styles’
  3. Click on a colour palette to use it in your design.

Links to HTML colour coding help:

How do I add another page to my design?

To add a new, blank page:

  1. Select the 'Add page' button underneath the last page in your design.
  2. A new page will appear underneath the current page.

Select 'add a new page' underneath the first page of your design.

To add a new page and duplicate the design of the previous page:

  1. Select the 'duplicate page' icon, located at the top of each page in the design.
  2. A new page with the same design will appear underneath the current page.

Make a copy of your design by selecting the copy image icon.

To delete pages:

  1. Scroll to the page you want to delete.
  2. Select the trash icon located at the top of each page of the design.

Select the trash icon above the page you want to delete.

How do I rename my design?

  1. Put your cursor in the box that reads 'Untitled Design' at the top of the Canva window.
  2. Type a new name for your design.
  3. Hit 'Enter' on your keyboard.

rename your design

How can I collaborate with others on a design?

To share my design via an email invite

  1. Select 'Share' from the top of the Canva window.
  2. Enter the email addresses of those you'd like to collaborate with on your design.
  3. Select the permissions you'd like the collaborators to have: either 'can edit' or 'can view.'
  4. Click 'send invites' to complete.

select can edit or view

To share my design via a link

  1. Select 'Share' from the top right hand corner of the Canva window.
  2. Select the permissions you'd like the collaborators to have: either 'to edit' or 'to view.'
  3. Copy the link directly in the share box and send it to your collaborators.

Collaborators can use the notes and comment feature to provide feedback for each page of your design.

add notes to your design

How do I download my final design?

  1. Select the  'Share' button from the top menu in the Canva window.
  2. From the dropdown menu that appears, select 'Download'.
  3. Select the file type (JPEG, PNG, PDF Standard, or PDF for printing).  Also select whether you want to download all pages of the design, or just select pages.
  4. Click 'Download.' The file should appear in the 'downloads' folder on your computer.

Embed your design using HTML:

  1. Select 'Share' from the top menu in the Canva window.
  2. Select '...More' from the dropdown menu that appears.
  3. Select 'Embed' from the menu that appears. 
  4. Click 'Embed' to copy the HTML code.

Resources to help with creating multimedia

Link to guide: Create InfographicsLink to Find Audio, Images and Videos for RemixingGuide: Make Your Digital Media Project Accesible

Suggest an edit to this guide

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.