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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

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 canva.com

Canva Pros and Cons

Pros 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
  • 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
  • No way to search infographics by key words
  • 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.
  2. Browse the design categories to choose the one you'd like to create (poster, presentation, logo, etc.).
  3. A new tab will appear with the blank design you've chosen.
  4. Start designing by browsing and selecting one of Canva's ready made layouts (optional and customizable), or start with a blank design and add in your own original background, images and text

Canva homepage, with a circle around the create a design option in the top righthand corner

list of design categories

A blank poster design, with the option of ready made layouts on the left hand side

To create a Canva design with custom dimensions

  1. Create a Design’, select 'custom dimensions' at the top of the menu options.
  2. Input the width and height you'd like your design to be in pixels (px), millimeters (mm) or inches (in).
  3. A new tab will appear with your blank design.

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

List of design categories, with an arrow pointing to the custom dimensions options

Input width and height into custom dimensions

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. You can also select or create a solid colour by clicking the colour square above your design preview.
  3. If you want a design for your background, select from the free options provided by Canva (located below the colour options).

Select a solid or patterned background 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 shapes, lines, grids, etc. to have them appear in your design.
  4. Within your design, you can change the size, location, colour and orientation of the element you added

Note: There are both free and premium (paid for) elements.  Elements will be clearly marked as free or with a price ($).  If you include premium features in your design, it will prompt you to pay when you download your design.

Select elements from the left menu and select which item you'd like to add from the list.

Click or drag to add elements to your design.  Search in the search bar for specific items.

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 in the top menu of the design window.

How do I add my own images?

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

Select 'uploads' from the left menu, then 'upload an image'

Select the picture you want to upload from your files, then click 'open.'

Click or drag the image to add it to your design.

How do I set an image as my design background?

Right-click on the image you want to use as your background. At the bottom of the pop-up menu, select ‘Set Image as Background.

Select 'Set Image as your Background' from pop up menu

Image of a book as the design background

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

To adjust the transparency of an item in your design:

  • Click on the item you want to adjust until it is highlighted in blue.
  • In the toolbar across the top of the screen, click on ‘Transparency’
  • Use the slider tool to adjust the transparency of your item. 

Click on 'transparency' in the toolbar at the top of your screen

Use the slider to adjust image transparency

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 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. 
  • Adjusting the order of your images will help your design make visual sense.

Click 'send to back' in the pop up menu

click 'bring forward' in the pop up menu

Final design with images in the best order

How do I group or ungroup images in my design?

To group images so that they remain stuck together, highlight the elements you want to be grouped together. Once highlighted, an option to ‘group’ will appear in the toolbar at the top of the screen. Select ‘group’ to stick your images together into one.

Highlight the elements you want to group

Select 'group' in the  toolbar at the top of your screen

Two elements are now grouped together

To ungroup these elements, click on the group until it is highlighted in blue. Click ‘Ungroup’ in the toolbar at the top of the screen. Your images will now be independent from one another again.

Click 'ungroup' in the tool bar at the top of your screen

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 blue. Then, right-click. In the pop-up menu, select ‘group.’

Group text boxes together by clicking 'group' in the 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 in the design window.

Select 'text' from the left menu, then click or drag the chosen text style to your design.

Make changes to the style, size, colour and spacing of the text using the top toolbar in the design window.

How do I change my text from lowercase to uppercase?

Begin by adding a heading, subheading, or textbox to your design. In the tool bar across the top of the screen, click on the ellipses (...) to view more advanced text options. 

Click on the uppercase tool to convert your text from lowercase to uppercase, or from uppercase to lowercase. 

click 'uppercase' to change your text from lowercase to uppercase

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.

  • Begin by clicking on ‘Background color’ to open up the colour options. 
  • In the search bar at the top, insert the colour code you are looking for. 
  • The particular colour you need should appear.
  • You can also use HTML colour codes to change the colour of text.

click on background colour in the toolbar

enter the colour HTML code

Select your colour to make it your design background colour

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 a new 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 'copy this 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 'Add a heading' at the top of the Canva window.
  2. Type a new name for your design.
  3. Hit 'Enter' on your keyboard.

Add a heading for 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 share from the top of the Canva windowSelect permissions you would like editors to have

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.

Copy link to share

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

Use the comment and notes features to get feedback on your designs.

How do I download my final design?

  1. Select the  'Download' icon from the top menu in the Canva window.
  2. From the dropdown menu that appears, 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.
  3. Click 'Download.' The file should appear in the 'downloads' folder on your computer.

Select the download icon from the top of the Canva window

Embed your design using HTML:

  1. Make your design public: turn on the 'Public' feature from the top menu in the Canva window.
  2. Select 'Share' from the top menu.
  3. Select 'Embed' from the new window that appears.
  4. Copy the HTML code from the window and place it where you want to embed your design.

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.