If you are reading this article, the chances are that you are a content creator looking to create eye-catching visuals with ease. If that sounds like you, in this Canva review, you will see how it has helped me as a blogger.
Although I have a subscription for Adobe Photoshop, I still felt the need for something less bulky to create images for my blogs and social media posts.
Firing up PS and starting from a blank canvas started feeling tedious and slow.
As a photographer, I was more familiar with the photo editing side of Photoshop. I must admit that it is superb for processing images, especially RAW files.
But when it comes to graphic designing, I am not that good, albeit some artistic inclination.
That’s why I started searching for web-based graphics designing tools and discovered Canva.
After using it for a while, I felt that I should have started using it earlier.
What is Canva
Canva is a web-based graphic designing application that makes designing easy for everyone. It also has a mobile app for Android and iOS platforms.
Unlike Photoshop or Illustrator, you don’t need to install anything on your system to start using Canva. Also, it doesn’t hog your system resources like desktop applications.
You only need to sign up for a free account to get started with Canva. They also offer a free 30-day trial for the premium plan.
What can you create with it
Using Canva is pretty straightforward. Once logged in, you will see a big greenish-blue button which says Create a Design.
Clicking on it leads to a page where you can choose the type of graphic from one of these categories:
- Social Media
Based on the kind of design you select, Canva will show you a variety of templates.
For example, if you choose Pinterest Graphic, the templates shown will be designed and sized accordingly (735px wide & 1102px tall). So, you don’t need to bother about resizing manually.
Canva has a range of features that make designing easier for anyone. Templates are the most noteworthy. So, let us start with that first,
The free version itself gives access to over 8000 templates. That’s quite generous while many of the alternatives require a premium license for the same.
Based on the type of design you choose to create, Canva shows a bunch of templates on the left sidebar. Clicking on it loads the template on the canvas. Then you can modify it to your likings.
Even though templates are handy, make sure to tweak it every time to match your brand’s colors and styles. It helps to minimize that Canva-feel from your designs.
Photos & Elements Library
In my personal experience, templates do not always provide what I want in my designs. In such a case, I prefer to start from a blank canvas. Still, it is a lot easier than doing the same in Photoshop. Why? Availability of ready-made elements and collection of photos.
From the Photos section, you can search for a wide variety of keywords to find the appropriate image. The collection includes free as well as premium stock photos. To view only the free images, toggle the little button on the search box.
Design Elements: Icons, Shapes, Graphs, Frames
Adding icons, shapes, and gradients is only a click away in Canva. In addition to these, you can also create graphs and charts using Canva’s interface. Although it is not as feature-rich, it is quite useful for simple data visualizations.
Integration with Pixabay, Pexels, etc
Canva provides integration with various other services like Pexels, Pixabay, and Giphy.
So, when you want to use a photo from Pexels.com, you can search for it without leaving Canva.
Apart from that, you can also connect your Facebook, Instagram, and Dropbox accounts and start using assets directly from them.
When all the design tools are accessible at your fingertips, it is tempting to play with different colors and fonts.
But that is not at all a good thing if you want to create an impression in your audience’s mind.
That’s where Canva’s Brand Kit feature proves helpful. It allows you to set color palettes, fonts, and logos for each of your website or brand. These will be readily available while creating designs that ensure that you are not deviating from the line.
Folders allow you to organize your design files efficiently. While the free plan allows you to create a maximum of two folders, the premium plan allows creating as many folders as you want.
When it comes to downloading your designs, Canva offers mainly five options:
- PDF Standard
- PDF Print
- Animated MP4 or GIF
The premium plan includes extra options for compressing PNG and JPG files. It is useful when uploading images to your blog or website. If you are on WordPress, using a dedicated image compression plugin like ShortPixel can provide better optimization levels.
The PDF Print option saves images in high-quality PDF format with 300ppi resolution. However, it does not offer the CMYK color mode. Many offset printers ask for CMYK for printing.
So, with Canva, you have to look for workarounds to convert RGB to CMYK color space before printing.
Canva vs. Photoshop
If Photoshop is a full-fledged workshop, Canva is a toolbox with only the essential tools. That’s what came to my mind after using both.
When you want to build something sophisticated, a factory can provide you with all the machinery and equipment. On the other hand, for simple tasks, a toolbox will be more convenient.
Similarly, when you want to draw a design from scratch, Photoshop’s brushes, pen tool, and custom shapes are inevitable.
However, if you are inexperienced, you can go wrong and end up with an unprofessional design.
Instead, Canva’s vast library of templates and elements give you a starting point so that even a non-designer can also create neat visuals.
On the contrary, when you want to draw a custom logo, Photoshop or Illustrator will be a better choice. Canva doesn’t offer any tools like brushes or pen.
For Photo Editing
Canva is sufficient for basic photo editing tasks like cropping, straightening, adjusting brightness, and color adjustments. It also offers several built-in color filters.
On the other hand, if you look at it as a photographer, you will be disappointed. Canva is not meant for advanced photo editing or post-processing.
So, here are a few things that you can do in Photoshop and not with Canva:
- Levels & Curves adjustments
- Layer masking
- Noise reduction
- Raw file processing
- Lens Correction
and a lot more…
The robust free plan is the main attraction of Canva. Unlike its competitors, Canva does not impose any limits on the number of images you can save per month.
The price of the premium plan starts at $12.95/mo. It offers a lot more templates, photos, and the ability to create unlimited folders.
Free vs. Pro
In short, these are the main additional benefits you get with the premium plan:
- Access to more photos and templates
- Unlimited storage for your photos
- Unlimited Folders
- Enhanced branding features: Free version allows only one color palette while premium offers multiple color palettes, custom fonts, and logo uploads.
- Ability to download transparent files
- Easily resize designs
- Team management features (each team member costs extra cost per month)
- Additional export options and quality settings
With that, let us summarize the advantages of Canva.
- Easy to use
- Robust free plan
- Cheaper Pro plan compared to its alternatives
- Loads of templates, design elements, and other features
When thinking about its cons, there are not too many I can think of. However, I had felt that Canva could be a little faster. Sometimes, the templates and the designs take a noticeable amount of time for loading.
- Interface could be faster
- Limited photo editing capabilities
Sometimes, Canva may not be suited to your likings. You might feel the need for something different. Whatever be the reason, there are a couple of alternatives that is worth mentioning. All are web-based tools similar to Canva.
Stencil’s interface is more straightforward than that of Canva. If what you want is simplicity, then give Stencil a try.
However, the free version is limited to 10 images per month.
While Canva can feel a bit sluggish at times, Snappa offers a snappier experience. The designs and templates also have a different feel.
Again, the number of images per month is limited to five in the free version.
If you want more photo editing features, then PicMonkey can be more suitable. It offers advanced features like masking and sharpening, along with an dedicated layers panel.
So, we have seen how Canva simplifies the process of designing. Even if you use other softwares, Canva can be more convenient for basic design needs.
The free version itself is sufficient for most users. The pro version offers many more features like team management and branding.
Have you used Canva? If yes, what is your experience with it? Share it below.