When it comes to graphic design software, we’ve come a long way since the days of MS Paint. But there’s such a thing as having too many choices. Whether you’re a seasoned creator or terrified of graphic design, you’re probably wondering which of the plethora of software options is right for you. Let’s help you make an informed decision by looking into what design darling Canva has to offer (and where, if anywhere, it falls short).
What is Canva?
Canva is a graphic design tool famous for its ease of use. Canva burst onto the scene in 2013 as the brainchild of an Australia-based entrepreneurial team. Its mission was simple: to simplify design software. With its clean interface and intuitive controls, Canva was a stark contrast to tools like Photoshop, which came with a prohibitively-high learning curve (and price tag).
Canva was an instant success, counting nearly 1 million users within its first year of operations. Part of this success is due to the fact Canva is a free service, although users can pay for the expanded functionality of Canva Pro or a business account (called Canva for Enterprise).
How to use Canva
Canva, which is available in online, desktop, and mobile versions, is often lauded for its ease of use. Here’s the gist:
- Visit Site or App: Open the Canva app or visit Canva’s online site. If you don’t already have an account, you’ll have to create one.
- Sizing: Next, you’ll enter the dimensions of the piece that you want to work on. One great thing about Canva is the library of preset image sizes. If you’re working on a particular kind of social media graphic, you won’t have to second guess whether or not you’re working with the right dimensions.
- Templates: With Canva, you can choose to start a design from scratch or to work with a premade template. You can buy third-party templates, but Canva also provides many high-quality templates for free. There’s over 60,000 of them, so you can be rest assured that Canva has something to match your design needs.
- Starting from Scratch: If you choose to start from scratch, you’ll have the option of choosing your own background, fonts, and images. Even if you’re using a template, you’ll still have the option of customizing it.
- Editing: Canva allows you to choose from a multitude of texts, backgrounds, and “elements”, which are small stickers and designs. Some options are only for Pro users, but there’s plenty of free options too. You can also choose to upload your own photos or elements. It’s easy to rearrange backgrounds and elements—you can move images forward and backwards with the (right) click of a button.
- Exporting: Once you’re satisfied with your design, Canva makes it easy to export your design and even lets you post directly to social media. US users can opt to have their designs professionally printed and sent in the mail (for an additional cost).
Canva: Main Features
Free template library
As we mentioned above, Canva gives its users access to a wealth of free templates. Among the most interesting ones for creators are flyers, logos, posters, YouTube/Pinterest thumbnails, and social media posts, but there are also options for resumes, certificates, cover letters, and more.
Ease of use
Unlike other graphic design platforms which require proper training, you can learn Canva on the go. Among its most user-friendly features are its “drag and drop” abilities that allow you to add design elements from the Canva library or your own files. The platform is incredibly intuitive—if you can use smart phone, you can use Canva.
For creators, organization is half the battle. Fortunately, Canva makes it very easy to keep track of your projects with access to folders (two for free subscriptions, unlimited for Pro) and 2TB of cloud-based storage platform. Never worry about losing your progress in-between saves again.
Is Canva pro worth it?
With Canva pro, creators receive the following features:
- Access to the entire Canva library of elements, templates, videos, photos, and audio files
- Background removing tool (allows you to isolate the foreground of your image)
- The ability to animate images
- Direct social media post scheduling from the app
- Team collaboration
- Easy image resizing
- Unlimited folders
In short: if you’re using Canva for casual designs a few times a month (or even week), the free version will likely suit you fine. But if you’re running a team or working with a large portfolio of clients, you’ll likely want to go Pro. Canva Pro, for small teams, is $119.99 USD per year or $12.99 per month. Canva Enterprise, for larger teams of more than 25 people, is $30.00 per month.
Pros and cons of Canva for creators
- Very user-friendly platform
- Affordable pricing
- Cloud-based storage
- Saves creators time
- Great for team collaboration
- Designs can come out looking generic
- Templates can feel limiting
- Will feel rudimentary to experience designers
- Photo editing tools are very basic
Alternatives to Canva
Visa Create offers fewer templates than Canva, but more access to stock images. Its free capabilities tend to be a bit limited when compared to Canva, but some creators prefer it for its strong customer support network and ability to download PNG images (something Canva sorely lacks).
Though not identical to Canva, Later is the simplest way to quickly design graphics and share them to social media. Later allows its users to create simple visual social media posts and schedule them for sharing.
Adobe Express carries prestige based on its name alone, but it’s not quite the same as using Adove Illustrator. Instead, Adobe Spark is a very basic online graphic design platform that allows you to create your own graphics (mostly for social media sharing).
The Final Scoop
With the nitty gritty details out of the way, let’s answer the question we all came here for: is Canva the best tool for creators?
While we find that Canva is a very solid choice for creators without a background in Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, it does have limitations that can prove frustrating. Overall, Canva’s greatest advantage is also its achilles heel—it’s great that the platform is simple until it can’t materialize your creative vision.
We recommend Canva to teams and individuals who perform graphic design as a component of their business. For everyone else, you will want a tool that’s more robust. Overall, Canva gets a rating of 7/10—pretty good but not perfect.