January 27, 2021
Graphic Design 101: How to Make Professional Graphics in Canva

Use Canva to create stunning professional graphics screenshot of Canva homepage

Wondering how it seems like everyone is designing professional graphics these days?

I’ll let you in on a secret: A lot of folks are using Canva.

I use it all the time for quick designs! It’s an easy tool for high quality graphics you can insert in blog posts or share on social media. They even offer printing services if you’re looking to create business cards, stickers, or other printables for your business.

Curious but don’t know how to get started? Here’s an easy guide to get you on your way to making professional graphics in no time!

First Things First: What is Canva?

Canva is a popular web-based graphic design program. By “web-based,” I mean you don’t have to download anything to use it — Just navigate over to Canva.com and you can start making images. Their interface is intuitive to use, which makes it much easier to navigate than Photoshop or Illustrator.

And unlike with Adobe design products, Canva is totally free to use at its lowest tier! There are plenty of options for templates, graphics, fonts, and more in the free version of Canva. Once you’ve used it for a while, you might be interested in upgrading to one of their premium versions, but I’ve personally never found a need to do so. For design projects with a heavier lift, I’ll usually turn to Adobe.

Get Started Quickly with a Pre-Designed Template

The first thing you’ll need to do once you’ve created your free account is to decide what you’re working on. Canva offers templates for all kinds of professional graphics, from resumes and business cards to infographics and magazine layouts.

Once you’ve logged in to your account, use the search bar to find what kind of template you’re looking for. Or you can browse through the categories right on the homepage.

Note: If you hover over the template thumbnails you’ll see sizing information pop up. Each pre-designed template is made in a specific size. Unfortunately you need to upgrade to a paid account to access the resize feature.

This means you have two options if you need a graphic in a particular size:

  1. Pick one of the pre-made templates and design it however you want. Once it’s done, you can create a new blank document to your size specifications (Under “Create a design” > “Custom size”). Then copy/paste all the elements of your finished graphic over and tinker with their sizing to fit the document, or…
  2. Create a blank document to your sizing specifications. From there you’ll be able to look through the available templates and pick your favorite. (And you can still search by category once you’re in the document you’re editing.)

I recommend following option 2 if you know or can figure out the final size you need. It’ll save you time and trouble in the long run!

Designing Professional Graphics

It can be really overwhelming trying to decide where to start if your document is a blank page, which is why I recommend using a pre-designed template. These can be endlessly modified, so you may end up with something that looks totally different! But having a guide is helpful for getting your design off the ground.

As you build, you’ll start noticing where you might need to add or remove text, where you need to insert images, or where you might want to use color blocks or graphics to separate sections.

You’ll notice the editing options are pretty all-inclusive — There’s a section where you can find background images, a place to edit what your text looks like, and places to find photos and “elements” (which are drawn images, like squiggles, flowers, shapes, lines, etc.) You can also use the Uploads tool to insert your own images, drawings, or even videos! This is really handy if you have a video you want to share with your logo or another graphic overlaid on top of it.

Note: One limitation with the free account is that you’re not able to upload custom fonts, so you can only use the ones provided by Canva. I haven’t found that to be too much of an issue as their collection is fairly extensive. If there’s a particular font you want that isn’t available, you can use a website like Identifont to search for similar ones!

Finalize Your Design

Once you’re done designing, you have a few options you can choose from to finalize it:

If you’re working on it with someone else — or want to show it to someone but still need to make edits — click on the “Share” button on the top right corner of your design. There you can enter the person’s email address to send an automatic message to them. You can also choose to copy the link to the document instead. This allows you to choose whether the link will give editing or viewing access to the document.

Alternatively, you can click on the “Download” button on the top right. This gives you several options for images or video, depending on what you’re working on. I suggest using the PNG option (for graphics) or the PDF Print option (for documents) so you can get the highest resolution available. (Note that vector graphics are only available to paid Canva accounts.)

Finally, your last option is to print your designs directly through Canva. This makes it super convenient to wrap up your work in just a few clicks! To print, click on the button with the three dots (“…”) on the top right corner. Scroll down to where it says “Print.” You’ll see options ranging from t-shirts to mugs and all the paper goods you can think of.

Note: Keep an eye out for sneaky extras that might be automatically added to your printing costs depending on the style of template/printing option you select. For example, if you selected an “invitation” template to print out as a business postcard, the printing option automatically includes envelopes, which cost an extra fee. If you don’t want them and want to save some extra money, you’ll need to uncheck that box when you get to it!

Extras for Creating Professional Graphics

Want to get more out of Canva? Here are some extra tips and tools:

  • You can find tutorials on creating Canva graphics right on their website, here. These offer more comprehensive tips and tricks to get the most out of their design platform.
  • Canva also has a handy tool (here) you can use if you’re spending too many hours trying to pick matching fonts.
  • Unsplash is an awesome resource in combination with Canva. They have more than 2 million free, high-resolution images uploaded by photographers around the world. And you can use them however you want — Even for commercial purposes.

Ready to put your graphics to use on a beautiful business website? You can still sign up for my FDSA class on building a WordPress website! Learn more here.

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