In a couple of previous posts 15 Time Saving Blog and Social Media Tips For Busy People and Hints and Tips for Publishing Social Media Content I recommended the use of Canva as design tool to create blog and social media graphics.

Creating a set of standards/templates for your brand is well worth implementing to present a consistent image to customers and clients, particularly if more than one person is responsible for creating your content.

Since I like to take my own advice I used Canva to put together a few blog graphics of my own.

The process is pretty simple – just five steps to produce the examples below:

1. Choose the dimensions for the design
2. Add an image
3. Add some design elements and text
4. Customise the fonts and colour scheme
5. Save the design as a template

Choose the Dimensions

One great feature of Canva is a ready-made choice of standard design dimensions for all the major social media channels, and other marketing materials such as business cards and newsletters.

Need a Facebook page header ? There’s a ready-made blank template for that.

Need new art for a Youtube channel ? There’s a ready-made blank template for that too.

The same goes for Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, email headers, publicity documents, posters and advertisements. And if none of these suit your particular need, just choose your own dimensions.

For my graphics I chose a simple 800x800 pixel social media template.

At this point you can choose from a range of ready-made designs as a starting point and customise it as necessary, and many of them are free. Or you can build something from scratch, and that’s the route I’m describing in this post. If you’re new to Canva then I recommend spending some time playing with the ready-made designs to get a feel for how they are put together. All the elements of a design are customisable, elements can be deleted and new elements added, so have some fun whilst you learn !

Add an image

Canva offers both free and paid stock photos for use in your designs if you don’t have images of your own. If you do, then simply upload them to your Canva account. I chose one of my own images then dragged it into my blank design. The image can then be resized and cropped to fit within the template.

You can then adjust the image further if necessary – I chose to blur the image a little using the Filter menu available when the image is selected. Use the filter options to apply a range of photo effects and enhancements to your image, eg vignetting and saturation levels. I blurred the image slightly as the focus (or the viewers focus) is intended to be on the overlaid design and text, not the lovely sunset behind !

Add some design elements

From the Elements menu section there is a Shapes menu. I chose the circular shape then dragged and resized it over the image. The shape serves as a kind of target or focus point, and as a container for the textual elements of the design.

As well as Shape elements there is a huge range of Grids, Lines, Frames, Illustrations, Icons and Chart elements to get creative with. We’re going to keep it pretty simple with this example and just add a shape and some text.

Canva shows grid lines to help alignment of elements, so getting something centered properly or aligning with another element is easy.

With Shape elements the colour is customisable, as well as the transparency. Adjusting the transparency allows the underlying image to show through, and improves the readability of text overlaid on top of the image.

Next I added the text elements and arranged them over my “target” shape. A range of fonts is available – the font size, line height and letter spacing are all customisable along with colour and transparency settings. I chose two fonts for this design to make it a little more interesting.

Customise the fonts and colour scheme

Colour is an important part of any design, so I then spent some time adjusting the text colours to complement the underlying image, and experimenting with different fonts. I wanted the text of the design to still be readable when scaled down to a thumbnail size, and the text colours to contrast nicely within the general colour scheme.

Getting everything to fit and align nicely takes a bit of experimentation and can be quite time-consuming. However, spending time to get things right will pay dividends later down the line so stick with it until you’re happy.

The next thing you might want to do is get some second opinions. I posted my first designs on Facebook for comment – and one came back that the text was hard to read on the smaller images. Although I was happy with my first version I accepted this as a valid point – I had not viewed the images on anything other than a desktop, and what is readable to me is not necessarily readable to all.

So I then went back and spent some more time adjusting the fonts to improve the readability.

Save as a template

So, now we have a completed design that can be saved and used as a template. To create a new graphic it is now just a case of copying the template and then editing and realigning the text elements. The overall look and feel of the template is easily reused by replacing the image (say sandy beach and blue sky) and adjusting the colour scheme appropriately.

With the template in place each additional graphic then took less than a minute to create !

After a bit of practice and experimentation on the social media graphics for my own blatant self promotion I then took a stab at something a bit more professional – included below a couple of magazine advertisement examples I put together for Taveuni Dive Resort:

Working as team with Canva

The free version does a great job and will suit individuals and many small business’s giving you a toolbox to put together some great designs and share them with friends and colleagues. The designs can be shared as editable versions, or read only if you don’t want someone else messing with your work.

For professionals and design teams a paid upgrade version of Canva – Canva For Work – is also available with extra features to improve design workflow, consistency and collaboration.

Summary

Canva allows relative novices to quickly create great designs for a wide range of purposes. By creating design templates many hours of time and effort can be saved and new graphics created in a matter of minutes. For individuals or teams Canva is a fantastic tool to get creative with on your own in-house projects, or projects for clients.

I hope you found this short introduction to Canva useful, and if you decide to give it a try let me know how it goes !

Cheers,

Jonny.

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