Canva walkthrough

In my previous post, I gave the background for wanting to explore the similarities and differences between Canva and Smore and in this post, I’ll be getting to the nitty gritty specifics.

I’m always on the lookout for good great tech tools and one of the things I’ve noticed is there’s a high likelihood of you needing to sign up first before being able to try out the said tool.

What I’ve noticed from my experience with (web) design is, a lot of times you get a visual or several screenshots of how an item you want to install works. This includes a quick look at the backend of how you as the coder/designer would get it to function and also shows what potential viewers will see, once the item is installed.

It’s too bad when new tech companies write up their selling points on how cool their product is, they often hold back on showcasing specifics. I get it, they don’t give away the farm, but a little detail can often go a long way for those with inquiring minds.

Anyhow, off the soapbox. I first heard of Canva back in May 2015 when I read about a yearbook teacher being frustrated with teaching design. There were foundational specifics that she noticed many of her students were overlooking and she wanted to reinforce them while at the same time, help people learn how to design better.

Enter Canva.

At first glance, Canva is all light tones and pastels, giving you the look of being simple and serene, but do not let that fool you. Since I first read about them in May, they’ve been working non-stop: they’ve increased productivity on iPads, created a work version for those looking to share consistent logos among team members. They even designed a holiday line of graphics for use during Halloween.

The types of things one can design on Canva are endless: from basic letter sized documents, to social media posts, banners or graphics, wallpapers, postcards, et. al. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you have the the option to create custom dimensions for your project.

SocialMedia1 SM-Events4 Documents2 Blogging3 Ads-Help5





What’s more, the powers at be at Canva put together a Design School Blog that is filled with ridiculously great content on color choices, fonts, samples of great design and more. If you work with students and need a refresher, look here for valuable, sharable information.

So let’s say you want to create a simple 8.5×11 document. When you select that choice, you’re taken to a screen where there are six options given to you in a column off to the left: search, layouts, text, background, upload, zoom. (WordPress users, it looks quite similar to the dashboard once you log in). To the right is your blank page and depending on the options you pick, you’re given different choices.

Canva Main Screen

Canva’s main screen setup.

Have I mentioned the endless variety that is offered with Canva? It. Is. Amazing.

Search Text Backgrounds Upload

If the choices offered aren’t enough, you have two options: you can purchase an item for use for a nominal fee ($1) or you can upload your own items as desired. I opted for the latter route when I tried Canva at the end of the school year to make a few flyers: one announced our summer reading program, another provided a quick at a glance to our online databases, with links to them. The third simply promoted our school’s subscription to OverDrive. The results:


Summer Reading Infographic


Database flyer w/hyperlinks


Flyer introducing OverDrive

I found Canva to be simple to use and intuitive. It’s one of those online programs that gives you WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) design. As with most new tools though, there are a few limitations. You can’t alter the colors or fills of all images. In some cases where pull down menus are offered, my smaller laptop screen could not get to those options without pausing to drag the vertical slider for viewing the screen down — an annoying extra step when you’re in mid design.


Hit or miss with changing fill and line colors.


Option for hyperlinks.


Option for transparency.

Screen shot 2015-10-31 at 4.59.37 PM

Smaller screens = blocked drop down menus.

Indeed, Canva seemed to work best on robust computers with lots of speed. If you’re on a slower, non-flash enabled computer you may run into glitches and be prepared to have some patience to get all items on the screen positioned exactly where you want them.

Minor hiccups aside, Canva is a good tool to introduce to those who are time and design challenged. I find myself using it to create library related announcements and flyers when I’m without my design tool of choice (Adobe InDesign). As well, when a document stares at me with a plain blank background, I know Canva will give me some texture and variety with a few quick clicks of a mouse.

For next time, I’ll look at the school promoted