One of the most important things to keep at the forefront of your mind when doing internet marketing for your business is that visuals are everything. Well, maybe not everything — good taglines and engaging text matter too.
But in most social media platforms, even Twitter, you have to catch the eye to get the clicks.
You can have the most valuable information the world has ever seen on your website. If you don’t catch they eye visually when using social media to market your business, you will lose clicks. Period.
This is why Canva is such a valuable free tool. Creating good graphics used to mean you had to be good with high end design software, training in composition, and the time to devote to it.
That, or you had to hire a designer — still a good idea for big projects like website overhauls, but what if you just need a nice-looking Pinterest graphic to link back to a blog post? Do you really a need a pro to do simple, daily images?
No, you really don’t. Even if you can’t draw a straight line in Paint. Really.
Creating Simple Graphics
Canva offers a large collection of simple and eye-catching graphics that can easily be customised to fit your needs. Images range from landscapes to patterns to photos of people. And they offer thousands of them for free.
Canva’s free images are far nicer than most free stock photo options out there (and many on Canva have free design layouts included).
While a number of the backgrounds and layouts do have a nominal cost — and a simple payment option that doesn’t require you to purchase credit bundles like most stock photo sites — you can easily find what you need without spending any money at all.
Creating Your Free Canva Graphic
To demonstrate how easy it is to create a free Canva graphic, we’re going to make one using the title of this article, appropriate for use on Pinterest.
Before you can do anything, of course, you’ll need to sign up. Don’t worry, there is no credit card required to register or use Canva. You can register via Google or Facebook, or create an account using your email address and a password.
Once logged in, you’ll see a selection of graphic types to choose from:
We’re going to use the Social Media format, which is an 800 px x 800 px square — perfect for Pinterest.
On the design screen, you’ll see a selection of customizable designs. Ignore the text on the thumbnails — it’s just a placeholder to give you an idea how your image will look.
While you will want to make your own templates eventually, the customizable stock design templates are good for when you’re just starting out and need practice.
Since we’re making a free graphic, we’re looking for items marked FREE in the lower right corner. When you hover your cursor over an image without the FREE stamp, a money sign will show up in the corner. Ignore those.
After some scrolling, I’ve decided to go with Contrast:
To customize, simply click on part of the text, and you’ll get a text box that will allow you to delete the existing text and add your own. With Contrast, each line is done separately.
After changing the text, I altered “Design tip” in the eight corner to read “Marketing.”
Now that design is finished, you can share it instantly by clicking the Share button above the graphic. You can share it on Facebook, Twitter, or via email, with an option to share an editable version. There’s also an option to copy and paste a direct URL to the image.
Since we want to put it on Pinterest, we’re going to use the Download button, next to the Share button.
You can download as an image or PDF, with options to print specific pages (if you have a multi-page design) and crops marks and bleed for printing.
For the web, select Image and ignore the rest of the options. If you’ve used all free components, the image will download automatically (this would be where you would be prompted to pay for any non-free components if you were using them).
It’s really that simple. Finding the right free image takes longer than the design itself.
As you learn the ropes of Canva, you’re going to want to upload your own images, allowing you maximum custom branding at no cost.
This is a great way to make a template that can be customised, for example, with blog or podcast titles, weekly specials, or other promotional info.
You can make your custom background for free on Canva by uploading your logo and adding it over a blank background, leaving room for customizable text.
Starting From Scratch
When you’re not using a full design template like Contrast, you can make your own almost as easily, starting with either a free background or one you’ve uploaded yourself.
Click on Search on the sidebar, and you’ll see nine icons: Grids, Frames, Shapes, Lines, Illustrations, Icons, Photos, Charts, and “I heart Canva.” This is your real resource for creating free graphics.
The items that appear when you click on one of the icons are free, and very handy.
In Text mode, you’ll see lots of customizable text that’s been laid out for you — or you can choose to add text manually at the top.
Play around with uploading photos, adding text, altering the colors and sizes of objects, and adding elements.
When you choose a text layout, it can be resized by clicking a dragging the dots. You can also customize the colors to whatever you like, including your brand’s custom colors, by selecting a color, clicking on the “+” and entering your color’s six-digit color code.
If you don’t know or have a color code, you can select the color from the color wheel.
Changing the text is the same as with a full design template. You can change the color, size, and fonts to fit your brand.
Tricks and Tips
- The less experienced you are, the more simple you should go. Remember the old websites that had flashing backgrounds, animated cursors that trailed glitter, and autoplay music? Those websites screamed amateur, and so will an overdone graphic, even if the elements are simplistic.
- In most cases, all you’ll need is a relevant background image, your logo, and text. The text should be in a font that is easy to read and not too small.
- A text banner with a solid background is better than placing text directly on top of an image. It doesn’t take much to make text hard to read if it isn’t on a solid background. Outlined text can work too.
- When you move elements, you’ll often see snap lines that tell you when one item is centered on top of another. Use them. You will see an “X” through the top item when it’s aligned.
- Keep your design limited to no more than three colors (including white, not counting the colors in the photo). You should be using your brand’s color(s).
- When using photos, you can apply filters and adjust brightness and contrast from the toolbar that appears when the photo is in edit mode. This can add a dramatic look, or improve the appearance of photos.
- Any mistake you make can be undone by clicking the undo button above the image or using the CTRL-Z command.
Literally, these can take about 2-3 minutes once you’ve gotten to know the program and have your own brand template.
You can design a week’s worth of social media graphics in less than a hour, or do them as you need them — Canva won’t put a strain on your schedule or your pocket.
For now, you’ll need to use Canva on a web browser or iPad.
Do you use Canva to create marketing images for social media? Share your tips in the comments!
Sorry, access to this special content
is for ‘Owners’ only
Owners log in
Not a member of
the Owners Club yet?