As small business owners, we’re often required to wear many different hats.
We play the roles of content creators, bookkeepers, marketers, graphic designers, and more.
And while hiring employees and contractors is an option, it’s not always financially viable.
Luckily, for those of us that are more hands-on (or maybe hats on), there are many free and low-cost programs designed to make these roles easier.
One of my favorite programs for designing graphics and marketing materials, and the first I committed to an annual subscription for, is Canva.
I even put together a cheat sheet you can download with all my most used keyboard shortcuts.
Please note, some of the links on this page might be affiliate links, meaning if you take action (ex. subscribe, make a purchase), I might earn a little something at no extra cost to you. Any recommendations I make for programs or tools are because I truly believe in them and have actual experience using them.
What is Canva?
Canva is a free online graphic design program that makes it simple for anyone to create professional social media graphics, marketing materials, presentations, videos, documents, and much more.
Canva offers a free forever plan so you can design without spending a dime, as well as a paid subscription for access to additional features, a large library of assets, and the ability to add team members to your account.
5 Ways Canva Makes Graphic Design Quicker & Easier
1. Library of Templates
The first thing that attracted me to Canva was its extensive library of fully designed templates and pre-sized graphics that help you get started and spark creativity. You can pick a template and customize it until it’s exactly the way you like it, or start from scratch with a blank design and add shapes, images, graphics, photos, etc.
To support your social media efforts, there are templates for square graphics, group cover images, story slides and videos, and everything in between.
For professionally designed marketing materials, Canva offers tons of templates for flyers, brochures, infographics, presentations, calendars, and nearly every other type of document you might want to create.
2. Built-in Design Tools
As I started working in Canva, I discovered all kinds of tools built into the free plan that allowed me to quickly create some pretty impressive designs.
In addition to their drag-and-drop editor, you can easily center or align elements, as well as layer one thing in front of or behind another with just the click of a button. There’s also a tool to create custom QR codes I can add to graphics, and if I ever want to blur out sensitive information, there’s a built-in Blur tool.
If I create a design I’m going to print on mugs, turn into a magazine cover, or offer as a digital product, the Smartmockups feature allows me to find the layout, printout, or mockup I need to see what the final product might really look like.
When I know what kind of image I’m looking for but don’t want to waste time scanning through pages of photos, I use the Text to Image tool. I write out a description of what I’m looking for and Canva goes to work finding it for me.
To learn more about how to use these built-in tools and the other features Canva offers, check out their free online Design School.
3. Creating & Sharing Templates
Once I’ve created a design exactly how I like it, such as a social media carousel post or presentation, I turn it into a template.
With the free Canva plan, I created a folder called “Templates” and saved these perfectly created graphics in it. I made sure each graphic started with the word “TEMPLATE” in the name so I didn’t get the master template file mixed up with other graphics.
Whenever I wanted to use one of my templates, I’d go to my Templates folder, create a copy of the file I want to use, give it a new name, and get to work on my new design.
After upgrading to the Canva Pro plan, I had the ability to turn graphics into Brand Templates. These files are added to Canva’s Brand Templates folder, and when I want to use one, I simply click on it and Canva will automatically create a copy of the file and open it so I can start customizing it.
Want to share your templates with contractors or team members, or offer an opt-in freebie or downloadable product? You can share the Template Link to the template graphic you created and anyone who clicks on it will be able to add it to use it.
4. Apps & Keyboard Shortcuts
If you’re like me, you love programs that keep busy business owners in mind, and Canva definitely did that with their mobile apps and keyboard shortcuts.
They offer Apple and Android apps for mobile phones and tablets so you can design on the go, update files on the fly, and easily upload or send graphics wherever they need to go.
I have personally used both the iPhone and iPad apps and find them very intuitive and easy to use.
When you're designing from your computer, laptop, or other devices with a keyboard, I recommend using Canva’s keyboard shortcuts. You can do everything from text alignment to adding a text box with a quick keyboard stroke.
You can view the complete list of Canva’s keyboard shortcuts on their website or download the cheat sheet with my most used keyboard shortcuts here.
5. Writing Automation
Ever get stuck while writing or wish you had someone else who could write for you? You’ll love using Canva’s new Magic Write feature that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to write something based on the prompt you provide.
As a fun way to show off how the Magic Write feature works, I used it to write a thank you email and was pleasantly surprised by what it drafted. You can see the prompt I provided and the message it wrote in the photo above.
The Magic Write tool is a feature available in Canva Docs and with a free plan, allows for up to 25 queries.
You can also use the Canva Doc template to type, create, and collaborate on text-heavy word documents, while still being able to add beautiful design elements and graphics. It’s the perfect blend of content and design for creating beautifully branded files.
Since starting my business, I have not needed to hire a graphic designer other than to create my initial logo and business card design, thanks to the robust features Canva offers.
If you’d like assistance or get stuck while designing your Canva templates, schedule a Tackle My Tech Session so we can connect.