Create Free Graphics for Your Blog or Social Media with Canva

There's just no stopping it! It is definitely time to update the operating system on my Mac Mini but what to do about the Adobe software I use for online graphics and printed projects (Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, InDesign)? To be sure everything works I'd need to move to Adobe's Creative Cloud, but £596 a year puts a big dent in a freelancer's wallet—not to mention the additional extras I probably would never use. [You may call me a curmudgeon, but I miss the era of getting your software on a tangible disk.]

Time to look for alternative graphic design solutions that won't break the bank and won't leave me with blurry or jagged images. Free is good, free is the goal, free is surprisingly easy to find.

Two candidates I've found for graphic design are Inkscape and Canva. In this post I'm going to focus on the latter.

Signing up for a free account at www.canva.com was pleasantly straightforward.

Canva is a drag-and-drop graphic design software you use on your browser (okay, it's a cloud-based web app). It was created with non-professionals in mind so you don't need previous experience with graphic design software; that being said, be careful not to create negative impact with bad colour choices, clashing fonts (I don't believe they offer Comic Sans, so we're safe on that front), or inappropriate photos.

Suffer from Blank Canvas Syndrome?

Canva Layout Options

A large number of templates or layouts—the screenshot above shows just a sample—are available so you're not having to start from scratch. All you need to do is customise for your own project. There's a gallery of free photos, illustrations, shapes, fonts, and more, to drag and drop into your design, with a further choice from paid options (starting at $1). You can also upload your own images.

Jump right in and start creating your new brochure, flyer, magazine cover, web banner, menu, Instagram meme (I believe that's a thing). You can download your new creation in PNG, JPG, or PDF format, among others.

I created the three images below the first time I used Canva. Choosing the images took the longest time, the rest—changing background colours, editing text, and uploading a photo—were all simple to do and quick to process.

I became so engrossed I carried on after the first one, as I was inspired to make one for each of our services to use on the Freelancealot show case pages on LinkedIn. I then went on to create the cover image; I was hooked.

The 'Made in Canva' credit you see on my images below is not required.

How Does Canva Work for Me?

With Canva authors can create their book cover, promotional posters, and invitations to the launch, and design consistent branding graphics across their promotional blog, website, and social media platforms.

Start-ups can get up-and-running with business cards, flyers, headed paper, product labels, membership cards (you get the drift).

Bands can create CD labels, event tickets, posters, and social media images to promote their gigs.

Virtual assistants can create eye-catching brochures and flyers for their clients, with branded profile images for their social media outlets.

Of course, you should be concentrating on what you do best so delegate, delegate, delegate to a friendly virtual assisant (nudge, nudge).

As their slogan says, it's "Amazingly simple graphic design software", and with 40% of Fortune 500 companies and 200,000 organizations using Canva I think it will be around for quite some time. I'll definitely be using it again, and again ... and again.

Don't get me wrong, I love my Adobe products. I've been using them, as a Mac user, for around 25 years and the three of us are almost inseparable. If only Adobe priced its software more reasonably I wouldn't be looking around. Oh, and I'm keeping my 'out-dated' Photoshop and Illustrator on my 'vintage' MacBook Pro (they're perfectly matched and work brilliantly together).