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How to Use Canva: Tutorial For Beginners

The beginners guide on how to use Canva.

Are you just starting out with Canva and trying to learn how to use the platform as as seamlessly as possible?

If so, this is the guide for you.

We’ve covered everything a Canva beginner needs to know needs to know to get up and running with this incredible online design tool.

Let’s dive right in.


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What is Canva?

There’s a very good chance that everyone reading this already knows what Canva is, but just in case you don’t here’s a quick introduction for you.

Canva is an online graphic design software that was created to allow anyone, regardless of their design skills and experience, to create professional-looking visuals with ease.

The tool is designed to be as beginner-friendly as possible, so you should have no problems learning how to use it.

With Canva you can create a huge range of designs including posters, logos, videos, social media content, printables, banners, websites, and so much more.

Essentially Canva is the ultimate tool for creating high-quality designs and marketing assets quickly and easily.

Canva homepage

Part 1: Steps to get started with Canva

Below are 10 steps you can take to quickly go from a beginner Canva user to having a solid grasp of the platform.

Step 1: Sign up for an account

You can use Canva without signing up for an account but to get access some important basic features such as being able to save your designs we highly recommend you sign up for a free Canva account.

To do that you simply need to go to Canva’s homepage, click the ‘Sign Up’ button, and follow the steps:

Signing up for a Canva account

Step 2: Starting a design

To start off a design you can choose between two methods. Either you can start from a blank canvas or a simply choose a predesigned template as the starting point for your design.

Blank canvas

To start from a blank canvas simply click on the ‘Create a design’ button and select a default size (e.g. Instagram story, poster, YouTube thumbnail, etc.) or click on ‘Custom size’ and put in the dimensions you want if you have something specific in mind:

Starting from a blank canvas

You can also select a specific design type under the ‘you might want to try’ header:

Choosing from the ‘You might want to try…’ section

Any of these options will take you to the editor area (which we’ll cover in the next step).

Templates

As mentioned you can choose an existing template to start your design from.

To find your ideal template you can either go to the ‘Templates‘ tab via the left side of the homepage and scroll through some of the existing template options:

Link to template area
Templates area

Or you can search for specific templates in the search bar e.g. ‘YouTube thumbnail’ and find a template from the search results page:

Searching for templates

One good method of finding free templates on Canva is to choose a specific design size e.g. ‘Facebook post’, go to the editor with a blank canvas, and then select a template from the side panel.

The templates with a crown icon are the ones only available to Canva Pro users, and the ones without a crown icon are free to use for all users:

Choosing a template from the editor

Step 3: The editor area – basics

To get started with the Canva editor, there are a few basic areas to cover:

Modifying existing elements

If you choose an existing template, there will be various elements already on the canvas. These can be easily modified and customized to your liking.

You can click on an element and drag to where you want it on the canvas, and resize or rotate it using the toggles around the element that you’ve selected:

Adjusting an element on the canvas

You will also see some additional customization options for your selected element above the editor. Depending on the type of element that you’ve selected there will slightly different options here.

For example with a text element you’ll see options such as font type, text size, color, alignment, uppercase, effects (we’ll cover these later), and a few other options:

Text customization options

With a graphic element you’ll see different options depending on the type of element that you’ve selected but the basic options normally include color, flip (e.g. horizontally or vertically), and effects:

Graphic customization options

Whatever element you select you’ll have additional options at the top right of the editor including position – which allows you to align the element to a specific area of the page (e.g. top, middle, bottom, etc.), and transparency – which allows you to change the opacity of a specific element:

Adjusting the position
Adjusting the transparency

Grouping elements

You can group elements together so you can move them around or resize them as if they were one element. To do this you can select one element then hold shift and click on another element to select that too, then click on the group button:

Grouping elements

You can also select all the elements on a page at the same time by clicking command + A on a Mac or control + A on a windows computer.

Selecting all elements

Working with layers

If you have several different elements in your design each element will be on its own layer. Sometimes it can be tricky to select a particular element if it’s on a layer that is near or at the bottom of the layers hierarchy.

To select an element that is behind another one, simply hold command + click (Mac) or control + click (Windows) and keep clicking until you find the layer that you want to edit:

Selecting deeper layers

You can also adjust the layer position of an element if you select it, then go to ‘Position’ and you can choose to move it forwards, backwards, to the front, or to the back:

Moving a layer forward or backward

Lock elements

If you like how a specific element or group of elements looks within your design, you can make sure they stay exactly how and where they are by locking them in place.

To do this simply select the element or elements that you want to lock, and click the lock icon at the top right of the editor:

Locking an element

Guidelines & Safezones

If you move around an object on a page, guidelines will appear on the canvas to show you how the selected element lines up with the other elements on the page and also how it lines up on the overall canvas:

Using guidelines

You can also go to ‘File’ and select to show rulers & guides, margins, and print bleeds which is particularly useful if you’re creating print collateral:

Showing the rulers, margins, and print bleed

Undo or Redo changes

If you make a change to your design that you want to reverse you can click command/control + Z to undo it, or you can select the undo button at the top left of the editor:

Undo and Redo buttons

There’s also the ‘redo’ button if you want to reapply the alteration.

Adding new pages

To add a new page to a design, you can simply click on the ‘+Add page’ button below your existing page. This will bring up a new blank page in the same dimensions.

Or you can click on the one of the options above your existing page (add page or duplicate page):

Adding or duplicating pages

Viewing multiple pages

If you do have multiple pages within the same design file, you can quickly see how they all look together side by side by going to the ‘Grid view’ option.

This is particularly useful if you’re creating something like a Facebook or Instagram carousel post, you can quickly check if all the pages look together:

Grid view button

You can also click the ‘Show pages’ arrow at the bottom of the editor, and this will bring up a thumbnail view of your pages to give an overview of all the pages in your design:

Grid view

Saving your designs

Before you save your design we’d recommend naming your design, this particularly useful if you plan to create lots of designs, so you can easily come back and find it, and also store in a relevant folder (we’ll cover this later on).

You can even name the individual pages within your design to keep things super clear and organized:

Naming your design files

Once that’s done you can go to ‘File’ and click save design. You can also ‘Save to folder’ if you have folders already created. This is something we’ll cover later in the article.

Saving your design

Step 4: Further customizing your designs

Now that we have the basics covered, let’s dive into some more of the customization options that you have when designing with Canva.

Elements

Canva has an incredible amount of design elements that you can use. We’ll only cover the most widely used ones in this guide including graphics, shapes, and photo frames but there is an almost endless amount for you to choose from.

To find the elements that you need you can simply put in a search term to see what’s available e.g. ‘Flowers’.

If you only want to find free elements, you can filter your search results to only show free ones, this option is also available for templates, photos, audio, and video search:

Searching for elements
Filtering for free elements

Canva also has ‘Collections’ which are groups of elements in the same style that you can use to keep your designs consistent:

Elements collections

Graphics:

Some of the graphics that you add to your design will allow you to alter the colors, whilst with other graphic elements you might not have that option.

To get around this you can go to ‘Edit image’ and select the Duotone or ColorMix options to alter the colors of these elements:

Going to the ‘Edit image’ area
Using the Duotone color effects

Shapes:

Canva has plenty of shapes, lines, and icons that you can add to your designs to spruce them up:

Line and shape elements

Frames/Grids:

The frames and Grid elements are shapes in which you can add images too. They offer a really quick to create interesting and unique designs.

To use these, all you need to do is add one to your page, then go to the photos tab, find a photo that works for you and drag it over the frame or grid and the image when then appear inside it:

Frames and grids in Canva
Adding a photo to a frame

Other elements includes:

  • Graphs and charts
  • Tables
  • Stickers (animated elements)
  • Gradients
  • And much more.

If you find some elements that you really like the style of, you can view the artist who created that element by clicking on the three dots on a particular element which will bring up more information including the author name.

Clicking on their name will take you to more elements that they’ve designed and added to Canva.

You can also click ‘Star’ and this will add an element to your ‘Starred’ folder. So you can go back to that folder at a later date and easily find all of your favourite design elements:

Seeing more elements from an artist, and also ‘Starring’ an element

Text

The text elements on Canva are very easy to adjust and customize too. You simply go to the text tab on the left side of the editor, and you can add a heading, subheading, or body text element, and this will be added to the page.

Adding new text elements

You can choose from a range of text presets and combinations that Canva has already together. These already have some text effect applied to them.

Text presets and font combinations

If you’re looking to spruce up a text element in your design you can select it, and then go to the effects area. You’ll see a whole range of options here.

Text effects

For example, you could select ‘Shadow’ which adds a drop shadow effect to your selected text element and you get a few additional customizations options such as being able to change the opacity, the color, and more:

Adding a text shadow effect

Photos

Canva has a huge library of stock photos that you can utilize for your designs. Many of which are free to use for free Canva users.

You can put in a search term to find specific, and Canva also has some theme suggestions as well as trending photos to help you find the photos that you’re looking for:

Photos tab

You can click on a photo to add it to your design, or drag it onto the canvas so the image becomes the background for your selected page:

Adding a new photo

To add effects to a photo click on ‘Edit image’ and you’ll see various options on the left side of the editor such as ‘Adjust’ which allows you to edit the brightness, contrast, saturation, and a few other adjustments to the image.

There’s also the background remover tool, which is only available for Canva Pro users at the moment (we’ll cover this in the Canva Pro section):

Image effects

You can apply filters to the photo and add color effects such as Duotone and Colormix:

Image color effects

And you can crop photos too if you only want to use a specific section of the photo:

Image crop option

If you want to use photos from other websites in Canva without having to download them and then re-upload them to Canva, you can simply right click on that image, click ‘copy image’, then navigate back to the Canva editor and click command/control + V.

The image will appear in Canva for you to use (just make sure you’re allowed to use that image before you do this):

Photo from Unsplash
Pasting the photo directly into the Canva editor

Backgrounds

In the backgrounds tab you unsurprisingly have a huge number of background images that you can use for your designs.

The are all categorized into themes such as landscapes, food, nature, etc. to make easy for you to find the kind of background you need. You can also search for one if you have something specific in mind.

Backgrounds tab

The backgrounds can be customized in the same way that any other image can be on the Canva.

Styles

If you’re in need of inspiration when it comes to color palette of your design, or even the font combinations that you should be using the ‘Styles’ tab in the Canva editor will be really useful for you.

They have a range of suggested color palettes, font sets, and also combinations of all these things that you can select and it will automatically apply those suggestions to your page or all the pages of your design if you choose that option:

‘Styles’ tab

There’s also the ‘Shuffle’ button which allows you to use the selected suggested color palette and font combinations but switch them around to see how they work best with your design:

‘Shuffling’ styles

Animations

If you want to animate a design it’s very simple to do as well. You can either animate a whole page by clicking to the side of a page, and then going to the ‘Animate’ area the top of the editor.

You can then select one of the animations available and this will be applied to all the elements on the selected page:

Page level animations

You can do the same for individual elements too, so rather than animating everything on a page it will only apply to the selected element:

Element level animations

Uploads

If you have your own images, videos, or audio that you want to upload to Canva you can add them to your uploads area.

Uploads tab

You can even upload files directly from other platforms including Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram, Google Drive, and Google photos:

Uploading from third party sources

The elements you upload can be customized in the same way as any other Canva element.

Utilize previous designs

If you have made designs before, these will be under the ‘All your designs’ tab. So, if you want to create a similar design you add a previous one to your page and modify it, or grab elements from it that you want to use for your new design:

Accessing previous designs

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Step 5: Creating videos

To create videos in Canva, you can start off by choosing your video format with a blank canvas.

If you navigate to the videos tab on the Canva homepage you’ll see a range of video options including the standard 1920x1080px, mobile video, slideshow video, Instagram reel, and several others:

Video options on Canva

From a blank canvas you can add videos from Canva’s library (or upload your own videos), graphics, audio, etc. to start creating your video.

Alternatively, if you have a specific format in mind already e.g. an Instagram story video, you can search for templates, and choose one that you like to start off your video creation:

Instagram story video templates

The editing options available will be the same regardless of what video format or templates you choose.

To show you how to edit and create a video we’ll utilize a template.

When you’re in the editor and you’ve selected a video element you’ll see the customization options above the editor, these will include the ‘Edit video’ section where you can remove the video background (Pro feature only) and also add light and color adjustments to the chosen video element:

Video background remover
Video adjustments

You can also trim the length of the video or choose which part of the video file you want to feature in your design:

Trimming the video length
Trimming the video length

The other options on the top bar are the playback options (e.g. auto play or loop video), crop (to adjust which part of the video file you want to show within your design), flip, and animate (although the animations will only effect the non-video elements of your design such as text, graphics, etc.):

Other video options

You can adjust the audio volume (if there is audio) from the top bar as well:

Adjusting the audio volume

Speaking of audio, Canva has a huge library of audio files that you can use for your video designs. A lot of their audio library is available to Pro users only but you can access a decent amount for free as well.

Once you’ve found an audio file that you like you can simply drag it onto your canvas, and you will get the options to adjust it and add effects to it:

Adding an audio file

Depending on the length of your video you will be able to adjust the audio file or choose a specific section of it to match up with your video:

Choosing a specific part of the audio file

And the effects that you can do at the moment include a ‘Fade in’ and ‘Fade out’:

Audio effects

At the bottom of the editor is the video timeline. Here you have the preview button so you can see how you’re video is looking as you’re editing it, and can also trim the video and audio elements from here too:

Adjusting the video length

There’s also the ‘add page’ button which adds a new scene to your video (You can upload a new video file to add to this page or grab a video from the ‘Video’s tab):

Adding a new page and video file

And if you click the button icon between two pages, you’ll see you can add a transition element to go between the to parts of the video:

Adding a transition

The transition options will appear on the left side of the editor:

Transition options

When you’re happy with your video you can download it – usually this be as an MP4 file.

More elements you can add to your video

To spruce up your video you can add text elements, graphics, and stickers:

Adding graphics to the video

You can even add animations to specific elements too to make your videos even more engaging:

Adding animations to elements

Another useful tip when you’re creating video in Canva is to use reuse video elements that you’ve already created. For example, if you’re creating YouTube videos and you always use the same video intro, you can go the ‘All your designs’ tab, find that particular design and add it to your video timeline:

Reusing older video designs

Step 6: Downloading your designs

To download a design from Canva, click the ‘Share’ button at the top right of the editor, and then click ‘Download’:

Downloading a design

You can then choose the format that you want for your download (e.g. PNG, JPG, etc.), if you’ve created a design that has some animation you’ll want to select the GIF or MP4 format for your download.

Choosing a file type

If you have multiple pages in your design, you can choose to only download a specific page:

Choosing the pages you want to download

You’ll notice the crown icon next to a few options in the download area. These are options that are only available to Canva Pro users – we’ll cover these a bit later on.

Step 7: Sharing your designs

You can share your designs in several ways on Canva, either to individuals or straight to social media platforms.

To do this via the editor area, simply click on the ‘Share’ button again.

You can either invite someone to view or edit the design by entering their email under ‘Share this design’ or you can make the design ‘public’ copy the link to the design file and share it to anyone you like:

Sharing a design

If you’re a free Canva user you can still be part of a team, and if you are part of a team you can share your designs with them too by clicking the ‘+’ icon and then choosing the team you want to share it with:

Sharing with a team

You can also share your designs directly to various social media platforms including Facebook pages, Facebook groups, Instagram, and several others:

Sharing via social media

Step 8: Organizing your designs

From the Canva homepage, you can go to the ‘Projects’ area via the left side menu, navigate to the ‘Folders’ tab and you can create some folders to help organize the designs you’ve made or plan to make:

Folders area

To add designs to a folder you can go to the ‘Designs’ tab, then select one or multiple designs, click on the folder icon at the bottom of the screen, and then choose a folder to move those designs to:

Moving designs to a folder

You can also add a design to a folder via the editor by clicking on the ‘Share’ button, clicking on ‘More’, and then clicking ‘Save to folder’ and selecting the folder that you want to add the design too:

Saving a design directly to a folder

We highly recommend creating folders for your designs, especially if you plan to create a lot of them, they can pile up quickly.

Step 9: Using Canva’s integrations

Canva has a lot of integrations with other apps and products. We won’t cover all of them here so be sure to browse through them all in your time, but we’ll cover some of most commonly used ones to help you get started with them.

When you’re in the Canva editor you can navigate to the ‘More’ tab on the left side panel and this will show you all the integrations that you can utilize whilst editing a design in Canva:

Adding Canva integrations

You can select the integrations that you want to add to your editor simply by clicking on them.

Two commonly used integrations are the Pexels and Pixabay ones, and these give you access to even more stock photos and videos that are available on these platforms, and these are available to free users too:

Adding Pexels an Pixabay

Here are some other commonly used and interesting integrations or add-ons:

  • YouTube – add YouTube videos to your designs
  • GIPHY – Add GIFs from GIPHY’s library
  • Canva Draw – scribble or sketch on your designs
  • QR code – add QR codes to your designs
  • Stipop – Add stickers from Stipop’s library

Import integrations

Canva also has integrations that allow you to import your Canva designs with other products that you might be using.

We’ve already mentioned the social media ones, but there are plenty of others. Again we won’t cover them all here, so be sure to investigate them all for yourself.

To see all of these import integrations, go to the ‘Share’ button via the editor, and click ‘More’. You’ll see all the products that can share your Canva designs to:

Import integrations

One of our favourite import integrations is Smartmockups, this allows you to import your Canva designs directly to your Smartmockups account where you can create professional-looking mockups to help advertise your designs.

If your a Powtoon user, you can also import your Canva designs to be used in your Powtoon account to help you create amazing animations and videos

You can also import your Canva designs directly to your Mailchimp account if you use that platform for your email campaigns:

Mailchimp, Powtoon, and Smartmockups import integrations

Here are some other import integrations that we think could be useful for Canva beginners:

  • PandaDoc – proposals, contracts, and other docs
  • HeyZine – create animated flipbooks
  • OptiSigns – Digital signage

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Step 10: Use shortcuts

We’ve mentioned a few of these already, but as you get used to using Canva you can use these common shortcuts to make your workflow even faster:

  • Zoom in: Command/control +
  • Zoom out: Command/control –
  • Delete: Delete key
  • Create a text box: T key
  • Select all: Command/control + A
  • Move 1 pixel: Arrow keys
  • Move 10 pixels: Shift + arrow keys
  • Undo: Command/control + Z
  • Redo: Command/control shift + Z
  • Copy: Command/control + C
  • Paste: Command/control + V

Here’s a full breakdown of all the Canva shortcuts:

Canva shortcuts

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Part 2: Using Canva Pro features

For those of you considering upgrading to Canva Pro, here are some of the most useful features for beginners.

Pro templates, elements, photos, and more

With Canva Pro you’ll get access to the full range of design templates, elements, photos, videos, audio files, and fonts on Canva.

There is plenty on offer with a free Canva account but having full access gives you almost endless possibilities and inspiration when it comes to creating amazing visuals:

Pro templates
Pro photos

Background remover

Canva Pro also allows you to use the background remover. This is extremely useful if you want to use elements from photos or bitmojis and add them on top of other designs.

If you select a photo in Canva, you simply need to go to ‘Edit photo’ and select the background remover, and it a matter of seconds the background will be gone:

Canva’s background remover

You can now also remove the background from videos which is an incredible feature. It works the same way, if you have a video element selected, you simply need to go to ‘Edit video’ and select the video background remover:

Canva’s video background remover

Design resize

If you plan to create multiple design assets in the same style e.g. Instagram post, Instagram story, Facebook post, etc. you can quickly resize a design you’re working on to be copied in your new chosen format.

All you need to do is select the page you want to resize, click on the ‘Resize’ button and choose the new format you want that design to be produced in. You can even put in custom dimensions if you want:

Quick design resize

Additional download options

When you’re downloading a design, having a Canva Pro account gives you access to even more download options.

This includes being able to download designs with a transparent background, file compression (for smaller file sizes), SVG files, and also the ability to change the dimensions of a design before you download it:

Extra download options
Download as an SVG

Upload your own fonts & logos

If you have fonts that you want to use that aren’t available on Canva, with a Canva Pro account you can upload your own.

You simply need to go to the font area in the editor, and click upload to add your own fonts to your Canva account:

Upload your own fonts

Version history

If you do a whole bunch of changes to a design but in the end you’re not too happy with the changes you’ve made, Canva Pro gives you access to the version history of your designs so you can revert back to a version you’re happy with.

To access this from the editor all you need to do is go to ‘File’ and click on ‘Version history’ and you’ll be able to see all the older versions of that design that you can revert back to:

Version history

Brand kit

You can create multiple brand kit’s with a Canva Pro account. It’s a useful area to add your brand color palettes, logos, and fonts:

Brand kit area

When you’re in the editor area, you can quickly access your brand assets if you’re changing the color of an element or the font of a text element.

It just saves you so much as you don’t have to search for you brand colors or fonts every time you want to use them:

Brand kit – fonts
Brand kit – colors

Save your designs as templates

If you’re looking to optimize your workflow on Canva even more, you can create design templates for designs that you will create often.

For example, you might often share quotes on Instagram, so you could create a template for Instagram quote posts, and then use it every time you plan to create a new one.

To turn a design into a template, all you need to do is go to ‘Share’ > ‘More’ > ‘Template’ and save that template in a relevant folder:

Creating a template for your team

You can also create templates to share or sell.

Anyone who gets the link to your template will be able to access and edit it themselves within their own Canva account.

To create a link to your template, simply go to ‘Share’ > ‘More’ > ‘Template link’ and this will create a custom link that you can share with anyone who you want to give access to the template.

Creating a template to share/sell

Content planner

If you plan to create a lot of social media content on Canva, the Content Planner pro feature is going to be a game changer for you.

Rather than using external social scheduling tools such as Buffer, you can do it all within your Canva account. Simply create a design in Canva, go to ‘Share’ > ‘Share on social’ > ‘Schedule’ and then follow the steps to schedule that design to go out to your social platforms:

Schedule a design

You can then navigate to your content planner via the Canva homepage to see what post you have scheduled. It’s such a huge timesaver for users who are active on social media:

Content planner on Canva

Extra storage

With a free Canva account you get 5GB of storage, which is not bad at all. However, if you upgrade to Canva Pro you get up to 1TB of storage.

So, if you plan to create lots and lots of designs or upload many of your own files, videos, and images, it’s well worth upgrading so you can store all of it in the Canva cloud.

For the full range of Canva Pro features, check out the Canva pricing page.

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Part 3: What to use Canva for

Here’s just a taste of what you can use Canva for:

Social media contentYouTube graphics
Facebook contentBanners
Instagram contentThumbnails
Pinterest contentEnd screens
Twitter contentLower thirds
TikTok contentWatermarks
BrandingStreaming graphics
LogosOverlays
Website bannersBanners
Downloadable assetsPanels
Sidebar bannersEmotes
Blog graphicsBadges
Marketing/AdvertisingPrint materials
Banner adsWorkbooks
PresentationsMenus
ReportsPlanners
CataloguesCalendars
InfographicsStickers
Digital assetsFreelancer / Consultant docs
eBooksService listing sheets
Swipe filesTestimonial booklets
MagazinesWelcome kits
MockupsBrand identity kits
PDFsPrice listing sheets

Selling your designs

You can also sell your Canva designs on websites like Etsy and Creative Market. It’s a good option for those of you looking to create a side income.

Here are a couple of helpful videos from people who are doing just that:

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Part 4: How to use the Canva app

Canva’s mobile app offers many of the same tools, templates, and functionality as the browser version. So, if you’re someone who likes to use your mobile for most things it could be a good option for you.

Here’s a video that gives you a good introduction to the Canva mobile app:

Canva mobile app introduction video

Wrapping things up

So, there you have it, that’s how to use Canva for beginners.

No matter what your experience is with design software you should have no problems learning how to use Canva, it’s such a user friendly tool.

Enjoy creating! Oh, and if you have any questions, comments, or have suggestions for other great tips for new Canva users, leave a comment below!

Written by James Black

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