Online design and publishing tool – Canva – has been changing the game when it comes to creating beautiful content on a budget. It empowers everyone to become their own designer, via a range of user-friendly features, which can be accessed online, anywhere. Your designs are stored safely in the cloud, and can be easily edited moving forward. For many small business owners, it’s been instrumental in building their brand without breaking the bank. – And I’m one of them.
In 2021, I launched Maison Bailey – a personalised gifts and homeware shop on Etsy. Having used Canva in previous marketing roles in my career, I knew this was the design tool I could rely on for quality, accessibility, affordability, creativity and speed. As we know – creating a brand is no longer just about making a great logo. With the rise of social media, a company’s image – and subsequent ‘story’ – is its branding, and Canva assists me with every part of this. I even went one step further (!) – not only did I create a business logo and branding material via Canva, but it forms an intrinsic part of my production process.
Canva – which now has over 75 million monthly active users – has been an essential tool in establishing my brand identity from the very beginning. Moving forward, it makes life much easier, as I can easily weave this identity into all of my digital assets at the click of a button – from logo to website colours, social media posts to website content and on-brand images and videos. It’s my creative crutch that costs me just £10.99/month (£99.99/year if you have the upfront funds) for a Pro account, which is worth every penny in my eyes. Here’s why…
1. It’s extremely quick to grasp
Easily create beautiful designs and documents in minutes, without having to download bulky programs – and without the learning curve! Canva is easy to use thanks to its intuitive drag-and-drop interface. Drag text boxes, templates, images you’ve uploaded, icons, shapes, etc, straight into your design:
Small business owners love Canva for its ease of use and thousands of template options.
Dedicated to ‘making the complex simple’, Canva’s value resonates throughout the user experience, whether you’re using it from a desktop, iPad or mobile phone.
2. Create many types of content in one place
Canva offers a large variety of content types (which is continually growing) – from social media images to documents, presentations to invitations, ads to TikTok videos! It also has a custom size option, if you’re working to specific dimensions.
3. Kick off quickly by accessing and editing 400k+ templates
No more designing from scratch! Browse Canva’s extensive template library, then customise to your needs. Layouts are already professionally designed – you just need to tweak them to make them your own.
4. Use Canva grids for perfect placement
Grids act as a frame for you to drop images into. In terms of composition, it can be used to stretch images across your entire design, place multiple images together, or crop images. I use this feature a lot when creating social media posts. If I have a number of product images that I’d prefer to include in just one design, you can just drop them into a grid and they look immediately organised. It saves a lot of time.
A helpful grid how-to can be found here.
5. Create a beautiful, eye-catching logo
After researching my market, I had a rough idea of the style of logo I wanted to create to represent my brand (some great tips for choosing a logo can be found here). After finding a similar one in Canva by searching keywords, I edited it to fit my vision and after just two hours on the sofa one evening – I had a logo I was really proud of.
There are so many options available! Canva helps steer your focus by organising logos into categories such as fashion, food / drink, sports, education, even animated logos!
It will also recommend similar logos to ones you’ve used previously, tailoring content to help save time and inspire you.
6. Easily transfer your new logo into essential branding collateral
For example, I resized my logo quickly into material that I immediately needed, such as an Etsy, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram logo and background covers:
Facebook cover photo:
Etsy shop cover photo:
I even designed my business cards in a couple of hours using a Canva template as a starting point:
I also created a thank you flyer that goes into every order, which I post to customers:
You can even print through Canva, however this sometimes isn’t the best deal than if you were to download your design and upload it to an alternative printing site. (A heads up though, if you print through Canva, it’s more likely your brand colour will be spot-on when in print. Other printers might not be able to match your Canva colours so well, so it very much comes down to your budget vs on-brand quality.)
7. Ensure consistency by creating your Brand Kit
Available with a Pro account, Brand Kit allows you to build a brand from scratch or add your existing brand assets, so you can stay on-brand with every design. Once built, you / your team can access pre-set brand fonts, brand logos, brand colours and pre-designed templates. I particularly love this feature as, for me, it takes one less worry away from me as a business owner. It establishes and ensures brand consistency across all my collateral. Everything on brand, every time and across every touchpoint. I swear it helps me sleep better at night-!
If you’re managing more than one brand, you can create and manage up to 100 separate brands all in one place, and assign your team/s the relevant Brand Kits.
8. Save time by resizing your designs for each social platform with one click
Each social channel has optimum design dimensions that look best on its platform. If you are a Canva Pro user, you can automatically resize a design for different platforms in just one click, e.g. want to promote the same Facebook design on LinkedIn, or turn it into a Twitter ad? **click** – you’re done.
9. Treat Canva’s Learn blog like your new design mentor
A place to house in-depth articles and resources by Canva. Some of my favourites:
- How to Build your Brand Identity
- How to Build a Brand in 5 Days
- The Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Marketing Online
- Affordable Marketing Ideas for your Small Business
- Logo Inspiration: 50 of the Best Logos to Inspire You
- 100 Colour Combinations and How to Apply them to your Designs
- The Marketing Leader’s Guide to Effective Brand Management
- Introduction to Brand Building Through Social Media
I also wanted to flag an insightful Forbes interview with Canva’s Chief Marketing Officer, Zach Kitschke, which is worth a read if you want to get a better understanding about the company itself: How Canva Is Being A Force For Good By Empowering The Whole World To Design
10. Learn quickly via Canva’s video tutorials and courses
Canva provides some handy tutorials – from Getting Started to Designing with Canva. It also helps its users learn the ropes via its interactive Design School – featuring courses ranging from Typography & Layout to Graphic Design Basics.
You can also watch helpful tutorials via its YouTube channel.
11. Export exactly what you need
Working in marketing for a large part of my career, there was always a stress factor around supplying someone with the correct file type and image size. Sometimes an image needed to be specific dimensions, without being too big a file size. Others required a JPG rather than a PDF, or a GIF rather than a hefty video file. It was a minefield that took up way too much time for what the outcome was to the business.
In Canva, you can export as a PNG, JPG, PDF, SVG, MP4 Video or GIF – and it even includes a brief explanation below of the size of file involved and what each file type means. It has cut hours of time down for me when it came to the logistics of sending and submitting files to various platforms and partners.
12. Access a vast image library
Another pain point pre-Canva, was finding and paying for stock images. It tended to be a lengthy process in terms of finding the image, then organising payment for it before (sometimes) sending it off to a designer to include within artwork. This is no longer the case. As well as 1000s of free icons, fonts and shapes, Canva Pro provides millions of free stock photos to its users, which you simply drop into your design on the very same page. This is a huge saving for Pro users who regularly rely on stock photos. It’s a genuine game-changer from a process, speed and budget perspective.
13. Improve the quality of your own images
If you’ve uploaded your own image, Canva provides a user-friendly photo editor, where you can change the look of your image using settings that include filters, brightness and more.
14. Increase product image appeal by using a background remover
Available to Pro users, simply click to remove image backgrounds! Perfect for product photos, headshots, or transparent PNGs. A useful option particularly if you lack the perfect backdrop. Here’s how I put this feature into action to promote my personalised swimming badge display banners and wooden spoons:
15. Easy collaboration
You can quickly share your design with colleagues and select whether they can view, comment or edit the design.
16. It’s transferable across industries
You don’t have to be a creative, B2C business to enjoy the benefits of this tool. Canva offers a number of templates, fonts, images, videos, etc, that appeal to more corporate B2B sectors. For example, in a previous marketing role for a B2B legal technology company, I introduced Canva, which now plays an important role in its marketing strategy. It created in-house design capabilities for the business, provided a secure base to store and organise marketing material, while also saving the business money previously spent on freelance designers and individual image purchases.
17. Canva Pro Vs Free Canva
Having used both, I’d recommend investing in Canva Pro every time for a small business. Free Canva is great for trying the tool out, but the Pro benefits outweigh the Free perks for me. You get all the bells and whistles with a Pro account, which covers 1-5 people using it, 100+ million premium stock photos, videos, audio and graphics, 610,000+ premium and free templates with new designs daily, 100GB of cloud storage and lots more. Full details can be found here. You can trial Canva Pro for free for 30 days. To activate your Canva Pro account, you’ll need to enter a credit card, but you can cancel at any time during your trial and you won’t be charged.
18. How I use Canva to make my products
For my personalised wooden spoons, I create the text designs within Canva, which are then uploaded into my laser software. For example:
For my personalised banners, I create a reversed design in order to heat press it the correct way onto my product. I do this by creating the design within Canva, downloading it with a transparent background, re-uploading the design as an image and selecting ‘flip horizontal’. I then export as a print PDF and print onto special sublimation paper using specialist sublimation ink.
Initial design in Canva:
(I add a number of designs onto one page to ensure I’m not wasting any paper)
These are just a few of the features that have got me off to a flying start when developing my products, launching my business and building my brand.