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Canva for Beginners: Creating Your First Graphic

New to Canva? Well then, say no more – I’m going to walk you through the basics so you can start creating in no time! Keep scrolling to check out my Canva for beginners tutorial:

Canva 101: How to use Canva

About Canva

But first – what exactly is Canva, you ask? Canva is a user-friendly graphic design platform that allows you to create a wide-range of social media, marketing, and visual content – no graphic design experience required! The drag and drop interface, pre-made templates, and hundreds of free elements make it an essential tool for many online businesses and bloggers.

Canva for beginners

Memberships

FREE PLAN

Great news! Canva offers a free membership plan, which is a huge draw if you’re on a tight budget. The free plan is great for individuals, quick projects, and small groups. The plan includes things like:

  • Free templates
  • Free photos and graphics
  • And even free decorative elements
  • Plus, Canva app use

To get started on the free plan, simply click here.

CANVA PRO

While the free version is great at first, I highly recommend you get your hands on Canva Pro – the bigger and better version of the free plan! Here, you will have access to thousands upon thousands of incredible features that you will no doubt want once you become a frequent Canva user. Features include things like:

  • A Brand Kit – where you can easily upload and save your brand colors, fonts, and logos
  • Magic Resize – easily change the size of your canvas in one click! This is great if you’re creating multiple-sized images for one design (i.e., Pinterest, Facebook, IG/Story graphics)
  • Background remover
  • Share custom templates with friends
  • MORE templates
  • MORE photos and graphics
  • And EVEN MORE decorative elements

The best part? You can try Canva Pro free for 30 days!

Account Setup

Once you sign up, you can view the premade templates organized neatly on your homepage. If you have a Canva Pro account, you can go ahead and set up your brand kit. This tab can be found on the left hand side of your dashboard.

The brand kit is great because you can easily pull your pre-saved colors, fonts, and logo into a design in just a few clicks!

Canva for beginners
Here’s a snapshot of my brand kit inside the design interface.

Creating Your First Design

Who’s ready to design their first creation in Canva? *hand raise* Great! Here’s a few quick steps to get you started:

  • Select the type of media you want to create on your homepage (i.e., Instagram post, Facebook cover, email banner, etc.). There are two ways to create a blank canvas:
    • At the top right corner, there’s a blue button called “create a design”
    • Or, the top row of media has several examples
  • If you keep scrolling through your homepage, there are also several templates displayed under each type of media
Picking a template in Canva
  • Once you click on a blank canvas or a template, you will be directed to the design interface
  • Rename the media at the top right to keep organized
Blank canvas in Canva
  • If you select a media type, a blank canvas in the appropriate dimensions will display. You can choose to either browse template suggestions on the left panel, or create your own design using the various tabs on your left. If you already selected a template on the homepage, your template will automatically open and you’re ready to customize!
  • To customize your design, start by adjusting the colors, fonts, and text to achieve the look you want.
  • To change colors: select the element on your canvas and click on the small color square on the top white bar to change the color
    • You can either select document colors, colors from your brand kit, default colors, or specific hex colors from the rainbow square on the left
Editing a template in Canva
  • To change fonts: select the text box you want to edit and type in your heading, website, etc.
    • If you have a brand kit set up, you can click on “styles” on the left panel and click directly on your brand kit fonts to automatically format for you
    • If you don’t have a brand kit, you can manually change the font, sizing, and format in the top white panel
    • You can also add and edit text by clicking “text” on the left panel
  • To change pictures: in a premade template, you can easily drag and drop photos over the current image to replace it
    • You can either upload your own images (under “uploads”), or search for free or premium stock photos on the left panel
  • Photo frame feature: this is one of my favorite features in Canva because it automatically resizes images to the photo frame you select!
    • You will see these in a lot of Canva Templates, as they are used as a placeholder for your own images
    • To find them, simply select “elements” on the left panel and scroll to “frames” > “see all” > click the frame you want
    • Head back to your photos, find one, and then drag and drop it into the picture frame!
Adding photo frames to your Canva design
Drag and drop your images to a variety of frames!
The photo automatically resizes and takes the shape of your frame
  • Adding other elements: if you want to spruce your design up a bit more, you can add other elements like shape boxes, clipart, textures, watercolor splashes, etc. etc. (there’s practically anything you could want in Canva Pro)
    • To begin, head over to the “elements” tab on the left panel; here you can browse categories or search for something specific
    • Once you find something, simply click or drag onto your canvas
    • You can then resize it, change colors, layer it under or over your design, etc. Repeat process until desired look is achieved!
Adding elements to your Canva design
  • Downloading your design: ready to download your masterpiece? *high five* Then, you’re ready to download it to your desktop!
    • Click on the gray “download” button at the top right of your screen
    • Select the type of file you want (I recommend png files for most graphics, as they are high quality)
    • You can also download files in GIF, MP4, JPG, PDF formats, giving you an endless amount of content to create!
    • SVG and transparent backgrounds are also available under a Pro account

Useful Features

Now, I could probably write hundreds of pages on Canva, as there’s many other features we could dive into – but for the sake of keeping this brief – I’ve rounded up a few more useful features to help your designs POP:

TEMPLATES

As I mentioned before, Canva has tons of professional templates you can take advantage of to get your designs out quickly. I love them because they save me time and guide me if I’m in a bit of a creative rut!

If you’re feeling ambitious and want something other than what’s provided in Canva (or just want something different than everyone else), I recommend creating your own templates! This really helps with brand consistency and will make designing that much easier.

No time or energy to create new designs? Well, say no more! I just released a brand new bundle of templates just for you. Click below to check ’em out!

Pinterest templates for Canva

LAYERING

If you want your graphics to contain multiple elements, you can easily layer them on top of each other to make it more dynamic! To do so, just find the “position” button located on the white bar at the top.

Simply click on the element you want to layer and position it either forward or backward – this moves it over or under another element.

TRANSPARENCY

The transparency feature adds a really interesting effect to visuals! It’s most commonly used in text boxes over images. All you have to do is select an element and click on the faded checker-box in the white bar at the top and adjust the transparency as needed. See what I mean below:

Adding transparency to elements in Canva

TEXT SPACING

Oftentimes, I like to play with my text and letter spacing so it fills in those empty spaces nicely. See an example of my website URL below:

Text spacing on Canva

DUPLICATE PAGES

Another useful feature is the duplicate page option – which is great for multiple graphics with the same design, but different context. For example, maybe you want to highlight your blog posts each week with the same graphic to keep it in-line with your brand. You might also want to copy pages for things like e-books, magazines, IG carousals, PDFs, etc. With the duplicate page feature, you can easily organize and swap content out on one dashboard. To view them all together, click the little square pages in the bottom right corner of your canvas. This screen with then pop up, where you can re-arrange and label as needed.

TIP: you can either download all at once, or specific images at a time – just hit download and select the pages you want!

FOLDERS

Organize, organize, organize! If you are a social media manager, blogger, or online business owner – Canva will become your BFF before too long! I highly recommend organizing everything by category so it’s super easy to pull creations later on. You can create folders for your Pinterest Templates, Insta-stories, and more – right on the homepage. To organize your graphics, simply drag and drop them into the appropriate folders and always make sure they are labeled to avoid confusion!

Organizing files in Canva

Want more content creation tips?

Then, be sure to check out my self-paced mini course – where I’m covering content strategy, planning, batching, repurposing, and more!

P.S. Found this Canva tutorial helpful? Then, please be sure to share it with your friends!

Canva 101: Creating your first graphic in Canva. Canva tips for beginners.

*Note: this post contains affiliate links of products I love and recommend.

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2 Comments

    1. Thanks, Erin! Folders are a lifesaver so you can organize all kinds of content! Hope you give it a try 🙂

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