How to Use Canva

Build attractive invitations and flyers with this free graphic design tool.

Woman wearing glasses sitting behind her laptop computer working in front of a tiled background

Maskot/Getty Images 

Although it's true that programs such as Illustrator and Photoshop are necessary tools for graphic design, they're not always accessible to beginners. Canva is an easy to use design tool that allows users to create a wide range of designs, including invitations, flyers, social media graphics, and so much more.

It only takes minutes to learn how to use Canva. In fact, Canva states it only takes "23 seconds."

What Is Canva?

Canva is a unique platform that allows individuals of varying skill levels to produce high-quality graphics and designs. The tool features a simple, drag-and-drop interface and professional layouts for flyers, invitations, logos, posters, infographics, and so much more. Canva features everything freelancers or individuals need including:

  • Access to millions of images: From stock photos to vectors and beyond, Canva gives you access to millions of images including icons and various shapes.
  • Fonts, fonts, and more fonts: There are fonts for every design with literally hundreds to choose from.
  • Photo filters for flawless photography: The built-in photo editor helps you pick and choose the best photo and then edit it to fit your specific design.

The tool is easy to use with a small learning curve. In fact, the hundreds of Canva templates make it easy to create graphic designs quickly. Or, you can start with a blank slate.

For freelancers and individual users, Canva is completely free to use. As you design, you'll be met with elements you can purchase, starting at $1, including images, shapes, icons, and more. The best part? You're able to purchase licensing for each paid element you choose right from inside the tool.

Canva is offered both online and as an app for iOS and Android devices.

Getting Started: How to Create a New Canva Design

To use Canva, you'll need to first register for a free account. Once you do this, you're ready to start your first design.

Once you login to your Canva account, you'll see your Home screen, where you can pick and choose from hundreds of available design templates. You can also use the search function to find a template that suits your needs.

Canva's Home screen featuring templates, folders, designs and more

Simply browse until you find a template you want and select it. A new window will open where you'll find Canva's design screen.

Not finding a template that fits your project's dimensions? You can specify your own dimensions; select Custom Dimensions on your Home screen, then enter your own width and height based on pixels, inches, millimeters, or centimeters.

How to Use Canva Photos

After selecting your template, it's time to start on your design. Start by adding a photo using Canva's huge photo library.

  1. Inside the toolbar to the left of your screen, select Photos. Here, you'll find Canva's image library.

    Canva's image library inside a new design project
  2. Enter a search term into the search bar to find specific images. Or, simply scroll for some inspiration.

    Canva's photo library inside of a new design
  3. When you find an image you wish to use, drag-and-drop the image into your design. You can resize or flip your image, change its transparency, and more using the toolbar at the top of your design screen.

    Cactus image placed in design using Canva's image library

    Does your image have a Canva watermark? If so, it's a Premium image that you must pay for. Select Remove Watermark to pay for your photo.

  4. Once you have your photo where you want it, continue on and add more images or other elements.

How to Use Canva Headings & Text

For any design, you're most likely going to want to add a heading or text. Canva makes it easy by offering drag-and-drop headings, subheadings, and body text elements in a wide range of fonts.

  1. In your toolbar to the left of your screen, select Text. Here you'll find all of the text options Canva has to offer.

    Canva's text tool on the design screen
  2. Drag-and-drop the type of text you wish to use in your design. Move the text box around until it fits your design.

    Canva's text editor inside the design screen
  3. To change the text, double-click the text, then start typing. To change the font, use the menu located in the toolbar at the top of your design screen to select a new font. You can also change the text color, spacing, alignment, etc. using the same toolbar.

    Canva's text editor inside of the design screen

To delete an element you no longer want, simply drag-and-drop it to the trash can icon located in the top-right of your design screen.

How to Add Flair to Your Design Using Canva Elements

No design is complete without some flair. The Elements section gives you access to a wide-range of design elements to choose from, including:

  • Grids
  • Charts
  • Frames
  • Shapes
  • Gradients
  • Lines
  • Illustrations
  • Icons
  • And so much more

To choose an element, drag-and-drop it onto your design.

  1. For example, to use a shape, drag-and-drop the shape element you choose onto your design.

  2. To change the shape's position, select Position and use the menu to select a new position for your element. You can also move the element forward or backward between layers.

    Canva's elements library on the design screen
  3. Continue to add elements to your design in this manner until you're satisfied.

To quickly duplicate elements you use in your design, select Copy in the toolbar at the top of the design screen. This is especially helpful when using the same elements multiple times.

How to Download & Share Your Canva Design

Once you're satisfied with your design, it's time to share it or download it for printing. You can view all of your options in the toolbar at the top of your design screen.

  1. To share your design with a friend, family member, co-worker, etc., select Share, then enter the email address you wish to send the design to. You can give them permission to edit or simply view.

    Canva's share tool on the design screen
  2. To download your design, select the download icon in the toolbar at the top of your screen. Next, choose your file type.

  3. If you used Premium images or elements in your design, you'll need to pay for those before you can download. Select Pay and Download to pay for your elements.

    Canva's download tool on the design screen

    If you want to see a draft of your design before you purchase the elements, select Download a Watermarked Draft to download a test version.

  4. After payment, Canva will download your design straight to your computer for use.

This is only the beginning of what you can design using Canva's many design tools. To discover more, take some time to familiarize yourself with the platform, trying out all the tools, elements, images, and more.