Graphic design: Say goodbye to Paint, say hello to Canva

Posted on: March 1, 2015 | By: Stephanie Bedard | Filed under: Instructional Technologies, Writing with Thumbs


Have you ever wondered where that inspiring quote on Instagram,  that catchy Facebook event banner, or the pretty Pinterest post came from? There’s a chance these designs might have been created using Canva, a graphic design app for iPads.

Experimenting with Canva was my first journey into the wide, wide world of graphic design. I wasn’t certain what the two words “graphic design” meant until I opened Canva for the first time. Little did I know that Canva would give me the power to create images and pictures for all of my digital needs – all at the edge of my fingertips! I initially decided to give this app a chance because I’m an avid user of social media, and hoped to spice up my posts by learning the basics of design. Yet, as I learned, Canva can also be useful for academic projects.

What Canva does

A simple Valentine's graphic I whipped up in a few minutes.

A simple Valentine’s graphic I created.

Canva, available for free on the App store, is a design and photo editing app that creates digital pictures and designs for a spread of layouts. Think of the possibilities – a twitter post, an invitation, a business card, even a Facebook cover photo!

Users can start their project with a blank canvas, or choose one of 13 preset layouts, including those just mentioned. A layout is a blank canvas with preset dimensions for particular projects, such as a business card, a blog graphic, or an Instagram post. If selecting a particular layout, users can further select a premade template or build their own. From there, it’s completely up to users’ creativity to insert text, images, backgrounds and other design elements to create the perfect image for their task. Once a design or image is finished, it can be shared via social media or downloaded as a PDF or image file.

Why Canva is great

Fun design elements make Canva graphics look professional and creative.

Fun design elements make Canva graphics look professional and creative.

Canva’s hundreds of pre-made layouts and templates help bolster creativity. Users of all levels of artistic skill can create beautiful designs.

For example, consider I’m creating a party invitation. I could start from scratch and make my own original invitation, using all of my creative juices. Or, I could simply select an invitation template and change only the details of the text, using significantly less creative juices. Thus, the app allows users to be as creative as they would like, but also

understands that not all users have hours to spend creating the perfect design. Additionally, there are lots of fun design elements that Canva places at its users’ fingertips. These include speech bubbles, text banners, shapes, and icons, among other elements. I was also very impressed with the variety of font and background options.

I also liked that grid lines appear automatically on your design when you move elements such as text or shapes. This small feature helps center your images, making your design more professional.

Areas for improvement

In-app purchases can make Canva designs hard to afford on a college student's budget.

In-app purchases can make Canva designs hard to afford on a college student’s budget.

For now, Canva can only be accessed when your iPad is connected to Wi-Fi. While many people are wired to Wi-Fi often, being able to access Canva whenever, wherever would be convenient.

Sadly, many of Canva’s most gorgeous images, fun layouts, and imaginative design elements cost money. While there are many free design elements available, the majority require in-app purchases. For example, I created a great Canva design for a presentation I was giving in International Communications class. When I was ready to download my design, Canva notified me that that it would cost 2 credits, or $3.49, to download my design without a watermark. I would suggest that users select free images and elements (the ones without a coin symbol in the corner), or rely on their own images to work around this challenge. Canva’s images and design elements are stunning, but unless you’re using Canva professionally, I can’t justify spending money on a design for class.

Finally, because iPads are touch-operated, I often found myself frustrated while trying to edit certain parts of my design. It can be challenging to tap and select the element you’re trying to edit, especially if there’s already lots of texts or photos on your design. I would prefer using the app with a mouse instead of my fingers.

Canva audience 

Students with personal and academic interest in design – perhaps Communications, Marketing, or Art majors – can benefit from Canva more than the average student. Students whose classwork involves creating visual designs should definitely give this app a go.

As a business student, I don’t often create designs for class, so I don’t see myself using Canva much on an academic level. However, I think all students can use the app for personal and extracurricular activities. For example, students could easily create a Facebook banner or a Twitter post for an event their organization is hosting on-campus, or a classy business card for a career fair.

Final verdict

Overall, Canva is an easy and functional app for anyone looking to create visual projects. It hooked me on graphic design and will be sticking around on my iPad for some time to come. Its biggest downside is that many of its best features such as premium layouts, templates, and images, cost money. Nonetheless, if you’re taking your first steps into the world of design, or are willing to spend a few dollars on a perfect design, give Canva a shot. You’ll be surprised at the beauty you can create!

Stephanie Bedard

Stephanie Bedard

Stephanie Bedard is a junior at Elon University's Love School of Business. She writes all of her tests using a pink pen.

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2 responses to “Graphic design: Say goodbye to Paint, say hello to Canva”

  1. Thanks for sharing! Well, no one ever took Paint seriously, however, to get something useful out of the more elaborate programs proved a steep, often too long and steep, learning curve for many. So I started checking out your suggestion. The only reservation I begin having about all this, like 3D printing too, is that eventually people will forget to hold and use a paint brush because, esp. with 3D printing, these digital devices and their periphery can now even perfectly the structure and 3D depth of any crafted object. Why, they are even discussing if handwriting is still necessary, now that first-graders, in some countries already, get digital tablets! While radio operators still get trained in MORSE code!

  2. ron says:

    canva is a awesome program. i love the ease of use.