How Canva Helped Get My Design Groove Back

Once upon a time, I had to do all my teen fliers. I have no true design training, but my only other option was someone who used tons of clip-art. For childrens it worked, for teens not so much. For 4 years, I spent a good chunk of my time fiddling with Photoshop as I made flyers that were passable, although, not amazing. Thankfully, we got a marketing person who rocks at design and I was able to slowly move all my needs to her. The only problem? She’s one person for the WHOLE library, which means she often gets swamped with design and outreach needs. I felt guilty asking her to do all my web banners and what not on top of everything else. I don’t mind doing them, but if I wanted to go back to Photoshop, it meant dragging in my personal computer to work. Or I could just use Publisher, but since our computers are locked down I can’t download/install any new fonts. To say I was dreading it was an understatement…at least until I discovered Canva.

Canva is a free online design tool that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. When you first start a project, they offer you multiple size options that are tied to social media such as Instagram or Facebook. You can also enter in your own dimensions if they don’t already offer what you want. When you start a design, this is what you’ll get (you can click it to enlarge it)

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 10.46.19 PM

Canva offers a whole slew of options from shapes, backgrounds, images, charts, text, and more. The text and images are what make me love the service so much. Between the fancy texts and normal ones, I have enough options to keep my stuff looking fresh. And as far as images go, I can usually find something that fits what I need. (I will mention, not all of their images are free. Some you have to pay $1 for, but I’ll talk more about this later.) Plus, they have a design school full of inspiration and tutorials.

I’ve only been using Canva for about two months, but so far I’ve used it to create booklists, bookmarks, web slider, instagram photos and a lot more. Here are some of the designs I’ve created so far.

Teen Summer Reading Journey to the Past JUly

Still not super fancy, but enough that they get my teens attention and I’m happy with them!

Canva, of course, is not without it’s flaws. As I said earlier, some images you have to pay $1 for and you can only republish/reuse it within 24 hours. If you need to make any changes/republish it after that, you have to pay the $1 again. Also, they mix the free and paid images together. I understand why they do this, but it’s annoying. There have been many times where I thought I was out of free images only to find tons more after I scrolled for an eternity. Supposedly, they used to have all the free images at top. I’m sad that they changed how this works because it’s more helpful to have it all the free images lumped together.

Also, doing bookmarks can be tricky. I’ve found some work arounds, but it’s not always smooth. They have these cool things called grids that nicely divide up the page for you, but you can’t layer them. Any time a new image is dragged onto the grid, it overtakes the previous one. Now, this could totally be a me thing, but I’ve yet to find a solution. In their FAQ they mention hitting shift as you drag a new image in, but that only works occasionally for me. I would say 99% of the time it still tries to take over. Of course, maybe the easiest option would be to just figure out what your bookmark dimensions are and create a custom size. I’ve been able to do this successfully until I get to printing and then I run into issues with getting 3 per page the way I want. I’m sure if I played around with it some more, I could get that option to work. For now, I just use boxes as guidelines for where things should go. Not the neatest, but it works.

The only other things that annoys me is I can’t change the dimensions of the project once you’ve started. Many times I’ve done a custom size only to find out it’s the wrong dimensions and I have to start all over again! It would be SO nice to just be able to change the canvas size any time I wanted without having to start all over. Thankfully, this hasn’t been too big of an issue, but I’ve run into it more times than I would like.

Of course, with Canva for Work launching soon, most of these complaints could be taken care of. I had hoped it would launch before doing this post, but no luck. I’m pretty sure the dimension thing and the image will have new options. There has been many hints to this, but no one is saying anything for sure yet. They also haven’t even rolled out pricing yet. Once they do, however, I hope to do another post just highlighting the new features and if it’s worth a libraries money or not.

Have you used Canva? Do you have any tips or tricks you think everything should know about?


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