My first year in college, I majored in graphic design. This was back when using a computer to design was a privilege offered to juniors and seniors–not lowly freshman. A few years later, I was working as a graphic artist at a sign shop. Then I spent a few years designing for the web. I was pretty good at design, but not great. Still, I had a general rule–no cheating with templates, stock images, or stock photos. I was an artist, damnit, and I was only going to use my own stuff. Eventually, though, my priorities changed, and I wanted to focus more on content and less on design. That’s how I ended up on SquareSpace. They handle the details so I can concentrate on the content. And that’s how I eventually came around to using Canva.

A few months ago, a friend introduced me to Canva. I played with it for a few minutes, wrote it off as just another template app, then went back to whatever I was doing. A few weeks later, I was about to start working on a blog post header in Photoshop, and decided I’d give Canva a try instead.

I tried the web version first. It’s simple and straightforward. Start by choosing your document size–they have all the popular social images sizes covered, or you can choose to create a custom size. Once you’ve chosen a size, you can select from a variety of templates and layouts, or create your own. Add pre-formatted text, or create your own text layers. Pick different fonts, colors, and transparency. Upload your own photos, or use one from their library (only $1 each if you use one of theirs.) Save the document as a PNG (or JPG for Facebook templates,) or download a high-res PDF. The key here is that you’re not limited to their designs. You can start with a text layout, then tweak it to your heart’s content. For the record, though, they have some sweet designs and layouts. They obviously have some wicked designers working behind the scenes.

So far, I’ve used Canva for blog header images, Facebook page cover images, and Instagram images. Why? It’s faster. Faster than grabbing my laptop and opening Illustrator of Photoshop. Also–I don’t need my laptop. The iPad app is perfectly functional. In fact, this post, and header graphic were created at a restaurant during lunch on my iPad Mini.

I still use Adobe apps for complex work, but for 90% of what I do, Canva handles it perfectly. Spend less time designing, and more time shooting.

Have you tried Canva? If so, what was your take on it?

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