One of the key elements of any content marketing strategy is custom, branded graphics. It used to be that you needed to invest in large programs like Photoshop. Or that you needed to hire a graphic designer. You still can do those things to create graphics but you don’t have to anymore. Today, we have free or low-cost online options, such as Canva or PicMonkey.
I personally prefer Canva. Its intuitive user-friendly experience makes it easy to drag-and-drop images, icons and text. They also give you thousands of free templates, shapes and illustrations, and font and color options. All this means that you can create your own custom graphics in seconds.
Here are 9 simple steps to designing your own graphic.
Step 1: Sign up or Log in
Go to Canva.com. On the log in screen, you can log in near the top (red circle) or sign up using your email or social media profiles (blue circle).
Step 2: Set up your profile
Once you’ve logged in, you will be taken through the Onboarding Wizard. It will ask you what you want to use Canva for, to add team members, and then to select what you want to create. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll select “Social Media Graphic” on the far left hand side.
You can use Canva to create everything from social media graphics to business cards, from pdf printables to ebook covers. It’s very versatile.
Step 3: Select your graphic size
The next screen will ask which social media platform you want to create a graphic for. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll use a Facebook post size. Canva has the ideal graphic dimensions for all the common social media platforms preloaded in their system. The same goes for all the other options on the previous screen.
Step 4: Select your graphic template
Once you’ve selected your size, you will be taken to the editing screen. On the left hand side, you’ll be given a number of template choices. You can pick any of them you like. They have text-only versions; templates with images and filters; and graphics with icons and illustrations.
When you make your choice, simply click on it once, and it will automatically be loaded onto the editor. From there you can make changes to it.
Step 5: Add custom picture
Now that your template is loaded into the editor, you can make any
changes you like to it. Let’s change the image first.
You could use Canva’s stock images to customize your template. To select a custom image, click on “Elements” on the left hand side (red circle). Then select “Free Photos” (blue circle) to bring up Canva’s gallery of images.
You can also use an image of your own. To add an image to use, click on “Upload” on the left hand side (green circle), then drag-and-drop your file onto the screen where indicated (purple circle). Or you can click on the Upload button to bring up your file and open it in Canva.
Editing your image
When you’ve got your image chosen, click on it once. It will show up on the editor screen. Then you can drag it onto the existing image to replace the one in your template. It will automatically expand to fit into the space.
You can then click on the image in your template to select it. At the top of your screen, the image-editing menu (orange circle) will show up. You have options to change the filter, to crop or flip the image, or to change how it fits in the space (spacing).
Let’s change the filter. Click on the filter menu option. A new menu box will immediately appear in a floating window. You’ll see the image you chose in a gallery line, with different filters on it. You’ll also get a couple of sliders, so you can change the intensity of the filter. If you choose the “advanced options” (yellow circle), you can see more sliders to adjust. You can also change the filter hex code, if you know coding at all.
For my image, I chose the “Edge” filter. You’ll only see 5 options at a time. Click on the side arrows to see more options for filters.
Step 6: Add custom text
Now lets edit the text. My current template is talking about clothes, but my image is that of a mountain lake. I want to create an inspirational graphic, rather than an ad.
First, click on the text in the template. This brings up the text editing menu at the top (in place of the image editing menu). You can choose a font, the size of the text, and the color of the text. You can also make it bold, italicized, or underlined. And you can choose the alignment (left, center, right), or whether or not it’s all uppercase letters. Or you can click on the “Spacing” option (red circle), and bring up a floating menu that lets you adjust the spacing between the letters or the lines.
Editing your text
Once you’ve adjusted the style of the text, now you can change the text itself. Simply click on the text box, and a cursor will show up. You can highlight the existing text and delete it, or you can use your keyboard buttons to delete the text. Then type in what you want it to say. Your text box will automatically adjust in size as you type.
When you have all your text typed in, you can adjust your text box. This will change where the lines end, and how many words are on each line. You can also move the text box anywhere in your graphic.
Step 7 (optional): Add custom icons and shapes
You can add custom icons, shapes and illustrations to your graphic. Or, as in the graphic example I’ve picked, you can adjust existing shapes.
To adjust existing graphic elements, click on them. When you do, the editing menu (red circle) will show up at the top. Usually, it will be just a color block, letting you change the color.
To add a new element, click on the “Elements” option (blue circle) on the far left menu. Then select the element you want to add — a shape, an icon, or an illustration. A shape is just a plain geometric shape. You can get either a filled-in or outline version. An icon is a drawn picture or outline of common objects. For example, a dollar sign is an icon. And an illustration is a cut-out image or cartoon image of common subjects. You may get a cut-out of balloons, for example.
You can also add in lines, charts, or “I heart Canva” elements. These are just Canva-branded sayings and illustrations.
Step 8: Watermark your graphic
To finish your graphic before you can use it, you need to watermark it. Watermarking a graphic is making sure that your name, blog name, company name or logo is on your graphic, so that if and when it gets shared, others will know who made it. It also helps make sure your work isn’t stolen and the credit claimed for it.
The simplest way to watermark your work is to put your name on it. It’s kind of like an artist signing a painting. Select the text option on the far left hand menu. Click on “Add a little bit of body text” to add a new text box (red circle) to your graphic. Click outside the graphic to clear the selection, then position your mouse cursor over the text box. Left click and hold on the text box, then drag it to a corner.
Click on it once to select it and edit the font style, size and color. Then double click in the text box to bring up the typing cursor, and type in your name. (If you want to add the copyright symbol ©, press and hold the “ALT” button on a PC, and then type the numbers 0169. On a Mac, press and hold “Option” and type G.)
With the text box still selected, click on the button that looks like a checkerboard in the far top right-hand corner (blue circle). This brings up the transparency floating menu. The default setting is 100%, meaning 100% opaque, or not transparent. Slide the slider over until you get the desired transparency.
Step 9: Download your graphic
Finally, you’re ready to download your graphic for use. Before you download, title your graphic a descriptive title. To do this, you need to click on the existing title at the top right hand corner (red circle). This will bring up the “Design Title” floating menu box. Clear the text in the box, and type in your own design title. Then click “Done”.
The Design Title you give your graphic will be the file name of your download. When you’re satisfied with your design, it’s time to download it. To download, click on the download button at the top right hand corner (blue circle). You can then choose which format you want your file to download as. For images, I recommend the PNG format, for best quality. You can also choose JPG or PDF.
You can also share your design with others by clicking the “Share” button (green circle) and filling in their name and email address. If you leave the button “Can edit” checked, they can change your design. You can also use the “Share” button to share directly to Facebook or Twitter. Canva even lets you add a comment or caption to your image. The “Share” button also lets you create a link to your image, so that you can send the url rather than the image itself. And you can get “embed” code as well. But in order to get that code, you need to make your graphic “public” by selecting the “Make Public” option in the top right hand corner (purple circle), before clicking on the “Share” button.
You just finished your first graphic with Canva. Now you can use Canva to create many more graphics, from images to quotes. Play around with their many templates, and experiment with fonts, colors and sizes. There are so many ways to customize!