If you have the ever noticed that blogs with the really attractive graphics tend to be the ones that get a large amount of traffic. This is no surprise since most people respond well to visual information. You may have heard about the incredible new web site named Canva. You can almost think of it like a free version of Photoshop that works simply and easily right in your web browser. It really is quite incredible. What you might not know however, is that Canva also has a design school that offers many tutorials that will help you get up to speed really quickly. Let’s take a quick tour of what they offer!
Get Started With Canva
Image Credits: Canva.com
What you see above is the welcome screen of the design school section of the Canva web site. You can see that collection of tutorials such as the beginners challenge, essential Canva tools, less is more, choosing the right font, color relationships, and much more. It’s best to begin with the beginners challenge, and that is exactly what we will do here.
The Beginners Challenge
In this beginner challenge, you are taught to choose your favorite color, search for a hat to place on a monkey, add a background to a picture, choose a favorite food and add it to your picture, as well as choosing a layout for your design. You will find that the images you create are actually pretty good, even if you are a total beginner in creating graphic designs.
Essential Canva Tools
Moving on from the beginner challenge, we will dig into the essential Canva tools. The Canva design school refers to this as your Canva toolkit. In other words, these are all of those simple tools that you will make use of to create eye catching designs with relative ease. This section teaches you how to easily change text colors, the art of using grids for image placement, how to use text holders, adjusting images in a frame, and how to incorporate your own photos into the grid tools of the Canva interface. At any point along the way during your exercises if you run into any trouble or if you are just not sure what to do next, the tutorials offer a very nice button you can click that will open up a video tutorial hosted on Youtube. By going through the tutorials and completing the hands on exercises along with watching some of these helpful tips on Youtube, you will be a graphic design master in no time flat!
Less Is More
When you go through these tutorials, even at this early stage you will start feeling comfortable with how the user interface of the Canva web site works. With just a little bit of practice everything starts to feel quite intuitive. As you figure out each new tool you will be tempted to add every single design trick you’ve learned so far into your graphics. Maybe this is why they chose to add this appropriately named tutorial Less Is More. As we dig into this tutorial we will learn the concepts of what makes a design look fantastic and the key take away is that sometimes things look really great not because of what you can see, but because of the things that you can not see. Let’s see what they mean by going through this tutorial.
Limit Colors – Use Images For Intent
In this section, you learn how to limit colors in your design to increase clarity. One example is of a selection of fast food items, with associated percentages. The percentages are in speech bubbles, which are blue. The food items are multicolored, so your task is to change the color of the hamburger to match that of the french fries and drink. Another concept that is taught is how to make use of images for user intent rather than actual text. One of the examples has you replace text with an icon to denote a user giving a facebook like for a chance to win a prize.
Limit Different Fonts – Use Background Tool For Effect
Another challenge you will be faced with is avoiding the use of too many different types of fonts and type styles. This exercise gets you into making use of their font selection tool which is really great. All you need to do is to click on the block of text in question, and a toolbar with font options appears. Click on it to select from a massive collection of very good looking fonts for your project. Again, less is more however! In one example, you need to reduce the amount of different fonts being used. After this you learn to make use of the foreground background tool which allows you to control the the depth of where a specific element on the page appears.
Choosing the Right Font
Next up we move into choosing the right font for your project. Making use of the right fonts will make your designs come alive and help you to convey the message you are trying to get across. This tutorial offers some really great tips to help you choose fonts that will work for the goals you are trying to accomplish. Some of the key topics that you’ll learn about include using contrast between different fonts for the right visual appeal. Realizing that size does matter, people should know what to read first. Just like blog posts which may have a title, a subtitle, and also a body section, your design should have the title use the largest font. Your subtitle would of course use a slightly smaller font, while the body would make use of the smallest font. One of your exercises will be to apply this very tactic to an existing design and apply the font sizes correctly.
In addition to dealing with the correct sizes for various elements on your design, a key concept to be aware of when dealing with fonts is that of readability. If your users can’t even read what you are trying to present to them on your design, than that is complete fail. Try to make use of fonts that are simple and easy to read. You will want to stay away from overly complex or fancy styles.
Another trick you can use when dealing with text placement is to make use of shapes. By placing a shape on your design you have a given area to work with. You can then resize your fonts as needed to fit them exactly where you want them in the shape on the page. Once you have everything lined up correctly you can delete the shape and now you have perfectly sized and positioned text.
The style of the font can have an impact on the message you are trying to convey. Some font styles are more appropriate for an informal or laid back style. On the other hand depending on what message you are trying to convey, you may try to express a more formal and professional feel. Your typical times new roman font fits this scenario perfectly. If you are a fan of really fun styles, the crafty girls font is really neat.
Don’t stop now, we’re just getting warmed up! It’s now time to talk about colors. Colors are what give your designs a particular mood. In this section of the Canva tutorial, we learn all about building useful color relationships that will really bring your graphics to life. Learn how to make use of the color wheel in your designs. By doing so you will empower yourself to create images and designs with beautiful color relationships.
As you go through the steps of working with the color wheel and color selection tool, you’ll see just how intuitive it is. If you are used to trying to make things work in Photoshop, and then having to keep searching for the right steps to take to complete a simple task, then you’ll really love how easy it is at Canva. During your training with Color at Canva, you’ll practice working on existing shapes and changing various aspects of their color to something more appropriate. In addition to this, you’ll learn how bright colors tend to go well with white. You’ll also learn about pastels which have a more relaxing feel to them. If you like cupcakes, you’ll be in luck, because you will work on a cupcake design that is downright awesome. Finally, you’ll learn all about HEX colors and how to make them work for you.
Working With Images at Canva
Canva has well over a million images in it’s database, so it shouldn’t be hard to find what you need to work with your design. Many are completely free to use, but the premium images do charge a small fee for access to them. In addition to this, you can simply upload your own images if you have some to work with, then use Canva’s great tools to make a stunning graphic design.
When you begin learning about images in Canva, one of the things they will teach you is how to use grids. Grids are used as a creative tool during graphic design composition. They can make editing and layout much easier for you. Like many other items in Canva, you will make use of their search engine. In fact the search engine at Canva is a key tool you will use during the creation of your designs. It’s almost like having Google (or Bing for the Microsoft lovers) at your disposal right inside of their application. If you need to add an element to your design, you simply search the search engine and select the design element from the list of results, then drag it right into your design. It really couldn’t be any easier. Using Canva, and 2 minutes of my time, I created this cool little grid based graphic.
In this Instagram age we are all used to adding effects and filters to the images we take. Canva has similar type tools where you can add some extra polish and flair to any pictures you like. You can adjust various aspects of an image such as brightness, contrast, color saturation, tint, and sharpness. The thumbnail image to the left shows the basic image adjustments you can find on any image you work with in Canva. Below is an example of increasing the contrast of an image that appears dull.
Adding Backgrounds To Your Designs
Another really cool feature of Canva is that of creating really cool backgrounds for your designs. Backgrounds create a type of foundation for the other elements in your graphic. This section teaches you how to create compelling backgrounds that will really make your designs standout. This first example has you choosing a city background to combine with some text.
By making use of transparency effects, you can create some really cool backgrounds. In this example from the tutorial, we use transparency settings on the Burger Icon to cool effect.
Another really cool technique is making use of cropping effects on an existing image to create a great looking background. One part of the tutorial has you applying a crop effect to an apple and then using that as a background for a design. Check it out.
In addition to these really cool tricks you will learn all about adjusting saturation on a background image combined with semi transparent rectangles to create beautiful effects. Another cool technique that is covered is taking a background image and adding a blur effect to it with a white icon on top of it in the foreground. Sometimes it might be enough to simply have a nice background image along with some text in the clear spaces of that background image. What you will learn is that as you start using the various tools in the tutorials, it will spark creative ideas into your mind for other designs you might be thinking of. It is a wonderful idea generation platform.