Canva is a web-based design software that promises simplicity for both DIY and seasoned designers — but does it really deliver? Read on for a candid Canva review and decide if this design tool is right for you.
If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you’re a DIY designer — maybe a blogger or rising social media star or early entrepreneur who hasn’t yet hired dedicated graphic talent. You’re doing everything yourself, and design may not be your primary skill.
I’d venture to say the Canva folks had you in mind when they built the software. Canva is simpler and easier to learn than your traditional design packages like Adobe Photoshop.
Even better, you can use Canva for free forever. The free version provides a straightforward drag-and-drop image editor, plus the ability to upload your own images. If you have an ongoing need for social media images, blog images or even infographics, and you want something lighter than the Adobe creative tools, take a look at free Canva. It will probably speed up your design production, which is a very good thing.
And of course, because it’s free, there’s no risk. Try it, and if you don’t like it, go back to what you were doing before.
Canva for Work
Things get a tad more complicated when you upgrade to the paid version, called Canva for Work. The upgrade costs you $12.95 per user, per month and gives you access to some nice features. But of course, every dollar counts, and now you have to question whether Canva’s really worth it.
What We Love
Two features our team relies on heavily are the magic resize functionality and the branding kit.
With magic resize, you can design an image that’s sized for Twitter, and then resize it for Pinterest in a couple clicks. This sounds amazing, right?
Without magic resize, how do create social images for all channels for your latest blog post? You can create one image that works for your strongest social channel. Or you can create four separate images so that your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram fans can see right-sized content.
Clearly, neither strategy is optimal. One cuts corners and the other just takes too long.
Canva’s magic resize is an ideal compromise. You can quickly create the right images for each channel, with one caveat. Once you resize the image canvas, you usually have to rearrange the image components for a final, polished piece. So, it’s not exactly “magic” as the name implies. Human intervention is definitely required. But still, it is faster than creating each image from scratch.
The second Canva for Work feature that’s extremely handy is the ability to set up your brand defaults. Choose your brand colors, fonts and even set up templates for different types of images. All of your go-to design elements are at your fingertips, which is a huge timesaver that free Canva doesn’t offer.
What We Hate
Now, let’s talk about what Canva’s doesn’t do well. Two sticklers for our team are:
- the size of the files Canva produces and
- the inability to remove backgrounds from uploaded images
Canva allows you to download your design as JPG, PNG, PDF standard and PDF for print. We use Canva exclusively for web images, and always download designs as PNGs. The trouble is, they’re not small PNGs. It’s common for a Pinterest image to be 500-600 KB in size, and that’s just too big when we’re trying to keep a design-heavy website lean and fast.
We used to take the Canva images into Photoshop to reduce their size — which kind of defeats the purpose of using Canva at all. Now we’re using ImageOptim, which is a quick, easy and free image compression tool.
Our next complaint is the inability to knock out backgrounds of uploaded images. You can crop them in a rectangular frame only, but you cannot remove their backgrounds.
We produce a lot of product collage images. And collages don’t work very well unless you knock out the backgrounds of the source images. Since Canva doesn’t do that, we end up working in Photoshop first and then going to Canva to create the collage. And that seems redundant.
I understand why Canva doesn’t have this feature — it’s pretty complex and even Photoshop doesn’t do it perfectly. The trouble is, we experience Canva’s value most when it spares us from using Photoshop at all. When we have to use both of them together, I start to question whether we really need Canva for Work. And if I were to get rid of one of them, Canva for Work would go before Photoshop would.
Is Canva for Work Right for You?
If you agree with all or most of the following statements, Canva may be the all-in design solution you need:
- You aren’t comfortable with Photoshop or any other design software
- You like your brand imagery to be consistent in layout and color scheme (always a good idea!)
- You create lots of images for social (this is where Canva shines)
- You don’t build complex images or product collages (caveat: you could use Canva to create infographics with text and icon elements)
- You don’t care how big your image files are or you have a fast way to compress them
Are you considering Canva for work? Let us know in the comments how you think it will work for you!