Graphic Tools for Indie Authors — Part 6

Hello and welcome to Graphic Tools for Indie Authors , Part 6 of my series dealing with graphics tools which can be used to promote novels, blogs, social media campaigns, and more.

In this entry I’m going to examine Canva, which allows users to create a variety of images, posters, cards, Twitter headers, flyers, presentations, and well, you get the idea.

The format of the post is the same as the others in this series:

  • What is Canva?
  • Website Overview
  • Using Canva
  • Canva Applications
  • More Resources

So let’s get started:

What is Canva?

As with the other tools covered in this series, Canva is a web-based application offering both free and paid versions. It’s a design tool for both digital and print assets:

  • Social media page headers
  • Social media graphics for posting
  • Social media ads
  • Promotional materials (flyers, posters, business cards, etc.)
  • Business documents (letters, resumes, reports, presentations, etc.)
  • Personal documents (recipe cards, photo books, planners, etc.)
  • Education materials (schedules, worksheets, lesson plans, etc.)
  • Marketing materials (brochures, infographics, product labels, etc.)
  • Event materials (announcements, programs, invitations, etc.)

Users can start with a template (and there are a LOT of templates) or create an asset from scratch. Templates are sized for their purpose (e.g. Twitter post vs. Facebook post). Created assets can be downloaded in several different formats (JPG, PNG, PDF, etc.).

Digital assets such as images can be uploaded for use, and Canva supplies an extensive array of photo and illustration elements for use in asset creation. Elements are free or very low cost.

Assets created by users are stored in their own individual Canva library for re-use, downloading, or editing at any time in the future. This is pretty standard across web-based tools.

Canva also provides a very polished set of tutorials on graphic design and the use of Canva itself.

Canva upgrades its capabilities on a regular basis. Recently they added the ability to create animated social media digital assets and to incorporate videos into assets.

Website Overview

After sign up you’ll see something like the image below.

Graphic Tools for Indie Authors Part 6 -- Canva, @brantforseng, Brant Forseng

If you scroll down, you’ll see all that assets you have previously created. Of, course, if you are new, there will be nothing to see.

Graphic Tools for Indie Authors Part 6 -- Canva showing asset library, @brantforseng, Brant Forseng

The menu on the left will let you start every major function in Canva:

  • Home — brings you back to the start page
  • All your designs — takes you to your asset library showing your previously created graphics
  • Templates — takes you to a huge collection of templates you can use to get started
  • Photos — allows you to browse an extensive library of photos you can use (you’ll pay for these photos but the price is somewhat less than those found on iStock, for example)
  • Brand Kit — this allows you to create a brand kit with fonts and colours specified; these will be applied to your design assets at your discretion; you’ll need to upgrade to access this feature
  • Design school — tutorials on graphic design and using Canva
  • Build a team — useful if you collaborate with others
  • Folders — gives you access to some pre-built folders holding, for example, all of the images you have uploaded, and all of the images or assets you have purchased; you may create your own folders
  • Purchased — a direct link to the folder holding all the items you’ve purchased
  • Trash — holds designs you have deleted

Using Canva

Getting started is easy. You can either search for a design idea or just click Create a design. Once you do that you’ll select the type of design you want from the rather extensive drop list.

Graphic Tools for Indie Authors Part 6 -- Canva menu, @brantforseng, Brant Forseng

No matter which asset type you choose to create, you’ll be taken to the same design page, although the canvas dimensions will vary depending upon your choice. Below, for example, is the design page presented after selecting “Twitter Post”.

Graphic Tools for Indie Authors Part 6 -- Design Page, @brantforseng, Brant Forseng

The page is dominated by the white canvas, already sized for a Twitter Post.

Arrayed in the extreme upper left hand corner are options to take you back “Home“, access File options (save, make a copy, show margins, etc), and Resize (a paid options). Over on the far right are options for sharing, posting, and downloading your design.

Most of your design work will involve the vertical menu on the far left, which gives the following choices:

  • Templates — this option is auto-selected for new designs, and shows a scrolling list of template options from which to choose
  • Photos — allows you to select from a vast array of photos — both free and paid for; photos are categorized by theme, recently used, and trending; photos may be searched
  • Elements — non-photo assets such as grids, shapes, frames, lines, graphs, icons and more, again divided into free and paid; Elements can be searched
  • Text — exactly what you would expect; choose font size, face, color, and more; fonts can be searched
  • Videos — provides a vast array of short video clips which can be used; these appear to be free, or at least when I scrolled through the list I couldn’t find any flagged as paid
  • Background — allows a background colour, texture, or image to be selected for use
  • Uploads — manage your uploads here, including both graphics and videos; Canva keeps a copy of every upload for future re-use (until you decided to delete it from Canva)
  • Folders — allows you to view the default folders to which you have access or create more folders (a paid option)
  • More — allows you to directly connect to variety of social media services (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube), or file services (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive Pixabay)

Canva presents a wealth of options and for those just getting started, I recommend selecting a template and then modifying to meet your needs.

To give you an idea of just how far you can re-purpose a template to meet your needs. I took a resume and turned it into a Book Information Sheet.

Graphic Tools for Indie Authors Part 6 -- Resume to Book Info Sheet, @brantforseng, Brant Forseng

Through edits to text, colours, and fonts, as well as using some my images, I changed a pastel-coloured resume template into the Book Information Sheet.

What’s a Book Information Sheet, you ask? No idea. But I think it looks cool, and it does demonstrate what can be done.

Here’s a larger version of the finished graphic:

Graphic Tools for Indie Authors Part 6 -- Book Info Sheet, @brantforseng, Brant Forseng

Canva Applications

Canva is designed for social media posts, so obviously it’s able to serve indie author needs for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., tweets, headers, and related images.

Canva can also support indie author blogs with the creation of various graphics. I use Canva to create my tweet image when I announce blog posts and I use the same image as my article header.

There are other uses to which an indie author can put Canva — posters, business cards, and other printed matter.

I have yet to explore the animated graphic feature or use of videos on Canva, but I’m sure those can be employed by indie authors as well.

Two caveats: First, because one can do so much with Canva, effectively using it will require an investment in time. As an indie author, you may feel that such time is better spent elsewhere. Second, you should have an idea of what you wish to create before you start. Diving into Canva and hoping for inspiration can be fascinating, but it can also eat up a lot of your time.

More Resources

There are a lot of resources on how to use Canva available, many of them targeted at indie authors. A few I have found useful include the following:

Wrap Up

So there you have an overview of Canva. I quite like it an have used it extensively. It does take a little time to get to know, but in return offers flexibility, a variety of options, and a large inventory of supporting graphics — all in the free version!

So, what about it, fellow writers, do you use Canva for any author-related tasks?

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