Full disclosure: Canva is my friend. This user-friendly graphic design app is similar to Photoshop or Affinity. I use it for Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and my newsletter. A free account with the site can be great for mood boards, meme-making, and book cover design. For an annual $120 subscription, Canva Pro also offers additional access to a wider library of images, more storage, a brand kit, a social media scheduler, and a calendar to keep it organized.
Most articles on the internet about the platform discuss the basics of how to use Canva. I’ll address some of those tips, but I’m a “why” person. How will knowing what Canva has to offer help move my indie publishing image forward? That means sales and reader engagement after they’ve bought my book or signed up for my newsletter.
Like any author platform, the answer starts with helping you understand the tools you have at your disposal. I’ll focus on the free version of Canva for authors who want to try out its features before spending money on a professional account. With that being said, here are our top ten tips for using Canva:
- Visit the Canva design school
Canva has videos, blogs, and tutorials to help navigate its features. In the “Features” tab on the home screen, Canva graphic designers post short videos that take the guesswork out of using the platform. Here, an author can learn how to design graphics for websites, book covers, newsletters, merchandising, and social media engagement.
- Start with a design template
I cannot design a wheel, but I know how to add hearts and flowers to make it pretty. That also works with templates. They lay the groundwork for font sizing and image placement. The beauty of this method is once you’ve modified the template to suit your brand, you have a template you can duplicate and update. To give a feel for the options, Canva has over 1800 book cover templates, 340,000 Instagram templates, 150,000 Facebook templates, and 5,000 Twitter templates, as well as numerous templates for websites, infographics, recipe books, and email headers. With a Canva Pro account, you can resize the template for a specific platform, such as adjusting a post for Instagram to also work on Twitter.
- Use the ruler and grid lines
This handy feature is under the “File” tab. When these features are chosen, lines appear whenever an image or text moves. It has crosshairs for the middle of the graphic and lines that make it easier to line up text and images. This nifty tool can mean fewer instances of downloading an image to discover that it is off-center, only to have to go back and fix it. Rulers and grid lines save time—and therefore sanity.
- Use the color match tool
Once you’ve chosen images, Canva will show you the colors within the image that would work. Scroll down to the bottom of the color tab to view and select specific colors. This takes the guesswork out of what to use for compliments and contrasts. For users who have Canva Pro, it will also post your brand colors, making it easier to maintain brand uniformity.
- Connect Canva with your favorite apps
Use the “Discover Apps” option to post directly from Canva to Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Canva connects with Tenor GIF and Google Maps, making it easy for users to import images for their designs. In the “Favorite Apps” section, Canva highlights updates to what they offer. The newest additions are smart mockups, flipbooks, and integration with communication channels like Slack and Mailchimp.
- Add your brand’s fonts to the library
Canva has hundreds of fonts. But if the font for your brand isn’t in there, you can add it to the font library. When searching for a font, scroll to the bottom. There, you’ll see the “upload a font” option. Now you can make graphics with fonts specific to your branding.
- Share links to your designs
Canva has a “view only” link. If you have something in the works and want to share updates with your followers, share the link to your project. If you want to take it a step further, you can share a link so that others can comment on your work. Followers then have the opportunity for additional engagement and feel as if they were there from the beginning.
Pro Tip: Add the link to your newsletter or to your Patreon feed. The “view only” feature would emphasize that they are your superfans and privy to your art first.
- Buy merchandise
One time, I made myself a cute coffee cup with my logo. I bought one cup, thinking nobody would want a mug with my name on it. Holding the cup, I shared a “good morning” picture with my group. Color me surprised. The gals in my group wanted a cup with my name on it. Now when I want to give my readers some author love, I can order cups, stickers, T-shirts, hoodies, bookmarks, notebooks, calendars, and tote bags directly from Canva.
- Search for engagement ideas
Learn from my mistakes. I once spent a good chunk of time designing an engagement bingo game. The idea was great, people shared it on Facebook, and my following grew. It was worth the effort, but I later learned that my work could have been reduced significantly. Canva offers the ability for users to create similar engagement ideas in only a few minutes’ time. Type “engagement” in the search bar. You’ll find loads of ideas for various ways to promote engagement with your followers. There are “this or that” posts, bingo posts, “would you rather” posts, and more already created that you can modify to match your brand.
- Organize your materials into folders
If you frequent Canva for simple designs and artwork, the images you’ve created can accumulate after a while. Luckily, the site allows you to sort images into folders to make finding old designs easier. Keep projects in files that can be organized by book titles, series, seasons, types of engagement—you get the idea. This way, you can easily access your images for use in the years to come.
Pro Tip: Make a folder and stack folders within. For example, start with your series; within the series, make a folder for each title. Another way to keep things organized is to have an engagement folder. Within the engagement folder, have a file for holidays, page takeovers, bookish engagement, and promo engagement.
Canva is an app that takes the guesswork out of designing images that help authors connect with readers. These are the top ten tips we’ve accumulated, but you can also explore other useful corners of the platform. Visit the site, use the tabs, and make friends with the search bar. Then have fun making images that will wow your readers.