Pictures? You can, with Canva - Mari Biella

One of the worst things about being a self-published author is that you have to do everything. I mean bleedin’ everything, including all those clever, specialised things that normal people can’t even understand. You either have to learn to do them yourself, or pay through the nose to get someone else to do them for you.

Nowhere is this problem more sticky than when you’re dealing with pictures, as you frequently are. You may be in the business of arranging words on the page or screen, but we live in a visual world and sooner or later you have to worry about images, too. Book covers, for example: unless you’re a graphic artist as well as a writer, these are probably best left to people who have at least a vague notion of what they’re doing. And what about blogs, websites, Facebook pages, and so on? They must come complete with images! Nice, fancy images that will hold people’s wandering eyes and reel them in!

A blank screen is exactly what you don't want. Image credit: Petr Kratochvil |

Actually, finding attractive images is relatively easy, and not necessarily expensive either. But actually using them can be tricky. How do you create a blog header or a Facebook cover? Until very recently, I didn’t have a clue.

Then I found out about a little thing called Canva.

Canva is very good news indeed. It’s free to join, and you can log in with Facebook, which spares you the trouble of having to memorise yet another password. Moreover – and a few requisite hours of turning the air blue notwithstanding – it’s actually quite easy to use. (Bear in mind that I am the kind of technologically-challenged simpleton who couldn’t use Photoshop because it made my poor brain hurt.) Not even Luddites like me need fear Canva, though. Canva is almost foolproof, or at least would be if fools weren’t so incredibly ingenious.

You only need take a quick look at Canva’s main page to see what you can do. Social media posts, presentations, infographics, business cards, Facebook covers and ads, postcards! Even eBook and album covers, no less! Many of the designs are free, too. Others you have to pay for, but they’re not expensive. They even have photos that you can use, and many of them are free too.

As if to prove how incredibly easy it is, even I have used it with a certain degree of success. This is the email header I prepared for the AE newsletter:

And here’s my Facebook cover:

And my blog title:

All of which no doubt look pretty basic to the trained eye, but which to me are nothing short of miraculous.

So there you go – something so user-friendly that even I can handle it, and largely free to boot! Who says you get nothing for nothing in this world, eh? 


Wendy H. Jones said…
Great post and tip. Thanks. I'm from to visit Canva now
Jan Needle said…
Tried to visit Canva. Couldn't find it. (I'm only joking, Mari. thanks for the info)
Bill Kirton said…
I've used it, too, Mari. Trouble is, it's yet another interesting displacement activity. Very useful, though.
Thanks for this, Mari. I'll definitely investigate. Looks so useful. I've currently got my husband working on a couple of paintings as potential covers but when he gets fed up ...
Susan Price said…
Very useful and interesting post, Mari - thanks.

I think the stuff you've designed on Canva looks great - and we've all got a quite highly trained visual because we look at visual design all the time.

And take heart! Photoshop makes everybody's brain hurt. It's a great programme, but nobody can accuse it of being user-friendly.
Mari Biella said…
Thanks for the comments, everyone - and I hope you find Canva as useful as I have. Yep, it's a displacement activity, but at least it's a marginally useful one (unlike my current passion for Microsoft's Treasure Hunt...). Perhaps I'll have another go at Photoshop, Susan. It's undeniably useful, so if I could get the hang of it I'd be very pleased indeed!
Lydia Bennet said…
Thank you for this Mari, a very useful resource, perhaps it can be added to our 'how to' list of posts?
Chris Longmuir said…
I use Photoshop Elements, which is the junior version of Photoshop, and it's worth mastering. But I've also used Canva, mainly to do pics for Twitter. I did my Christmas and New Year ones on Canva this past year as well as a Halloween one. But, as you say, Bill, it's a great displacement activity.
Umberto Tosi said…
Thanks, Mari. I enjoyed playing with Canva. I was lucky to have been an editor of various magazines on which I worked with designers on covers and layouts for years and learned visual concepts and use of cues to draw readers into our material. It was all paste-up at first, then software, which evolved (faster than I could learn it). I still bow to graphic artists for their expertise, but we electric writers must learn to do it all for ourselves -- and in some happy instances, for each other. Good post. Happy Groundhog Day!
Lee said…
Useful indeed. And for those of you who don't know about Unsplash's free-to-use hi-res photos (I was late to this one!), here's the link:

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