What the Free Canva Graphic Design Tool Can Do for You

A free version of the tool can help you create flyers, presentations, posters and more

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The Office of Information Technology's Anyssa Queen.

While there is a pro version of Canva that offers more design templates and customization options for a yearly fee, signing up for a free Canva account still provides plenty of capabilities.

“Canva just makes things easier,” said Anyssa Queen, an Executive Assistant with the Duke Office of Information Technology, who led Learn IT @ Lunch webinars in the spring about Canva’s uses for event planners and social media managers. “You can make things that are aesthetically pleasing and don’t require too much effort.”

If you find yourself in need of a tool to easily jazz up documents or create presentations, flyers or invitations that can be saved as .JPG or .PNG images or .PDF documents, here’s how you might be able to use Canva.

Get a Running Start

While you have the option to start designs from scratch, if you need a specific item quickly, Canva offers a range of templates to get you started. It’s easy to search for different kinds of projects, such as presentation slides or invitations or flyers for specific kinds of events.

Once you settle on a template, you can customize it to fit your needs, changing text, fonts, colors and the position of elements within the document.

“It’s just so easy to use, you can pick what you like,” Hinz said. “You just find the template you like and change anything you need. You can pick different colors or do anything you want to.”

Queen said that a side benefit of using the templates is that they suggest information that is helpful to have in a specific document, such as an RSVP link, or a date and time in an invitation.

“This way, you don’t have to worry about forgetting to put something important in there,” Queen said.

Harness AI

Canva makes it easy to design documents with fun graphics.

Canva recently released a series of free tools that use artificial intelligence to enhance your images and designs.

Magic Edit allows users to easily add, remove or modify elements in photos using AI. Just brush over a part of the image, tell Magic Edit what you want, and it provides a selection of modified versions of the photos to choose from.

Magic Design creates unique customizable templates for presentation slides, flyers and social media images featuring user-supplied images and text.

Sizing Up Social

To create graphics for social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, Canva automatically gives you images in the proper size.

When you hit the “Create a design” button, use the search bar at the top of the drop-down list to look for the social media platform you need. Click on the option and the new document will automatically be the optimal size the platform.

Use with Duke Flyer

If you use Duke Flyer to publicize your events or initiatives on the digital signage at Duke, Canva is an easy way to design your next promotion. Duke OIT offers simple directions on creating images for DukeFlyer, including the correct custom size.

Learn How to Get Started

LinkedIn Learning, which is available at no-cost to Duke students, staff and faculty (login with your Duke NetID), offers a variety of video trainings on Canva. From learning the basics, to making animations, there are several short video lessons to help you dive deeper into the easy-to-use online tool.

Send story ideas, shout-outs and photographs through our story idea form or write working@duke.edu.

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