How to Use Canva to Create On-Brand Social Media Graphics (Video Tutorial)

One of the most incredibly empowering tools that's debuted in the past couple years for small businesses is Canva. Specifically, Canva for Work.

Canva for Work lets you stay on brand while you create designs for your small business with ease. What you can create is practically endless: everything from trifold brochures to Instagram posts to letterhead – all using your brand's fonts, colors, and assets. It's versatile, convenient, and awesome.

 A peek inside the HDco Canva account

A peek inside the HDco Canva account

In fact, we know from personal experience just how bomb Canva can be for a small biz: we actually make all of our own social media graphics in Canva for Work.

Some of the best parts? Canva  is incredibly intuitive and affordable.

Here's what I mean by intuitive:

When you're a small business owner, you've got to wear a lot of different hats. And if one of those hats is being your own marketing team, you need a solution that you can learn in a reasonable amount of time and actually put in practice. 

Opening up Canva and getting to work feels natural to anyone who's used Microsoft Word or Google Docs. The learning curve is extremely low – meaning that with just a little practice, you'll have mastered the workflow.

And by affordable, I mean $120 for a full year. That's a total steal. 

Professional programs that you'd use to create similar graphics are going to cost you way more – a subscription to Adobe's Creative Cloud (where you'd have access to Illustrator) comes in at $49.99/month – that's $600/year. Ouch!

And, although *ahem* certain bloggers might like to you otherwise, Canva's capabilities cover all bases you'll need as a small biz owner. If you're not running a professional design agency, you don't need professional design software.

A much easier learning curve and waaaayy more affordable price than traditional professional design programs make Canva for Work the hands-down choice for small businesses owners who need to create their own marketing materials.

But! If there's one thing you need to pay super close attention to while in Canva, it's staying on brand.

Ready to see how to use Canva to create on-brand social media graphics?

Video tutorial, coming right up!


Despite what ~some~ bloggers might have you believe, Canva does NOT just make every design look the same or off-brand. It's a HUGELY versatile tool to create on-brand graphics – with WAY less of a learning curve and WAY less cost than using a professional program like Adobe Illustrator. Save your money and your time – Canva is way easier. Click through to read more! | Hoot Design Co.

What staying on brand really means

What exactly does staying on brand mean?

Well, to put it briefly, it's keeping your fonts, colors, image styles, patterns, and language CONSISTENT in everything you do.

Consistency is key to maintaining a strong brand.

You want to get to the point where your customer base can see a graphic or flyer and know it's yours without having to look for your name.

After investing time and money into branding that's perfectly suited to your business, it's absolutely essential that you maintain your brand integrity in everyday use.

 Canva for Work's example of maintaining brand consistency using your own fonts, colors, and assets – image via  Canva for Work

Canva for Work's example of maintaining brand consistency using your own fonts, colors, and assets – image via Canva for Work

The BIGGEST temptation that will draw you off-brand in Canva are pre-made templates. Avoid them!

These templates look awesome. They display really cool quotes, or designs for a birthday invitation, or in an anniversary announcement with trendy fonts, layouts, patterns, and colors. 

So what's the problem? 

Canva’s pre-made designs will never be on-brand for you.

I know! They look so appealing – it can be extremely tough to resist clicking on them to make a quick Instagram post in a cool design. Resist the temptation to use fonts and elements that aren't yours.

Here are a few examples of pre-made templates that are very cool but will almost certainly NOT be on brand for you:


How to stay on-brand– even when you're tempted to experiment

Any time you create a design in your Canva account, you need to make sure you're using ONLY your fonts, colors, logos, and other elements that we've already uploaded for you. That's not going to be the case if you start from a pre-made template.

The good news is that Canva's streamlined interface makes it easy to always implement to your brand elements.

So, if you do choose to work off of a pre-made design, you need to make sure that you convert absolutely ALL fonts and colors to your brand materials. Use your logo, your fonts, and your photo styles – not the ones that Canva has pre-loaded.

Please. 😘

To help you out, I've made a video screencast showing you how to create on-brand graphics in Canva – using our client Meriwether Café & Bike Shop as a perfect example.


Video Tutorial: Using Canva to Create On-Brand Social Media Graphics



And here's a play-by-play breakdown if you prefer reading to watching:

1. Get started by Choosing Your Dimensions

First, log in to your Canva for Work account at canva.com.

Your design team (that's us!) will have already loaded in your brand elements (your fonts, your logos, color palette, and assets like patterns and textures) so you can hit the ground running. (Note: If you didn't work with us, here's how you can upload your brand elements yourself).

After you log in, you'll see a screen where you can choose the dimensions that you want your design to be.

You've got lots of options with dimensions that Canva has already set up for you – from Instagram posts, to perfectly-sized Facebook headers, to tri-folds and flyers.

[Related: How to Create an Effective Facebook Post that Drives Traffic]

Select the design dimensions you want and you're ready to get started.

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 6.35.49 PM.jpg

2. Beginning your design

You'll likely see pre-made designs from Canva filling your screen I left. Once again, resist the temptation to use them.

(If you do want to use a pre-made design, make sure to change EVERY design element to your brand – don't use any of the fonts or colors from the pre-made design.)

Instead, fill in the background with the color of your choice, or drag and drop a photo from your upload section to your background.

You can also upload a completely new photo by simply dragging the image you want over your Canva screen.

[Related: Is Professional Photography Actually Worth It for My Business?]

 Avoid using pre-made designs from Canva – you need to use ONLY your brand fonts, colors, and other elements to stay on brand!

Avoid using pre-made designs from Canva – you need to use ONLY your brand fonts, colors, and other elements to stay on brand!

 Background color: Make sure you choose colors from the BRAND COLORS section!

Background color: Make sure you choose colors from the BRAND COLORS section!

 Choosing a photo from your Uploads section

Choosing a photo from your Uploads section


3. Adding text

On the far left of your screen, choose the text icon. At the top of the column that appears, you'll see your approved brand fonts.

Select "Add heading," "Add subheading," or "Add a little bit of body text" to get started.

Once you've clicked the text style that you want, you'll be able to start typing immediately.

 ALWAYS use  only  your specific brand fonts – don't choose another font, even if it looks super cool in a pre-made design.

ALWAYS use only your specific brand fonts – don't choose another font, even if it looks super cool in a pre-made design.


4. Adjusting text size and color

When you select one of your text boxes, you'll see options for changing your font size, color, capitalization, letter spacing, and even changing line height.

You'll likely recognize the settings from software you used to using, like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, and feel right at home making adjustments.

Adjust everything as needed, until you've got your text sized and colored the way you want.

 Use the highlighted bar at the top of your screen to change your font, size, etc.

Use the highlighted bar at the top of your screen to change your font, size, etc.


5. Adding shapes, icons, or illustrations

If you want to add in shapes, lines, icons, or illustrations, the next thing to do is going to be to choose "Elements" the left side of your screen.

Select the icon that corresponds to the element you're looking for – grids, frames, shapes, lines, etc.

[Related: How to Use the Elements of Art in Your Design]

Clicking one of the options displayed (for example, clicking the circle under "Shapes") will drop the shape directly on top of your design. You'll be able to recolor your element with any of your brand colors. 

To resize your element, click the shape, then drag one of the corner handles to adjust the size of your shape while keeping its dimensions intact.

To adjust the shape's proportions, drag one of the handles on an edge (top, right, bottom, or left) to pull your shape narrower or wider.

You can also recolor your shape (using one of your brand colors, of course!) and adjust your shape's transparency.


6. Downloading your design

When you're satisfied with your design, it's time to download.

In the upper right-hand corner of your screen you'll see a button that says download. Click the button. Now, you'll have the option of downloading your design in a few different formats – JPEG, PNG, PDF Standard, or PDF Print.

 

Here's what each of those options means:

  • JPEG: this file is a standard image type. You'll probably want to use a JPEG if there's any kind of photo in your image.

  • PNG: this is another standard image file type. Use PNGs if the majority of your image is text-based or shape-based. You'd also need to download as a PNG if you want your design to have a transparent background.

  • PDF – Standard: this is PDF intended for web viewing. If you include any links in your design, this is the only file type option that will preserve those links.

  • PDF – Print: use this file type if you'll be sending your design to a professional printer. It will export your file with a color profile and resolution that are better suited to high-quality printing (but create a larger file size).

After choosing the filetype you want, hit download and your design will start downloading to your computer.

 Choose the file type that best suits your purpose.

Choose the file type that best suits your purpose.


7. Use your design anywhere you want

Now that you've downloaded your design, you're all set to use it for social media marketing, your website, print design, or wherever else you'd like to use it.

Mission accomplished. 

 Yay! Use your completed graphic on social media, your website, or anywhere else!

Yay! Use your completed graphic on social media, your website, or anywhere else!


The bottom line:

Canva for Work is an amazing tool for small businesses.

It empowers you to create any type of design you'd need – and stay on brand while you do it.

Canva's capabilities stretch far beyond that of programs you'd purchase if you're not in a professional design field.

And, because it lets you (or your branding agency) specify your brand fonts, colors, patterns, and more, Canva for Work will keep your brand integrity intact – as long as you USE those brand elements in everything you create.

Now get out there and design some killer graphics, people!

– Avery

branding in Columbia, MO | Use Canva to create on-brand graphics
Do you have any questions about using design programs for your small business? Leave them in the comments below, or find us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.



Hoot Design Co. is an advertisingbranding, marketing, and web design agency located in Columbia, MO. We specialize in creating a custom and comprehensive marketing strategy centered around your business's unique strengths – and educating you with the tools you need from day one. From logo design to branding, website design and execution, and ongoing social media marketing and content marketing strategies in-person and through online courses, we're focused on your business success every step of the way.

How to Use Your Brand Board Effectively (Anatomy!)

You've worked with a designer (or created your brand yourself!). You've got your logo. Your colors. Fonts. Textures. Image styles. You've got your entire brand wrapped up and ready to go. 

Now what?

Any designer (or ecourse) worth their/its salt will hand over your files in different formats and present you with guidelines that show how all your elements come together.

Most likely, you'll get this info in a brand board.

Your brand board is a succinct guide reminding you of your brand elements at a glance. But it's useless if you don't understand what to do with it.

The goal of a coherent brand redesign is to make your materials instantly recognizable and attract your dream customer to work with you. So how do a few scribbles and colors on a board help you do that?

Let's break it down. 


Creating brand recognition is an essential part of maintaining your brand. After creating a brand board, you need to use it correctly to keep your brand intact. Brand style guides are like blueprints showing you how to use your brand elements, like fonts, colors, logo variations, icons, patterns, and image styles. Here's how to use your brand board effectively to make a great impression again and again! Click through to save or read more | Hoot Design Co.

Think of your brand board like a helpful, helpful blueprint: You use these colors, these fonts, these textures, and these types of images. Only these types.

If you think I'm being overzealous with my strict commitment to consistency, it's because I've seen WAYYY TOO MANY excellent brands fall apart into complete crap when their brand guidelines are thrown to the wayside!

Consistency is so important that I am prepared to make this absolute statement: A shitty brand that is consistent is 100x more powerful than a GOOD brand that's all over the place.

That's right. Your logo could be in Comic Sans and Papyrus, but if you use your brand elements consistently, over and over again, your audience will be able to recognize your materials right away – and your fugly brand will beat out any beautiful branding that can't keep it consistent.

So let's go over each of those individual parts of your brand to make sure we know how to use each aspect to create an effective whole that sticks with your customers from beginning to end.

Ready to break down the anatomy of a brand board and start using it effectively? Here we go!


After creating a brand board, you need to use it correctly to keep your brand intact. Brand style guides are like blueprints showing you how to use your brand elements, like fonts, colors, logo variations, icons, patterns, and image styles. Here's how to use your brand board effectively to make a great impression again and again! Click through to save or read more | Hoot Design Co.

1. Full Logo

This should appear front and center on your brand board! Your full logo is the standard iteration of your logo. This is the design that will be used most often on your brand materials and should be immediately recognizable.

[Related: What's the difference between a logo, identity, and brand? This is confusing!]


2. Alternative logo layouts

What other elements commonly appear with your logo?  Alternative logo styles show variations including extra elements – like your tagline! – and additional color options for your logo. 


3. Color palette

Color is ESSENTIAL to setting the mood in your branding. Your designer intends for you to use ONLY these colors along with white, unless they specify otherwise by mentioning tints (lighter versions of your colors, made by adding white) or shades (darker versions of your colors, made by adding black).

Keep in mind that the proportion of your colors can set different tones within your brand. Having the ability to style your colors in varying proportions to one another makes your palette versatile!

[Related: Color psychology is a load of BS – here's what you need to know instead]


4. Textures

Some brands may include textures. Textures can make your materials more rich and sensory. These files are most likely provided to you as photos that can make great backgrounds for text or campaigns. Once again, textures must be kept consistent throughout your materials.


5. Submarks (or Icons)

A submark (or for some brands, an icon) is a symbol that can act as a shorthand for your full logo. Oftentimes these are self-contained (in a circle, for example) and feature the first letters or an abbreviation of your business’s name.

Submarks or icons are particularly useful in social media profiles, as a watermark on photos, stickers, pins, or other applications where space is limited.


6. Fonts

A brand’s core fonts must be kept consistent in all materials, including online graphics, printed ads, and signage. 

Brands usually include three core fonts: a hero font (for headings), a support font (for subheadings or emphasis), and a highly legible body font for large areas of text (like paragraphs). These fonts do not change, except to be used in italics or bold (in some applications).

Many brands also use campaign fonts – fonts that are used for just a year or two but are phased out in between campaigns. These fonts often don't appear on a brand board since they're not permanent fixtures of the brand.


7. Patterns

Some, but not all, brands may include patterns that reinforce the mood or theme of the other brand elements. When they’re included, patterns are oftentimes tileable, meaning they can repeat infinitely to cover any area.

[Related: The elements of art—and why they're important to know for your brand]


8. Styled imagery

Including glimpses of the type of photo styling a brand uses helps remind owners and designers alike the aesthetic and quality of photography the brand demands. Black and white or color? Gritty or clean? White space or obscured shadows? Photography plays a huge role in your branding!

[Related: Do I really need to hire a professional photographer?]


9. Dream client reminder!

This is incredibly helpful to include in a brand board! Your brand should be rooted in attracting your dream client, not just any buyer. Including a visual cue to remind you of who you’re targeting is a great way to keep your larger goals in mind when creating individual pieces.

[Related: 3 steps to discovering your dream client – plus a free download]

Your dream client should guide your brand! Don't forget about them when you're designing. | Hoot Design Co.

The bottom line:

Keeping your business on-brand is essential. And your brand style guide is a HUGE help when you use it as a blueprint for all of your materials, whether they're social media graphics or a new sign in your window.

Have you run into trouble using your brand board? What questions do you have? Let us know!




Hoot Design Co. is a marketing, branding, and design agency located in Columbia, MO. We specialize in creating a custom and comprehensive marketing strategy centered around your business's unique strengths and educating you with the tools you need from day one. From logo design to brand identity, website design and execution, and social media marketing strategies in-person and through online courseswe're focused on your business success every step of the way.