Any business function, especially digital marketing, is heavily reliant on graphic designs. Presentations, brochures, social media graphics, all need to be designed fast and look good. But like most business owners, you may not be trained in design concepts and tools or afford to hire a designer.
What is Canva?
Canva is an online tool that allows you to create almost any kind of design in minutes, with its simple user interface, drag-and-drop builder, and libraries of templates, fonts, and photos.
Canva has both free and paid versions.
The focus of this post will be to review whether the Canva Pro pricing is worth it for small businesses with limited budgets. Or if the free version is enough.
The basic features that are included in both free and paid versions of Canva are:
- Drag-and-drop editor
- Prebuilt templates for different design needs
- Image libraries: stock photos, graphic elements, backgrounds
- Audio and video libraries
- Integration with apps like Google Drive, Google Photos, Dropbox, Google Maps, Pexels, Pixabay, Hubspot, and many more
If you are familiar with details of the free version, skip to Canva Pro Features.
What can you make on Canva?
You can use Canva to create almost any kind of design, for business use (presentations, business cards, invoices, letterheads), or marketing (social media posts, ebooks, workbooks, ads).
These are the most basic elements that you can create, but there are also more. There are prebuilt templates for all kinds of designs.
You can use Canva to create any design for all your small business marketing needs.
Here is a snapshot of some of the designs that can be created.
How to use Canva?
You can create a design in Canva in two ways:
- Customize a template
- Start from scratch
Customize a template
- Sign up for a Canva Pro free trial.
- Choose a template from the template section or search for one in the search bar.
- Edit the colors, fonts, and text as you want.
Start from scratch
- Click on Create a Design.
- Choose the size of your image.
- Drag and drop elements from the left-hand panel to create your graphic. You can choose photos, illustrations, stickers, backgrounds, text, audio, and videos.
Download the image as a PNG or JPEG file.
Check out this video tutorial if you have not used Canva before and want a quick training on how to work with this software.
What is Canva Pro?
Canva Pro is the low-tier premium version of Canva which includes a ton of more features and benefits than the free version of the software. Canva Pro was earlier called Canva for Work.
Canva also has an Enterprise plan, which is mostly used by big businesses.
Canva Pro Features
Canva Pro offers tons of intuitive features that make graphic designing available for everyone, irrespective of the skill level or experience.
In Canva free, to create different graphics for different needs (even for different social media posts), you would have to create two designs one by one by copying and pasting. In Canva Pro, you just do it with one click. Save time and create content for multiple platforms with minimum effort.
You can also do magic resizing for custom dimensions.
Whichever template you decide to base your design on, you will have to customize the colors and fonts as per your brand look and feel. The Canva Brand Kit Pro allows you to save all the brand elements that you created from your brand story. You’ll be able to access and apply these easily every time you create a new design.
In the free version, you can only save one brand color palette with 3 colors. In Canva Pro, you can save unlimited palettes with unlimited colors.
You can also save and use your brand fonts, which you can’t do in the free version.
Sometimes you need just a part of an image and want the rest of it to disappear. For e.g., if you want to get a portrait style of a person and remove the background clutter. Canva Pro makes that really simple.
You may want to animate some of your static images, especially for visually-heavy social media like Instagram and Pinterest. You can use the animated feature of Canva Pro to create these animated images and GIFs.
This is perhaps one of the best tools that Canva Pro offers. The scheduler will allow you to schedule your content through the graphics you create on Canva, to 7 different platforms. You can automate your social media marketing so you can spend your valuable time actually running your business. Plus, you save on the hassle and cost of having a dedicated tool for scheduling your social media.
From April 2021, you can schedule your content to Instagram as well. Earlier the social media platforms included were:
If you have been sharing your business on social media, you would already have lots of visual media already created. Whether you are an organized person or not, I bet you would hate having to scroll through all of those to find the one you want.
You get only 2 free folders in Canva free, and your designs are saved in descending order of date. So to find an old design, you have to hunt through your folders and your dashboard. Having the option to create unlimited folders in Canva Pro and save your designs in an organized way makes work really efficient.
If you are a small business owner with a co-founder or a small team, or even if you have friends/ family helping you with graphic design, this feature may be helpful for you. In Canva free, you can create teams and collaborate on projects in real-time, designing and sharing comments. But only in Pro, not only are the team functions more enhanced, but you can also design custom templates for your brand and share them with your team.
Canva free vs paid
Besides all the Canva Pro features, an additional difference between Canva and Canva Pro are the size of the libraries in both: for templates, fonts, photos, and graphic elements such as shapes, icons, and stickers.
Canva vs Canva Pro can then be summed up into the following graphic.
How much is Canva Pro?
A yearly plan with Canva Pro costs $119.95, which would be $9.99 a month. A monthly plan is slightly higher, at $12.95/ month. The advantage of a monthly subscription, of course, being that you can cancel at any time.
Canva is free for nonprofit organizations.
How can Canva Pro meet your small business needs?
Some of the biggest challenges of small business owners that Canva addresses are:
- Limited budget.
- Limited skills to work on all aspects of the business, including design.
- Limited time to get everything done.
Designing premium-looking, branded graphics, especially social media posts, would normally require the following resources:
• An offline designing software like Adobe. Price/ month: $21 (for individuals, for only one software. For businesses or multiple apps, the price is much higher). Or an online design software (more on this below in Canva Pro alternatives), which would also be a minimum of $8-$9/ month, to get similar features as Canva.
• A library of premium images from a photo library like Shutterstock. Price/ month: $29 (10 images)
Note: Of course it’s possible to use free images from websites like pexels.com or unsplash.com. But millions of other businesses are also using the same free images, so would be difficult to differentiate your brand and positioning.
• A social media scheduler like Buffer or Hootsuite. Price/ month: $15
Total cost per month: $43 - $55
Canva Pro is a one-stop solution for all the above needs. Price/ month: $9.95/. Safe to say that the Canva Pro pricing is quite affordable if you want to use Canva for your business.
Sometimes small business owners have to work on all aspects of their business themselves, including SEO, messaging, and design. Even if you do have the software installed to create your own designs, you may not have the right skills or knowledge to actually do them yourself.
And if you have to hire an external designer to create your graphics as you are not familiar with designing software, then the cost is much higher, of course.
With Canva Pro, you don’t need any special skills. It doesn’t matter whether you can use other graphic designing tools or not. You just open Canva Pro, and the onboard instructions will help you get through the basics. Plus, there are tons of tutorial videos online that’ll help you if you get stuck.
Because of Canva's very simple interface. huge template library (social media templates being particularly helpful), and easy drag-and-drop builder, you can easily do the designs yourself. Sometimes all you have to do is change the colors and fonts in a prebuilt template and your design is ready in a few minutes. Very helpful when you have to create multiple social media posts.
So economically, it makes a lot of sense to get Canva Pro. But only if you need to design lots of graphics, quickly and easily.
Not sure how it actually works?
Limited time (how Canva helps me)
While with Canva Pro you will have to shell out that extra $10/ month, in the end, you save so much time on creating your graphics, that it’s definitely worth it.
Even if you have a friend/ partner who is helping you to design the graphics, Canva Pro can help. I have a design background myself, I have Photoshop & Illustrator installed on my PC, and yet most of the designs on my website and social media are designed on Canva.
This is how Canva Pro saves me a HUGE amount of time:
• Resizing images
In Canva free, I would want to resize an image while working on it, but I couldn’t. I had to create a fresh design from start. THAT was frustrating. Also had to look up the latest dimensions for each type of social media post first, and then create separate designs, one by one.
Had to set aside at least a few days a month, for creating social media graphics!! Waste of my precious time.
Canva Pro's Magic Resize option offers you the latest dimensions specifically for different social media platforms. For example, you’ll find sizes labeled as ‘Facebook Post’, ‘Instagram Post’, ‘Facebook Cover Photo’. You can just choose the one you want, and it will instantly resize your design.
• Efficiency by organization
Because I create so many images on Canva, having 3 folders was a bit limiting as my past designs would get lost somewhere and I would have to hunt for them. Now all my designs are neatly organized, and I can find any in a jiffy. Just like on my PC.
• Social media posting
With the content planner, it is so handy to create my social media graphics and post them directly from the software! I don’t have to spend time downloading them on my laptop and then uploading them again on Hootsuite.
In full disclosure, I haven't used a lot of transparent backgrounds or animated GIFs. But if I had, these features would have been definitely handy!
Canva Pro alternatives
Of course, Canva is not the only designing software you can consider. Among the online marketing design tools, the most popular ones are Picmonkey, Crello, Pictochart, and Adobe Spark. Whereas for offline, Adobe tools like Photoshop and Illustrator are the key alternatives to Canva.
Canva vs Picmonkey
Picmonkey and Canva are both relatively easy to use. But Picmonkey is primarily a photo editing software, whereas Canva is most apt for graphic design. Some other differences are that unlike Picmonkey, Canva has thousands of free templates, and offers a free plan.
Picmonkey is like the online version of Photoshop, with much lesser features than Photoshop, a beginner-friendly interface, and an easier learning curve. It is, however, not as easy to use as Canva.
Canva vs Crello
Crello is also an online graphic design software. But neither does it have close to as many templates as Canva, nor the integrations with multiple third-party apps. Its libraries of photos, fonts, etc., are also much more limited than Canva's.
Canva vs Piktochart
Like Canva, Piktochart is also an online graphic design tool, but it focuses more on infographics, reports, and presentations. Whereas on Canva you can create more than 50 types of designs. Piktochart's free plan only gives you 40MB space, only 5 visuals to create. This tool also does not offer a free trial for the Pro plan, and at $24/ month, is more expensive than Canva.
Canva vs Adobe Spark
Adobe Spark, like Canva, is also an online designing platform, and they share a similar price point ($9.99 compared to Canva's $9.95). Spark, however, has only 26,000 templates compared to Canva's 420K, and focuses on social media posts, videos, and web pages. Canva, as we saw before, covers a huge range of categories for different business needs.
Canva vs Photoshop
Photoshop is one of the best photo editing tools ever created. There are barely any limits to how you can edit an image in Photoshop. Plus it has multiple options of brushes, textures, and effects that can really transform a picture. It is not technically a graphic design tool, though you can create graphics with it.
What differentiates Photoshop mostly from Canva is that Photoshop doesn't come with pre-existing templates, you really have to be a designer/ artist to use it, it has a very steep learning curve.
Canva vs Illustrator
The biggest difference between Canva and Illustrator is that while Canva is mostly used for flat, image formats (PNG, JPEG) only, Illustrator can also be used for vector formats (icons, shapes, text). Illustrator is an advanced software for creating high-quality, scalable graphics and complex layouts that can also be printed in big sizes.
Like Photoshop, as it is used mainly by those with a moderate design background, it doesn't provide prebuilt templates, and designs have to be created from scratch on a blank artwork.
Summary: Who should use Canva?
Canva's library of templates, photos, and fonts, as well as its easy of use, are unmatched by any other tool.
It is perfect for non-designers who want to create beautiful, branded, graphic designs easily and quickly. Especially for digital use.
Hardly any design skills are required to use Canva, which makes it perfect for diy graphic design. You can just choose a template out of 420,000, change the font and colors, and you're good to go!
How to get Canva Pro for free?
You can get all the features of Canva Pro free for 30 days.
Step 1: Go to canva.com, and create a free account
Step 2: Select the Pro plan, and click Try for free.
Step 3: Enter your credit card details, and get started with your free Canva Pro account!
Don’t worry. Your card will only be charged after 30 days. If you don’t think it helps you, then just cancel your trial and account at any time.
Canva for commercial use
As a small business owner, you may have the question:
“Can I use Canva images and fonts for commercial use?”
You can use Canva Pro designs on your website and all marketing material. But be sure to check out the exact terms and conditions for each type of usage before you publish them.
Limitations of Canva Pro
Most of the features of Canva Pro are very user-friendly and helpful. There are a few aspects which can be a bit limiting at times, depending on your needs.
• Only works online
If you need to work on a design quickly, and the internet is slow, it can be a challenge. But if the internet is not good, a lot of other work aspects are also challenged, so this may not be so much to worry about.
• Image keyword search is not very intuitive
Looking for the perfect image for your design may need a bit of trial and error as the keyword search is not very optimized. You have to try different versions of the keyword to get the image you want.
• Photo editing is limited
As mentioned earlier, Canva is not an image editing software like Photoshop. So while you can add some basic filters, crop, and resize images, you can’t do heavy-duty image editing in Canva.
But on the flip side, the Canva photo library is huge, so you have more chances of finding the perfect image which doesn’t need much work.
Is Canva Pro worth it? My review as a small business owner.
First of all, I would definitely, emphatically, recommend every small business to use Canva, at least for your social media graphics (we know we always need a ton of them).
Now the question is of Canva Pro.
Earlier we talked about limited budgets and limited time. These have definitely proven true for me, especially time. I can use Photoshop and Illustrator easily, but I still prefer using Canva as it’s so much more convenient.
In a nutshell, if you want to occasionally create a few designs then Canva Free will be enough for you.
If you're a photographer/ artist/ graphic designer, then you know already, Canva is not as powerful as the Adobe Creative suite.
But if you’re a business that needs to create a lot of high-quality designs, quickly, for example, for content promotion, then Canva Pro is definitely worth the investment.
I wouldn’t recommend using Canva to create your logo. Your logo is not just a design, it is the identity of your brand, and should reflect your complete brand story. For this I would recommend hiring a graphic designer who can put real thought and professional experience into creating a perfect visual identity for you. It is a one-time investment, so think about it.
For me, Canva has been a real game-changer. I save so much time on getting so much done, exactly how I want it for my brand! I really wouldn’t know what to do without it anymore.
Have you tried Canva Pro yet? What has your experience been? Did you continue with the paid Canva Pro account or stop after the free trial? Share in the comments below!