CANVA Vs. Adobe: A Designer's Perspective
If you want to make money as a blogger or online business owner, graphics and visual content are essential to your success.
How essential? Well… according to my analytics, the majority of my readers will land on this blog post via Pinterest, where I post optimized graphics. Many more will come from Instagram – a platform based almost entirely on visual content. And then there are the 2400+ fabulous individuals who signed up to my e-mail list in exchange for a content upgrade, which I designed and promoted with – you guessed it – graphics and visuals.
The good news is, you don’t need to invest in pricey design software or hire a graphic designer to help you get this stuff done. In fact, there are several different platforms available that will allow you to create everything from social media graphics to e-books quickly, easily, and inexpensively. In this blog post, I’ll be comparing two of the most popular options: Canva and Photoshop.
Canva: Free and paid options available.
The $0 price tag is by far the biggest pro when it comes to using Canva. Although there is an option to pay $12.95/month for Canva for Work, which includes access to a few additional features, you can do all of the important stuff – like create custom graphics from scratch, upload your own images, and build multi-page documents – using the free version.
Photoshop: The least expensive of the Adobe suite.
Photoshop (paired with Lighroom, which is an entirely different can of worms) will cost you $9.99/month, but there is one condition: you’re locked into an annual plan. This means you will be charged a hefty cancellation fee – 50% of the remainder of your contract, to be exact – should you choose to cancel the service.
Canva: The essentials, plus some bonuses.
All of the basic features that you need to create professional-looking visuals are included in both the free and paid versions of Canva, as well as several “nice to haves.”
One thing that I absolutely love about Canva for Work is the ability to upload all of your brand elements into the Brand Kit. This feature is really helpful to ensure that your brand is showing up consistently without cross-referencing and copy/pasting your life away.
If you're a Canva user, grab these customizable brand board templates in Photoshop and Canva format from my shop:
Photoshop: Everything you need… and more.
Generally speaking, Adobe software will allow you to do just about anything your heart desires. With that being said, many of Canva's features seem to have been inspired by Adobe. Having spent hundreds of hours working in both platforms, the similarities are hard to miss, which would make transitioning from one to the other fairly easy.
Canva: Some commercial-free fonts included.
If your brand fonts are commercial-free and happen to be included in the free version of Canva, you’re good to go. Only Canva for Work will allow you to upload custom fonts.
Photoshop: Fully custom based on what’s installed on your computer.
Since Photoshop is a software and not a web-based platform, any font that is installed on your computer will be available to use in Photoshop.
Quality Settings & File Types
Canva: Fine for web, but not okay for print.
The download settings in Canva are super duper simple, and limited to just the essential file types – JPG, PNG and PDF. While that’s great for graphics and e-books, it’s not okay for professional print projects. Here’s why:
Canva documents are exported in RGB format (RGB represents the colours that are displayed by a screen). When you send a document to print, it gets translated into CMYK format (CYMK represents the colours that are printed by ink on paper). Without the ability to specify the exact CMYK colour code within Canva, the printer is likely to produce a colour that doesn’t quite match your brand standards.
For most projects, this is nothing to worry about. For things like magazines, business cards or package designs, I highly recommend that you outsource to a designer or learn how to use Adobe InDesign to export print-quality files.
Canva also exports documents in the lowest file size possible, which can result in pixellation. If you notice that your graphic is a little bit fuzzy, the trick is to double the dimensions of the document before downloading.
Photoshop: Full control over quality.
With Photoshop, you have complete control over the quality and colour settings of your document. However, since Photoshop is pixel-based, you still risk losing quality when your text, shapes and drawings are converted to images.
Layering & Alignment
Canva: Tricky, but useful.
One of my favourite features in Canva are the purple lines that appear while you’re adjusting the position of different objects. These guidelines help to align objects with one another, or arrange them at equal distances.
Sometimes the guidelines in Canva will place your object just a pixel or two away from the most ideal position. Most people wouldn't notice the slight shift, but I do. To avoid any misalignment, however small, I zoom in on each object before making adjustments.
Photoshop: Will achieve pixel-perfect alignment
In Photoshop, the alignment tools are pixel perfect, however not quite as intuitive as the ones available in Adobe Illustrator or InDesign.
Canva: Unlimited folders in Canva for Work.
Canva is set up so that all of your templates are available directly from your dashboard, which makes it easy for things to get messy and disorganized. You have the ability to organize your files into a maximum of two folders, or unlimited folders on Canva for Work. Since I need to manage several sets of templates for my shop on Creative Market, I upgraded for this feature alone.
Again, since Photoshop is a software and not a web-based platform, there is no organizational feature or file structure built in – everything gets organized on your computer.
Need to organize your brand elements? Grab these two customizable brand boards in Photoshop and Canva format from my shop:
Templates & Design Assets
CANVA: Great selection of free and low-cost options.
There are plenty of pre-designed templates, illustrations, icons, and more to choose from in Canva.
With that being said, Canva assets are recognizable. Recently, a friend of mine was showing me Pinterest templates that she really loved, and pointed to one that I recognized as being a free Canva template. With a growing user base, it won’t take long for the majority of your audience to become familiar with Canva’s style, which is why I always recommend creating or investing in custom designs.
Photoshop: Limited selection within the app.
The newest version of Photoshop offers access to templates from within the New Document dialogue box, however there aren’t nearly as many options available in Photoshop as there are in Canva. Adobe does offer a large selection of templates on their website at an additional fee.
Easy to Edit & Repurpose
CANVA: Some limitations.
In order to drag and drop images in Canva, you need to build your templates using image frames. Unfortunately, image frames are not customizable, and only come in select sizes. With that being said, there are dozens of sizes available, and you can crop the frames by hanging them off of the artboard – easy peasy.
Every other modification, such as text replacements or colour changes, is extremely easy to do in Canva.
Photoshop: Very easy.
Everything is customizable, modifyable, and replaceable in Photoshop.
My Verdict: Start with Canva.
Assuming you'll be creating only graphics and freebies, and that you have no interest in becoming a professional graphic designer, I would highly recommend starting with Canva.
You might be wondering... Why would a professional designer recommend Canva over Photoshop? That's a great question! Here's why:
It's just as easy, if not easier, to learn Canva as it is to learn Photoshop from scratch.
You can do everything you need to do in the free version of Canva, and even if you do choose to upgrade, you're not locked into a year-long contract. Full disclosure: I myself have suffered the consequences of cancelling a contract with Adobe, so I may be holding just a little bit of a grudge.
Some of my favourite features in Canva, like the colour palette and alignment tools, happen to function very similarly to Adobe software.
While it's frustrating to be limited to specific image frames in order to utilize the drag and drop feature, the very existence of this feature speaks volumes as to what Canva is all about: empowering the world to design.
Oh, and one last thing... Did you know that Photoshop was not created for, and professionally speaking shouldn't really be used for, creating graphics and printables? People love to "make it work" with Photoshop because it is the most readily available and least expensive Adobe software, but it was developed for drawing and editing pixel-based images – that's it. So, when designers give their clients the side-eye for using Canva (ahem... guilty), it’s important to remember that the next best alternative still isn't quote-on-quote professionally acceptable.
If you're still anti-Canva, I would recommend that you trial Abobe Illustrator or InDesign instead of Photoshop. They're a couple bucks pricier, but for the same learning curve, you'll get much better results.
Still have questions about Canva or Adobe software? Send me DM on Instagram – I would be happy to answer them!