The Internet offers you many tools to solve your problems. It's really good at that. Every year we find that we are able to do things that only a “pro” could do before. Do you want to publish a nice blog post? There is a way. How about collaborating with others on the web? There is Google Drive. The big new thing this year will be Canva, I think.

What is Canva, you ask? It's like Photoshop but free, web-based, and incredibly easy to use. Sure, it's not really Photoshop, but it breaks down the entry barrier for the most common features.

Canva is designed to create quick and impressive shareable posts that integrate images with text in interesting ways. Get a background or pick something premade from Canva, add some text, edit it, make it look pretty, and it's ready to share with the world. Canva already offers templates with appropriate resolutions for Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram posts. You can also choose a presentation slide or decide the resolution yourself.

Screenshot 08 02 2015 at 20:23 52 Result

What can you use it for?

From the top of my head:

  • Create a Stunning Facebook Page Cover
  • Thumbnail images for your YouTube videos
  • Cards for all kinds of occasions
  • They even have built-in templates for things like eBook covers and business cards.
  • Combine text and images in a beautiful way to create shareable posters or images, promote articles, and more.
  • Find another Canva user's image interesting? Click the Remix button to build on it

There's a lot you can do with Canva and if you're looking for inspiration, check out Canva's content feed created by other great people (you need to be logged in). Canva is available on the web and there is also an iPad app.

But I say the best way to learn is by doing. So create a free account, choose a template (let's start with the Presentation slide) and meet me on the next step. To get started, let's create a cliched motivational poster with a faded scenic background and text overlay. A classic.

Step 1: Import a background or find one

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Canva has an extensive library of background images, shapes, solid colors, icons, arrows, and glyphs (over a million). Just search for a keyword and you will find something. Some items are free while others are paid (usually $1). If you can't find something in the free tier, download a royalty-free image from one of these stock image sites (plus, Canva itself has a list of 74 other such sites ).

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In the sidebar, click Background and choose one or upload an image from the Uploads tab. Once the image is uploaded, it will be stored in your Canva account. Now drag the downloaded image from the sidebar to the image editing panel.

Step 2: Changing the background image

Now you will see the image is highlighted and you will see four endpoints on each edge. Click and drag it to resize or rotate the image. When the image is active, you will see a popup window. This will be common to all elements.

Transparency result

Pretending to be creative: Let's face it, you're not a great designer. You don't care about kerning. You do, however, want to create things that are slightly beautiful. So pretend. Or steal it. Canva itself promotes this philosophy. From the Layout you can grab many ready-to-use templates. Canva also has a Remix button where you can take a publicly shared Canva post, import it into your account, edit it, and expand it. The goal here is to quickly create something awesome that you would normally need to pay someone else for. See that image at the top of the message? Remixed from an image seen on the Canva blog.

Pro Edition Result

Here, a pop-up window will show options to remove images, move the image forward or backward, copy, or select a color if it's a solid background.

The Filter option brings Canva even closer to the Photoshop category. Not only can you apply pre-configured filters, but you can also access Advanced and manipulate options like brightness, contrast, saturation, hue, and more.

There is also a blur and vignette effect. If you plan to add text over the image, choose these options to make the text stand out.

Step 3: Add text

Text is kind of a big part of the whole shareable image phenomenon. And Canva makes that really easy. Go to Text and you will see cool presets ready for you. Just drag one over the image, select the text, edit it, and that could be it.

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Or you can choose each text field and get options to change font, font color, transparency, case, alignment and more.

To make text stand out, find a shape, drag it to the text field, press back on it, and reduce the transparency after selecting a neutral color.

You can also mix two background images this way to create a textured effect.

Screenshot 2015 02 10 To 12 54 22 Am Result1

If you don't want to use the presets, you can just drag the text boxes you see at the top of the sidebar.

And you don't have to stop at the text. Add arrows, quotes, lines, shapes and more to bring out the character of your image.

Create a Copy: When playing around with Canva, you'll want to experiment with different layouts and styles. Use the Copy to the right of the image to create a copy of the current version of the file. This way it is easier to compare later.

Step 3: Share, Download, Do More

Your image is ready. But it's never really ready . You can do so much more with Canva. In fact, people far more experienced in the art form have written about it, as Canva has its own design school. I suggest you check it out. I've been spending some time there lately and I've already learned quite a bit about typography.

What we created above was just a base image. But it only took a few minutes to do it on the web, and for free. Moreover, we did it without any prior training in professional photo editing software.

How are you going to use it?

Example: A quick little social media share image I created for the Poetic Slimline iPad mini case review with Canva.

What new and wonderful ways do you envision using Canva? Share with us in the comments below.