Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

From Blank To Beautiful

Just a bit more than a month ago Richard Byrne, educator, speaker and blogger at Free Technology for Teachers tweeted and posted on his blog about a new graphics design tool.  Canva is in invitation beta.  You can request a username at the home page.

Within a day my request was fulfilled with a message arriving in my email.  You are asked to click an Activate button to begin the registration process.  You can sign up with your email address or your Facebook account.

You are next cheerfully prompted by a Welcome screen to begin using the service.  With a single mouse click a new window opens.  At this screen you are invited to learn the basics of Canva.

To begin participate in the offered 5 Starter Challenges.  Page by page you learn how to change colors of an element, search for an image and add it to a picture, add a background, search for a favorite food to add to a page, change a layout and upload an image from your computer.  It's as easy as dragging and dropping from the tool bar on the left-hand side of the page.  Follow the screenshots below.

When the challenge is completed you are congratulated and ready to start creating your own design.

The next window is the dashboard which will appear each time you log in to Canva.  For this first time an explanatory overlay is visible.  It shows three options, create, edit and learn.

Designs offered are:
  • Christmas Card
  • Document (A4)
  • Presentation
  • Blog graphic
  • Facebook cover
  • Social media
  • Card
  • Photo Collage
  • Poster
  • Invitation and 
  • Business card.
Above and to the right of the designs you have the choice to use custom dimensions. At the top of the page you can access their blog for up-to-date news and suggestions, get support by viewing videos, reading articles, conducting a keyword search or submitting a request, and edit your settings or log out.  You can also view any invoices you might have if you choose to use extras offered.  Keep in mind though, this is a free service.  Beneath the design choices you can view your creations, access two tutorials and invite friends (five invitations are given to you).

I decided to begin with creating a greeting card for those students, colleagues and parents who are readers of my blog.  I clicked on the icon for Christmas Card.  When the new window opens the layouts appear first.

There are more than 100 layouts from which to choose.  The first layouts are themed for the holiday template.  When you click on a layout, it becomes outlined in blue and appears on the right.

Then I uploaded images from my computer by clicking on that option on the left.  I was able to drag the images into the template. If you notice the dotted outline, the circles in the corners and circle in the center at the bottom, this element can be resized and rotated.

At the top of the element the icons represent the choice to bring forward, copy, delete, crop and transparent.  To the side of the element the number represents the page and again, you can copy the page.  Beneath this page you can also add another page.

Above this you can name your design, share it on Twitter, Facebook, preview it, undo it, send it or go home.  I previewed my creation before sending it.  It's really neat how the card is presented to viewers.  When you click on send you select Facebook contacts, Gmail contacts or enter in email addresses.

If you choose Download your card as an image or PDF, you are given a URL link, or your design is converted into a png or pdf file automatically, depending on what you choose.  Here is the link to my design so you can see how a card is delivered. (I emailed it to myself so you could view it like this.) The image alone is shown below.

As I clicked through each of the design choices the layout templates continued to change.  The amount of choices is mind-boggling; so many opportunities for making beautiful graphics.  I decided to make a couple of one page presentations to give you an idea of the templates.

If you decide to search for images from their gallery rather than loading your own, they are grouped in categories of:

  • Christmas
  • Lines
  • Banners
  • Grids
  • Text Holders
  • Speech Bubbles
  • Shapes
  • Frames
  • Icons
  • Arrows
  • Infographics
  • Technology
  • Dress Ups
  • Web Wireframes
  • Food
  • Animals
  • Hand Drawn and
  • Travel.
If you wanted to create a presentation for your Mock Caldecott unit, you could use a compare template like this.  Notice that each text box can be moved backward or forward, copied, deleted, have the box color changed or made more transparent.  The font style can be altered, the size changed as well as the color.  It can be made bold or placed in italics, listed or moved to the left, center or right.

For my second single page presentation I decided to focus on memorable moments from 2013.  This was the year I premiered two book trailers, Warning: Do Not Open This Book by Adam Lehrhaupt with illustrations by Matthew Forsythe and Tea Party Rules by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by K. G. Campbell, during the school year we Skyped with Ame Dyckman discussing Boy + Bot, Tom Angleberger and his Origami Yoda books and Lynda Mullaly Hunt spoke with us about One for the Murphys after our entire fifth grade read the book.

At my home in July and August a small book group met.  One of our titles was Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff.  We had an amazing Skype visit with Liesl Shurtliff.  To our great joy we had two successful Mock Caldecott units with the students in Katherine Sokolowski's classes for 2013 and 2014.  One of the most exciting few days though, were spent in Chicago at the American Library Association Annual Conference & Exhibition.  

I have to say last week when my invitation activation arrived for Canva; it was all I could do not to spend the whole weekend trying out all the options.  This is a graphic design web application I can comfortably give high recommendations. I think you and your students will really enjoy using it.


  1. I have become lazy and dropped off my teaching side of following R Byrne. My loss, this looks like a fantastic tool, thanks for sharing about it. I have just been playing with PicMonkey, but will put in a request and hope I get an okay like yourself. Thanks for taking the time to write about it.

  2. And just back to say I have sent in a request. By the way your card is fantastic.

    1. Hello Kathryn!
      You are welcome. I enjoy working with PicMonkey too. This tool has many more options. Wait until you see it! I am hoping your invitation comes as quickly as mine did.
      Thank you for your kind words about the card. I love taking pictures.
      I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and leave comments.

    2. I have the invite, and tomorrow can't wait to have a little tour!

    3. Hooray! I hope you like it, Kathryn.

  3. It's interesting how powerful design can be, and how good tools make design choices easy in the "doing" but impressive in the "viewing." I'd only caution that most sites in beta eventually add a paid element (because they are a business).
    Thanks for the tutorial.

    1. I agree with you completely Kevin on the impact of good design and the tools for creating them. Your point about beta sites adding a paid element is a valid one. This site currently has paid elements but clearly marks those which are free and those which are paid. You are welcome.