Ultimate Guide to Using Canva to Make Social Media Graphics

Canva.com is the most popular online graphic design tool — with good reason: it’s free, and incredibly simple to make great designs without being a photographer or graphic designer.

It does have a learning curve however: it’s user interface is unlike anything else you’ve likely ever used before.

So in this ultimate guide, I’ll show you how to use Canva to do the basics like choose a template and add an image & text to it, and then we’ll move on to specific designs like a Facebook Timeline Cover, collages, YouTube thumbnails & more.

Bookmark or pin this post: it’s a long one, and you’ll want to return to it when you’re ready to make your next marketing graphics.

Let’s get started: use this Table of Contents to jump to the section of this guide you’re interested in:

Learn Canva Basics

Choose a Template or Custom Dimension

One of the best features of Canva is the fact that you never need to remember what size image dimensions you need for a particular social network.

What size is your Facebook Timeline cover?

Forget about it.

What size is your LinkedIn post?

You don’t need to know. 

Canva takes care of it for you (so you can toss all those infographics telling you what size images you need for every social network).

In Canva, everything starts with a template. That’s one its unique features that makes it easy. Templates allow you to have a pre-made design space, already correctly sized for social media posts, Facebook Ads, Youtube Thumbnails, Facebook Covers, and more.

Or if you want to have more freedom, you can just use your own custom dimensions.

Here is how to choose your template:

  • From the Canva Home Page, you’ll see a few pre-made options at the top, and any designs you’ve already created below them. Choose the More option on the right side to view all of the templates Canva has to offer:

  • Once you choose More, you’ll be able to see all of Canva’s available templates. From here, just choose which one best fits your needs.

Don’t see a template you like? From the Home Page you can choose Custom Dimensions and create the exact size that you need.

Choose an Image or Upload Your Own

Canva provides a huge library of free and paid stock images to use in your graphics.

To view these images, do this:

  1. On the main edit page, select Elements on the left sidebar.
  2. Select Free Photos. You’ll be able to see and search all of Canva’s free stock images.
  3. Once you find an image you want to use, either click on it to place it  in your template, or click and drag it to place it in a precise location.

Don’t see what you’re looking for? Search for it. Canva allows you to search through it’s vast collection with ease:

While Canva has a plethora of readily-available stock images and templates, you may want to use your own: say an image of a new product or a photo from an event.

Here’s how to upload your own images into Canva:

  1. On the main edit page, select the Upload Panel on the left side.
  2. Select Upload Image, and choose which image you want to bring into Canva.
  3. Once you have your image that you want to use, you can either click on it to make it appear in your template, or click and drag it to place it precisely where you want it:

Resize and Crop in Canva

Once you have you template and your chosen image, it’s time to make your graphic. If you need to change the size of your image in relation to the template, here is how:

  1. In the corners of your image, you’ll see dots. Simply select one of these dots and click and drag to resize the image.
  2. To move the image, click in the center and drag it to where you want it to be.

Sometimes you will want to crop your image to better fit your needs. Here is how:

          1. Select your image, then click Crop in the top Toolbar:

          ​​​​​2. Click and drag the corners to adjust the cropping.

          3. Click the Checkmark to save your work:

Add Text to Your Images

Adding text overlays to images can be a great way to communicate with your clients.

Here’s how to add text to your images:

  1. Choose the Text Panel on the left side.
  2. Select a text size option from the panel, like heading or subheading, then simply drag it over to your image.
  3. To change the text options, use the toolbar at the top to adjust font, color, and size:

Add a Watermark to Your Image

Adding a watermark to your image can be essential for a small business: it promotes your brand, while also protecting your images from being stolen. Using Canva, you can easily add a watermark to give your images their own branding.

In order to add a watermark to your image, you can either use a simple text box in Canva, or use a water mark you have already created., I show you how to create a standalone watermark in PicMonkey here.

Let’s get started:

To create a simple watermark in Canva:

  1. Select the text size and font that you want to use for your watermark. 
  2. Position the text box where you want it to sit on your graphic. 
  3. Type your text! It can be your name, your business name, or anything else that you want to use as a watermark. 
  4. Use the Transparency Slider to adjust the opacity of your new watermark:

If you want to use a watermark you have already created in another program, here’s how:

  1. Upload your watermark image to Canva.
  2. Click and drag your watermark onto the image.
  3. Resize and place your watermark where you think it looks best on your image.
  4. Use the Transparency Slider to adjust the opacity of your watermark:

Downloading Your Image

When you have finished making your image, you’ll want to save it to your computer. That way you have immediate access to it and can upload it to your social media sites.

Here’s how to download your final product:

  1. Select Download in the top right corner.
  2. Select your file type. I suggest using either PNG or JPG, as they are best suited for general use.
  3. Canva will save the image to your Downloads folder on your computer:

Create a Facebook Cover Image

Whether it’s for your business page, or simply for your personal profile, every Facebook page needs a cover photo.

Here’s how to create your cover:

  1. From the Canva Home Page, choose the Facebook Cover Template.
  2. If you just want a text based cover, choose a template option from the Layout Panel:

3. Change the elements of the template to something that works for you! Switch the colors, and alter the text to make your perfect cover photo:

Want to add an image to your cover? Its easy! Just upload the image you want to Canva, then drag and drop it to where you want it on your cover:

Create a YouTube Video Thumbnail

A YouTube thumbnail is the still image appearing as the cover of your video. It can be a still frame from the video itself, or one you’ve created outside of the video.

In this example, I’ll show you how to use a template to create a thumbnail using one of your photos.

1. From the Home page, select More>>YouTube Thumbnail:

2. Choose a template from the left-hand side. Pick one that uses an image so you can easily insert yours:

3. Upload the image you want to use, and drag and drop it into the image. You can move elements of the template around to better fit your image. You can move text, change colors, and add and remove elements to personalize your graphic. Here, I changed the text, moved the text boxes, added my own image, and changed the color of the background box behind the small text:

Create a Collage for Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest

1. Choose the Find Templates panel and search for “Collage.”

2. Select the Template that best fits your needs. 

3. Upload your images, and drag and drop them into the collage. Change the text to fit your needs, and you’ll have a great looking photo collage:

You can also search for specifically-sized collages, for things like Facebook Covers and Instagram posts.

Want something without pre-made text boxes? With the Grid feature, you have dozens of collage templates to choose from, and you can add your own text later to get your collage exactly how you want it.

To use the Grid feature:

  1. Choose what template size you want.
  2. Click the Elements Panel and choose Grids.
  3. Choose what grid works best for you.
  4. Go to the Uploads Panel, then simply drag and drop your images to the boxes:


Canva is a great social media tool that doesn’t require any experience or large amounts of your time. It can help you create great looking graphics for your business, and put you a step ahead of the competition. I also recommend reading my PicMonkey article to learn how to edit photographs. These two articles used together can help make you a social media rockstar.

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