Special Guest Post: “Using Canva Like an Expert,” by Marsh Ingrao

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In today’s busy writing, blogging, and marketing world there is one constant – We do our best when we learn and share with each other. I have been blessed to belong to one of the best author/blogging communities around the web. Today, I begged asked, Marsha Ingrao, to share with my readers her tutorial on how to use Canva. I can attest that it works because I created the graphic above from her instructions on canva.com. ❤

fairy dust wand

What to Do When You Need an Expert Graphic Artist

Authors need to create or hire an expert graphic artist to create book covers, headers or illustrations for marketing on their blog and on social media. They may be asked to speak somewhere, and they have to create a flyer.

Their blog post may require an infographic like the one below. The problem is that many of us who write do not have an artistic bone in our bodies. Worse, we may be operating on a tight budget that doesn’t include hiring an artist.

The good news is that we don’t have to.


The Trade-off to Finding an Expert Graphic Artist

You could exchange work with an artist who can’t write, but that’s hard to find.

Others of us have sneaky ways of being an expert graphic artist. Mine is Canva.com.

You can use any photo editing program you wish. Some people swear by PicMonkey. Others put their nose in the air and tell you that only Photoshop or other Adobe products will work. I’ve tried both of those, but I choose Canva.

Reasons I Recommend Canva

  1. It’s free.
  2. The text comes out clean. When I use Photoshop, large text is pixelated.
  3. The templates are pre-sized.
  4. Photos and clip art are free or no more than $1.00. But there’s more.
  5. Canva has 30 hands-on tutorials to teach the art of being an expert graphic artist. You can learn the basics of illustrating in about an hour or two just by going through the step-by-step slides and making the changes they suggest right in the example. If you don’t get it, there’s a clue link that shows you how or why you do that task. Some of you are probably going to drop out right now and spend an hour studying.

But don’t go away, just yet. Bookmark the tutorials because you may go back time and time again. Here are a few quick tricks from the tutorials you can use as a writer.

Simple Steps to Start Using Canva.

  1. If you have pictures, upload them.
  2. Choose the type of media you are creating from the templates. If you don’t find what you want, you can create a custom size.
  3. If a preloaded template works for you, it takes about 5 minutes or less to change the text.
  4. Without a model, you will see a blank screen. On the left side of the screen is a menu. One of the choices is “Background.” You can choose a design background or stick with plain. Pick your background color. There should be a tiny box at the top with a color sample. Click on the box and

  5. change the color.
  6. Insert your uploaded picture by clicking on it or dragging it over to the screen. Tips for using pictures.
  7. Size the image until you are satisfied with the look. You can choose frames from the menu and picture snap into them. I wish physical frames worked as well as these virtual ones.Or you can click in a group of pictures using the menu called” Elements, then Grids”
  8. You can add elements, another menu. I like to add boxes of different colors. Lines draw the eyes to where you want them to go as well.
  9. Add text.
  10. Download your beautiful project. If you have the free version, I think you have limited choices of formats. I always used jpeg. For $10 a month upgrade, you get other choices like png.

Tip One KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid)

To a teacher “stupid” is the ultimate cuss word, but to myself, it’s a great reminder.

Before the Tutorials


This example is pretty simple. I used a template for the text, and I like the look. However, it does not have the importance that the title indicates. This is not a party library even though I might have a party personality and like the font.

This is an A+ library. The best books, the best authors reside here in my hand-picked collection for you.

The insinuation here is that if you are in this top-rated collection, then you must be a pretty good author.

After the Tutorials


After I worked through this lesson, I changed my Always Write photo above by taking out some of the stars. I also changed the font to make it more scholarly rather than partying at the library.

The tutorial suggests that using large and small fonts together is good. Combining bold or italics and normal fonts add interest.

Canva recommends changing the letter spacing so that the large and the small lettering covered about the same width. So I made that change after reading another tutorial. The spacing button is on the top bar to the right of where you find the color box. If you can’t find it, click “Need a Clue.”

Tutorial six teaches about aligning the words to make a point or fit the photo. You also learn to enlarge the font of the most important words. The main font should fill the space.

Which of the two do library illustrations do you think is more useful and why?


Tip Two: Use Grids

In the second lesson of the tutorials, you crop pictures and put them into virtual grids. I experimented with several grid templates as I wrote this post.

Grids are fun and easy. You drag your uploaded picture or a Canva picture to the canvas, and if you put it in just the right place, it pops right into the grid, like a cracker into someone’s mouth.

You don’t have to crop the picture. It will snap into place no matter what size it is, but unless the photo is the roughly the same shape as the grid, it distorts.


Therefore, if you want to crop it first to get the parts you like best to show, then drag it, to the canvas, but don’t move it until it clicks.

Sally Cronin asked me to do a guest post on her blog. I had never thought about advertising before the fact until just recently.

Why not, authors? Make announcements on your Facebook Page, Twitter, Linked In and other social media with a Canva collage of pictures you might use. In this case I used pictures that did not all get included. I liked the pictures, but couldn’t find a place for them in the post.

Here’s another tip. Sneak in a bit of your brand, even on a guest post. See the touch of turquoise? That’s me!


Tip Three: Color

This next slide was simply a fun creation to teach the use of analogous colors or three colors next to each other on the color wheel. The slide is a template, which makes it super simple to use.

Speaking of Color: KISS Again


You will recognize the next picture which illustrates a couple of elements.

By the way, when I use only one picture, I don’t go to the effort of using a grid. However, I notice that my top and bottom borders are different sizes. Don’t worry if you have an astigmatism. Grid lines come up to tell you when you’re in the zone.

The suggestion of keeping colors simple and choosing only three makes this picture striking.

To eliminate most of the colors, I experimented with Canva filters.

After I used the filter, I changed the background color to match the darkest blue in the picture. I had to do this by sight, but you can use hex codes if you already know the color you want. The hex code appears when you hover over the color button.

Next, I matched the text to the slightly yellow clouds. Compare this to the canva project above with the same picture. Which do you like better? It gives me two ads to use without spending very much time on the second one.

What to do When Something Is a Bit Off


This is a newsletter infographic. You can buy all sorts of pictures that contain computers. They are only a dollar from Canva but why not take several pictures of your own computer?

In this next example, I chose three colors from the photo, and the green just happened to match the wire basket on my table as well as the picture on the computer.

This photo had a problem. When I tried to insert my photo into the screen, it would not align with both the top and the sides.

So, I solved that problem by adding a black rectangle “element” to cover the screen, then inserting the photo on top of the “new” black screen. Unfortunately, I need to go back and resize my new screen.

In order to pick out details, you can enlarge your workspace on Canva, but sometimes I don’t think I need to do that for a quick fix. In this case, I should have.

Interestingly though, the alignment mistake turned out to the good. I can now change the picture to reflect the topic of what I’m writing. Maybe it’s my book cover or a picture from the book.


I hope you see how versatile this tool can be. You can upgrade to get a few other amenities like additional downloadable formats. Trust me, you don’t ever need to upgrade to do what I showed you today. It took about an hour to read through the first nine tutorials, upload a few photographs, and create these illustrations.

For questions, you can email me at tchistorygal@gmail.com.

If you would like me to create Canva images for you, I can do that too, for a fee. However, why not do it yourself? You, too, can be an Expert Graphic Artist.


Thank you, Colleen, for inviting me to write a guest post for your blog. I hope your readers love it. 🙂

Marsha 🙂

Related Articles

How to Use Canva to Create Easy Social Media Posts in 2017

How Canva.com Turned Me into a Graphic Artist

Marsha Ingrao


Marsha Ingrao researches tips for bloggers, writers, and photographers to keep them moving forward toward their goals. A former teacher and instructional consultant for 25 years, Ingrao experiments and gives readers the heads-up regarding best practices for their blogs. As a reader, she reviews books and provides additional exposure for indie and traditionally published authors. As a teacher, she trains virtual assistants to provide services, especially in social media. Ingrao has one book published by Arcadia Press, and one self-published by Lulu.


Special Delivery Thanks for stopping by to meet Marsha. Now get creating on Canva.com.


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