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.

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

    1. Thanks so much Charles! I hope it is helpful to lots of people. I love Canva, and have used it about a year now. They have tons of support, but if you have any questions, feel free to contact me. It only makes me smarter! 🙂


    1. That’s very cool. I need to work on one of those, too. 🙂 I’m nervous about that because I still don’t feel like a graphic artist and I don’t know what sells a book. We all judge a book by its cover, and so I say good for you, P.C.!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha, these cartoons are called Bitmoji. You get them on your phone through the App store on Apple and Android. You create your character and then I email the image and save it to my photos for use on my blog. Really easy. You have to use your smart phone though. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

          1. LOL! You are so cute. You pick out the hair, hair color, etc. There is even a wardrobe of clothes you can try. Are on on Iphone? Go to the App store and search for bitmoji. You will have so much fun and be able to make your bitmoji look just like you. ❤

            Liked by 1 person

        1. Cheers back to you Natalie! Thanks for checking out the post. Have you done any of the Canva tutorials. I had not until I wrote the post. Even now, I haven’t done them all. I learned quite a few tips from the nine that I did, and it took about an hour to go through that many since I was already familiar with Canva. Let me know if you might like to do a guest post on my blog about Canva. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Frank, I’m going Whoopeeee! Let me know if you have questions. The support and tutorials on Canva are amazing, but sometimes you wish you had a voice to go with them. 🙂 Good luck with your experimenting in Canva!

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Thanks, Judy. It seems like it adds a bit of polish to photographs that may be ok or even so so. I had some classroom shots today that showed Kiwanis members passing out dictionaries. Since I didn’t have all the members in one shot, I used all the pictures and made a collage as a Facebook Cover photo. It’s much easier to use than Photoshop and the text comes out cleaner. 🙂 Thanks again for reading. Let me know how it works for you.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I feel the same way. One thing I’ve noticed is that I can use my photos over several times in new ways. The other thing I’m learning is from searching for images. I realize that I could take an assortment like the pictures they have on file if I have time. If not. I can buy theirs. What I can’t do is draw, so I’m a sucker for their drawings. 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

  1. I’ve used Canva to create 4 ebook cover images for short stories I’ve published. It didn’t make sense to spend a lot on professionally designed images for stories I make available for free. But if you’re planning to hire a pro to design a cover, you can use Canva to create a preliminary design for the professional to work with. Couple of other points: you can upload your own photos or images sourced from elsewhere (hopefully without copyright violations) and use them with Canva tools. And being able to layer images and use transparency makes it relatively easy to create some pretty nice images. You aren’t billed for Canva elements until you download a design, so you can experiment as much as you like. It really is a great resource.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great comment, Audrey. I used Canva to create my Always Write logo. It looks pretty juvenile, but my web designer took my childish attempts at art and polished it up a bit, and I love it. That way I had a part of the process and way to express myself other than words. Photographs don’t work too well for logos. Again, thanks for the great comment. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This was fab Marsha. Lots of good help for me to start wrapping my brain around this. Bookmarked for referencing. I’m going to try it again. I know where to go with questions! Thanks for having Marsha over Colleen! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the encouraging comment, Deb. You uplift so many of us and introduce us. I would never have met Colleen had you not introduced us on your FB group. I enjoy your FB group so much. I wish I could bring together people so well on Networking Bloggers. I think I have too many irons in the fire to post other people’s links regularly. That’s part of what makes your FB group so great. So thanks for the introduction! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Aw shucks Marsh, thanks for the compliment. It’s a delicate balance trying not to bite off more than we can chew. Just running 2 blogs is enough to keep your busy Marsha. I belong to so many FB groups and don’t have the time to visit them, so, like, social media, I find what mediums work best for me and that’s where I gravitate to. I have 4 groups on FB I spend a bit of time at that keep me busy and spend most of my social media time on FB and Twitter as it seems that is whee my peeps are. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        1. That’s where most of mine are, too. I’ve made quite a few great friends on both through the groups, but it does take time. Have a great week. Let me know when you’re ready to do an interview. Hows the book coming? 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Thanks Marsha. I’ll definitely get back to you. As I had a lot of rewriting to do, I’m hoping to get the book off to the editor by mid next week. As soon as I do, I’ll let you know. ❤

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Some of my topics are travel, journaling, blogging, organization, poetry, writing a nonfiction book, teaching strategies, how to write local history, and book reviews, of course. Let me know if any of those ring your blog’s bells. 🙂 Have a great week, my dear friend. 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so honored Marje! I was just telling Deb how much I love your FB group, and if it hadn’t been for that group and all that you do, I would never have gotten acquainted with Colleen, and had the opportunity to share this post. What a great experience it has been to write a guest post for Colleen. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Very helpful and informative post. Thank you, Marsha and Colleen. I need to spend more time experimenting with Canva. I have seen some good things done with it, including the examples you have both shared here. Charli Mills did some wonderful ones over at the Carrot Ranch too. However, I’ve got some learning to do. I couldn’t see how to download some images that I had made, and changes I made over existing ones, overwrote them rather than saved as new. I’ve bookmarked this great article for future reference. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had to play with it a bit Nora, but once I figured a few things out it’s been great. I find images from Pixabay.com and upload them to Canva. Lots of fun ideas. I used to use PicMonkey but they charge now. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I tend to make my images in PowerPoint. Someone made some in Canva for me, but I can’t figure out how to download and use them. PowerPoint works fine for most of my needs. Pixabay is a great source of photos. I have a few other favourites too.

        Liked by 1 person

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