Reviewed by Colleen Hoelscher, Trinity University [PDF Full Text]

Canva is a web-based application that provides tools and templates for non-designers to create attractive graphics. The company was founded in 2012 in Australia, and today has over 30 million registered users.[1] In addition to the browser interface, Canva offers Android, iOS, and Windows desktop apps.

Free accounts include one gigabyte of cloud storage and access to over 8,000 templates. Canva Pro accounts start at $9.95/month, and include 100 gigabytes of cloud storage, access to additional templates and graphics, allow for sharing and collaboration within one’s team, and the ability to save fonts and color palettes as part of a brand. A particularly nifty feature available for users with Canva Pro accounts is “one-click design resize,” where a design can be resized for multiple social media platforms automatically. Pro accounts are available for free for non-profit organizations.

Canva templates are grouped by design type—poster, flyer, business card, Twitter post, Facebook header, etc. Users can also keyword search the entire template library, or create a design with custom dimensions. Once a template has been selected, the user can replace the text and images with their own content. Templates are also easily customizable to change colors and fonts to match your institution’s branding. Editing a design is as easy as pointing and clicking with your mouse or stylus. Designs can be downloaded as PNG, JPG, or PDF files, or be published directly to third-party apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

A graphic created for social media using Canva. The author uploaded her own photograph to use with a Canva template for Twitter posts.

Canva is easy to use and accessible to anyone with a computer or smartphone. At a cursory glance, it seems to have templates and graphics for any possible need. In fact, this abundance of resources is the greatest challenge with using Canva: keyword searches often return too many choices, and there are no options for filtering or faceted browsing of search results. It is easy, however, for users with free or paid accounts to upload their own images and graphics to use in designs.

Archivists will find myriad uses for Canva. Of course, it can be used to create attractive graphics for social media, customized to the correct dimensions to display best on any given platform. Beyond that it can be used to create designs for website banners, email newsletters, and direct mailings. It can also be used to create cohesive visual designs wherever things are printed in the archives: didactic captions in exhibits, finding aid cover sheets, box labels, reading room signage, etc.

Exhibit labels made using Canva. This project used the branding tools available in Canva Pro to incorporate the colors and fonts from the parent institution’s branding guidelines.

For lone arrangers or archivists working in small institutions without a graphic designer, Canva enables the archivist to create a cohesive brand for all visual materials, conveying professionalism to patrons. Most users will find that a free account has all of the functionality for their graphic design needs, though users at larger repositories or institutions with a heavy emphasis on consistent branding may find that a Canva Pro account is worthwhile.

Here, the library used Canva to create custom banners and thumbnails for their CONTENTdm instance, resulting in a cohesive aesthetic and professional-looking site. [2]

[1] Crystal Tse, Katie Roof, Gillian Tan, and Yoolim Lee, “Australia’s Canva Startup Almost Doubles Valuation to $6 Billion,” Bloomberg, June 22, 2020,

[2] “Coates Library Digital Collections,” Trinity University, accessed September 7, 2020,

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