Graphic Design 101 – How To Make Free Designs For Your Business

Graphic Design Basics For Non-Designers

Phrases like graphic design tips, fundamentals of graphic design, and even graphic design for beginners can make you shake in your shoes if you consider yourself a “non-designer.” Even if you do have some artistic flare you may be stuck trying to figure out which tools to use to create imagery for your brand, website, or social media content. It can feel like an overwhelming task!

Whichever end of the spectrum you fall on, take heart that in the internet world there are now tons of tools that make designing for your business easy and free!

Whether you need to create a logo for your brand, pin images for Pinterest, a Facebook cover photo, or feature images for blog posts – this post has you covered. So stop shaking, read on, and start making your business beautiful.

There are A LOT of software options and online graphic design programs that can be used to create business graphics. Many of them are fantastic options! However, in this post I’m going to focus on using the free version of Canva.

(Full disclosure: I use a paid subscription to Adobe Photoshop and to Canva for all of my site design. It’s necessary for me at this stage of the game, but it wasn’t when I first got started! I used free Canva design for quite some time before I migrated to the paid version and eventually taught myself Photoshop to use in addition.)

Graphic Design For Beginners Step 1 – Create An Account

  • The first thing you want to do to get started creating designs for your business is to visit and sign up! You can sign up with Facebook, sign up with Google, or just use your email address. Enter your information and click “Create Your Account.”
  • Canva will ask you to select which type of use you are signing up for. Most likely you will want to select “small business.”
  • To stay on a completely free account select “maybe later” when a screen pops up asking if you want to try a trial of Canva Pro.
  • Canva will then ask if you want to invite any colleagues to your account. If you are a one woman show simply select “skip” to move on. If you do have team members in your small business, you can enter their email addresses to give them access to the account as well.
  • Next, select a template to start creating your first design! There are all kinds of templates available for social media, branding, advertising, and more.

Graphic Design For Beginners Step 2 – Start Designing

No matter what template you selected above, we’re going to go back to Canva’s homepage to walk through how to use the software to create multiple designs. You can always go back to the selected template at any time!

  • Click on “home” in the upper left-hand corner of your screen to navigate back to your account’s main page. On this page you can enter any phrase into the search bar to search for templates to start with, or you can click on “custom dimensions” in smaller print on the right-hand side of the screen under the search bar. (For this tutorial we will use a template to start designing, but if you want to start with a blank design in a specific size you can enter custom dimensions in pixels, inches, millimeters, or centimeters there.) If you scroll down a little bit further on your account home page you can also see previews of all the designs you have saved in the past. If you click on any one of them you will be able to continue editing the design or download it again.
  • For this tutorial, type the word “logo” into the search bar at the top of your account screen and hit enter. You should be taken to a new page where you will see a white square design space to start creating your logo.
  • On the left-hand menu of this screen, you will see many logo template options that you can select as a base for your design. Be sure the template says “free” in the right-hand corner when you hover over it, and click on one. That template will now appear on your white design space. Now you can have fun editing it!
  • Hover over any portion of the template in your design space and you will notice that can select each individual piece. Click on a piece to edit it.
  • To change the color of a shape or graphic:
    • Click on it.
    • Select the square color box in the white menu above your design space.
    • Click on a default color or click on the “+” to create a custom color by dragging the dots.
  • To change the design of your text:
    • Click on it.
    • Your current font and text size will be displayed in the white menu above your design space. You can use the drop-down arrow next to either to change them.
    • Click on the letter “A” above a color bar to change the text color by clicking on a default color or clicking the “+” to create a custom color by dragging the dots.
    • Click on the “B” to make your text bold or the “I” to make it italic.
    • You can change the direction of your text between centered, right, and left by clicking on the icon with 4 lines in the menu bar.
    • You can also add bullets to your text by selecting the bullet point icon.
    • Click on “Spacing” and you can drag dots to adjust how far apart the letters in your text are and how far apart the lines of text are from one another.
  • To add a shape to your design:
    • Click on the icon with 4 shapes in the far left-hand menu on your screen.
    • Search for the shape you want and hover over it to make sure it is a “free” element.
    • Click on it to add it to your screen.
    • You can now click on the shape to change its color using the same instructions above. (If more than one color box appears in your white menu when you select your shape it means that the shape includes more than one color and you can change each color individually.)
    • You can also change the size of your shape by dragging the dots around it after you click on it.
    • If you want your new shape to appear behind or in front of other elements in your design simply click on it and select “Position” in the white menu that appears. Under the “Position” menu option you can choose to move the shape backwards or forwards. (You can always click and drag any element in your design to move it’s position).
  • To add a photo to your design:
    • If you want to use photos that Canva provides, click on the icon in the far left-hand menu on your screen that looks like a picture of two mountains. Search for a photo that you like, make sure it is a free element, and click on it to add it to your design.
    • If you want to use your own photo, first make sure that you have it downloaded on your computer. Then, click on the icon in the far-left hand menu on your screen that looks like a cloud with an upward arrow in it. Under this menu you can click the button to upload your image and then click on it to add it to your design space.
    • After you’ve added a photo click on it to see the white menu appear with options to edit it.
    • Clicking on “Filter” in the white menu allows you to apply a preset filter to the photo in your design. Simply click on one of the filter options.
    • Clicking on “Adjust” in the white menu allows you to drag the dots on various settings of the photo to make custom adjustments.
    • Clicking on “Crop” allows you to change the size of the photo by dragging the bold corners of it. Make sure you click on the check mark in the upper white menu when you are done adjusting the size!
    • Clicking on “Flip” allows you to flip the photo vertically or horizontally. Simply click on one of the options.
    • You can also move the photo you added to appear in front of or behind other elements in your design. Simply click on “Position” in the upper white menu and you can click to move it backwards or forwards. (Again, you can always move your photo by simply clicking and dragging it.)
  • To add text to your design:
    • Click on the “T” icon in the far left-hand menu on your screen.
    • You will see various layouts of text that you can implement into your design if you want the whole layout of it. Simply click on one. If you just want to add a line of text without the full layout, click on “Add a heading,” “Add a subheading,” or “add a little bit of body text” in the menu.
    • Once you select the type of text that you want to add you can type your line of text and hit enter.
    • You can now edit the size, color, font, etc. of that text by following all of the same directions above.
  • To add a background to your design:
    • Click on the icon in the far left-hand menu that looks like a lot of thin diagonal lines.
    • At the very top of the menu that appears you can select a solid color background to apply to your design. If you click on one of these it will fill all of the white space in the background of your design with that color.
    • Below the solid color options in the menu you will see a variety of photo and texture background options. Click on any one of them to fill your background with it.

All of the menu options that we walked through above stay consistent with any design template or custom size that you are working on. Canva saves automatically as you work, so as long as you see “all changes saved” indicated in the blue menu at the very top of your designing screen, you can click on “Home” to navigate back to your account page and start a new design or work on a saved one at any time.

Graphic Design For Beginners Step 3 – Download Your Design

When you are happy with what your design looks like, all you have to do is download it to start using it for your business promotion! Simply click on the gray “Download” button in the upper right hand corner of your screen when you are in the design space. Here you can select your file type. I typically download my files in jpeg unless they have a transparent background. Jpeg is a standard image file. Select your file type, and click “Download.” You can now save your file to upload to your website, social media. or to print for your business!

You read Canva’s full Terms of Use here to be sure you are in compliance with everything that you create.

Graphic Design 101 pdf

With all of the free templates that Canva provides and their easy interface for editing them and creating custom design content, even a non-designer can produce sharp business graphics! Don’t let graphic design hold you back from promoting and growing your business. I think you’ll be surprised with what you can create if you spend a few minutes giving Canva a try.


Graphic Design Basics For Non-Designers

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