How to Use Canva for Your Small Business (A Brand Designer’s Take!)

Why some designers love Canva and others hate it

Canva is a hot topic amongst designers. Some love it, some hate it, and very few are neutral about it.

Those that love it embrace it as a forward-thinking collaborative tool that makes our lives as designers easier and more efficient. However, those who hate it worry that Canva is taking jobs away from the design community, among other worries.

I personally love Canva. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It is a fabulous addition to my tool kit as a brand and web designer.

That’s the kicker though. It is simply a single tool in my design arsenal. It cannot replace every other design software I use, such as Adobe and Showit. It complements those tools and makes the collaboration process with clients and other designers so much easier.

That said, I can commiserate with the designers who are wary of Canva. If someone’s design business is built on the foundation that they are the only one who can design social media graphics, pitch decks, email graphics, and other templated designs for their clients, they may lose a little business to the DIY business owner.

However, in that case, they’re probably not losing a long-term client. Business owners who are looking to pay as little as possible for creative services are generally not great clients.

I do believe that all design businesses can benefit from utilizing Canva. Some just may need to restructure their business offerings to still make a profit from graphic design clients.

The difference between a brand designer and a graphic designer

Canva is a graphic design tool, not a brand or website design tool. To better understand this difference, let’s explore what a brand designer is and what a graphic designer is.

To start, a brand designer is always a graphic designer, but a graphic designer isn’t necessarily a brand designer. Graphic design is all about visual communication. It’s not art, it’s not science. It’s a visual communication method used to get a message across to a target audience.

Graphic design is everywhere. It’s social media, merchandise, books, movie posters, pitch decks, PDFs, ad banners, and so much more. Graphic design quite literally makes up our visual world, both in print and digital.

Brand design, however, is the creation of a brand’s visual identity. A brand designer will take a client’s brand strategy and translate it into a comprehensive visual identity toolkit. This includes logos, typography selections, color palettes, iconography, illustrations, patterns, and more custom graphic elements.

A business’s brand identity dictates what its graphic marketing materials will look like. Without brand identities, businesses would run the risk of all looking the same and not being able to stand out in the marketplace.

How does this apply to Canva?

Canva’s purpose is to create graphic design pieces, not brand identities. You should use Canva to create social media graphics, t-shirt designs, business cards, PDF lead magnets, website ad graphics, and other templated design work for marketing purposes.

Brand identities need to be created in more advanced design software such as Adobe Illustrator. You would then bring that brand identity into Canva to apply to your graphic design materials.

This leads us into the next section.

Is it worth it to pay for Canva Pro?

If you are running a business, it is absolutely worth it to pay for Canva Pro.

With the free version of Canva, you get some pretty great features, but Canva Pro just takes it up a notch and makes things so much easier and faster.

What you get with the free version of Canva:

  • Easy drag-and-drop editor
  • 1M+ professionally-designed templates
  • 1000+ design types (social posts and more)
  • 3M+ stock photos and graphics
  • AI-generated writing and designs
  • Design printing and delivery
  • 5BG of cloud storage

What you get with Canva Pro:

  • Everything on the free plan plus
  • Unlimited premium templates
  • 100M+ photos, videos, graphics, and audio
  • 100 Brand Kits to manage your brand
  • Magic Switch to quickly resize and translate designs
  • Remove backgrounds in a click
  • 20+ AI tools
  • Plan and schedule social content
  • 1TB of cloud storage
  • 24/7 customer support

The one thing I want to point out in the features list for Canva Pro, is the Brand Kits. This is my favorite feature of Canva and why I’m so obsessed with it.

Brand Kits allow you to upload your brand identity and easily apply it to any template in Canva. You have your logos, icons, fonts, colors, photos, and even messaging all in one place.

This makes it so easy to stay “on brand” no matter who is creating design work for your business. Not to mention, you never have to go hunting for your brand style guide just to find one pesky color code!

Canva Pro is 100% worth the small investment to save you hours applying your brand identity to any free, premium, or paid templates you may buy.

How not to use Canva in your business

Now that you understand the difference between graphic design and brand design, let’s talk a little more in-depth about how not to use Canva.

You can’t use Canva to create custom brand elements

Remember that brand design is the creation of custom design assets like logos, icons, patterns, textures, and illustrations, as well as the curation of typography, color palettes, and even photography style.

If you look under the Elements section on a Canva design, you’ll see loads of publicly available illustrations, icons, shapes, frames, gradients, and other design elements that you can customize with your brand colors. None of these elements were created in Canva. Not a one.

All graphic “Elements” have to be designed in professional design software such as Adobe Illustrator before they can be uploaded to Canva for use.

With that said, please do not try to create custom brand elements inside of Canva. It won’t work.

This isn’t to say that Canva won’t eventually come out with features that allow this to be possible, but as of now in February 2024, this isn’t an intended use for Canva.

You can’t create trademarked logos in Canva

Logos are a separate item from brand elements. They are meant to quickly identify a business in any application.

Registering a trademark gives you the exclusive right to use that mark to distinguish your goods and services from other businesses. As your business grows, the need to trademark your logo becomes more and more important.

The only way to create a trademarkable logo in Canva is to use fonts and basic shapes like lines, circles, and squares. With hundreds of millions of businesses operating worldwide, it’s going to be extremely difficult to create a unique logo using basic shapes and stock fonts.

Canva’s own website states:

“Canva’s logo templates are customizable and can be used by anyone. This means that your rights to the logo are non-exclusive and you can’t register it as a trademark… Using a logo template is a great way to create a logo if you’re just starting out and you’re not worried about having exclusive rights.

If you don’t have the time or budget to design a unique logo, it’s a quick and easy way to create basic branding for your products and services.”

I highly recommend going the DIY logo route when you first start your business if you don’t have the funds to invest in a professional brand identity. It will get you by for the first year or two while you grow your company and get more clarity around your long-term business goals.

However, as you grow your business, you need to be saving up to invest in a professionally designed brand identity. This will make any trademarking you want to do way easier.

You can’t create a professional website in Canva

Canva’s website creator is not intended for businesses that need advanced features like a blog, SEO settings, or even multiple pages.

You can only create a single-page website in Canva, which means it acts as more of an online PDF brochure than a true website.

The general purpose of a website is to get your target audience on your digital home so you can sell, educate, or entertain 24/7. A website is a business’s biggest online asset.

A website built in Canva simply isn’t an asset. You can’t collect valuable data like visitor demographics or page visits. And you can’t create additional content that would help boost your site in search results.

I love Canva, but I would opt to just leave the website builder alone.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use true website builder, I recommend Showit. Its interface will be very familiar to Canva users so the learning curve isn’t as steep as other website-building platforms like Squarespace or WordPress.

Is Canva as good as Adobe?

Much like graphic design and brand design, Canva and the Adobe product suite serve different purposes and audiences. It’s not as simple as saying one is better than the other.

Adobe is the global leader in software for all creative professionals. They house a massive suite of powerful tools including, but not limited to, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, Premiere Pro, and After Effects known as the Adobe Creative Cloud. These tools are used to create visuals from scratch and achieve the most advanced creative techniques.

Canva however, is primarily a marketing design tool geared toward small business owners, marketing professionals, and education. They boast millions of templates for everything from digital to print marketing. It is designed to make visual marketing and graphic design easier for businesses and educational institutions.

So, to answer the question is Canva as good as Adobe, yes it is although what is does is different from Adobe. Their mission statement says, “Canva is an online design and visual communication platform with a mission to empower everyone in the world to design anything and publish anywhere.” They had over 110 million monthly users as of the end of 2022, so I’d say they’re well on their way to achieving their mission.

What can you create with Adobe?

As mentioned, Adobe products such as Illustrator are primarily used for creating design elements from scratch. You absolutely can create everything in the Adobe Creative Cloud that you can in Canva, but Adobe products really shine with from-scratch recipes while Canva is more of a meal kit service.

As a brand and web designer, I primarily work in Adobe Illustrator, which is a vector-based platform meaning everything I create in it can be scaled up without losing quality or becoming pixelated. This is where I design entire brand identities and additional brand elements.

You can use a combination of Adobe Creative Cloud’s 20+ apps to create quite literally anything you can dream of from animation to video to product and web design. But here’s how I use Adobe CC on a daily basis:

I use Illustrator to create:

  • Custom logos
  • Custom icons
  • Custom patterns
  • Custom textures
  • Custom illustrations
  • Custom GIF artwork
  • Advanced custom graphics
  • And to explore typography selections

I use Photoshop for:

  • Advanced image editing
  • GIFs

I use InDesign for:

  • Large document layouts like books and PDF coursework

I use After Effects for:

  • GIFs

I use Premiere Pro for:

  • Advanced video editing

What can you create with Canva?

In Canva you can create any template-based design you can think of. I personally use it to create:

  • Social media templates for Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok
  • Pinterest graphics
  • PDF lead magnet designs
  • Website graphics
  • Blog graphics
  • Presentations and documents like brand guidelines or proposals
  • Client mood boards

The best Canva features

In addition to the actual designs you can create in Canva, there are tons of features I love about it. Here’s just a few.

Media search feature

Inside each Canva design is a search bar off to the left. Let’s say I want to find a specific image I uploaded of a laptop, but I can’t remember what I named that file. I could use the keyword “laptop” to find it and every other image I’ve uploaded that contains a laptop. This is incredibly helpful and saves me a ton of time.

Canva is a cloud-based software

I love my Adobe products, but the apps themselves and the files are massive so they take up a huge amount of hard drive space. Canva, however, is a cloud-based software so I don’t have to add additional weight to my already almost-maxed-out drive. This once again means I’m saving time!

Add-on apps

Canva has an app marketplace so you can add additional features to your Canva account. Some of my favorite Canva apps are Google Drive, QR Code, and Magic Media. You can add media from your Google Drive account to your designs, easily create QR codes, and create text-to-image AI art. There are dozens of apps to explore.

Stock photo and video library

Having in-app access to stock photos and videos speeds up my own design process immensely. While I prefer to use custom brand photos for most cases, sometimes a stock image is warranted. It’s once again a major time saver to be able to search for the image or video I need within the Canva browser and not have to open a new tab.

The Canva mobile app

The Canva mobile app and I have a love-hate relationship. It’s incredibly convenient to be able to create a couple of social media posts while I wait at the doctor’s office for an hour or have other random pockets of time throughout the day, however, it is a little difficult to use. Maybe it’s just me, but the mobile app doesn’t seem quite as optimized for small screens as it should be. I still love having it as an option though.

Brand kits

I mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning again. The Brand Kits in Canva are fan-freaking-tastic. As a designer who often works with the same clients for multiple projects, having the ability to put all of my client’s brand identities into my own Canva account and change them out with the click of a button is just the best. It’s obviously super convenient to have my own brand identity included too.

Why Canva is a great designer/client collaboration tool

Adobe products make it easy to share designs between software and with other creative professionals, but it’s a little convoluted to share designs directly and quickly with clients. Canva, however, makes collaboration super easy!

Collaboration features

The best collaboration tool Canva has is shareable links. I can easily share a link with a client and give them very specific actions they can take with that link whether it’s simply viewing, commenting, or editing the design.

You can also create template links and public view links which are useful for making sure you maintain access to the original design if you need to make revisions.

The ability for clients to make real-time comments on designs is incredibly useful for feedback and revisions as well.

Helps with visual consistency

The brand kit feature makes it easy for clients to maintain brand consistency after our project together is over. One of the worst things to see as a brand designer is a client using random fonts, colors, and elements after they just spent thousands of dollars on a custom brand identity.

In addition to the thorough brand style guides I provide my clients with, the Brand Kits inside Canva are a constant reminder to my clients to stick to their brand identity.

I say this all the time, you may get bored using your brand identity because you are seeing it day in and day out. But your ideal clients are not going to get tired of it. They’re only seeing a single piece of your marketing content maybe once or twice a week if you’re lucky.

Consumers have to have multiple interactions with a brand to start associating that brand with whatever they’re selling. A consistent visual identity is going to help make that bridge easier for them.

Affordability and accessibility

Compared to Adobe and most other design software on the market, Canva is relatively affordable for the majority of businesses.

If a business owner is willing to learn the platform, it’s easily accessible to them and Canva provides plenty of educational opportunities to learn the platform well. As a designer, I personally love this because it puts the power back in my client’s hands.

If they want me to continue designing their social media content, lead magnets, and such after our initial project, they can choose to hire me instead of being forced to pay me simply because the design platform is inaccessible to them.

Ways I use Canva Pro with my clients

Project proposals

From a brand design project perspective, the first way I use Canva with my clients is through those shareable links I just mentioned. Before a client is even onboarded, I send their project proposal through email as a view-only link from Canva. They will then approve this proposal in Dubsado, then move on to the contract and invoice.

Project organization within Canva

The folder system within Canva is a fantastic way to stay organized and professional. It’s easy for designs to start stacking up and not know where anything is located. 

After onboarding a new client, the first thing I do is set up their Canva and Google Drive folders. This ensures I have an easily accessible location for clients and myself to upload and find any documents and assets we need for their projects.

A client’s Canva project folder is only for me, but it’s important for me to stay organized on my end. This folder will end up containing their project proposal, brand strategy presentation, mood board presentation, brand design presentation, and brand style guides, along with other project deliverables.


As just mentioned, I use Canva to create all of my client presentations. For a brand design, at a minimum, this includes their project proposal, brand strategy presentation, mood board presentation, and brand design presentation.

These presentations are simply multi-page horizontal documents, kind of comparable to a PowerPoint presentation.

While Canva does have a built-in recording studio, I prefer to record my presentations with Loom. My clients always end up with a custom video library full of their presentations and tutorials so I find it’s best to just have our videos all in one location.

Upload their Brand Kit

The final way I use Canva with my brand design clients is the Brand Kit. For some reason, this part is really satisfying and I always look forward to it.

Depending on the client’s Canva account status, I’ll either be added to their team temporarily or they share their login with me. From there I will upload all of their new logos, fonts, colors, brand photos, illustrations, patterns, and whatever else I created for them to their Brand Kit.

This is always a client favorite because it means all they have to do to start using their new brand identity is simply start creating their marketing materials. I handle the brand design creation and uploading of their assets so they get to immediately start playing with it all without worrying about where everything is.

I also upload all their assets to our shared Google Drive folder as well.

In closing

I hope that this post gave you some clarity regarding Canva’s place in business. It’s not a tool that’s out to steal designer’s jobs, but rather it will make our lives easier if we just embrace it for what it is.

Just like AI can’t fully replace human intelligence and creativity, neither can Canva. Business owners are always going to need design help. Some will choose to DIY while others will choose to outsource to designers.

There is no right or wrong way to do business. My hope in creating this type of content is to show you some optimal ways to use the tools at our disposal.

Whether you are a designer or another type of business owner reading this, I hope you’ll see that Canva, Adobe, and any other tool that makes marketing easier for us should be considered.

I’m Stephanie, but you can call me Steph!

I design brands & websites that get you butterflies-in-your-stomach-excited about your business again.

Simply put, I’m a graphic designer that specializes in brand identity design and Showit website design - arguably the most important aspects of your business! I live in central Alabama with my high school band directing hubby, Thomas, on our modest homestead in the country.

Grab a cup of cold coffee (be honest, do you ever get to drink it hot?) and let’s chat about your biz needs at my virtual kitchen table


Cleveland, Alabama, USA
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