Adobe Suite vs. Canva: Which one is right for your online business? | Part One: Canva
For the longest time, Adobe has reigned supreme when it comes to design tools, and these days their products are industry standard. As a designer, I’ve lived and breathed Adobe for years, but recently I’ve seen a rise in one new tool that I keep coming back to - Canva.
As time goes on, I've seen a huge increase in clients requesting Canva templates over an equivalent Adobe template. Over the past 12 months, I've had the opportunity to work on some unique client projects and through that experience, I’ve learned a lot about the capabilities and the limitations of Canva.
So if we pit Canva and Adobe up against each other, which is better? There’s definitely no one right answer. It really comes down to the tool that works best for you and for the needs of your business, both now and in the future.
Over the next three weeks we’re going to be looking at each tool, the pros + cons of each, and finally, how to choose which suits you and your business best. But for today, let's take a deep dive into everything Canva.
How does Canva fare as a design tool for online business?
At its core, Canva is a design tool with a heavy graphics focus. It’s web / app based and is best used for creating graphics and documents for both digital and print. They offer free and paid usage plans, and provide thousands of pre-made templates, shapes, and images for use within their software. It’s becoming one of the most popular tools with online business owners, and even some designers I know have switched to Canva for parts of their process.
But how do you know if it’s the right choice for you? Will it do everything you need? Is there anything you should know before diving into a Canva for Work subscription? Let’s break down some of the pros and cons of Canva.
The pros of using Canva for your online business.
Overall, Canva is a great tool. In the early days, it felt very limited and there were many things I struggled to do with it. Over the past 12 months they've worked hard to improve and expand upon their features and in its current state, Canva is capable of doing a lot of heavy lifting as far as graphics for online business goes. I’ve come to love a lot of things about it, and here are some of my favorites.
Canva is super affordable.
As someone that started their business as an unemployed college student with a budget of zero dollars, I love that Canva is so affordable. The free version can take you a long way, but if you can stretch it to 12.95 per month, I definitely prefer Canva for Work and some of the additional features it provides. Being able to create templates, simple animations, save transparent images, upload fonts and create your own brand library are incredible features for such a low price.
Canva is easy to use, even for beginners.
If you’ve ever tried to use a piece of Adobe software, you’ll know that there’s a pretty steep learning curve. Canva, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward. They’ve chosen to include only the most essential features to ensure that their program is simple and intuitive to use.
They claim you can learn to use Canva in 23 seconds - I don’t know if that's entirely accurate, but you could definitely pick it up and knock something out in a day.
The Canva App is awesome.
Canva’s mobile app gives you the full functionality of their desktop app, which means you can take your graphics with you. It’s super handy to be able to edit + save your Instagram graphics from your phone rather than your computer, and Canva really shines here.
Canva is entirely online based.
Canva is entirely online / web-based, which means that not only can you use their app on the go, but you can also log into Canva anywhere on any device and access all of your designs. This is hugely flexible compared to an Adobe subscription, where you’re limited to the number of devices you can install your programs on, and you'd need to use an extra tool like the Creative Cloud folder or Google Drive to access files remotely.
Canva has awesome features for templates and brand formatting.
If you’re not particularly design savvy, Canva comes preloaded with thousands of free, editable templates and elements for everything from menus to blog post graphics to logos to pdf documents. This is perfect for small and new businesses, but there’s also a downside to this - we’ll get to that in a minute.
Canva for Work makes templating even easier by allowing you to upload and pre-format your own brand fonts for different types of headings and copy, save logo files for easy access, and set a brand color palette. It also includes an option to set your own designs as templates, which makes creating new or repeat graphics fast and easy.
The cons of using Canva for your online business.
With all of those amazing features and tools, there are still a couple of downsides that I've run into during my time in Canva. Some of them relate to a few more advanced features that may or may not be relevant to you and your business, so it's important to weigh them on a case by case basis. We'll be doing more of that in Part #3 of this series, but for now, let's jump into some of the more limiting aspects of Canva.
Canva is not a one stop shop.
This isn’t necessarily a problem with Canva so much as it’s a limitation compared to Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription. Canva is great at standard web graphics, pdf or document-based design, and to a certain extent, presentations + slide shows. But Canva definitely won’t provide the software or tools to do video editing, vector artwork, complex animation, any serious photo editing work, web design, or audio editing.
The team at Canva have made the conscious decision to cover the basics of graphics creation and do them well. But if your business or process also calls for video, audio or photography, etc, you’ll have to bring in another tool for each, whereas Adobe contains all of that functionality under the one subscription.
There are still a few design limitations in Canva compared to Adobe’s software.
The simplicity of Canva means there are no custom shape, brush or pen tools, which means that if you’re looking for a particular shape or texture that isn’t included within their standard range of ‘elements’, you’ll have to go elsewhere for it. I often end up creating my own shapes + textures within Photoshop or Illustrator and importing them into Canva as .jpgs or .pngs.
While their text tools and formatting options have come a long way recently, and now include letter + line spacing, text box anchoring, and a few other handy bits and pieces, there’s still no option for curved / slanted text, and far less in the way of formatting than what you could get out of Adobe’s InDesign.
And while Canva does have a transparency slider for all objects / elements, they’re still lacking in the blend mode options that many Adobe programs include, which allow for some really cool looking effects and graphics with relative ease.
Most of these limitations have some kind of workaround, but I’ve found that often the workaround feels clunky and complicated where an equivalent Adobe program has a one-button fix.
Canva has done a great job in expanding some of the tools and options over the last 12 months, so we might see a day where some of these limitations no longer exist - especially on the Canva for Work subscription.
Canva should not be used for logo design.
There are a couple of key issues that make Canva less than ideal for logos. The first is that Canva produces raster-based graphics rather than vector-based ones.
To give you a quick + simple run down on what raster / vector graphics are and why they matter:
Raster-based images are made up of pixels and exist at a predetermined size. You can never scale them bigger than the size at which they were originally created without losing quality.
Vector based images are produced using a bunch of mathematical plot points instead of pixels, and this means they retain quality at any size / scale.
The difference is a little more nuanced than that, so if you want to read more about it you can do so here.
A logo is an item that often needs to be scaled, altered or prepared differently depending on where / how you’re planning to use it. If you’ve created yours in Canva (or any other raster-based software), you run the risk of having to recreate it entirely if the settings and size requirements don’t work.
Another thing you’ll want to consider for logo work in Canva is copyright. Canva provides many logo templates, but they state that unless you create your own entirely from scratch or heavily modify the templated design (to the point where the original template is no longer recognizable), the design is not exclusive to you and you have no claim to exclusive rights over it.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - most people operate under the assumption that their template based design will not be exclusive, and templates are a good option when you’re just getting your business off the ground.
But you definitely have to go into it with the expectation that you will change your logo to something more exclusive somewhere down the line. When that time comes, the copyright and vector issues mean that Canva will likely not take you all the way.
Canva doesn’t allow for a CMYK color space.
If you’re planning on printing anything, this might be an issue. Canva has recently opened up their own print service, which allows you to order prints of your design right from the editing screen.
However, at this stage, Canva only allows for the creation and exporting of files in an RGB color space. To give you a really simple breakdown of color spaces:
RGB (stands for Red, Green, Blue) is a screen based color space. It’s how colors are displayed on your computer, phone, etc. Screens have a much wider range of color than printers, so you’ll likely get a brighter, deeper color range in RGB spaces.
CMYK (stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) is a print-based color space. It’s determined - and limited by - the ink in your printer and how the inks combine to make different colors.
Again, there's a bit more to color profiles than that, so click here to read more if you'd like.
In simple terms, only having an RGB option can cause problems, as you can never guarantee that an RGB file will look the same once printed. CMYK has a much more limited color range than RGB, so if you design outside of the CMYK spectrum, the colors in your design might print out looking duller, or sometimes like completely different colors altogether.
Designing in CMYK from the outset helps to ensure that what you’re seeing on your screen will be closer to what actually comes out of your printer. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option in Canva just yet, but it might be as their print service expands.
Canva is entirely online based.
This was also in the pros list, and for good reason. While being an online / web-based platform definitely has its benefits, there are also a couple of downsides. The first being that you can never download an editable version of any file or template to your computer.
Canva only allows a finished / complete download of a final .pdf, .png or .jpg, meaning that if anything ever happened to your Canva account, or Canva itself, your logo, all your templates and designs would be gone forever and would need to be re-made from scratch.
Canva’s online-only service also means that if you ever find yourself without internet access, you can’t access or work on your designs. This isn’t necessarily something that’s likely to happen often in today’s world, but it might mean you can’t get work done on a long haul flight, or in the event that your internet connection goes down.
Canva’s pre-made templates are overused.
This is something that comes up a lot in the discussion around using templates for your business + branding. It’s easy to feel like you shouldn’t have to buy a template from a designer when Canva offers so many good ones for free.
The issue with choosing to use a Canva template over a designer’s pre-made template is that Canva is so widely popular. It’s one of the go-to tools, not just for online business but for business in general across a huge range of industries. This means that Canva’s templates have a massive reach, and therefore you run the risk of using the same template as thousands of other people.
This is obviously an issue with any kind of template based design - the compromise is that you might share the same design with other businesses. However, the number of competing businesses is considerably lower with an independent designer’s template, where you might be looking at a few dozen to a few hundred rather than a few thousand. Some independent designers even put a purchase limit on their templates, meaning you’re guaranteed to share the same design with an extremely limited number of others. But with Canva, the more it grows, the more people you'll be sharing with.
That’s a wrap on Canva for online business!
Canva is an awesome tool, but like any tool, there are features and limitations that should be considered before going all in for your online business. So if you’re already using Canva or planning to, I hope that this breakdown has helped you understand some of the pros and cons.
Next week we’ll be doing the same breakdown on Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription service, and the week after that, we’ll be discussing how to choose the right tool for you based on your business and your needs.
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And if you’ve got any questions about Canva or design in general, feel free to leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer you.
See you in the next one!