Canva Templates: How to Adapt Them to Your Brand

Sep 23, 2020

By Molly Holbert, Chair of Social Media

As a creator of graphics for social posts, have you ever scrolled through your social media timeline and seen someone using the exact same template you used? Yeah, me too.

The first time I noticed an almost identical graphic to mine, I felt like an impostor who was using someone else’s work. As a marketer, differentiating your brand and having a distinct brand image has been ingrained in my head. It felt like I was doing my firm a disservice by using templated graphics you could find posted on other brand’s social media (different colors and logos). As a designer who has made many custom pieces for companies I work for, I swore to myself that no one else should be able to recognize the template I started from.

With that said, Canva is an awesome tool for social media managers. But, as many other marketing functions - like building a new website - using a template will not help your business unless you make it unique to your brand. With the immense amount of competition among companies in most industries, your brand will sadly be forgotten if it looks the same as other brands.

For those of you who are not familiar with Canva, it is an easy to use platform that can help you create amazing social posts in a short amount of time. One of my favorite parts about Canva is the templates they offer for almost any social media channel image size requirements and many graphic design sizes like reports, postcards, presentations, etc. I find their templates give me inspiration and a starting point, rather than having to start with a blank canvas.

If you ever struggle with making a template your own, I’ll walk you through my design process for a social image I created for my company. You’ll find tips and tricks I’ve taught myself or found on Youtube over the last 2 years of working in Canva. Full disclaimer: many of the features I will explain are only offered in the Canva Pro pricing level. (It’s definitely worth it if you can spare the budget!)

Explore the Templates and Visualize

For this example, I will be explaining how I designed an image to introduce a valuable new team member who recently joined our financial planning company. Below is the final image I created.

I actually began designing this piece with an old quote graphic template I created months ago and honestly hated how it turned out. So, it was time to go back to the drawing board and find a better layout. To begin the process of finding the right template, I needed to know the pieces I wanted to fit into this social post, which included:

  1. The advisor’s image (shown below)
  2. “Here we grow again”- a sentence my boss threw out to show our small business is growing, yay!
  3. His name, job title, and credentials
  4. Our company logo

How to Pick the Right Canva Template

Now that I knew the pieces I needed to fit into the template, I could visualize how those could fit into the templates while scrolling. The three images below are the templates I chose. I added them to my canvas as I clicked through and decided I liked them. As you can tell, none of these pieces look like they would fit into a financial planning firm’s brand.

I ultimately chose the third one on the left because I thought this would be the easiest one to adapt with a large “Here we grow again” headline. I know the wide, rectangular image of the advisor would fit nicely where the yellow rectangular image sits.

When I began to replace the template pieces with my pieces, I noticed the photo of the advisor did not look the way I thought it would because of the dark, busy background in the photo.

As you could see in the template, the plain yellow background allowed the headline, “World’s Best Dad” to stand out and it made the graphic look much cleaner as a whole.

My initial thought was, “Let’s take out the background behind him, but then what would be left? Just a guy sitting in a white abyss.”

You might be wondering how to take the background out of an image. I typically start by using Canva’s background remover feature, but it doesn’t work on every image. If you come out with grainy unwanted pieces in the image, the best backup is the magnetic lasso tool in Photoshop.

Thankfully, the background remover in Canva worked for this image, so no need to use Photoshop. Here’s how to use the Canva background remover:

Step 1: Click on the picture to make sure it is selected

Step 2: Click “effects” circled in red at the top

Step 3: Click “Background remover” circle in red on the left, then wait about 10-15 seconds

Fortunately, I figured out a way to combat this “white abyss” issue. I decided to replicate the yellow background of the template (with our brand colors of course) with a solid colored rectangle by measuring the original image to match the proportions.

Now that I have the advisor’s image in place, the colors and headline switched out, I thought the logo would fit nicely in place of the subheading above the headline where it would be obvious to viewers whose company is growing and allow users to put the new face with the brand.

How to Adapt a Canva Template to Your Brand & Post Purpose

At this point, I still needed to fit the advisor’s name and job title. I felt the way “Happy Father’s Day to you! Thanks for everything” was placed in the template that it didn't stand out enough. The purpose of this post is to make a big splash about a new highly credentialed financial advisor. I wanted to introduce his face with his name, so this is where I chose to create some dimension behind his name and title.

The images above show the progression of the changes I made (from right to left) to the title box. I created a drop-shadow behind the original rectangle by copy and pasting the rectangle, making it a darker color, then putting it behind the title box. Once the darker box is behind the title box, you can move it to show a small portion of the box with only 2 sides peeping out.

Once the drop shadow was added, I felt the title box in the image on the far left looked like it was hanging off the lighter teal box and didn’t belong there. So, I moved the title box up more and still wasn’t satisfied with the way it was hanging out of the box. That’s when I decided to put the image inside the box, center it, and make it appear like the advisor was sitting on top of his title. You can see the result in the furthest image to the right.

How to Create the Ideal Background

At this point, I was satisfied with the main, central parts of this social image, but there was still something missing. The image didn’t look cohesive or on-brand for our financial planning company. The background didn’t match the purpose of introducing a financial professional to a current or potential client who would trust this new advisor with their money.

I originally liked the simple white background with dotted corners, so I played with ways to keep it. I decided to add a border to the background to make it look more complete. I added white rectangles behind the dotted circles and moved the border to allow space between the border and the dots.

I still wasn’t satisfied.

**Pro Tip: Save your work! At this point, I should mention that I copy each of these images when I am unhappy with one design and want to experiment with one element. This way, I keep the image I’m partially satisfied with to allow myself to go back to it if I need to. Sometimes the new pieces come out looking crazier and worse than the original one I copied.

Next, in the copied version I’m thinking to myself, “I just can’t get over these dots”. To see what the image looked like with just the border, I take out the dots and the white rectangles I had previously added. Finally, I think it looks more cohesive. Now there is extra space at the bottom where the dots used to be, so I shift the middle pieces down.

I then realized the image still doesn’t explain why this guy is here, nor does it show his job title, because of his numerous credentials (JD, CPA, CFP, etc) that take up a lot of space in the title box. I add my last touch, “Introducing the newest SDT Financial Planner!” Tweak the font, and vualá, this image is ready to be submitted for compliance approval, with its accompanying link to his new bio page on our website.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, graphic design takes tons of trial and error, as well as, exploring multiple options to arrive at the final piece. No matter what industry you’re in, Canva templates can be adapted to the brand you are designing for. I’ve been a graphic designer in various marketing roles for 5+ years. It can take time to develop efficiency in creating and deciding whether you personally like something enough to post it or submit it for approval. Don’t hesitate to ask for a second opinion if you are stumped or stuck between different variations. Always remember - consistency is key.

No matter how much you like a graphic, make sure it’s on-brand and fits with the purpose of the post. Creativity is so important, even in professional services or other industries that can be boring, stuffy, highly regulated, or all three.

It took me months to figure out how I could use this awesome picture of pineapples on a beach in our digital marketing efforts. Once I did, I was able to incorporate it into an email newsletter (which is the image below) and a social post.

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