top of page

How to Create and Use Free Canva Templates

Have you heard about Canva? Canva is a free, online app that can create nearly any type of digital file - social media, flyers, brochures, posters, and documents. One of my best productivity hacks is using Canva as a template. (There is also a paid upgrade. I am using the free version to create this tutorial. Full disclosure: I have upgraded to the paid version, but this tutorial uses the free version).

3 template examples of using a template with a background image with text on top

By using templates. I don't have to constantly recreate the wheel. I can come up with a consistent look and feel for social media posts. Templates save a ridiculous amount of time and are also a great way to help reduce overwhelm and decision fatigue.

One more note about templates. The free version can't create an official template, so I am using that word more generally as a file you can use repeatedly.

Introduction to Canva

Canva Home Page

Canva's home page displays free, pre-made templates that you have access to as well as the designs that you have recently created. You can also create your templates. This post contains a combination of ones that you create as well as how to modify an existing template.

Canva Workspace

Canva also has a workspace. The workspace consists of a background, photos, text, and elements (which are shapes, arrows, icons, etc). You will also notice pink guidelines that help you center the photos, elements, etc.

canva workspace - photos, backgrounds, text, elements

Think of the workspace as a poster board where you arrange pictures from magazines, and cut out words and shapes. When you use a poster board, you can arrange things in front of or behind each other in different layers that overlap each other. Canva works the same way. You start with a background, add pictures, shapes, or text, and then move the layers around. That is all there is to Canva!

Keeping Track of Templates

As you use Canva, you will notice that it becomes difficult to sift through all of the graphics that you create. I like to keep a list of brief descriptions and the related URLs in Google Sheets or in a Trello board. For instance:

  • Instagram Templates | URL (copy and paste from browser)

  • Pinterest Templates | URL (copy and paste from browser)

  • LinkedIn Templates | URL (copy and paste from browser)

Using the Canva Homepage

Once you log in to Canva, you are greeted with the homepage. You can explore the pre-made templates or you can create your own. This tutorial focuses mainly on creating your own templates but also shares an example of customizing a pre-existing template. I create an Instagram template and then share how you can create several Pinterest templates. Then, I share how to download the graphics so you can use them on Pinterest, Instagram, or whatever your chosen platform is! I'll share how to resize from Instagram to Pinterest but know that you can create any dimension or type of graphic you need.

canva homepage

Creating Canva Templates

STEP 1: Creating a Blank Instagram Post

From the home screen

  1. Click Instagram Post (square)

  2. Select Blank.

STEP 1.5: Activating Your Photos App for First-time Use

  1. Click the Apps icon in the left-hand toolbar.

  2. Select Photos, Backgrounds, and/or Mockups. Mockups show examples of how your images look on an iPad, hanging in a picture frame on the wall, or on a shopping bag. You might find this useful if you sell products.

Canva apps button to access photos, backgrounds, and product mockups

Once you click Instagram Post, you are presented with a plain background where you can add photos, elements, and text.


  1. To add an image, click Photos from the left-hand menu.

  2. Search for an image category. In this example, I searched for "desk with white background and glasses".

  3. When you find the photo you want, add it to the workspace by clicking and dragging the image to the background.

Use the photos tab of canva to search for a picture and add to the workspace

NOTE: The photos with a crown in the lower right-hand corner are the ones that are available in the paid version. If you use them in the free version, it will create a watermark across the image. There is a wide assortment of free images, though.

Resize the image by clicking and dragging the corners of the image on the little circles located at the corners. Canva resizes everything like most Microsoft and Google products - click and drag the corners to resize. If you need to crop, click and drag the lines on the sides of the image.

If the image extends beyond the background, only the part that is on the background will be saved.


  1. Click the Elements tab from the left-hand bar.

  2. Search for square. The square can be resized into a rectangle.

  3. Click the square (or other element) into your workspace. Resize it using the corners and reposition. I use this rectangle as a "button" with text that is a call to action ("click here for more info", "get your guide", etc.)

  4. Other elements will be icons, gifs, sketches, and vector-type art.

Use the elementsw tab in Canva to add shapes, icons and clip art


  1. Click the Text tab.

  2. Add in a heading, subheading, or body text and reposition. Update the text. When you have the text box selected, you can change the font.

  3. Font Combinations provides examples of various fonts with different effects and can add a little pizazz to your design!

  • To change the font, select the text, go to the font section, and select the desired font.

  • A note about fonts: if you are looking for a certain style like handwritten, type handwritten in the font search bar, press the enter key or click the magnifying glass. Canva will display all of the fonts it considers handwritten.

  • You have the option to Change all. It will change all of your fonts (and I've found that sometimes I don't want that!)

  • Some fonts will have a crown near them and are available in the paid version.


I like to save the templates with a meaningful name. in this example, I use IG TEMPLATES. The image will autosave, so to name it with something more descriptive, simply type the desired name.

Canva file name and download

Step 2: Creating a Pinterest Graphic Template

  1. From the menu at the top, click File > Create New Design.

  2. Search for the term Pinterest and select "Pinterest Pin".

A new tab should open with a blank template and a perfectly Pinterest-sized workspace.


If you want to use the images, texts, and elements from your Instagram post, you can go back to that page, click on your Cavna Workspace, and use Ctrl-A to select all of the items. Then use your normal methods of copying and pasting to add to the new design (Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V or right-click).

You'll notice that the items you copied between designs do not line up. Just re-size and move things around. When an image moves off of the workspace, it is cropped at the edge of the workspace.


At the bottom of your design, click + Add page to add additional design options to your template


  1. Click the Elements tab from the left-hand bar.

  2. Search for frame. Frames do just what the name suggests - they provide a frame for your image and you'll notice there are various shapes. Frames crop your image into the shape of the frame.

  3. Click the frame to add it to the workspace and move it into position. Resize it using the corners.

Once you have the frame inserted, go back to photos, select one, and drag it onto the frame. Canva will center the photo in the frame. If you double-click the photo, you can reposition it.


When you add multiple elements, text, and photos, it can be frustrating to arrange everything. Much like a posterboard, you can use Canva's layers features to arrange everything.

  1. Click Position.

  2. Select Layers and then click and drag to move things in front of or behind the other items.

canva adding square element

Step 3: Modifying Existing Canva Templates

  1. To use and modify one of Canva's templates, click the +Add page button.

  2. Choose Design tab from the left.

  3. Choose a template. You can also search for options - this example shows me searching "list for productivity".

  4. Select the various elements to modify color or select text to change the font style or color.

  5. Select the color box and change it to match your colors. Do this for the remaining elements.

Step 4: Using Additional Effects


  1. To add an image as your background. Select the picture and click the 3 dots.

  2. Choose Replace background.

  3. Select the transparency effect button.

  4. Change your transparency level. You might need it to be more or less tansparent depending on the contrast with your other items.

  5. To change your background or remove it, select the background and click the three dots.

  6. Choose Detach image from background.

Step 5: Using the Template to Make Additional Graphics

Onve you have some templates created (see images 1 - 5 for my five templates), you can duplicate them to use over and over. To do this:

  1. Go into Grid view

  2. Select the template to duplicate. If you wish to select multiple, hold down the shift key and click.

  3. Click the Duplicate button.

Then double click the one you want to update. You will go into editing view and can change out images and text.

Step 6: Downloading from Canva

To download your Canva graphics or files:

  1. Click the Share button.

  2. Click Download.

  3. Select the page or pages that you want to download. (NOTE: If you choose multiple pages, it will download as a .zip file. You can typically go to your download folder and right click to "Extract All". This will save each page as its own image, but the filename will be 1.jpg, 2.jpg, etc.)

  4. Once you have selected the pages to downloadk, click Done.

One Additional Note

Since I wrote this post, I have purchased the paid version of Canva. The process is still the same, I just have access to more images and fonts. If you want more ideas, check out my free guide that I created in Canva. You can get this from the pop up on this page or in the bottom footer subscribe section. I hope you do subscribe! I love sharing tips and tricks and systems that have made me stress less!


Looking for more?

It's not about overhauling everything about your productivity. It's figuring out what works (because there are things that are working okay for you) and asking if we can make it work a little better for you. it's figuring out what you might be struggling with and applying systems and processes. I've used the very systems that I teach. I used to think "I need a deadline to get motivated (and, wow, I'm so focused when that happens)"! I also used to keep Post-it notes stuck to my monitor as reminders of what I needed to do. Now, I've learned a less stressful way to get stuff done. And I'm so excited to share it with you!



bottom of page