You’re getting into your groove with your blog.
Topics are coming to you easier than they ever have before, thanks to that helpful resource you picked up. You’ve parked perfectionism, and you’re feeling pretty, pretty good about how the words are flowing.
There’s just one problem.
Now that you’ve got a handle on writing and publishing posts, you’re noticing that they look a little lackluster. Even though they’re full of great info that’s helping readers, they’re missing some sparkle.
You want to create a consistent, branded look for your blog, but you’re not keen on spending tons of time getting into the nitty-gritty of graphic design.
Here’s how to use the free version of Canva to add pizzazz to your posts in just a few minutes.
Use the Ready-Made Templates
I am 100% design challenged. When I take a photo, I aim my phone or iPad randomly at the general situation, thinking I can somehow capture the feeling of a moment. (Maybe I’m just ahead of my time. I bet this technology is coming.)
For me, a huge part of the value of Canva is the fact that it has ready-made templates. This means I know I’m getting something that works for a blog because someone who does have design sense created it.
This is no different than the writing recipes I recommend using for blog posts. KISS. (That’s keep it simple, smartypants!)
Search for “blog” in the search bar.
You’ll see it brings up options for a banner and for graphics. Both of these are handy additions to blog posts, but it’s the banner that will make the difference when you’re trying to brand your blog.
Notice it’s already set to the right size. All you have to do is jump in and choose a design you like.
If you want to keep things free, make sure to look for the word “FREE” in the lower right-hand corner of a template.
Select Signature Fonts
Each template comes with fonts already selected. And you can absolutely keep them.
But since your goal is to create a consistent brand experience, you want to think about which fonts are already at play in your brand.
- What font do you use for the main text on your website?
- What font(s) do you use for headers on your website?
- Which fonts do you use when you create PDF’s or resources for your business?
- Which fonts do you love? Which ones give off the kind of feel you want customers to have?
If you scratched your head when you read all those questions, guess what? You can actually use the templates in Canva to help you out!
Browse through templates, and when you see fonts you like, take note of them and start using them to create your branding across the rest of your website and on your social media pages.
A good general rule is to choose three complementary fonts: one for headers, one for main text, and one for an accent. If you’ve got a savvy design eye, you may be able to use more. But too many fonts can make your branding look disjointed and chaotic.
As you choose your fonts, consider readability. How will your blog banner look on a phone or tablet? Will it be legible?
Choose Your Brand Colors
Just as with fonts, you can work forward or backward from your website to your blog banner to choose colors.
If you’ve already got a great color scheme for your brand, great. Simply change the colors of a template to match what you’ve got goin’ on. You can type in the hex code of a color (that’s # followed by a combination of six numbers and letters) to get an exact match for your brand colors.
If not, use the color combos in the templates to inspire you.
Again, I was born without a single design gene in my body. (They all got used up on my sister who can lay out squares for a quilt and hors d’oeuvres for a party that are both equally jaw-dropping.)
So I especially love that Canva will show you the thematic colors for a given template. These appear above the default colors. This helps me pause before I spray everything down with turquoise to ask, “Hmm… will that clash with the other colors already at play?”
Make Images Easy Peasy
Canva has a large selection of stock images that you can license for free. Definitely read the fine print on these, as what you’re getting is a limited license. This means you can’t take a free image, slap it on t-shirts and start selling those t-shirts around town.
But when it comes to posting images on your blog and around social media, you should be covered. (This is a good time for me to say, “Dammnit, Jim! I’m a blogger not a lawyer.” Read Canva’s policies and take their word over mine, as policies can change.)
There are also images you can license from Cnva for $1, which is still waaaaaay cheaper than buying stock images nearly anywhere else.
To find photos (or illustrations or other graphics), click on the “Elements” button. You can do a search for key terms, such as “cute black cat.” You can also search “free” so you only see the available images you don’t have to pay for.
Once you’ve got an image that works, here’s a simple trick to get the right feel for your brand while also getting consistency: Use a filter!
Using a filter will give all your images a similar look, even if they come from different photographers and have different color saturation or lighting.
Click the “Filter” button at the top of the screen and select the look you want. You can even go full grayscale so you won’t have to match the colors of the image to your brand colors.
You’ll notice the header image for my blog has text over a colored block with the image in the background. I intentionally chose a template where the photo isn’t featured prominently because I go into total analysis paralysis when trying to select an image.
I’ve lost literally hours of my blogging time sifting through choices for stock images, trying to decide what subtle nuance is better for a post — the woman at the computer looking to the right or to the left?
I’ve found that making the image a background factor lets me make a quick choice without stressing over it.
Make It Work for You
Find what works for you and use it. Just like your writing process, your design process will be personal and unique to you.
Experiment and see what makes life easier for you. And keep in mind that advice I’m always yammering on and on about: No one’s reading your blog like a book. No one’s printing your posts and framing them. (Well, maybe your mom.)
The goal is to build a visual brand with a recognizable image that makes readers think, “Oh cool! Another informative post from that awesome blog I love!”
It doesn’t have to be fine art, and you’re allowed to change your mind — and your blog banner.
So get started! And let me know how it’s going in the comments: How do you make design work for you? Any strategies you’re willing to share?