Free Photoshop Alternative: Try Canva

Everyone loves things that look nice. That’s why a lot of us wind up paying professional graphic designers to make our webpages, brochures, fliers, and the like. While designers are indispensable for their skills, they’re also indispensable because they have access to tools like Adobe Photoshop—which is pretty pricey for the amateur to acquire—and has a very steep learning curve.

This is where Canva comes in. This new company just released a beta version of its software that promises to “make design simple for everyone.” If you’ve ever sat down in front of Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign, you know how intimidating the array of tools and options can be. It’s difficult to even know where to start. Contrast that with Canva’s introductory how-to video which is just—get this—23 seconds long.

Canva gives you the option of making a document, presentation, blog graphic, face book cover, social media post, card, or photo collage. You can’t, say, design a logo, but that’s kind of the point. To keep things simple, the options are limited, but they address most of the design tasks we’re faced with regularly. And the interface couldn’t be easier: you just search for the images, text layouts, or patterns you want to use and drag them into your work space. In fact, Canva came from a platform built to help high schoolers design yearbooks, so you can bet it’s simple for non-professionals to use.

And as you might expect, the entire application is browser-based, so multiple users can edit a design, you can store projects in the cloud, and you don’t have annoy annoying programs to download or install. Your finished projects can be exported directly to social media or saved as a PDF or PNG file.

Canva’s so simple, it’s worth just trying out rather than spilling more ink explaining how it works. But of course, the best thing of all is that Canva is totally free to use. In fact, the company’s pricing model is another innovative feature that helps bring design to everyone. While there’s a ton of fonts and graphics available for free, you can pay for some standard stock photography. And while traditionally, these images are incredibly expensive, but you’re able to use them over and over again. Canva has pioneered a one-use license, which brings the price for professional-quality images down to about $1 in most cases. It’s a total steal. Especially considering a license for Photoshop or Illustrator is well over $100.

So if you have a lot of design needs and not a lot of time or cash, save yourself the $15 on ­Complicated Image Editing Programs for Dummies. Give Canva a try.