Basic Design Tricks to Create Effective Blog Images with Canva

Basic Design Tricks

A blog with an eye-grabbing accompanying image is more likely to get clicks on social media. On Pinterest, everything is about the image. I’ve definitely noticed an increase in views on this blog since I began utilizing images. The course I took on affiliate marketing is run by a female blogger, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, who gets a large percentage of her views from Pinterest images. She turns those clicks into affiliate income, earning herself a million dollars annually.

(You can check out Michelle at Making Sense of Cents.)

Images are a big deal. And guess what? You don’t have to shell out big bucks to get good ones. You can make them yourself on Canva, at least that’s what I do. The software is free and super easy to use. I took two design courses in college, figuring they would come in handy in the publishing industry with book covers and whatnot (they have), but I’m definitely no pro. You don’t need to be to use Canva.

I am, however, going to teach you some design tricks and show you how to take advantage of Canva’s features so that you can create attractive images that make your posts more clickable. More clicks equals more views, which equals more income if you’ve monetized, and more exposure if your blog is designed to draw in potential clients to your business.

Selecting Images

There are plenty of great sites where you can find free-to-use photos. The two I use most often are Pixabay and Unsplash. Some images on both those sites do require attribution below the photo, so keep an eye out for that and be sure to honor it. It doesn’t cost you anything either way.

Here are some tips for selecting good images

Tip 1: Don’t select images with faces

People who are really into design theory will tell you that selecting an image with a person in it can alienate part of your audience. If people don’t “see themselves” in the images, they won’t connect and will be less likely to click.

I’m telling you to avoid faces because stock photos with people are always cheesy as hell, at least the free ones. Also, if you’re trying to keep the design process super easy (a.k.a overlaying the necessary text over a pretty image and calling it quits), a face is going to get in the way. Overlaying a block of text or a banner on a face either decapitates your subject or makes their features poke out through the holes in your letters. Not cute. You can maneuver the text around the face, but who has time for that? And, again, cheese factor out the wazoo.

Tip 2: Pick a middle-ground resolution/size

If you don’t want to have to deal with arranging tons of illustrations, layers, and design elements in your image, the easiest practice is to just use an attractive photo as the main backdrop. As a result, you want that image to look nice, so picking a quality resolution is important. However, if you pick something too hi-res, I’ve found it takes a few seconds to load on the actual site. When using something like Pixabay, go with one of the smaller image options (anything around 600 pixels should be fine). That’s what I’m going to be doing from now on, as I’ve begun to fear the influx of images is slowing down my site.

Selecting Fonts

If my graphic design and typography courses taught me anything, it’s that font matters. Fonts elicit subconscious responses from people. Think about it. Do you take anyone who uses comic sans or a curly cue font that dots the i‘s with hearts on their business site seriously? Do you ever feel like a poster is shouting at you? In the hands of an expert, that’s intentional, but amateurs do it on accident in inappropriate scenarios. You wouldn’t want the image for a blog post on meditation techniques to shout at anybody, now, would you?

Here are some basic font rules of thumb

Rule 1: Sans serif fonts make great headers

Don’t know what sans serif means? Look at my headers, and then look at my body text. See the difference? Those little lines that come out from letters in my body text (sticking out behind a capital D or crossing the top of a K) are serifs. Sans means “without.” So sans serif is “without serifs.”

Sans serif fonts are typically bolder. They jump out more. When you’re creating a blog image, it’s always a good idea to use a sans serif font with thick lines to write out your blog title. You don’t have to go super thick. Super thick and bold fonts can look like screaming, like when your mom sends you a text in all caps and you don’t know if she’s pissed or just hit the button on accident and can’t get it off.

Rule 2: Serif fonts work best as body text

Serif fonts are easier to read than sans serif when shrunk down to something like 12 pt. font. I don’t know why; they just are. People who do this for a living say so, so I’m gonna take their word for it.

Use serif fonts if you want to write your website on the top or bottom of the image (always a good idea; it’s like a form of copyright and leads people to your site even if the link on social media is busted for some reason). Serif fonts are also good for the short paragraphs in infographics or if you want to write a little more about the post on the image.

Rule 3: Mix up fonts, but in moderation

I was taught by people who know better than me that you don’t want to exceed three different fonts in one image/project/pamphlet/whatever, and it’s actually better to stick with two most of the time. Why? Well for one thing it’s damn hard to find two fonts that look good together. In fact, that is what takes up most of my time when creating a blog image. If you have two very unique fonts, they clash with each other. Sometimes one font will totally overpower another. You have to find a balance. Sometimes they just don’t look good together, and you can’t figure out why.

Finding three that complement each other is even harder. If you have enough elements in the image to need three fonts, keep the third very simple, like Times New Roman or something similar so that it doesn’t really have a “voice” in the image.

However, only using one is bland. Everything will melt into each other. What I like to do is use one plain but thick sans serif font for the main text and then find a fun, unique font to highlight the key word(s) in the title, like this.

5 Ways to Make Freelance Clients Come to You

Mastering the Text Overlay

You want your post title to pop on the page, but when you have an image with lots of rich colors, especially dark colors, you can’t simply type the text right over top of everything. It will blend into the background in at least a few places no matter what you do; trust me, I’ve been there. So how do you combat this?

Here are some basic options for getting your post’s title onto your image:

(Refer to this screenshot highlighting the text overlay steps as you read)


Option 1: Solid Banner

If blocking out one part of your image isn’t going to detract from its effect, this is a good way to go. What I mean by that is, if the image is of one thing that takes up the whole image, it’s not going to hurt to completely cover some of that element; the viewer will still be able to tell what it is and get the full effect. However, if you have an image that works well due to multiple elements, say, a picture of a desk scattered with papers and knickknacks for a post about de-cluttering, you will want to go with option two to preserve the “feel” of your image.

If that’s not something you need to worry about, a banner is an eye-grabbing option. Typically, I don’t do this much. I often struggle with where to put the banner. Also, my titles are usually a bit long, and the words “ghostwriter” and “freelancer” take up a lot of space, so if I were to try to fit some of my titles on a banner, the banner would basically take up the whole shot. However, I did do a banner for an anchor post for my new business blog (which I’ll be launching later this month), and I love how it turned out.

Do I Need a Ghostwriter-

The easiest way to do this in Canva is to go to the elements section (red circle in the reference image), click shapes (circled in blue), and select the solid square shape (circled in yellow). Drag and drop it onto your image and then manipulate the size and color how you want it, and place it where you think it looks best.

Option 2: Transparency Technique

For the reasons I already listed above, a banner doesn’t always work. If you want your blog title to lay over top the whole image or you want to be able to see the full image, you can use Canva’s transparency function to your advantage.

Select that same square shape I was talking about for banners and then go to the top right hand corner and click on the little icon that looks like a fading checkerboard (purple diamond in the reference image). Use the bar that pops up to adjust the transparency. Then you can still see the image through the transparent square and your text will have a bit of solid color to stand out against.

If you’re wanting your text to expand over the whole image, I suggest sticking with a white square because white creates a light haze over the image. It blends in and just makes the image look a little less stark, but it is enough to make your text jump out more. Fiddle with the bar until you strike the right balance. The end result will look something like this.

Goodbye Byline

You can also create a transparent banner that only encases your text, and if you do that, using any color will work, as long as it complements the colors in the image. Here’s an example of one I did.


Bonus Tip: Don’t Fear Shapes

You don’t always have to use that square shape. There are lots to choose from. If you don’t mind going through some trial and error of which shape best fits the words in your title (Yes, that’s a consideration. If you have really long words, you have to be able to place them properly in the shape so they don’t extend past it.), you can put your text in a cute, eye-catching shape, like this.


Final Thoughts

Finding a style you like and figuring out all the mechanics of image design takes a bit of time to feel comfortable with, but play around and you’ll get it. You don’t have to be a pro, especially not with a software like Canva; you simply have to get yourself familiar with some basic principles and techniques, and you can create a functional image that helps you get some extra clicks on social media.

2 thoughts on “Basic Design Tricks to Create Effective Blog Images with Canva

  1. clairejones323 says:

    So much useful information here Hannah, thank you. I have in fact just opened a Canva account (I’m still working my way through your Making A Website post, and I think you mentioned it there) so it will be just the thing when I need to look at creating images or a logo. I’ve stalled a bit on the website at the moment as I’ve got some writing to do for people (hurray!), but I’m feeling positive about it which is nine-tenths of the battle for me. Great tips about the font. I watched a whole little video about why not to use comic sans the other day. Made my son watch it too, he has a habit of handing in essays written in bizarre fonts, must drive his teachers mad. Your images are always very enticing – attractive and never jarring. Good to learn how you do it and where you get your images from. As ever, I’m taking notes.

    • IJustWanttoWrite says:

      Claire, as always, you’ve put a smile on my face. So happy to help. That story about your son made me laugh. Whenever I wrote short stories or novels as a teen, I would always put them in some complex font I’d downloaded for free. For instance, one was called Bleeding Cowboys, and the letters looked like they’d been shot. Thought I was super cool, but it was just really hard to read, should anyone try.

Leave a Reply