If there’s one thing we know about promotion and branding, it’s that visual marketing works.
The problem is that most musicians aren’t graphic designers. The software can be learned with a lot of patience and time, but many of the programs are too confusing, under-powered, or unreasonably expensive to be practical.
Becoming a Photoshop guru might sound smart and exciting at first, but it will only take a few short sessions with the application to realize that this isn’t what you had in mind when you signed up for a career in music.
So what’s one to do? Well, fortunately, attractive promotional graphics aren’t out of reach, even if you don’t have the expertise or the budget to hire someone to create them for you.
Let’s have a look at how to use a powerful and user-friendly tool called Canva to create your graphics. No pro designer needed. 🙂
But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:
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Step #1 – Create An Account With Canva
This is pretty self-explanatory. Go to the Canva website, and either sign up with your email address or with your Facebook or Google account.
At this point, Canva might ask you what you’d like to use their platform for (i.e. work, personal, or education). For all intents and purposes, the “Personal” option will do just fine.
Step #2 – Choose What You Want To Design
Normally, this is where we would have a conversation about what you’re looking to design, and what you’ll need to set your dimensions and dpi to. This is not hard to figure out, as there are plenty of templates and tutorials out there, but it’s a bit technical, and can slow down the design process.
But this is why Canva is so great – you don’t have to adjust any of these settings. Canva will simply ask you what you want to design, and will set it all up for you. You can choose from:
- Social media graphic
- Blog graphics
- Concert poster
- Music flyer
- And more
With a streamlined system like this, even amateur graphic designers can feel like pros.
No matter what you choose to design right now, the basic principles of good design and color theory don’t change, so just choose whatever material you’re looking to create right now.
For this tutorial, I chose “Poster”, because that’s something all performing artists and bands tend to need.
Step #3 – Choose Graphic Type
After selecting “Poster”, Canva will ask you what kind of poster you’d like to design (there are different prompts for different graphic types). You can choose from options like “Event”, “Retail”, “Advertising”, and so on. Naturally, we’re going to pick “Music” for this guide.
Step #4 – Choose A Template
At this point, if you are comfortable with intermediate level web apps, you could start customizing your new poster all on your own. Simply use the tools in the left hand sidebar (“Elements”, “Text”, and “Background”) to choose your colors, background textures, fonts, and various objects, photos, shapes, and illustrations for use in your poster.
It’s important to note that some elements can be used entirely for free, while others will cost you $1. Whether to use free or paid elements is up to you, but just know that you will have to pay for the use of specific items.
If you’re a complete beginner, I’d suggest using one of the pre-built “Layouts” to get started. Don’t worry – you’ll still be able to customize colors and the text to your liking. And let’s be honest. The pre-made layouts – even the free ones – are quite nice. So, select your layout and let's move on.
Step #5 – Customize Your Graphic
Even if you’ve selected a prefab layout, you can still customize every aspect of your promotional graphic.
If the image is too sparse, and you want to add additional icons or shapes to make it more interesting, you can simply click on “Elements” and start browsing for something suitable. All you need to do is click on the item you want, and it will automatically add itself to your canvas. From there, you can resize it, position it, or even change its color.
And if you happen to make a mistake, there’s a handy “Undo” button in the upper left hand side, and even a “Redo” button if you end up needing it.
Now for the most important part – the text. First, click on “Text” in the sidebar. If you’ve chosen an appropriate layout, the only thing you’ll need to do now is click on the text that’s within the layout to edit it.
Once you see the edit bar, you’ll notice that you can also change the color, font size, spacing, and so on.
As for the background, a pre-made layout already has one, so there isn’t much need to change it. If you’d like to be able to alter the background, you’ll either want to select a different layout altogether (one that you actually like), or build your poster from the ground up. This is practically the same process as described above, except that you’ll have to position everything yourself, choose the fonts and colors, and so on.
Step #6 – Download Your Completed Graphic
Once you're done editing, find the download button in the upper right hand side.
At this point, you can choose from several file formats – JPG, PNG, PDF, or PDF for print.
By default, Canva recommends that you download the PDF version. If you want to take the graphic to a printer, however, you will definitely need to go with PDF for print or a similar option.
If you’re saving it for the web, then JPG is usually the best option. If for some reason you need to preserve transparency within the graphic, then use PNG.
Ironically, the file format Canva recommends is the least useful. Not to worry though, you can still download multiple versions if need be, even after downloading the file once.
Honestly, even if you are an experienced graphic designer, some of the layouts and free tools within Canva are stunning and beautiful as-is. If you’re performing regularly, and no one else is creating graphics for you, you might as well save some of your time and take advantage of what they’ve got.
I see no reason to start from scratch, especially since Canva lets you set the defaults for your brand, including colors, logos, and even fonts! This means that you can easily preserve brand unity and consistency across all of your promotional graphics.