Creating Custom Shapes & Freeform Elements in Canva

First things first, but even if I tell you this, I hope you continue to keep reading because there is some great info for anyone looking to draw in Canva.

Canva just released a freehand pen, pencil, and writing tool. All of that said, though, there is definitely a better way to create custom animations, and while you can’t create to your mind’s content unless you’re highly-skilled, you can still flex plenty of creativity.

So, for a little different animation spin, you can use Canva to illustrate. For instance, I did so when creating my children’s book.

And while I already did an entire post on KDP using Canva, I’ll summarize the biggest takeaways here to help you explore animating with Canva on your own terms.

1. Take Inventory

I think the best thing you can do when starting out with Canva is to take inventory of all that you have available. Even if you’re a seasoned Canva vet or a beginner, you’d be surprised at just how much more you can do with the tool.


So, head to “elements” and do some browsing, particularly with “shapes” and “lines.” In fact, this method of illustration involves combining basic shapes to create your own animations, so you’ll want to get a really good feel for all that’s available.

From there, your mind can start forming shapes out of random objects, just as it would when staring into a fluffy cloud formation up high in the sky.

2. Get Creative

Somewhat of an abstract step, but start playing around with what you can accomplish by combining different shapes. In the book I illustrated, here are some pieces I created from basic squares, rectangles, circles, and triangles:

  • House: Squares, rectangles, and triangles.
  • Grass: Rectangle
  • Sidewalk: Rectangle
  • Sink: Half circle and rectangles
  • Christmas tree: Triangles
  • Bed: Cylinders and rectangles

Here is a basic rocketship:

As you can see, it’s nothing more than a bunch of shapes pieced together. If you need inspiration and practice, look up what an animated item or figure might look like, and then try and recreate it.

In this case, all a rocketship is made up of is a large oval, a couple of triangles, and a few circles.

Next, here is something bit more complex, but still not too difficult:

See how cylinders, ovals, and other basic shapes can make something like arms holding a baby? You can take things as far as you’d like, adding lines for the different fingers, and more.

And one important note is, if you think you need to create an entire body for your “person,” you actually don’t. On multiple occasions, I’d obstruct people and other subjects toward the end of the page or behind other figures in order to save the need to bring them to completion.

And that’s how you can go about illustrating with Canva! And yes, it’s possible—I used this method with Canva to illustrate my entire book, which is now for sale on Amazon.

And frankly, this was all before I really dug into what you can accomplish with Canva, from removing backgrounds from photos, how to upload your own fonts, and more.

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