How to do Graphic Design Without Photoshop

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First, let me ask you—why do you find yourself asking such a question? Because you don’t have Photoshop skills? Because you feel Photoshop is too expensive? Because you don’t have the time? 

Don’t worry—even if all of the above, you certainly have options. In fact, I’m a living, breathing, amateur example of how you can go about graphic design without Photoshop. 

My toolbox: Canva

Yes, the range Canva allows for is impressive, and this is not even a small fraction of all that you can do with it.

What is Canva, and why is it cool?

The answer is right there in the post title! Canva is a great way to do graphic design without Photoshop. 

But specifically, when it comes to how to use Canva, you can choose from a huge library of template and graphic elements to really create anything that requires a visual component. You’re not so much producing by freehand – or at least you don’t have to – and can think of Canva as more of a “drag and drop” design program. There is still plenty you can create originally on your own, and I’ll get into that in a bit. 


In terms of sizes and output, you can choose from pre-set canvas sizes, or obviously create your own. And when completed, you can download in a variety of formats, publish to social media, or even send off for professional printing. 

How to do graphic design without Photoshop?

If you’re just getting stated in graphic design and are looking for Photoshop alternatives, you might be working on a personal project, like your child’s birthday card invitation, or a flyer for an upcoming event, or perhaps you need assets for a side business etc.

Whatever the case may be, here are a few design activities you’re probably looking to take on.

Background removal

One of the more common design activities for any beginner is probably removing the background from an image. Here we have a wonderful shot, the perfect photo, but the background doesn’t fit the purpose, or there is something in the background that just throws off the whole feel.

With Canva, you can easily remove the background of any image with the click of a button, and seconds of waiting time. Is it perfect? No. Is it a very good option to have that seems to work most of the time? For me, yes. The only other downside is that there doesn’t seem to be an option to “touch up” after the fact, but maybe I’m just missing the capability.

Text effects

There was a time where you had to work manually to create a lot of text effects in Canva, and to be honest, that was part of the fun for me and using the tool. I knew that even if something wasn’t available out of the box, I could work to recreate it.

Now, while it’s still the case in some instances, there are a number of cool text effects you can easily implement in Canva, whether that’s adding a shadow to an image, outline text, and even creating word animations in Canva.

What can you design with Canva?

As mentioned above, pretty much anything. It can be as simple as a blank canvas if you wish, or, you can use a template to get you headed in the right direction. 

That said, given the number of provided images and elements, you do need to be mindful of Canva’s terms of use and license agreements

What are a few examples?

I do have quite a few posts dedicated to things you can and “can’t do” in Canva, and I don’t intend for this to be a tutorial of any sorts, but I realize it is helpful to see a few examples. So, using the list above, here are a few things I’ve created.

Kids book

For this, I actually used all basic shapes to illustrate. Meaning, I wanted the book to be completely original, and since I can’t draw worth a lick, I knew I had to be pretty skilled in creatively piecing together smaller chunks in order to generate larger pictures. I’m now on my second book, and think it’s stronger than the first, but am still proud of what I accomplished, nonetheless. 

I’ve already detailed everything about KDP using Canva, but here are a few examples to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about. 


You might have also noticed I have an eBook available via a link above. So while you’re here more because of the fact that you’re looking for design help, freelance writing is actually my wheelhouse. 

I wanted to be able to cleanly document how I became a successful freelance writer without any experience, and again, Canva made this goal so easily achievable. I was hesitant at first given just how much text was involved, but again, it really wasn’t an issue.


Last, and probably most universal, was being able to easily create logos and site graphics. On this site, the logo, and a few blog headers were created on Canva, but I really lean heavily on the tool for my tutorials, from shadowing text in Canva, to being able to create thin lines in Canva, etc.

It’s strange to think about, and this probably isn’t your end goal, but Canva is extremely teachable. Meaning, not only can I create to my heart’s content, but being able to show others how to go about creating in a similar manner is easy as well. 

At times I would kick myself for not documenting a process throughout the creation journey to make sharing easier, but being able to recreate such work with Canva is typically a breeze.

With logos specifically, the ability to export/download with a transparent image background in Canva is huge.

How do the costs compare?

Just checked, so as of 5/16/2020, Photoshop costs $20.99 for Desktop and iPad. There is a 7-day free trial. 

Canva is free, but you’ll find there are certain elements you’ll have to pay for, from icons, images, and other photos—but Canva states on their pricing that still means access to “hundreds of thousands of free photos and graphics.”

Now, there is also Canva Pro, which is $9.95/month if billed yearly, or $12.95/month if billed by month. With Pro, you get everything the free membership level has, plus you can create a convenient brand kit, can resize designs, have access to more template and graphic images, and can upload your own fonts to Canva

(Here is my full answer to the question, “How Much Does Canva Pro Cost?” if you need more thoughts and details.)

Canva or Photoshop?

At the risk of sounding like a cop out, it really depends on you, your needs, skill level, free time, etc. I love both. Photoshop is great, and in a league of its own, but I currently only use Canva given my personal situation.

With free trials, and relatively low costs, you can probably give both a whirl. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Adobe Photoshop: Free trial, then $20.99/month
Canva Pro: Free membership, or Canva Pro at $9.95/month

Or, just pay $5 for someone on Fiverr to create it for you. I’ve definitely swallowed my pride a few times and just hired a freelancer on Fiverr for quick turnaround, and often receiving something better than I could have done myself. 
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About Ryan 25 Articles
Ryan is the owner of Rent My Words, a business and site started to help everyday people, (beginners without any experience, basically) find success with marketing, their writing projects, and freelance work on platforms like Fiverr, Upwork and others.