Canva vs Photoshop: Which Design Tool Should You Choose?

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Graphic design has, and will always be, an integral part of any business. 

Whether you want to create a website, build a presence on social media or curate an email marketing campaign, you will at some point have to delve into the world of graphic design. 

Nowadays, more than ever, we rely on visuals to take us on a journey. Digital storytelling, aesthetically-pleasing instagram feeds and functional, user-friendly websites are expected to complement any business. 

The tools we should use to create those all too important graphics is an increasingly debated topic, particularly since the arrival of Canva into the design world. 

In this article we compare the two biggest platforms out there currently; Canva and Photoshop. 

“Empowering the world to design” 

What is Canva? 

Canva is an online graphic design platform that was launched in 2013 and since then it has established a reputation as the go-to app if you’re a beginner to graphic design. Their mission is to make design accessible to everyone. 

Since their launch, Canva has continued to grow and impress designers all around the world with its user-friendly platform, accessibility and fun learning content. Canva has even helped some of the world’s biggest companies with their rebranding. Check out this article about Skyscanner and how Canva helped them.

Canva’s success story

  • There are now 75 million users in 190 countries 
  • Their team is over 2500 people strong with offices all over the world
  • In 2021 alone over 3.5 billion designs were created 

There is no doubt that Canva has taken the world by storm. 

Features of Canva 

  • Browse thousands of design templates and make them your own - Edit and change colours of graphics
  • Download high quality photos and videos 
  • Upload any files from your device 
  • Edit images 
  • Remove image backgrounds 
  • Animate graphics 
  • Schedule content across different social media platforms 
  • Download PNG files which have transparent backgrounds 
  • Upload a brand kit including font, hex codes and logos. 

“Do your best work. In your best time.” 

What is Photoshop? 

Launched in 1990, Adobe Photoshop is a software used for image editing, graphic design and digital art and it is now the industry standard for graphic designers. 

A new version is released each year with new and improved features. The most recent 2022 version has seen even more advanced photo editing capabilities. Photoshop is used by some of the world’s top creatives and is particularly common in the photography industry.

Photoshop’s success story 

  • Over 90% of the world’s creatives use photoshop 
  • There are 29 million creative cloud members worldwide 
  • Over 300 billion PDFs were opened using adobe products in 2021 

Features of photoshop 

  • Photo adjustments: colours, hue, saturation, light, shadows 
  • Subject selection 
  • Lasso tool 
  • Removing background 
  • Layer masks and clipping masks 
  • Levels - advanced photo editing and colour/shade manipulation - Colour channels 
  • Filtering and resizing of images 
  • Smart objects 

Photoshop is undeniably the most popular platform for graphic designers world over. 

So, Canva vs Photoshop?

How do you decide whether to use Canva or Photoshop? This decision depends on multiple factors: the type of design you wish to create, the skill level of the employees that will be using it, the aims of your business etc. 

Below, we will compare some of the main reasons for choosing Photoshop or Canva to guide you when making this decision. 

1. Graphic design inspiration 

First and foremost, the reason most people turn to Photoshop or Canva is to design something. Canva is a great place to start with more than 250,000 templates available on their free version alone. Before you even have to think there is inspiration everywhere for every sector; education, finance, marketing, retail, hospitality, art etc. This accessibility means even people who are completely new to the world of graphic design can create something fun and eye-catching without too much thought.

screenshot of canva's dashboard showing design inspiration and templates

Photoshop doesn't offer templates so the work you create on this platform will be inspired from other sources or from the individual designer. This means there is less inspiration regarding what to design but everything that is created on Photoshop is really unique. In fact, Canva is so widely used nowadays that many graphic designers can tell if something has been designed using Canva. Designs will often look more generic and less complex when made with Canva. 

When it comes to the type of design you want for your brand, it may depend on what skills your employees have and their ability to produce unique designs or repurpose other content. 

For design inspiration, Canva wins! 1-0

2. Social Media 

Most designers nowadays are using creative applications like Canva and Photoshop to design content that will eventually be uploaded to social media in one form or another. 

Photoshop can be used to create designs of any shape or size (Instagram posts, stories, Facebook cover photos, Instagram reels), but you will need to research the dimensions beforehand. Canva, on the other hand, has every type of post pre-made with the correct dimensions so you can skip that step of searching online or having to keep up-to-date with the shifting requirements of social media platforms.

When it comes to social media management, Canva comes out on top, too. With their in-built content planner, Canva makes it easy to plan content for the top social media platforms and it will then post them on behalf of you. This is a feature which Photoshop does not offer. 

Overall, when it comes to designing for social media purposes, Canva would be our application of choice. Particularly for its built-in content planner. 

Canva is the winner for Social Media; 2-0!

3. Graphic design intricacies: vectors and layers 

All graphic designers use vectors and layers when designing content. 

When using Photoshop, if you want to use different vectors and icons you will need to head to Illustrator first and change any colours or shapes before importing your creation into Photoshop. This means Photoshop designs are highly customisable and you can alter any vector that exists to better align with your brand. This also means leaving and returning to the app, adding time to the design process. 

For skilled designers this process is relatively quick, but for beginners this will be time-consuming. 

When designing something on Canva you can access vectors, photos, text, and even pre-made colour palette styles all in one place. You don’t need to leave the app to use any of this. Despite this being handy, it can also be restrictive. You can upload vectors from your own personal device that you have sourced elsewhere, but it will be hard to edit the colours or shape of Canva’s own vectors (elements). 

[Image Source]

As a result, you will not be able to include as wide a range of content tailored to your brand as you would with Photoshop. 

When designing with vectors, our top pick is Photoshop. 2-1!

4. Photo editing 

Both apps can be used to edit photos. 

In Canva you can adjust colour, saturation, hue and brightness, you can add image filters and you can remove the background from images (with the pro version). However, for the more advanced image editing capabilities, you might want to turn to Photoshop where you can edit images to a higher level using curves, layers, removing specific objects from an image, etc. 

Photoshop is known in many industries as the go-to platform for image editing, particularly within the beauty and fashion industry where Photoshop sometimes sparks controversy with its ability to alter people’s faces and bodies. However, the range of things you can achieve when editing photos on Photoshop means that Canva doesn’t come close in comparison. 

Photoshop is our winner when it comes to photo editing; 2-2.

5. User Experience 

Your decision whether to use Photoshop or Canva may also come down to your overall user experience. 

Canva has a seamless interface which is easy to digest and they offer pointers to first-time users. It is without a doubt the top platform for newbies to the world of design. The platform guides you through the process and everything is easy to use. 

The Photoshop interface on the other hand can be confusing and overwhelming if not trained properly on it. Getting to grips with Photoshop is a process which takes time. 

Adobe Photoshop Interface and Canva Interface 

In addition, for users who wish to work offline, Canva is not the best choice for them. Photoshop can be used entirely offline whereas Canva requires an internet connection at all times. This could be something which may change in the future so let’s watch this space. 

Finally, in terms of the actual users, your choice of platform will depend highly on what type of company you are. If you are a web design agency specialising in high calibre, fluid and complex graphics then Canva won’t may not be sophisticated enough. However, if you are a small jewellery store looking to build a brand presence online, Canva will be your best option to quickly produce simple yet effective graphics. 

When it comes to user experience, we think the choice of the best platform depends massively on your job role, skills and goals, so we’ll call it 3-3!

6. Budget 

Both Canva and Photoshop are available at different price points, which ultimately might be what makes your decision. 

There is a free version of Canva available which allows you to do a reasonable level of design but there are limited options for images and vectors. The free version also won’t allow you to upload your brand kit and have all your fonts and colours to hand whenever you open a new design. 

In contrast, there are no free versions of Photoshop as it has to be bought as part of a subscription. It can be purchased as a stand-alone app or as part of the whole the Adobe Creative Suite. Despite there being no free version, there are attractive offers for students and educational plans.

Canva Pricing 

Let’s take a look at the plans that Canva offers. 

  • Free: For anyone who wants to design anything! 
  • Canva Pro (£6 a month per person): For individuals who want to use Canva’s services for their own business or individual work 
  • Canva for teams (£8 per month and access for up to 5 people): For teams who want to collaborate together and access all designs in one place. 

Canva is without a doubt the more affordable choice between the two. Canva allows for team collaboration and full access to their features for only £8 per month. If you have a lower budget for design and content creation then Canva would be the best option. 

Photoshop pricing 

Adobe Photoshop has a more complex pricing system which can be tailored to each individual’s needs. 

  • Photoshop for individuals (£19.97 per month): This purchase will only give you access to photoshop itself. 
  • Creative Cloud subscription (£51.98 per month): This subscription gives you access to all of Adobe’s applications (Illustrator, Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, Acrobat Pro, InDesign, AdobeExpress, AfterEffects, Adobe Stock to name a few). This is definitely worthwhile if you feel you will need to use Illustrator to complement your Photoshop designs. 
  • Creative cloud for teams (£61.99 per month): This is the best option for a team in an office who need to collaborate on designs. This provides access to all Adobe applications, plus the option to sync across devices making collaboration easier. 

Photoshop as an application itself is more expensive and most designers would need access to Illustrator too, increasing the cost again. However, Photoshop is a worthwhile investment if you are looking to create more advanced designs and edit photos to a higher level.

For pricing, again, this really depends on the amount you want to invest. Both design applications have an incredible return on investment, but it’s likely that the use case of each will sway you more than the price-point!

So, which platform should I choose?

The decision whether to use Photoshop or Canva ultimately depends on your wider business goals. 

When to choose Canva:

  • Are you a smaller business with a tight budget? 
  • Do you have graphic designers who are at a beginners level?
  • Do you want to produce designs quickly without too much time spent training employees?

If you answered yes to any of the above, we believe Canva would be the best option for you.

When to choose Photoshop:

  • Is graphic design an area you wish to invest in? 
  • Do you want your designers to have full creative freedom and flexibility? 
  • Are you able to invest time into training your employees on a new interface? 

If yes, then Photoshop would be the best option for you. 

Just a heads up, some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, meaning we may make a small commission on any sign-ups or purchases for the tools we recommend.

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