Designing on a Budget: Canva vs Photoshop

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Graphic designers are spoiled with choices when it comes to graphic design tools. There are tons of awesome and cheap programs on the market.

Two of the most popular are Canva and Photoshop. If you are breaking into the graphic design scene, you may be wondering which option is for you. On this page, we are going to compare Canva vs Photoshop and help you to decide. 

Both Canva and Photoshop are incredibly sophisticated programs. We won’t cover every feature (we would be here all day), but we will go through the ones that are going to be the most important to artists, as well as the main areas where they differ.

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Comparison Table

Feature/ComparisonAdobe PhotoshopCanva
Type of SoftwareDownloadable for Offline UseOnline-only, browser-based. 
Ease of UseHuge learning curveEasy for beginners to use, and those not fussed about learning the intricacies of graphic creation.
FlexibilityTons of drawing and editing tools. Create something from scratch, or manipulate existing images.Limited drawing and editing tools. The system leans heavily on pre-designed templates where newbies can fill in the blanks.
PriceStarts at $20.99 a monthFree, or $119.99 for a year, for the Pro version (which I recommend). 

Canva vs Photoshop: Software Type

Bit of an odd one to start off with when it comes to the Canva vs Photoshop comparison, but it is a very important one.

Photoshop is a program that you download to your computer, while Canva is an online-only system. This means that you have to open your web browser to be able to use it. There are a few pros and cons to each here.

As a downloadable piece of software, Photoshop is going to be much more versatile. It can be loaded with a lot more features and, as you will see throughout this page, this means that you can create much more professional images.

The downside is that Photoshop tends to be quite resource-hungry. We are not saying that you need the most expensive computer in the world here.

However, you will need to have something that is fairly decent to get the most from Photoshop. Although, we are assuming that if you are interested in graphic design then you will already know this part.

Canva needs an internet connection to run. If you don’t have an internet connection, then you can’t access the program at all. It is a bit annoying, to be honest.

Although, it does mean that graphic editing is platform-agnostic. Wherever you have a computer or cellphone, assuming that you have an internet connection, you can edit and create images.

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Canva vs Photoshop: Ease of Use

Canva is marketed as a solution for new graphic designers and those that may not have a ton of skill, but want to produce something that looks half-decent for their social media channels.

For this reason, Canva is going to be a lot easier for the average person to use. It is still powerful, but not so powerful that you will be dealing with a ton of functions that you have no clue what they do.

Canva makes design simple by including a ton of templates where you can just fill in the blanks. You can even upload your own custom fonts and get to work like that. Basically, if you know nothing about graphic design, or you are struggling to wrap your head around complicated features, then Canva is great.

You could learn Photoshop for years and still not understand how a good number of the features work. There are tons of tutorials for using Photoshop online (probably far more than with Canva), but there is a massive learning curve with Photoshop.

Although, credit where credit is due, Adobe has tried to make this easier than it used to be. They know that there are a lot of people that are interested in proper graphic design nowadays.

Nothing in Photoshop is there to help you. While we are sure that you can find some templates online to use, everything that you do in Photoshop is meant to be done from scratch.

There is no hand-holding. We know that this does mean that some people may want to go for Canva if they are beginners, but we do suggest that you don’t. Well, you can if you are not planning on getting serious about graphic design.

However, if you are planning to make this a career, then you may as well use Photoshop. It is much better, even if you can’t cobble together something great all that quickly. 

Canva vs Photoshop: Versatility 

Photoshop is far more versatile than Canva, and this is all down to the huge number of tools that you have at your disposal.

Photoshop can allow you to create intricate pieces of art using nothing more than the included drawing tools (shapes, brushes, lines, etc.). There are plenty of ways to add more brushes/features into the system too using the Photoshop Plugin system.

It’s not the best piece of software in the Adobe range for drawing (Adobe Illustrator is), but it is incredibly competent, and it is likely that many of the professional flyers, brochures, etc. that you have seen out there have gone through Photoshop at some point. 

Photoshop really shines as a photo editing tool. In fact, it is more than competent. It is the best photo editing tool on the market, so if you are doing a ton of work with existing images, then Photoshop just cannot be beaten.

Canva is versatile, but only to an extent. As you know by now, the primary goal of Canva is to be an easy-to-use system. There are some drawing tools in there, but nothing that is going to completely overwhelm you.

It is about creating artwork in a couple of minutes. It relies heavily on that template system for it to shine, and there have been times when we didn’t feel that it was too versatile on that front. Editing some of the templates is hard. 

Canva is awful when it comes to editing existing images, especially photos. Again, it can do an OK job, but you aren’t going to get the array of tools that Photoshop offers e.g. few color correction tools, difficulty trimming certain sections of the image out, etc. 

Canva vs Photoshop: File Formats

Photoshop supports all common image extensions (plus a ton more), while Canva only supports:

  • JPG
  • PNG
  • PPT
  • GIF
  • MP4
  • PDF

Canva vs Photoshop: Pricing

Canva has a free option, and for your average person, the free version is pretty decent. You don’t get access to the full range of tools provided by Canva, but what you do get is alright. 

If you opt for one of the paid options for Canva, then the main highlight is accessing millions of stock images that you can use in your projects, as well as some more templates and some other files. It isn’t too bad. 

Photoshop is always a paid piece of software. You always get the full set of features. You won’t ever get access to stock photos, though. Well, not with Photoshop, Adobe does have a stock photo service in Adobe Stock.

If you are serious about graphic design, then you will want to have the full range of tools available to you with Canva. This means paying for it. However, the price of Canva (for the most basic package) is about half the price of Photoshop, but fewer than half the features.

At that point, you may as well buy Photoshop. Yeah, you are going to be losing access to those stock images and templates, but you have a much more powerful piece of software that allows you to get really creative with the images that you are making. 

Canva vs Photoshop: Which One Is Right For You?

If you are serious about your graphic design and photo editing, then Photoshop by far. It is a pro-level piece of software, and there is a reason why professionals are using this and not Canva. 

Canva is fantastic for those that are creating basic graphics or want to cobble something together pretty quickly. However, if you are planning on doing a few advanced bits and pieces, then you will want to upgrade to Photoshop pretty quickly.

Canva is a system for creating graphics that has been developed for those that don’t really want to do it day in, and day out. It is for those that don’t care how great their images look, they just want something that looks half-decent for social media, posters, etc.

For most of our blog readers, Photoshop is the way to go. Although, don’t get us wrong. If you are planning on doing a ton of work with stock imagery, then you may find having a Canva subscription is good due to the millions of stock images that come included with it. 

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