Using Canva to Create a Graphic with Text on Transparent Overlay - Make For Business

Using Canva to Create a Graphic with Text on Transparent Overlay

Ian Pullen
By Ian Pullen / September 5, 2016

For this first graphics challenge tutorial, we’re going to use a simple technique in Canva to add text over a transparent overlay. If you prefer to use a different web app of software installed on your computer, such as Photoshop Elements or GIMP, you can follow the steps, but will need to adapt the techniques to work with your chosen app. I’m assuming that you’ve never used Canva and outline the steps in some detail. If you’re already familiar with Canva, you’ll find this pretty quick and easy to work through.

As we’re working on a Fall theme to mark the start of the new season, I’m using an image from Pixabay for the background of the graphic. You can find the file I’m using at, but if you type “fall” into the search box, you’ll get loads of results to choose from.

Pick a template

So let’s head to and sign in If you don’t already have an account, you’ll need to sign up for free before getting started.


Once signed in, you’ll see some template options that you can choose from. I picked the Facebook Post template, but you can click the “More” for a wider range to choose from or “Use custom dimensions”.

Upload the background image


Click the “Uploads” tab in the left column and then click the “Upload your own images” button and select the image you want to upload. You can probably just make out in the screenshot that I’ve already uploaded the image I’m using for the background.

Alternatively, you can search for an image in Canva itself.


Just type “fall” into the search box at the top of the screen and you’ll get a mix of graphics and photo results. Note that while some results are usually free, you have to pay to select many others. It’s generally only $1 an image, so it’s a pretty affordable and convenient way to find images to use.

Add the background image


Click the image you’re using as a background and it will added to your document. In the screenshot you can see that it appears to be smaller than the document, but I know the original dimensions of the image are 1920px X 1280px, so I know I can increase the size of the image to fill the document.

Rotate the background image

You don’t have to follow this step but I think it will help with the composition using this particular background image.


To rotate an image, just click and drag the grab handle that sticks out of the bottom of the image. As you rotate it, you’ll see that the angle of rotation is displayed, making it easy to rotate it 90º.

Flip the image

Again you may not want to follow this step with your image, but I’m doing so because I think it will help focus the reader’s eye on the text when it’s added.


Firstly, a quick note about the toolbar that’s displayed when you click on an image or element to select it in Canva. In the screenshot, you should see a fixed white toolbar displayed at the top of the screen. It’s possible, depending on the web browser and operating system you use, that when you click your image, a gray toolbar that floats on the screen will be displayed instead. Whichever toolbar you see, the controls contained are the same.

Now, to flip the photo, I clicked on “Flip” to show the drop down and then clicked “Flip Vertically”. That may seem strange that I didn’t click “Flip Horizontally” but that’s because I’d rotated the image. If anything doesn’t work quite as you expected in Canva, just click the “Undo” menu item in the turquoise colored bar at the top of the screen.

Scale the image


Before scaling the photo, you may find it easier to zoom out a little bit. Just click the minus symbol in the gray zoom control one or more times. Then click and drag a couple of the corner drag handles to resize the photo. The proportions are automatically maintained.

You can click on the photo and drag it to reposition it and even use the arrow keys on your keyboard to fine tune the positioning.

I’ve rotated and flipped the image to leave a clearer space to place the text over. The eye tends to scan from left to right and the positioning of the leaves should help to lead the eye into the text.

Add some text


Click on the “Text” in the left hand column to open the text panel. You can click any of the various options to add text elements to the document. The first three will add simple text boxes that you can easily modify. If you scroll down the page, you’ll find a wide range of elements that you can add to your document and then edit the text.

In the screenshot, I added the pre-made text element from the top of the right column that contains the love heart. I could have easily added a love heart from the “Elements” tab, but this was quick and easy. You can see I’ve edited the text for my requirements.


I added three more boxes of text using the “Add heading” option. Adding the text in a separate box per line means I can resize the text so each line is the same width. I’ve changed the font to “Josefin Sans” to match the first text box I added and adjusted the size and color too.

In your case, you’ll want to choose a font that feels like a fit for your brand font choice as Canva has a limited range of fonts and doesn’t give you an option to use fonts installed on your computer.

Add call to action button

I want to add a call to action and I’m going to help stress the CTA by dressing the text as a button. While the image as a whole will be clickable in Facebook when I post this image, a button can help to underline that the reader can take an action. While we can’t link an image post directly to a page, when the image is clicked, it will open a pop-up and the link will be in the description text.


Click on “Elements” in the left column and then “Shapes” and pick the shape you want. I selected the square shape.


I then changed the size and shape by clicking the drag handles. The color is easily changed by clicking the color box in the toolbar and selecting a color. You can click the + symbol to open a color mixer where you can select the color you want, but I’ve quickly selected the first red color swatch as that’s a reasonable match for the color scheme of the photo.


Finally add a text box and apply the call to action text to the button shape.

I’ve chosen a different font for the button text as I wanted something bolder that would stand out. I chose a condensed font as I could get larger text into a narrower space. Visually I felt that another sans-serif font would maintain the clean and contemporary look of the rest of the text.

Resize the text


If you want to change the size of the text at this point, you can select all the text and resize it in one go. Click somewhere outside of the image and drag the mouse over all the text boxes.


The screenshot hopefully shows all the text boxes are selected. You may also see that the photo is also selected – I’ve arrowed the bounding box of the image.


To deselect the photo background, hold the shift key on your keyboard and click the photo.


You should see there’s a grab handle at the bottom right of the selection that you can click and drag to change the size.


You can click and drag the text to reposition it. Just click anywhere outside the image to deselect the text.

Add a transparent overlay


Go back to the “Elements” tab and click the square again to add another shape. Click the color box in the toolbar and click the + symbol to open the color mixer and set the color to white or the color of your choice. Your color picker may look different depending on your operating system.


To move the box behind the text, click the “Arrange” entry in the toolbar and in the drop down that opens, click the “Back” option until the box is below the text, but not behind the photo.


You can use the drag handles to change the shape and size of the box so that it sits behind the text.


The last step is to change the transparency by clicking the gradient like icon in the toolbar. Then you just adjust the slider as you like to allow the background to show through the box without making the text difficult to read. The level of transparency you apply will depend on the image and colors you’re using.

Assess the result


We could assume at this point it’s job done, but now is the point to step back and look at what you’ve produced. When you’re running through the process of creating it’s easy to make choices instinctively without thinking things through completely.

It always make sense to have an assessment process of any graphics you produce.

In my case, I found several points that I felt needed improving. I guess I wasn’t concentrating 100% as I was writing this tutorial at the same time.

  1. Graphics like this will appear on many different screen sizes and at many different sizes. On reflection, I felt increasing the text size would help increase legibility across devices without changing the balance of the graphic.
  2. Again for greater confidence over legibility, I increased the opacity of the overlay from 50% to 60%.
  3. Having quickly chosen the button color from Canva’s presets because it was relatively harmonious with the photo, I’ve gone back and changed the color. Not a tweak but a complete change to a shade of green. Green is a complementary color of red and works with the photo colors. More importantly, though, it contrasts and so makes the call to action stand out more clearly.

Fall in lovewith our newFall range

So that’s the result I finally created after reconsidering the graphic and making those few changes.

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About the author

Ian Pullen

I'm a graphic designer, web developer, photography enthusiast and writer with articles and images published in print and online.

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