Bring your brand to (real) life.

How To Create a Print-Ready File in Canva
May 30, 2024

If you work in the marketing space, you’ve probably already heard of Canva, a free online graphic design tool that’s a fave for many small businesses, non-profits, teachers, or even in-house marketers. Many use Canva as a lower-cost, more user-friendly alternative to more sophisticated design software through the Adobe Suite.

Canva is a fantastic digital playground for crafting eye-catching designs that wow your online audience. But when it’s time to bring those creations to life on paper, there are a few key steps you’ll want to follow to ensure your files are print-ready for Canva.

Canva File FAQs:

Should I design my Canva file in RGB or CMYK?

First up, let’s talk color. Canva defaults to designing in RGB colors, perfect for screens but not ideal for printing: RGB (red, green, blue) color space is used for screens because screens emit light. It is an additive color space, meaning that you start with a black screen and add variations of red, green and blue light to create colors – and when all are combined, the result is white. RGB color space includes more vibrant colors and a much greater color gamut than CMYK because you’re working with light.  

Printers, however, bring your designs to (real) life using CMYK colors. CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is a subtractive color space, meaning that you start with a white sheet and by adding variations of cyan, magenta and yellow ink or toner to absorb light, you’re subtracting the types of light waves being reflected back to your eye. Since CMYK is used while working with ink, it has a much smaller color gamut. 

So remember – the colors you see on your screen could look different in print! For example, neon or fluorescent colors can appear vibrant on your lit screen but end up looking muddy and dull when printed in CMYK. Ask your Tactive account manager for a preflight check to look at your colors if you design in Canva or another digital-first design platform. 

While Canva doesn’t currently offer the option to design in CMYK, you can export print-ready files in CMYK (if you pay for Canva Pro, Canva Teams, Canva for Education, or Canva for Nonprofits.)

Here’s how to convert your design to CMYK colors in Canva:

  • Select “Share” from the menu
  • Select “Download”
  • Choose “PDF Print” from the File Type dropdown menu
  • Choose the pages of your design that you want to download, then select “Done”
  • Select “CMYK” from the Color Profile dropdown menu
  • Select “Download”
What are “Crop Marks & Bleed”?

You need bleed! No, not the kind you get from paper cuts, but the essential extra edge around your design to ensure a clean finish with no white borders after trimming. We like to use this example: Remember back to your elementary school days, using your (safety) scissors to cut right up against the edge of a design? While you may have been proud as punch of your artwork, your finished product was probably left with a thin white line on the outer edge of the design. Bleeding the colors outside of your trim line keeps your edges looking smooth and professional without needing to cut into your design.  

You can add bleed to your design in Canva by going to File > Settings > Show print bleed to confirm all your elements cover the entirety of the printable area. (Unfortunately, this bleed amount is a set value – we’ll work with you to adjust the file if additional bleed is required on your project!)

Crop marks are a guide so your print team knows where to trim your final project to make it the correct finished size.

Here’s how to export your file with crop marks and bleed:

  • Select “Share” from the menu
  • Select “Download”
  • Choose “PDF Print” from the File Type dropdown menu
  • Choose the pages of your design that you want to download, then select “Done”
  • Check the box next to “crop marks and bleed”
  • Select “Download”
To Flatten or Not To Flatten?

That is the question. When you’re exporting your design, Canva will give you the option to “flatten” your PDF – which they say “ensures your design will be printed properly.” Team Tactive asks that you don’t select this – we’d rather have access to all the original layers of artwork in the PDF format so we can edit the PDF if necessary.

Download Print-Ready Files in Canva

Now that you understand how to set up your design, here’s the game plan to set up your project for your favorite printer!

1. Start your Canva project using a template or a custom size. This will be the size of your final print product.

2. When you’re satisfied with your design, export your designs as print-ready PDFs and adjust the download settings accordingly:

    • Check the box next to “Crop marks and bleed”
    • Leave “Flatten PDF” and “Include notes” unchecked
    • Change the color profile to “CMYK (best for professional printing)

Hint: your download window should look like this:

3. Send your print-ready file to your favorite professional printer (heyyyyy) and ask for a proof so you can confirm size and color before your whole order goes to print.

Got more questions about designing for print in your favorite graphic design software? Check out our guides page for more help.