Are you looking for an easy way to create stunning graphics for social media?
For a few years now, Canva has been the tool of choice for me and thousands of other brands - a simple, intuitive graphic creation tool. In fact, Canva announced in October 2015 that it had attracted over 5 million users worldwide.
But now, it's got competition in the form of Adobe Spark, the guys behind Photoshop, Illustrator, Final Cut, and the like.
Spark is described as a visual storytelling tool and, upon its launch, was described Bryan Lamkin, executive vice president and general manager, Digital Media at Adobe, as a way for anyone to create striking web content:
But which is better? Canva or Adobe Spark? In this blog post, I'll compare the two tools' web apps in a number of areas, and help you decide which you should be using to build your brand's graphics. Let's go!
Note: This comparison will focus only on the the creation of static images (Adobe Spark lets you make videos and pages, too - features that Canva doesn't have anything to compare with at the time of writing.
Round 1: Social media image size templates
Both Canva and Adobe Spark offer an array of preset image templates, both for the most popular social networks - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Canva displays the dimensions of each template in pixels and gives you the option to create an image with custom dimensions if you wish. Meanwhile, Spark automatically resizes any image to fit its fixed template sizes and there is no custom dimensions option.
Round 2: Free image sourcing options
In Spark, you can upload your own image, grab it from Lightroom, Google Drive or Dropbox, or there's a search engine that digs up royalty-free images from Creative Commons sources - very convenient! At present, Adobe Spark and all of its options are completely free to use. Images can be downloaded clean and used however you please, and if you choose to share the image to social media from the platform, the #AdobeSpark watermark that you see while designing (below) will be removed - in return for a link back to your content.
In Canva, You can upload your own images or search a database of more than 1 million. Some are free (not as many or of the quality that Spark finds, though), and the rest will cost you a flat fee of $1.00 each to use. Paid images may have license restrictions for their use, so do be careful.
Round 3: Image and text editing tools
Adobe Spark's interface aims to make image creation as instant as possible. Enter some text, click through, and you'll be presented with a variety of suggested themes. Selecting these themes will instantly change the look and feel of the text and image elements of your post, as below:
For a super quick solution or a base to work from, Spark's preset themes are okay, but nine times out of ten, you'll want to customise to match your exact branding.
The first layer of customisation in Spark - still just suggestions, however - is with colour themes (affecting text only), photo filters (affecting images only), and the Style wheel, which suggests a variety of styles (applied to an individual text or image element when selected). Images can be scaled and rotated using a sliding bar.
Spark's full customisation options allows you to select the font (around 40 available) and its colour (from a limited palette), align and space text (with preset suggestions, no option to choose exact positions), change the text opacity, and add a variety of shapes to your post. To adjust the size of text, you simply drag the corner of a text box and Spark will adjust the font size to match the position it is dragged to.
One great thing about Spark is its "magic resize" option - the ability to resize a design to automatically fit the recommended proportions for different social networks. This tool is free to use on Spark, but if you want to access it on Canva, you'll need to fork out for its premium offering ($12.95 per month or $119.40 per year).
Canva's design and customization options are considerably deeper than Spark's. Rather than themes, Canva offers a selection of editable templates upon the creation of a new project.
Text can be made bold, italic, uppercase, made into a list, and aligned left, center, and right. Text spacing (individual letters and lines) can be adjusted manually. There are also options to copy text, turn it into a link, adjust its transparency, and move it backwards or forwards in relation to other elements. Canva also offers notably more free fonts, and the ability to choose the exact colour of text using a colour wheel and six-digit hex codes.
A selection of filters can be applied to images in Canva, and you can also adjust the brightness, saturation, tint, blur, and other factors.
Little niggles and closing thoughts
Both Spark and Canva are incredibly easy tools to use, and both are capable of producing some lovely results. If I were being picky, here are a few little annoyances I have with both platforms:
- No Undo or Redo option.
- No keyboard shortcuts to speed up process.
- Restrictive editing and formatting.
- Cannot upload or re-arrange multple images in single project.
- Formatting tools sometimes a bit fiddly to use.
- Resizing completed images to fit other social networks is hidden by paywall.
If I had to choose between the two, then Canva edges it for me and that is the tool I will still be using. Spark does a few things well, but its options are a bit too limited for my liking as things stand. Which image creation tool is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.
Andrew Macarthy is a social media consultant and the author of the #1 Amazon Web Marketing Bestseller, 500 Social Media Marketing Tips.