How Do I Add Gridlines in Canva?


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If you’re neurotic like I am, you like for everything to be perfectly aligned and straight. And, if it’s not, you want it to be intentionally crooked, perfectly crooked. This is why gridlines are so important. If you use Canva for your graphic design, you can use the power of gridlines to help you make perfectly straight or crooked art.

Canva does not have gridlines, but there is a workaround to add your own gridlines. Import a transparent image of graph paper and stretch it across your Canva canvas in front of your background, but behind your elements. Lock it and move your elements around. When finished, delete the grid image.

If you like to actually see gridlines as you place elements, Canva can be a frustrating tool to use. Let’s dive into a trick for adding gridlines to your Canva designs that gives you the freedom to appreciate all of those straight lines.

But, Gridlines Used to Be a Feature in Canva…

Yes, gridlines in Canva used to be a thing. After a recent update, you were able to hit cmd/ctrl+; to make the gridlines appear across your design. Sometime before March 2019, this capability went away and never came back. Hopefully this feature is still in the works, but given that it’s a year later as of this writing, I think it’s time to embrace a workaround. 

Even when Canva DID offer gridlines, they weren’t perfect. One of the biggest drawbacks of their gridlines was that they didn’t show through backgrounds. This can make it hard to see how your design is coming together overall, since backgrounds are an important part of a design.

What Canva Offers Instead of Gridlines

Even though Canva doesn’t have gridlines right now, they still give you ways to align your pictures or elements. I mean, it wouldn’t be considered the amazing design program that it is without this basic feature. 

When you rotate an image or element, you’ll see the angle it’s positioned at. If you need multiple images or elements to mirror each other, this makes it easier to make sure that they’re all in the same positions. 

Yes, you can have 100 squares and turn them all to exactly 34 degrees. But, this would take forever. It’s doable though. Instead, just make one square at 34 degrees and make 100 copies of it. 

Also, you can make sure that images and elements are aligned vertically or horizontally. As you move one element close to another, you’ll see horizontal or vertical lines snap into place telling you when they are perfectly aligned.

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The solid lines tell you when objects are aligned straight through the middle. The dotted lines tell you when objects are aligned at the tops and bottoms. If objects are the same size, you may see 3 lines — a straight line through the middle and two dotted lines at the top and bottom.

If the objects are different sizes, you’ll only see one line at a time, as it isn’t possible to be aligned on all 3 planes at the same time. Use the solid line to align the objects through the middle, or use the dotted lines to align them either bottom to top or top to bottom.

How to Add a Grid to Your Canva Design

Firstly, let’s be clear that Canva’s alignment abilities are good. There’s technically no reason that you need visual guidelines, as you can make sure that objects are perfectly angled and aligned with the tools they have. The problem is that Canva’s guidelines disappear once you’re done moving your objects. Also, you only can see one per object as you’re moving it. Some of us just really like having visual guidelines that perpetually show up on the paper.

1. Upload transparent graph paper. 

Do a Google search for transparent graph paper and download a free version. You’ll want to actually download a transparent png and not take a screenshot so that you keep the transparency. Here’s one that I have used: https://www.freeiconspng.com/images/grid-png

Once you’ve downloaded a transparent graph paper image, drag and drop it into your Canva work space.

2. Stretch your grid across the background of your design.

Depending on when you add your graph paper image to your design, it might end up in front or behind your other elements.

3. Bring your grid in front of your background and behind your elements

You want to make sure that your grid image is in front of your background. Otherwise, your grid will be hidden by your background.

Make sure that your graph paper is behind all of your other elements though so that you can move them around on top of your grid. Basically, your layers will look like this: Background → Grid image → All Other Elements

4. Lock your grid image

Be sure to lock your grid image so that you’re not accidentally moving it all over the place and screwing up your lines.

5. Move your elements around as needed

With your grid locked and behind your elements, you can now move things around with a static and stable grid to reference.

When you’re done aligning all of your objects, just delete the image of the graph paper and you’re all done!

how to add gridlines in Canva

A Few Things to Keep In Mind

As with many workarounds, this isn’t a foolproof solution. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re using this technique.

1. Your graph paper is a static image. You’ll want to look around for graph paper that has the size of boxes that you want. Even if you find graph paper that looks like it will work, consider that you’ll probably have to stretch across your whole design, which will enlarge it. To avoid this, you can line up a couple of copies of the graph paper.

2. Sometimes gridlines mess with how you view your design. The nice thing about Canva’s alignment features is that they’re invisible unless you’re using them. This lets you see what your finished product is looking like before it’s done. Even though we consciously know that gridlines will be deleted, they put a lot of “stuff” into our work. When we delete them, you may feel like your design is emptier than it was before. To avoid this, try deleting and re-adding your gridlines every once in a while so that you can see what your actual finished product is looking like.

Canva is an amazing tool that lets all of us become skilled graphic designers without having to spend the energy and money on Photoshop or Illustrator. Many of us love that we can avoid the complication! This means, though, that you won’t always get all of the features that you would get with a professional, paid program. That’s why it’s great to have some workarounds that let us customize Canva to our needs without having to dive into the complications of learning another platform.

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Diana Fitts

Diana has been an artist for over 25 years and has training in drawing, painting, digital drawing and graphic design. Diana's latest obsession is digitally drawing with Procreate and creating t-shirt designs with Canva. Diana has experience selling her art across a number of platforms and loves helping other artists learn how to make money from their art as well.

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