Canva or Adobe Illustrator: Which is the best fit for your business graphics?

We just wrapped up the 2019 Brand Challenge last week, and over 1,300 business owners took part to create a one-of-a-kind brand from start to finish!

Fonts, colors, logos, photos, icons - we left no stone unturned.

But creating a brand is really just the beginning. From here on out, your days will be spent implementing it.

Whether you took part in the challenge or not, every business owner who can’t delegate their design work is faced with the important task of choosing an app to help them create their graphics.

The two most popular options at the moment? Canva and Adobe Illustrator.

Both apps are helpful, but they aren’t created equal. So in today’s post, I’m highlighting the biggest differences between the two so you can figure out which program is the best fit for your design needs.

Did you miss out on the Brand Challenge? It’s never too late to jump in and take part! Visit this page to sign up and get started.

Canva or Adobe Illustrator: Which is the best fit for your business? | Elle & Company


Both Canva and Adobe Illustrator allow you to easily implement your brand’s fonts and colors into your graphics.

But the amount of customization available to you in these programs varies greatly, and this is the biggest difference between the two apps.


Canva is template based.

It provides thousands of different templates for common business graphics like social media posts, presentation slides, flyers, brochures, and more, and their drag-and-drop interface allows you to customize those templates with your brand fonts, colors, and images.

You don’t have to come up with a design from scratch. You don’t have to hunt down dimensions. And you don’t even need any design experience.

Canva even provides elements like icons and illustrations that you can customize and add to your design.

This is extremely helpful for business owners with no design background. Canva takes away the overwhelm of starting from scratch and provides some beautifully designed templates to get you started on the right foot.

But any template-based app has limitations when it comes to customizability, and Canva is no different.

When you work with a template, you run the risk of creating the same design as other businesses in your industry. Even after implementing your own colors and fonts, your graphics are never truly original and one-of-a-kind.

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If you use a wide variety of templates, you also run the risk of making your brand look pieced together and inconsistent. It’s difficult to create a streamlined, cohesive brand using templates created by several different designers.

And while Canva does allow you to start with a blank canvas, it doesn’t allow you to create items like icons and patterns completely from scratch. It isn’t 100% customizable.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator provides you with a blank slate.

While there are many resources out there that provide Adobe Illustrator templates (like Adobe Stock, Creative Market, and my own Elle & Company Library), this app isn’t template based.

That may be a little intimidating for the design newbie, but it’s actually great news! Illustrator gives you the flexibility to make your designs 100% custom, without the confines of a template.

Icons, logos, patterns, illustrations - you can put your own unique spin on them in Adobe Illustrator. The possibilities are endless.

But the advantage of complete customization does come with a learning curve…


There seems to be a trade-off between usability and customization with these two design tools.

Canva is easy-to-use but limited in customization, while Adobe Illustrator is completely customizable but takes a little longer to learn.


As with any app or platform, it can take a couple tries to get accustomed to your surroundings.

Canva is well-designed and fairly easy to use. It doesn’t take long to figure out how to customize the templates.

There are some helpful resources out there to help you get the most out of working with Canva (the best being on Canva’s own website), but you don’t need to take a course or read a bunch of blog posts to create graphics using their platform.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator isn’t quite as straight-forward.

When you log in for the first time, the workspace might remind you of the Paint program on Windows computers in the 90’s… only it’s a little more involved.

While you can take a stab at the program and play around with all the tool panels, you will probably find yourself googling blog posts and videos on how to figure out the basics of the program.

When I first started Elle & Company, I had already had 4+ years of experience using Adobe Illustrator. It was a breeze creating business graphics because I was trained to use it in design school.

But I quickly saw that it wasn’t the norm. Other peers - both self-taught designers and other creative business owners - were reaching out to me with questions about how to create custom designs.

So I created my first course, Illustrator Basics, to teach others how to use my favorite design tool to create one-of-a-kind graphics for their business.

And I’m about to launch it again for the 6th time!

5 weeks. 5 lessons. Lots of practice files and templates. Live Q+A sessions. A community of other creatives learning the program alongside you. Tangible takeaways specifically for businesses (like how to create a logo, inspiration board, color palette, pricing guide, etc.)

I provide everything you need to learn and implement all the great features Adobe Illustrator has to offer.

Registration for the course will open for one week only, from Tuesday, April 2 through Wednesday, April 10.

Join the waiting list below for more details and first access to the course!

Adobe Illustrator may take a little longer to learn but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature.



Canva is easy on the business budget.

Their free account includes a lot of features that are great for a new business owner who has basic design needs.

They also have an upgraded account option for $9.95 per user/per month with extra features, like saving your brand’s color palette, uploading custom fonts, saving templates and organizing them into folders, and resizing designs.

Adobe Illustrator

There isn’t a free option for Adobe Illustrator, but they do offer a free trial.

You can access the single app through Adobe Creative Cloud for $20.99/month, and if you’re a student or teacher, you can access the entire Adobe Suite for $19.99/month.

With that subscription, you also have unlimited access to Adobe Fonts, which includes thousands of designer fonts.

The Bottom Line

Canva’s templates are great for beginners with basic design needs and minimum design experience.

Adobe Illustrator is the best tool for those who want to create custom, one-of-a-kind graphics for their business.

Both tools are fantastic, depending on your design needs.

If you’re interested in learning more about Adobe Illustrator, sign up for the waiting list for my Illustrator Basics course below! I’d love to share more information with you.