There is a plethora of free design software available online, but who has the time to explore each one to see which works best for you? Well, we do!
Arguably, Canva is the more popular choice between the two design platforms, but is there a genuine reason for that, or has Pixlr fallen under the radar when it should be the number one choice?
At the end of this article, you’ll know whether you should be using Canva or Pixlr for your designs and which one is best for what.
Canva: Collaborate and Create Amazing Graphic Design
Canva offers an intuitive interface that shows you the collateral you can design within the software on the first page. You can find its menu right at the top, where you can access design and template options, different features, a learning tool, and the price details.
With an easy-to-use search bar in the middle of the home page, along with a thumbnail display of ways you can use Canva designs, the app shows you what you can do before you’ve even had to scroll down.
Once on the workspace, Canva’s menu choices are easy to understand with word-based labels rather than potentially confusing icons that you may not understand.
Canva’s Premium Plans and Pricing
There are a surprising number of things you can do in Canva’s free version. You can easily continue using the free version without many limitations.
Canva’s free version gives you access to over 250,000 templates for over 100 different types of design uses—such as different social media types, posters, presentation styles, etc. It also gives you access to thousands of stock photos, graphics, animations, and offers 5GB of storage in its cloud.
Canva has two premium options on top of its free version. The standard premium option is the Canva Pro which costs $12.99 per month and gives unlimited access to templates and graphics, 100GB of cloud storage, as well as other tools unavailable in the free version. The second premium option is for team enterprise usage.
Canva’s Editing Features
The editing workspace for Canva is intuitive, although different from other more popular editing software. It is easy to edit premade templates or create your own from scratch using shapes, text, and images provided by Canva’s vast library.
It is easy to edit colors of shapes and text by selecting the object and clicking the color option at the top of the workspace menu. It is harder to change colors of raster images, photos, etc., but you can adjust the colors using filters or adjustments, although it isn’t quite the same as changing the color directly.
You can even use and edit Canva’s provided Elements, of which there are thousands to choose from. This alone opens the design options to huge potential now that you can re-color premade graphics to suit your designs.
Canva’s Animation Options
Although many premade animation options come with the provided templates from Canva, you can change or create your own animation styles on your designs too. The premade templates will show a Play symbol if they already have animated components, and those without the Play symbol will have a static design.
Once in the workspace, to animate any aspect of your design, just select it and choose the Animate option in the menu. Canva’s element animation options are split into four categories (Basic, Scale, Exaggerate, and Slide in & out) and its page animation options into five categories. Aside from the extra category—Photo Movement—the options are all the same for both page and element choice.
You can find plenty of free options in the animation settings, but if you’re a Canva Pro or Enterprise subscriber, there are a small handful of extra choices. The choice of separate element animations allows you to fully customize your design or isolate one animated element.
Unique Elements in Canva
It is possible to add audio and video to your Canva designs. Given that Canva presents itself as graphic design software, it’s surprising to be able to add audio and video directly to your designs. Since many people use Canva for social media posts, it’s a great add-in that can boost your posts; however, most audio files on Canva are for premium users.
Pixlr: Photo Editor, Animation, and Design
Pixlr’s interface is a dark and moody contrast to Canva’s bright tones, which gives it a more professional edge. The homepage is plain in its offerings, giving you the option between Pixlr X for design and Pixlr E for photo editing.
The slogan at the center of Pixlr’s landing page suggests you can animate using this tool; however, between Pixlr X and Pixlr E, it is not so obvious where you’ll find the animation tools.
Only upon clicking either Pixlr X or Pixlr E will you find the recommended template options for various uses (Instagram Story, YouTube Thumb, Pinterest Pin, etc.)
Pixlr’s Premium Plans and Pricing
Pixlr has a three-stage pricing plan, with the free version being supported by adverts. Its free version allows you to use both Pixlr E and X, but with a limited supply of overlay images and stickers to use and offers basic editing tools.
Pixlr offers a free 30-day trial for its Premium plan and charges $7.99 per month after that. The Premium subscription provides thousands of extra overlays, templates, and font choices while being ad-free.
The third price option offers all of the above as well as 24/7 tech support, unlimited access to stock content, even more templates, overlays, fonts, and even a legal guarantee for $29.99 per month. Pixlr calls this the Creative Pack.
Pixlr’s Editing Features
Pixlr’s editing workspace is reminiscent of Photoshop—in color scheme and layout—and follows a typical workspace layout of toolbars on the left and window panels on the right. Although the look is like popular editing programs, its editing capabilities are not.
To use most of the tools like the fill tool, liquify, gradient tool, etc., you must rasterize your working layer. Yes, this means you cannot change the color of a vector shape without first rasterizing it; this leaves little flexibility in your work process if you cannot change and edit vector or text layers.
Pixlr’s Animation Options
While the animation options are basic and don’t allow for much customization, Pixlr does offer a handful of animation options that can enhance your designs. You can choose between animating the entire design or animating individual layers in the free version.
The design options are minimal, with only five free options and three more with Pixlr Premium. As suggested, this option will animate the entire page based on the animation choice: Fade, Rise, Tumble, Soothe, or Action.
The layer animation choices are more substantial and, due to the option of animating each separate layer, allows for more overall customization throughout your animated design. You can also change the speed settings, animation duration, and set a delay for the animation to begin.
The layer option also offers different animation options for the beginning of your animation, the “scene” of the animation, and the end of the animation. Throughout these three options, the animation types differ, too. Overall, the layer animation options are vast, and even for Pixlr’s free version, you have quite a lot of ways to animate your design.
Unique Elements in Pixlr
It seems that Pixlr might be trying too hard to be Photoshop, which isn’t a bad thing for a free editing tool. However, it does indicate that there aren’t many unique aspects in this program that you may not find elsewhere.
Although, one unique plus is that Pixlr’s Filter options have some premade filters that create effects usually only achieved by longwinded tutorials, such as various types of glitching.
A helpful unique tool in Pixlr is that you can paste the URL of an image, and the image will appear as a layer. This could be helpful for web design or to save storage of your own so that you don’t have to keep all the images you use.
Pixlr vs. Canva: Which Is Better?
With the various tools on offer with both free software, it feels like Canva may have the upper hand. Canva’s interface is more informative, intuitive, and inviting to use, whereas Pixlr’s dark and moody colors and Photoshop-esque vibe throw it into the abyss of other Photoshop-replica software.
Although we like Pixlr’s filter options and layer animation options, those are only minor benefits that aren’t missed when using Canva. Perhaps Pixlr’s usage for image editing does have its perks, whereas Canva is more of a layout design software.
However, if the choice is to use free software, Canva’s use of premade graphics and extensive template library makes saving money on any subscription more worthwhile than Pixlr’s offerings.
When it comes to photo editing, Photoshop isn’t your only option. These tools are just as good, and best of all, free!
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