Canva vs Easil: which one of these free design apps is the best to create click-worthy content for your brand

By October 4, 2018 Branding, Design
I researched 2 awesome free design apps - Canva & Easil - let's see which one is better

Ten years ago, your two options for creating visual content for your website were the Pro Tools (like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop) and the Annoyingly Incompetent Tools (Like using PowerPoint to create website headers. Have you ever done that? It’s really painful).

This is not the case today. We have so many amazing free design apps that we have to face a completely different challenge: picking the best one.

But is there a Best One in this game?

In this new blog series, I compare cool, well-known or less-known, free design apps. I test them by seven criteria:

  • Intuitiveness: how easy is to learn them?

  • Design features: what can you create with them?

  • Ease of use: how easy is to design in these apps?

  • Templates: do they have options for speeding up your work?

  • Branding: is it possible to add & organize your branding assets like logo, fonts & colors?

  • Collaboration: how easy it is to share your work with a team?

  • Cost: even though they are free, I wanted to see if there are add-on fees?

Today, I compare a really well known app (Canva) to a newer player (Easil). Let’s see which one can win your heart.

INTUITIVENESS

I found both Canva and Easil easy to learn. In addition, they both have libraries of educational posts that help you familiarize yourself with the tools and interface of the apps.

I only ran into a few issues when first starting out:

  • Canva: I found sizing and positioning elements a bit cumbersome.
  • Easil: The layer panel is really cool in my opinion. It’s similar to Photoshop and makes it possible to view all elements in an organized structure. But for someone who’ve never used Photoshop, it might feel a bit complicated first. Grouping elements was also a bit too complicated.

Both companies send you automated emails after subscribing. These lead you through a learning process so I recommend you to read them. By the end of these email series you’ll be a pro in both Canva and Easil.

For extra tutorials, design guidelines and inspiration, you can visit their blogs:

Intuitiveness Rating (from maximum of 5 stars):

  • Canva: ★★★★ (4)

  • Easil: ★★★★ (4)

DESIGN FEATURES

Canva and Easil have almost exactly the same features but they are different in some key tools or in the way they help you achieve a desired result. Here’s a quick summary of the features they offer:

I researched 2 awesome free design apps - Canva & Easil - let's see which one is better

Design Elements:

Canva and Easil offers almost the same arsenal of design elements: shapes, illustrations, icons, patterns, etc. However, there’s a difference in how they organize them.

  • In Canva: I had to use the search tool more often to find things like banners, patterns, social media icons. Canva has all the important elements, including charts.

  • In Easil: the design elements are better organized but there are no charts.

As for stock photos, you have a small range of free options in both apps and you can access more photos for $1/photo. If you upgrade, you can access these stock images as part of the paid plans.

Image Frames:

The main thing I dislike in Canva is the “Frames” element. This is an image holder box that you add to your design when you are creating templates for repeated use (e.g. templates for your blog post covers) and you want to be able to switch images on these templates easily.

The problem with Canva Frames is the locked aspect ratio (= width and height always has the same proportion). This limits what kind of templates you can create for your brand. If Canva doesn’t have a skinny and tall Frame, then you can’t have a skinny and tall image on your template without tedious cropping and positioning.

In Easil, the width-height proportion isn’t locked so you can create any type of rectangular frames: narrow and tall ones, short and wide ones, etc.

However, sadly Easil only lets you add rectangular or square frames. I tried hard to find a circle shape frame for my test project but I couldn’t. This would be an awesome feature to be added.

Animated GIFs:

Both apps offer animated GIF options but only in their paid plans.

The Canva animation is very basic. You can choose from a few presets and that’s it. In Easil, you have more freedom in how you can animate your GIFs. You create multiple static images and then define the transition between these key images.

File Formats:

Canva offers more file formats for free. This makes it more suitable for print use too, because you can get print-optimized PDFs.

Canva is also better for simple logo or icon design as you can download your creations in transparent background PNG format. In Easil, you have to pay for these features.

Design Features Rating (from maximum of 5 stars):

  • Canva: ★★★★ (4)

  • Easil: ★★★ (3)

EASE OF USE

As a test, I created the same Instagram graphic from scratch in both Canva and Easil. I was slightly quicker in Canva, but I have to admit that I’m more experienced in their app.

This is how my test project turned out in Canva:

I researched 2 awesome free design apps - Canva & Easil - let's see which one is better

Time to complete & download image in Canva: 5 minutes and 8 seconds.

What I liked:

  • I could create the circle shaped image frame (image holder)

  • I wasn’t accidentally dragging the wrong elements

What I disliked:

  • Setting the right size for the white square and circles was a bit difficult on a laptop trackpad. I had to be patient and careful to be able to make them exactly 800 x 800 px and 175 x 175 px

This is how my test project turned out in Easil:

I researched 2 awesome free design apps - Canva & Easil - let's see which one is better

Time to complete & download image in Easil: 6 minutes and 45 seconds.

What I liked:

  • I was able to set the white square and circles exactly 800 x 800 px and 175 x 175 px

What I disliked:

  • I accidentally grabbed and moved the background multiple times

  • I couldn’t make the little picture into circle shape

Ease of Use Rating (from maximum of 5 stars):

  • Canva: ★★★★ (4)

  • Easil: ★★★ (3)

TEMPLATES

Both Canva and Easil comes with an amazing collection of free and paid templates but Canva is way ahead in the number of free options.

Some of these free options are pretty basic though. I think, with a little practice, you’ll be able to create better templates on your own.

Canva’s other advantage is that you can buy third party templates on marketplaces like Creative Market.

I offered free Canva templates in previous blog posts (find free templates here, here and here) and also sell a few in my own shop. See 5 of my current favorites:

Powered by Creative Market

Powered by Creative Market

Powered by Creative Market

Powered by Creative Market

Templates Rating (from maximum of 5 stars):

  • Canva: ★★★★★ (5)

  • Easil: ★★★ (3)

BRANDING

In this section I tested how easy it is to add your brand assets. In other words:

  • Can you easily add your logo?

  • Can you easily set your brand colors?

  • Can you easily add your brand fonts?

  • Can you easily upload and organize your own assets?

Sadly, both the free Canva app and the free Easil app performed weekly and you have to upgrade to be able to add and organize your branding assets.

Setting up your brand in the Free Canva app

In the free Canva app, you have a section called “Your Brand” but you can only set up your brand color palette. In order to be able to add your logo to this section, you have to subscribe to the Canva for Work plan.

Of course, you can just upload your logo in the media uploader like you do with any other photos. The problem with this is that the more photos you upload, the harder it is to find your logo and other frequently used assets.

Adding custom fonts is also not available in the free account.

The free Canva app lets you create 2 folders for your designs, so if you have frequently used templates, keep them in these folders. For more folders for your designs and for folders to organize your uploaded assets, guess what… yep, you have to pay. These companies really know how to get their money after all.

Setting up your brand in the Free Easil app

The free Easil app offers even less. You can of course set the colors to fit your brand and upload any images, including your logo. But when it comes to organize your assets or add custom fonts, you have to pay for the Easil Plus Plan. No folders are included in the free version.

Branding Rating (from maximum of 5 stars):

  • Canva: ★★ (2)

  • Easil: ★ (1)

COLLABORATION

Canva won in this criteria too. In the free Canva app, you can share your design via email, link, social profiles or embed it into a website.

For team members however, you have to sign up to Canva for Work and pay the monthly fee for each added team member.

Easil currently doesn’t offer any sharing function and you can’t add team members either.

Collaboration Rating (from maximum of 5 stars):

  • Canva: ★★★★ (4)

  • Easil: ★ (1)

COST

Last but not least, let’s see the costs.

Go free:

If you don’t mind only having 2 folders to organize your designs and you don’t use custom fonts, you’ll be comfortable with the free Canva app. Time to time you might pay $1 / image for extra stock photos.

Don’t forget, you can upload your own images. You don’t have to use those that Canva tries to sell you.

If you’d like to find high quality, feminine stock photos for free, check out this blog post. I listed my 15 favorite resources and I give you access to a curated collection of 400+ commercially free, feminine stock photos from Unsplash.

$9/month:

Go with the Easil Plus Plan for $9/month if you want to access their paid features and would like to experiment with their animation tool. This is something that’s more sophisticated than in Canva and would worth a try.  

There are some other features you can access in the paid Easil Plus plan, like “Design Merge” and “Text Masking” but I don’t find them crucial for your day-to-day design tasks.

$12.95/month:

Go with Canva for Work for $12.95/month if you want to access more photos, you want to be able to set up your branding assets (including custom fonts) and have unlimited number of folders to keep everything organized.  

Cost Rating (from maximum of 5 stars):

  • Canva: ★★★★ (4)

  • Easil: ★★ (2)

THE BOTTOM LINE - WHICH FREE DESIGN APP TO CHOOSE?

I really enjoyed testing both apps and I liked many of the functions that Easil had (e.g. the positioning and sizing panel, the layers panel). Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to convince me.

In my test Canva came out as a champion in all categories and this is the app I’d recommend you to try first.

If you are interested in any of the cool extra features from Easil or want to make animated GIFs, give the Plus Plan a try. It’s free for the first 30 days.

Finally, I’d like to hear from you!

Have you tried these apps? What were your experiences? Is there a feature that you are missing from Canva and/or Easil?

Also, if you know other free design apps worth testing let me know. Leave your feedback in the comments below.

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