Journal creation — a marriage of Canva & CreateSpace templates for Word

November 6, 2016

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What does it take to create your own journal (or planner or workbook) using Canva? And what is the best or the easiest way to go about designing its interior pages?

What if you start with a Word document? What do you need to know in order to make sure it will look as good in a printed book as it does on your screen — or better?

I spent several days designing the interior of my journal on Canva. And then I spent several more days making changes, as I learned more about the formatting requirements for CreateSpace.

After figuring out a way to easily design a book cover template, create the parts (front, back, and spine), and snap those parts into place using one of Canva’s layouts, I thought I’d nailed the process of designing a journal — inside and out — using only Canva.

Because I really, really did NOT want to buy Photoshop — even if it was only $10 a month.

It took me years to warm up to Scrivener for writing books. Photoshop is like Scrivener for photo editors — overwhelming with all the features, doo-dads, and whatchamacallits.

I laugh in the face of overwhelm. And then I run away. I ran away from Photoshop, and I don’t want to go back. At least, not yet.

So much for the 7 day trial period — which expired even when I closed the program on the first day and then didn’t reopen it until I had worked up the intestinal fortitude to play with it a bit. But then I couldn’t, because my seven days were up. But, hey, I could sign up and access it again — for only $9.99 a month!

Yeah, no thanks. I have Canva. Canva takes care of me. Plus, I’m already paying about $12 a month for Canva For Work, which I’m keeping, because it’s awesome.

And then, while futzing around on the CreateSpace website, I happened upon a list of interior templates listed by book size. I wanted to make my journal a 6 x 9 inch book, so I thought, “What the heck! I’ll tinker with it. See what happens.”

What happened changed everything. It was so much easier to create the journal interior using the 6 x 9 book template from CreateSpace! I immediately resolved upon using it for the next journal. As for the cover, I’ll stick with Canva, because I’ve found a step-by-step process that works well and yields an upload-ready PDF file for my journal covers. I just ordered my first proof of the first journal I created this way, and I’ll post a picture when it comes.

Anyway, hopefully by the middle of this month, I’ll have a picture of the newly printed paperback journal.

If all goes well, I'll be happy to share the step-by-step Canva cover-making process with anyone who asks.Click To Tweet

I’m not trying to dump on Photoshop. I just find Canva easier to work with — but that could just be because I’m easily overwhelmed. It’s not that Canva is feature-poor by comparison; it’s just less overwhelming for me. And if I don’t need Adobe InDesign to create gorgeous book covers or interiors, that’s another reason to love Canva and CreateSpace’s interior templates.

But why Canva For Work, you may be wondering. If I’m gladly paying $12 a month to keep the paid version of Canva, what on earth for?

Here’s my why list:ย 

  1. the “Your Brand” page — it lets me set a font type and size for each text category, plus it lets me upload new fonts if Canva doesn’t have the one I want (for example, I wanted “Dancing Script- Bold,” but I had to download that from Google Fonts and then upload it to Canva. I can’t do that with the free version, and if I went back to the free version, I’d probably lose Dancing Script, which is one of my signature fonts.

  2. The “Your Brand” page also keeps track of my logo designs (headers, etc.) that I’ve uploaded to it, as well as my brand colors, which are there automatically whenever I want to edit colors for any graphic I’m creating.

  3. the ability to resize any image and adapt it to different templates. For example, I can take a Facebook graphic I create on Canva and change it to Pinterest graphic dimensions or even, if I want, to my own custom dimensions. I love that.

  4. I can even change the default color scheme for my Canva page. It’s a little thing, but I like it when I can personalize my tools.

That said, you can follow the step-by-step cover-design process using only the free version of Canva, so if you’re not inclined to pay the $12 per month for Canva for Work, you can still make gorgeous book covers that upload to CreateSpace without a hitch. Photoshop doesn’t even have a free version, so I have to give Canva props for this — among the other things I love about it.

But enough of my gushing. I’ll be back with a picture of the new journal and details on how to get your own Canva cover-design cheat-sheet (assuming all goes as planned).ย 

Have a great week! ๐Ÿ™‚

By Sarah Lentz

Writing and designing book covers are two of Sarah Lentz's favorite things. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, their four kids, and two messy but adorable guinea pigs.


  1. Reply

    Dharlene Marie

    Thank you, Sarah. Your information was very helpful. I do have other questions but I sure like what you have created. Thank you for putting this information out.

    1. Reply

      Sarah Lentz

      Thank you, Dharlene! I’m so glad you found this post helpful. If you have any questions, go ahead and ask them here, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Take care, and have a great week! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Reply

    Silvia Zuleta Romano

    thanks for the useful information but I having some problems.
    I created back and front cover with Canva and them I uploaded them to Createspace cover creator template. Everything looks great in the preview except that suddenly the fonts seem corrupted or rare. Any ideas?

    1. Reply

      Sarah Lentz

      Did you create a whole book cover in Canva with the front and back covers, or did you upload the front and back covers to CreateSpace?
      I’ve only uploaded a full cover to CreateSpace in the project set-up. I’ve never used CreateSpace’s cover creator, so I don’t know why CreateSpace isn’t accepting your fonts unless those fonts aren’t available to them.

      I’m sorry you’re going through this headache, but I’d suggest creating a whole cover template in Canva, uploading your front and back covers to the whole cover template’s editing page (on Canva), creating a spine (if your page count warrants it) and following the instructions in my book for putting all the parts together.

      If your book has a spine (of at least 0.41 inches, which the minimum width Canva will accept), you’ll create and upload that to the whole cover template, too, and with a spine, you can use the two-pane Canva layout I describe in the book. If your book doesn’t have a spine with text on it, though, you can just create a full cover template using the combined width and the height of the front and back cover and the spine width you’d get by using CreateSpace’s cover template generator (just to get the width measurement for the spine, based on page count, trim size, and paper type). Then you could upload the front and back covers, position them on the full cover template against the outer edges, and fill in the space between them with a matching color (Google Chrome’s “Eye dropper” extension is a huge help with this).

      Let me know if this isn’t enough to help you create your full cover. I haven’t had any trouble with CreateSpace not accepting my fonts when I’ve uploaded a full cover that I created on Canva. I don’t know if the issue is with your fonts or with CreateSpace’s own Cover Creator. I suspect the latter.

      I should clarify that I don’t use CreateSpace’s “Build Your Cover Online” option. I always create the whole cover in Canva and upload the finished whole cover (as a PDF) using the “Upload a Print-Ready PDF Cover” option on the Cover set-up page.
      If you’re using CreateSpace’s “Build Your Cover Online” option, I’m not sure what to recommend, since I’ve never used it.

      I wish I could be more helpful. Let me know if I’ve misunderstood your comment. I hope to be able to help you in some way! Take care, and have a good week. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Reply

    Mira Edorra

    Hi Sarah Lentz, Great thanks for this amazing post sharing with us. In your post your questions like: [ What does it take to create your own journal (or planner or workbook) using Canva? ] and its solution really appreciatable. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ I am also Using canva for various design not using photoshop ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

    1. Reply

      Sarah Lentz

      Thank you, Mira!! I’ve always preferred Canva to Photoshop, though I know Photoshop has some features Canva lacks. I just find it a lot easier and more enjoyable to design my book covers, blog header logo, blog graphics and social media graphics on Canva, and I don’t see that changing. And I’m encouraged to read comments like yours from others (including professional designers, like you) who prefer Canva. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and comment, and I hope it was helpful to you. I don’t know what I’d do without Canva. I’ve tried other programs (briefly), but Canva is still my favorite by far. ๐Ÿ™‚

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