By Jenna Wenkoff
With the advent of applications such as Canva that allow you to create infographics in minutes, are Photoshop skills still necessary? I looked into the pros and cons of each, and what employers are looking for.
Does Photoshop Offer More Than Canva?
Most communicators are familiar with image editing programs like Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. They allow you to import images and create designs from scratch. Newer programs such as Pixelied or Canva however come with pre-made image templates and elements such as borders and shapes.
Speed and ease of use are the obvious benefits of Canva, but is there anything Photoshop can do that Canva can’t? The short answer is yes. Here are a few features Photoshop has that Canva doesn’t:
- Text options that allow you to add shapes, strokes, shadows and highlights.
- Cloning tool.
- Brush and pen tools for creating original art.
- Advanced color options.
- Layers panel.
- Masking that allows you to control layer transparency.
Communicators might need these features for designing original logos that don’t contain assets found in other designs. If a client already has a logo and theme however, Canva should be fine for social media posts or infographics.
Something to consider when using Canva commercially is licensing. For any commercial work I recommend regularly checking their licensing agreements as they are always subject to change. Even then, I found their free media agreement a bit murky.
It states that “All free media on Canva can be used for free for commercial and non-commercial use.” Then in the next paragraph it states, “We can’t guarantee that any free media have the appropriate releases for commercial use.” This is because elements on Canva come from different sources such as Pixabay or Pexels, which have their own licensing agreements.
Basically, you can use Canva commercially as long as you check the license of every element in your design. This can be time consuming, still likely less so than using Photoshop.
What Communicators Are Saying
I noticed a theme while researching this topic. The attorney Mariam Tsaturyan compared Photoshop and Canva’s ease of use, feature availability and pricing in an article for her blog. Having assigned points to each category this is what she found:
“In our comparison, Canva scored 17, while Photoshop scored 18 overall. From this comparison, and mainly based on the point system, Photoshop is the winner. However, your use case and level of knowledge or desire to learn new skills will play an important role in deciding which program to use.”
A similar article on CoralNodes.com opens with this paragraph:
“First of all, let me say that we are not comparing apples to apples here. Although you can use both Canva and Photoshop to create good-looking graphic designs, they are entirely different tools.”
The popular opinion seems to be that one program is not better or more necessary than the other, but that they are different. It’s less a question of ‘is Photoshop still necessary?’ and more a question of ‘in what situation is each program useful?’
I wasn’t able to find a concrete answer regarding what employers are looking for. I found many articles similar to this one from Ragan.com which states:
“Candidates with even a basic knowledge of Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign gain an advantage over competitors. Graphic design skills are relatively easy to acquire through free or inexpensive courses online, or at community colleges and public libraries.”
It’s unclear in these articles if employers are looking specifically for Photoshop skills, or are looking for graphic design skills and assumed Photoshop would be used.
Out of curiosity I performed an informal study. I randomly picked 10 communication jobs of varying levels in Calgary to see if they asked for Photoshop skills. Here’s what I found:
- Three jobs specifically asked for Photoshop (or equivalent) skills.
- Two jobs, although they didn’t mention software, likely require Photoshop skills.
- Two jobs required simple design skills where Canva will likely do.
- Three jobs didn’t mention design at all.
Although my sample was too small for these results to be taken seriously, it’s interesting that Photoshop was a requirement for half of these jobs. So, whether or not you need Photoshop skills in 2021 remains to be seen. Although there are circumstances where Canva will be enough, you might miss out on some opportunities if you don’t have Photoshop skills.