Do you love Canva.com’s user-friendly editor and high-res images, but you’re confused about how they work, license-wise? If so, you’re not alone.
Despite being a very appealing service for DIY creatives, small businesses, and nonprofits, Canva’s terms for using content can be a bit complex to tackle for the non-expert.
That’s why today we are breaking down the Canva Pro license, explaining exactly what all these terms mean.
These are the basics of how Canva Pro licensing works, and how we went about our breakdown of it.
Canva’s Multiple License Agreements
Canva has different license contracts depending on whether the content –photos, illustrations, design elements, etc.– is free or paid.
Free Content can come with different licenses:
- Pixabay (free photo site acquired by Canva)
- Pexels (same as above)
- CC0 (Creative Commons Zero)
- Canva Free Content License (proprietary license)
While all similar in concept, each of these agreements has its own stipulations.
Premium content comes with Canva Pro License, whether you acquire it on-demand, or through a Canva Pro subscription.
We Focus on the Canva Pro Content License
This is by far the most complete and safe –and thus, convenient– of all the available licenses, for graphic design for commercial use.
It’s the license that comes with any premium content you download from Canva (photos, illustrations, graphics, icons, videos, templates). Be it on a pay-as-you-go basis, or with a Canva Pro account/Canva Pro subscription –which by the way, you should definitely check out our Canva Pro review as it's a service packed with features for busy creatives, like the brand kits, the magic resize tool and even a publishing assistant!
If you wish to know how many users Canva Pro has, and more metrics, check our Canva stats report!
This is the license you need to be safe when using Canva content in marketing materials and other commercial-oriented designs.
When Your Design Includes Free Images and Pro Content, the Pro License Applies
This is why is so important to understand how it works.
Now, let’s explain how Canva licensing works, point by point.
One Design Use License
This is one of the most important and distinctive aspects of the Canva Pro License. While most royalty-free licenses let you use the image in as many designs as you want, Canva limits it to one design per license.
This means if you want to use the re-use a Canva stock photo in a new design, you need to license it again.
Also important: small changes to a design, such as using the Magic Resize feature to change its dimensions, is considered a separate design and thus, requires a new license.
You acquire a license for an image (or any other Canva media content) every time you download it/export it from their site.
If you are a free user, you must pay every time you download a design that includes Canva Pro content. If you have a Canva subscription (to Canva Pro), all downloads/licenses you make are included in your plan.
Individual, Instransferable, Perpetual
Besides the one-design-use restriction, the Canva Pro agreement is fairly flexible, as the license is valid forever without having to ever pay another penny (for that specific design). Keep in mind, though, that it’s an individual license that covers only your (or your company’s) usage, and that you absolutely cannot transfer said license to anyone.
Client Use: One Client Only
Maybe you read the previous point and were ready to ditch Canva because you do client work and that means you need to transfer the design to your client. Well, good news: that is totally permitted.
The Canva license says you are allowed to give a design containing Canva Pro images to your client, as long as:
- You have a contract in place with your client that establishes the Canva design is for their use only
- You are responsible for your client’s use of the Canva content
- You only cede the design to one client (not to multiple clients)
So, Canva is good to go for using stock photos in client work.
Let’s now talk about all the things you can do with Canva images in derivative work (which can also be Canva designs created on their platform).
With the Canva license, you can create all kinds of printed materials. For marketing and promotion, such as advertising materials, invitations, stationery, product packaging, catalogs, brochures, greeting cards, postcards, and posters without reproduction limitations.
What is interesting in this license, is that it allows producing printed materials for resale –like postcards, prints, or posters–, which is usually only available with an Extended license at most other image banks. Here, the Standard Canva Pro license covers it! See differences between Standard vs Extended license for more details on this.
Note: If you are a large company and/or have a large creative team, you may want to check out the benefits of Canva for Enterprise service.
Social Media & Entertainment Applications
You may use Canva images for your social media posts or profile pictures, as well as for digital entertainment purposes: eBooks, newspapers, magazines, editorials, newsletters, and video, broadcast, and theatrical presentations, even design templates to use in Canva, with no reproduction limits.
School & University Projects
Canva content is good to use in all the permitted ways, for educational purposes such as your school and university projects. There even is special services and plans in Canva for Education.
Are you a student? You will want to check out our stock photo guidelines for students and universities.
Online/Electronic Publications (Pixel Count Restriction)
One important thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to digital content to be published online (in web pages, blogs, eBooks, and videos), the Canva license establishes a limitation regarding image quality and size: the image cannot be larger than 480,000 total pixels –for example, a 600 x 800 px image– if it’s unedited (meaning, looks just as it appears on Canva’s library).
There are two exceptions to this. You don’t have to worry about pixel count restriction if the image is:
-Published via the dedicated Canva Website publish endpoint, or
-Part of a Canva-made design to be used on a third-party site
Now, let’s review the prohibited uses, things you cannot and should never do with the Canva pictures.
Never Transfer the License to Anyone Else
The Canva Pro license –as most stock media licenses– is nontransferable. This means it is issued under your name, and for your use only. You cannot give the license –and thus, the photo– to someone else for them to use as their own. And, of course, you cannot sell nor sub-let the license either.
Finally, you cannot make the images, as you download them, available for download or to buy on an on-demand basis, either.
You Cannot Use Canva Content for Trademarked Materials
With the only exception of fonts, you cannot trade-mark any content from Canva or designs created with it. This is because you do not have copyright ownership of any materials downloaded from Canva.
Print On Demand (and Services Related to It) Are Prohibited
You are not allowed to display the content from Canva as standalone, on websites or other mediums related to print-on-demand services and products (be it for actual sales or for promotion of such services), including postcards, mugs, t-shirts, posters and other items.
You Must Not Pretend to Own the Images
It is forbidden to erase the copyright disclaimer included with the Canva designs, as well as to use photos for editorial purposes without properly crediting the contributor (the artist that created the image) and Canva. In the same way, you cannot use the photos in any way that implies you created them from scratch and/or are the copyright owner.
Editorial Content Cannot be used for Commercial Purposes
Some images on Canva are marked as “Editorial Use Only”. These are usually images deemed newsworthy or of general interest to the public. These pictures cannot be used for marketing, promotion, or any other commercial purpose, only for editorial (informative, educational) projects. More info on editorial licensing, here.
There is a Sensitive Use Clause
And it’s rather relevant. According to the licensing terms, you cannot use Canva photos in a way that depicts the people portrayed in a bad light, or in any way threatens the reputation of the models or the artist that created it. Like this, topics like pornography, adult services, dating services, tobacco products, political endorsement, etc. are banned. As well as those that could be defamatory, such as concepts related to crime, violence or other unlawful or immoral activities.
For more info on this, check our dedicated guide to Sensitive Use of stock imagery.
That’s what can be concluded from this overview. The Canva Pro license covers all bases for most creative needs, from personal to commercial, from print to digital. It’s very flexible and has very few restrictions that are also relatively easy to comply with.
This, paired with the conveniently cheap prices for Canva Pro memberships (with unlimited downloads!) makes it a very good option to design visuals with stock images.
Do you have a question about the Canva license we have not addressed here? Ask in the comments, we’ll be happy to clear it out for you!