How to Design Fillable Worksheets and Checklists with Canva and PDFescape (With Videos)

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How to design worksheets and checklists and workbooks in Canva that you can use as email opt-in incentive/freebie | The Side Blogger #emaillist #blog #blogger #blogging #design #canva #canvatutorial #canvatips #designtips

Why on earth would a blogger need to design worksheets and checklists, you ask?

Well, let me tell you, they’re mighty useful!

Worksheets and checklists are some of the easiest things you can create in an hour or two, and use them in your blog posts as content upgrades.

They’re also super useful if you’re a course creator and need your students to fill out worksheets to walk them through a certain process.

If you don’t know yet, I’m a huge Canva fan. (Heck, I’m a brand ambassador for them!! That’s how big a fan I am!) And in today’s post, I’m going to walk you through the process of creating these super useful workbooks and worksheets and checklists with Canva. Not only that, but I’ll also show you how you can make these workbooks and worksheets and checklists interactive! As in, your audience / students should be able to fill out these sheets on their computers (or tablets or phones) without having to print them out.

How neat is that?

Curious yet? Well then, read on.


Instead of creating something from scratch, would you rather have something pre-made to work with? You can download the Canva templates for workbooks and checklists I made for you. Sign up for my newsletter by clicking here, or by filling out the form below, and I’ll send you these templates.

What are Content Upgrades and Why Do Bloggers Need Them

Content upgradesย are amazeballs! They are basically “bonus” or “extra” content that you use within your blog posts. You offer these bonus content to your readers in exchange for their email address. This is yet another way to grow that email list that’s so important for all bloggers. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, please read my post on why and how to grow your email list.

I use content upgrades often in this blog. There is this blog post about why bloggers need media kits, where I used a media kit template made with Canva as a content upgrade. In another blog post about how to use Pinterest to drive massive traffic to your blog, I used a worksheet as a content upgrade where all newbie Pinners can work through the logistics of setting up a Pinterest profile meant to drive results.

Both of these blog posts are two of my most shared posts on social media and Pinterest, and most of my email subscribers joined the list through one of these content upgrades.

As you can see, content upgrades to blogs is what air is to plants.

But the bigger question is, what should a blogger use as content upgrades?

Well, it really depends on your niche and what the topic at hand is. Most of my readers on TSB are new bloggers. They need directions, guidance on how to start a blog, and various tips, tricks and tutorials. A lot of my readers are also not designers. So I offer content upgrade with that in mind. For example, the Pinterest worksheet helps new bloggers set up their Pinterest profile that helps them drive traffic from day-1. The media kit template on the other hand is not only for new bloggers, but also can be used by veteran bloggers who want a beautiful media kit but are not too savvy when it comes to designing.

The best kind of content upgrade is one that your readers need right NOW and they can use right NOW! Quick and actionable, remember these two terms before you sit down to plan your next content upgrade.

Worksheets and checklists are great because you can use them for a lot of different things.

For example, let’s say that you have a blog post about morning routines that make someone productive and feeling good and healthy throughout the day. You write a detailed blog post about each step, taking the time to break down the benefits of each of these bulleted items.

That’s great! You want to give your readers as much information as possible. However, you also want your readers to follow through and actually do the things you’ve outlined. Now, most of your readers won’t remember 30 something steps by heart. They’ll also not go through your 3000-word blog post every morning.

So, to make things easier for them, how about you create a checklist that they can just pull up on their tablet or laptop or phone, or something they can just print out and keep it nearby, and they can check off each item instead of having to sift through your lengthy post to find the next steps?

And so, that checklist right there can be your content upgrade! To take full advantage of content upgrades, you can also make it so that your readers will need to subscribe to your email list in oder to receive the checklist. Kill two birds with one stone, eh? Help your readers, and grow your email list, both in one go!

And psst! Read this blog post if you need some help growing your email list.

How to Design a Content Upgrade

Designing content upgrades doesn’t have to be some mighty undertaking. I like worksheets and checklists because they’re so easy to make. And in today’s post, I’ll walk you through designing these worksheets and checklists with Canva.

If you’re a blogger, I’m sure you’ve heard of Canva already. And if not, check it out pronto! Canva is my favorite graphic design software to use for things like blog graphics and workbooks/worksheets, checklists, etc. As much as I love InDesign and Photoshop and Illustrator, sometimes I really do not need the complexities that come with these industry level, professional grade software. Something a bit simpler such as Canva works just fine in these situations, and it helps you create beautiful graphics easily with drag and drop features, without compromising quality.

How to Design Worksheets/Workbooks with Canva

You start by going to www.canva.com.

There are two methods that you can use. You can either create a unique design on a blank template, or you can use a pre-made template available in Canva. If you’d like to use some of the pre-made worksheets templates, start here.

The thing with pre-made Canva templates is that they are great if your needs perfectly align with the templates they have. Which, most of the times, is not the case. So, you may find yourself needing to create a template from scratch.

In the following steps, I’ll show you some ways you can easily create your own workbooks or worksheets. Make note that I like to create all my designs on my laptop. I do not use the mobile app. So, the following instructions are all optimized for the desktop/browser version of Canva. I’m using Chrome on a Windows machine to create these designs. The options aren’t all that different, if not exactly the same, on a Mac.

Step 1: Start with Letter Size.

In the top search box, start typing the word ” us letter”, and the “US Letter Document” option will show up as shown in the image below. Click on it, and that will open a new window with a blank letter-size design. Alternatively, you can use the “Custom dimensions” option at the top right corner to create a document that is 8.5 inches wide and 11 inches long. I prefer this size as it’s the most used document size and in case someone wants to print it out, they’ll be able to do so on any regular printer paper.

Search and then choose US Letter Document

Step 2: Add a Title

In the blank design, click on “Text” from the toolbox on the left. The text panel will open. Choose “Add a heading” from this panel by clicking on it. This will add the header. Chances are, you’ll want to reposition this, tweak the font, and resize it.

Repositioning is simple. Just click on the text box, hold it, then move it around.

To change the font and font-size, make sure the textbox is selected. This will open the text options on the top of the design. You’ll see a bunch of options here to change the font, font size, color, alignment, letter, and line spacing, etc. Use them to change the header title as you see fit and until you’re satisfied.

Do not forget to actually change the title text to match whatever your unique title is.

Similarly, you can also add a subtitle, if you want to, too add a bit more about the content upgrade, or just your name/blog name under the title.

Add content upgrade title and change its properties to match your branding.

You can also jazz up this title area by creating a different background color for this text. You can do so by adding a rectangular shape. To do this, go to the Elements panel and choose either a square-shaped grid, or just a square shape from under shapes. Click on it and drag over your design. For this project, I’m choosing a square shape.

Once the shape is on your design, click, hold and drag it where you want it to be — behind the text. If your text layer is behind the shape layer, you can send the shape layer behind by going to “Position > Backward”.

Use the handles around the shape to resize it to how you want it to look like. In this case, I want the background to extend to top of the page as well as the sides, making it a nice rectangle behind the title.

You can change the color of this background too. Make sure the rectangle shape is selected. This will open the shape tools and you’ll see a small rectangle with the current color. Click on it which will open the color panel. Click on the “+” sign to add a new color.

See these steps in the video below.

Step 3: Add a Description of the Content Upgrade & The First Task

Now you should add a description of the content upgrade. Briefly describe what it is, who it is for and what your readers should achieve by the end of working through this content upgrade.

To do this, once again, go to the “text” panel on Canva, and this time, add some body text. Just like with your title, click on the text-box to edit it, change font, size, color, spacing etc. as you see fit. To reposition the text box, click and hold the box, and them move it with your mouse.

Also note that, when you add a text box, there are handles around the box just like when you added the square shape in the previous step. You can use these handles (click > hold > drag) to make the text-boxes smaller or wider.

Next thing you want to add is a prompt for your readers to take certain action. Usually, in a worksheet, you want people to think certain things through and write down their reactions/impressions in a text box.

To add a question or action prompt, once again, you should be in the Text panel. Click on “Add a little bit of text body” just like you did for the description (refer to video above), and then reposition, resize, and change anything else you may want, just like before.

I prefer to add a divider between the description and the first prompt. There are plenty of ways to do it. The idea is to create separation between the description and the prompt. In this case, I’m using a line to do it. Canva has tons of built-in elements (graphics, images, illustrations, etc.), one of them is a plain line. To find it, click on Element tab, and then type “line” in the search box. This will show you elements that Canva identifies as a line. Choose the one you want (I’ve chosen a plain, straight line) and drag it to your document.

You may see handles around this line that will allow you to change the size and shape, and you may also be able to change the color of this shape.

Add a line to create separation between description and the first prompt.

Step 4: Add a Text Box/Work Area

Next step is to add a text box or work area. Canva is great in that it already has built-in grids, shapes, and frames just like you see in step 1, when you were adding the title background. Based on what your need is or what kind of design you want, you can choose from these built-in elements, and the rest is as simple as dragging and dropping into the design, just like you have been doing until now.

For this exercise, I’ll be choosing a built-in square shape for my text boxes. It’s the same shape I chose for the title background. Add this shape to your design (refer to step-1 video to see how this is done), reposition and change the shape and size using the handles, and change the color to a light grey.

Now, you may want to add more of the prompts and text-boxes. To save time, I usually copy design elements instead of creating new ones (given I want the same kind of elements). In this case, i want to create another prompt and text-box that look exactly the same as the ones we have just created. So, I’ll click and drag my mouse over the prompt text and the text-box (square shape). A new toolbar will open on top with the option to “Copy”. Clicking it will automatically create an exact replica of the element(s) you’ve selected. By default, the new elements will be selected. All you have to do is click on the replica, hold, and drag it to where you want them to be. (See video below.)

Alternately, you can use keyboard shortcuts Ctrl + C (or Cmd + C on a Mac) to copy, and then Ctrl + V (or Cmd + V on a Mac) to paste.

You can use similar method to add more text boxes and prompts.

Step 5: Add a Footer Area

I like to add a footer area in all pages. Typically, this footer will have your copyright information and a link to your blog. And the best part? You can actually hyperlink the blog URL so that when someone clicks on that link, they go straight to your blog/website. here’s how:

Add the footer elements (background, text, whatever have you). Make sure to add your url in a new text box (Canva cannot hyperlink a set of text, instead, it adds the hyperlink to the entire element. So, whatever you want to hyperlink, should be a separate element from all others.)

After you add the element that is to be hyperlinked, click and select the element, and then choose the link icon from the toolbar (top of the design, on the right). Insert the intended url, and then click “Apply”. Note that this hyperlink only works when the document is saved as a PDF.

If you have a multi-page workbook, you may want to copy a page instead of starting over, especially if you’ll be using elements that look more or less the same.

To copy a page, click on the icon above a page that looks like two pages on top of another. Click this icon will create a duplicate of that page.

You can make copies of a page if a new page will have similar design and elements. This could save you some time instead of having to start over every time.

How to Design Checklists with Canva

Checklists are just as easy to design and just as handy as worksheets.

To create a checklist, we will need a small square shape to work as the checkbox, and then some text/prompt next to it.

use the same square shape we have been using throughout this tutorial. use the handles of the shape to make it pretty small. Then add some text next to the box using the text tool.

Add as many of these as you want, using the “copy” tool as we saw earlier.

Now, instead of a text box, you’ll be adding a checkbox.

To do this, once again, I’ll choose a square shape from the shapes panel. But this time, I will choose a rectangular shape without the border. In fact, this time I’ve decided to choose a rounded-corner shape.

Once you’ve chosen the shape of your choice, click on it to place it in your design. Then drag a corner to make it smaller, the size of a typical checkbox. Then click on the square, and move it while holding down on the left mouse key, to place it next to your text question/prompt/action. Reposition text and checkbox until they look good.

You can also mix checkboxes and text boxes to create a workbook, depending on your unique needs. Some actions may require users to simply tick off a task, and some others may need some thought put into it and writing down more elaborate responses.

Based on the steps I’ve described above for creating both text boxes and checkboxes, you can easily create a hybrid design consisting of both!

After you’ve made this pretty, the final design may look something like this:

Your 2-page worksheet may look like this!

Not too shabby, eh?

Rename Your Design

Before you download your design, remember to rename it. On top of the design window, next to the button that says “Share”, you’ll see the file name in a text-box. Simply click on it with your mouse and that will allow you to edit the file name. Delete the default name, and type your unique design name. After you’re finished typing, click on somewhere else in the design window, and the file will be updated with the new name automatically.

Rename your file.

Download Your Worksheet

Now that you’ve designed your worksheet, it’s time to download your document. On the design window in Canva, on the top right, there is a button with a download icon, as shown in the image.

When you click on the download icon, some options pop up. Choose PDF Print for the file type (“print” is better quality than “standard” and also, if you have hyperlinks, they won’t work unless you save as PDF) and then choose which page(s) your wish to download. If you want to download all pages, then leave as is.

Now, click on the “Download” button and voila!

Download as PDF (print) for high quality file output.

How to Make Fillable PDFs

Often times, you may want to make your worksheets and checklists more interactive by creating fillable areas. I like to use a program called PDFescape for creating these fillable areas for my Canva-made documents.

This is a very intuitive program. Follow these simple steps below to make your PDFs interactive within minutes!

Step 1: Pull up PDFescape on Your Browser of Choice & Upload Document

Start by going to www.pdfescape.com and drop your file (or choose file from your computer) in the designated area, as shown in the image below.

Upload your Canva-designed PDF document to PDFescape to make it interactive.

Step 2: Make Your Textboxes and Checkboxes Fillable

There are some options on top-left of the page. Choose the last one that says “Form Field”. This will open up a pop-up with some more options. Choose “Checkbox” for Type and then click on “Select”. This will allow you to select (more like choose the entire area) a checkbox in your pdf document that will become interactive.

Remember, the program cannot automatically detect which parts need to become interactive. So you must select with your mouse the part of the document that you wish to turn into a clickable checkbox.

By default, the checklist has a checkmark. If you want the interactive checkbox to be empty, click on the checkmark once and it will go away.

Repeat the process for the rest of the checkboxes.

Pro-tip: PDFescape remembers your actions, and once you’ve created a checkbox, you’ll be able to create more with just a click, as opposed to repeating the whole routine. This is useful for checkboxes or text-boxes of the same size. If your text-box sizes are different, you’ll need to manually change the sizes.

To create a fillable text box, once again, click on Form Field, and then choose “Text” for the type, and then click on select. This will allow you to choose a text area with your mouse.

Repeat for all the text boxes.

Once you’ve created all the fillable areas, click on the green download icon from the left menu panel as shown in the image below. This will download an interactive, fillable PDF to your computer.

Finish by downloading the interactive PDF.

And that’s it! You have now created an interactive, PDF worksheet that you can use as a content upgrade with your blog post(s).


And now, if you’d rather have something pre-made to work with, you can download the Canva templates for workbooks and checklists I made for you. Sign up for my newsletter by clicking here, or by filling out the form below, and I’ll send you these templates.

As always, leave a comment and let me know if these are helpful to you. If you have questions, feel free to share them also!

How to design worksheets and checklists and workbooks in Canva that you can use as email opt-in incentive/freebie | The Side Blogger #emaillist #blog #blogger #blogging #design #canva #canvatutorial #canvatips #designtips

How to design workbooks and worksheets and checklists with Canva and make them fillable with PDFescape - a tutorial by The Side BloggerHow to design fillable worksheets with Canva and PDFescape - A tutorial with screenshots and videos and some free Canva templates!

10 thoughts on “How to Design Fillable Worksheets and Checklists with Canva and PDFescape (With Videos)”

  1. Thanks Maliha,

    Loved this post and Iโ€™ve never heard of PDFescape before, how good is that! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ. You really are my favourite blogger, just keep writing and Iโ€™ll keep reading ๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ˜‰

    Xox

  2. Megan at Balanced Life and Travel

    This. Is. Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing! I love creating checklists — being fillable online makes them even better for those who like to be paperless/keep things on their devices. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks so much!!

  3. Yeah, thanks so much for this post! I’m in about my 5th month of blogging and still trying to figure out opt-in’s and content upgrades. I’m so excited to learn about PDFescape! I’m so surprised I’ve never heard of anyone else even mentioning that tool before. I’m also excited to have found your blog and to learn more from you– as I’m working to turn my blog into my full-time hustle.

  4. I didn’t know PDFescape, and I was looking for something like that for a lifetime! Thank you so much for that life changing discovery!

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