Recently there has been a lot of buzz about the new CanvaKala photo editing (and photo selection) plugin by Jai Sharma, Ankur Shukla and Raul Mellado. As a WordPress blogger myself, I decided to buy a copy for my own use and to review it for my readers. So here’s what I found…
CanvaKala is being promoted as a “Photoshop for WordPress”. It allows you to search online for images you can use on your blog (or elsewhere) with Creative Commons reproduction rights. It also lets you download these images to your blog, edit them in various ways, and then publish them.
CanvaKala is sold via the JVZoo platform. To access your purchase you first have to negotiate three attempted upsells or “One Time Offers”. This is always a bit irritating, but obviously you can click on “No thanks” if you don’t want them.
The first is for the Pro version, which has various extra features compared with the standard one, and let’s you search a wider range of image sources. The second is for the Developer version, which lets you use the plug-in on websites built for your clients. And finally, the third is for three other plug-ins, those being Tweetpressr, PinPressr and FB Video Pressr. I decided to pass on all of these.
Once you have turned down the OTOs (or accepted them) you can access your purchase. The CanvaKala plug-in is in the standard zip format, and it can be uploaded in the normal way from the WordPress dashboard. Once you have activated it, you can start using it almost immediately. The only thing you have to do first is add API codes from two of the image sources, Pixabay and Flickr. This is straightforward enough, and helpfully links are provided to the relevant application pages. The other two image sources in the standard version, Open Clip Art and Instagram, do not require API access.
Using CanvaKala is then just a matter of clicking on the relevant tab when you are creating a post (or a page) in WordPress. A new window then opens allowing you to search any of the image sources by keyword. You can select which sources to use (or all of them). You can also select whether you want images that don’t (or do) require attribution, and whether they allow modification or not. I was pleased to see that the issue of reproduction rights is taken seriously, and impressed that if you choose an image that requires attribution a small bar is added at the foot of the image with the appropriate info and a link.
You can also edit your selected image in multiple ways. Resizing is an obvious one. Using a slider control you can increase or decrease the size by up to 200 percent. I was a bit concerned that this might not be enough in some cases, but the helpful support staff told me that you can enter any pixel size you choose in the appropriate box and the image will resize to that. Again, impressive.
There are lots of other editing options as well, even with the standard version I bought. You can add a variety of Instagram-style special effects, e.g. sepia, grayscale and emboss. There are also various manual adjustments you can make, including blur, brightness, gamma, and a dozen or so more. You can insert text, shapes and other images, and add various styles of border. You can draw freehand over images if you like, and finally you can use Photoshop-like layers to move page elements over or under others.
You can either publish your image directly into your post, download it, or add it to the WordPress gallery. For the average user, there are probably more than enough editing options, although as mentioned there is also a Pro version with many more.
On the minus side, the editing tools are rather basic compared with PhotoShop and similar programs, and you can’t save a project to continue working on it later. That’s not likely to matter most of the time of course, as you will only be working with one image at a time. It does mean you have to do all your image editing in one session, though, before going on to do something else. In fairness, CanvaKala does do a lot of things that Photo Shop and similar programs don’t, e.g. Creative Commons image search.
Overall, I think CanvaKala is a great tool for quickly finding images to use in your posts and editing them, but despite the claims on the sales page it is not a complete substitute for a graphics program. Especially at the low launch price, however, it is undoubtedly a valuable resource to have on your WordPress blog/s.
UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 2015 – Since I wrote this review, my copy of CanvaKala has been updated four times (this is done semi-automatically in WordPress – you just have to approve the update). Various additional features have been added. These include the ability to import images for editing from your WordPress gallery and (even more usefully) the ability to upload any image you like from your own computer. CanvaKala is also now fully integrated with the popular YouZign design software. I am impressed that that the developers continue to refine and improve the software, and new features are still being added. If you’re a WordPress blogger, CanvaKala is now very close to being a “must have”.
If you have any comments or questions about CanvaKala, as ever, please do post them below.