How to create a fillable PDF workbook for an online workshop using free tools
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Yay! You’re hosting your first workshop, that’s so awesome! An interactive, fillable worksheet or workbook will help your participants get better results because they pay better attention when they take notes and work through the steps during your workshop. So let’s make your workbook!
How to design your workbook in Canva
Create a new design in Canva. It can be any size you like, although common sizes are US Letter or A4 (international). I use A4 size in the screenshots below.
Don’t want to start from scratch? Get one of my E-book/Workbook Templates to get you started quickly! They’re available in US Letter as well as A4.
Click Text on the left-hand side and add a heading, subheading or body text, or pick from one of the text templates Canva provides. Change the font and color to make it fit your brand. Add some text to introduce your worksheet and explain everything someone needs to know before filling it out.
Then, add the visuals for your fields. Add the labels or questions for the fields the same way you add any other text. Add the field background by using shapes.
When you’re done designing your worksheet, hit the Download button in the top right corner of Canva. Download it as a PDF. For our purposes, whether it’s Standard or Print doesn’t matter.
Don’t make this design mistake in your workbook
When clients hire me to redesign their workbooks, I notice one common pitfall a lot of DIY-ers make. They’ve created lines for their students or participants to write on, then added single-line boxes to type in on each line.
Why you shouldn’t use lines for long answers
The problem with this is that people can’t keep typing but would have to click over to a new line instead. It’s easier for your workshop participants to fill out digitally if the fillable parts are boxes that have multi-line fields, so they can keep typing and it just uses the space there is, instead of them having to click on another line if they type a lot of text.
Adding fillable fields to your workbook in PDFescape
Open the free online PDF editor from PDFescape. Select Upload PDF to PDFescape and upload the PDF you just created in Canva. At the top left, you can choose to insert a Form Field. You can choose from these types:
Text – for just one line of text, such as name or email address.
Text Paragraph – for a paragraph of text, like a comment box.
Checkbox – For a “Yes, I agree” checkbox, or, of course, a checklist.
Radiobutton – For a list of choices where only one choice can be made, like Male/Female.
Dropdown – For a list of choices where only one choice can be made. The list is only visible when it’s opened by clicking the arrow. Useful for a large list of choices, such as countries or U.S. states.
Listbox – Similar to a dropdown, but shows more options at once and allows for multiple options to be selected.
Reset button – clears input from all the fields
Submit button – if you want the form to be sent somewhere
In my example, I’m adding Text for Question One, Radiobuttons for the Two Options, Checkboxes for the Checklist and Text Paragraph for the Notes. For each field, drag the corners to resize the field and make it the same size as the boxes you added in your design. For the radiobuttons and checkboxes, click inside the fields to check/uncheck them by default when someone downloads & opens your worksheet.
Finally, click the green box with two white arrows pointing down to save & download your fillable PDF.
This is what the resulting fillable PDF looks like:
Open the PDF you downloaded, check that everything is working as expected, go back and make changes if needed, then send it to your workshop participants!
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