How to create an interactive, fillable PDF workbook using Canva

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Whether you want to make a workbook for an online workshop, a welcome guide for clients, a planner, a lead magnet, or any other kind of digital workbook or fillable worksheet, read on (or watch the video below) for the step-by-step on how to create a workbook in Canva and how to add fillable fields to it.

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 size.

Note: Both Canva and PDFescape have updated their interface since recording this video. I’ve added updated screenshots below in the blog post.

Before you start designing

Write & Edit your text ahead of time, so it’s done and ready to go when you start designing

Before you start designing, I recommend you write the text for your workbook or worksheet in Google Docs or something similar, the design process will go much faster if your text is already done and ready to go.

DIY Design tip: Keep it simple

And when you’re designing your workbook in Canva, one easy way to make your DIY design look great is to keep it simple. Don’t go overboard with colors, patterns, and background images.

For workbooks and worksheets especially, keep it simple. Be kind to your people. Some people might prefer to print it out and fill it out by hand. So you don’t want to use a lot of colors everywhere.

If you need professional design assistance, take a look at my Ebook Design Services.

Don’t add multiple single-line text boxes for paragraph answers

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.

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.

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 video as well as in the screenshots below.

How do you create a digital workbook from a template?

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 size.

My E-book/Workbook Templates have 89 pages including cover page designs, section/chapter title page layouts, and A LOT of different types of content page layouts, such as roadmaps, challenges, and planners, and of course, worksheet pages.

Choose from multiple page variations, duplicate and rearrange pages to create endless ebook and workbook layouts.

Designing the title page for your interactive PDF workbook, planner or guide

Click Photos on the left-hand side and choose a photo to use as the background image for your cover page.

Depending on the photo, you may want to add a block where you can put your title. To do so, click Elements on the left-hand side, and select a square or another shape you want to use for this. You can use a color or use a white block that you make slightly transparent.

Click Text on the left-hand side and add your title. You can also add your name, program or course name, and any other information you want to add on your title page.

Need a professionally designed workbook? Check out my Ebook & Workbook Design Services.

Cover page design for workbook in Canva

Designing a worksheet for your editable PDF workbook, planner or guide

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 from the Elements menu in Canva.

Design worksheet in Canva

When you’re done designing your worksheet, download by click the Share button in the top right corner of Canva, then click Download. Download it as a PDF. For our purposes, whether it’s Standard or Print doesn’t matter.

Canva interface: Download as PDF

How to add fillable fields to your PDF workbook or worksheet and make your PDF interactive

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:

PDFescape field types

Text – for just one line of text, such as name or email address, or a paragraph of text, like a comment box. See below for how to create a paragraph or multi-line text field.

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 Yes/No.

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

Click and drag over the fields you designed in Canva to create the fillable fields.

If you make a mistake, you can change the size of the fillable fields by first clicking the Edit button (or pencil, if there’s no text for these buttons on your screen size) at the top.

PDFescape edit button

Then click the field you need to edit, and an outline with dots will appear. Click and drag one of the dots to change the size of the field.

PDFescape resize field

If you want to create a field for a paragraph of text, you’ll need to add a regular text field first. Then, in Edit mode, click the wrench icon.

PDFescape wrench icon to change text field to paragraph

Then, in the field settings, select the checkbox for multi-line and click OK.

PDFescape form field properties: multiline text

If you need to delete a field, you can also do this in Edit mode. Simply click the field you need to delete to select it and click the trash can at the top.

PDFescape: delete field

Finally, click the purple arrow icon to save & download your fillable PDF.

PDFescape: download your fillable PDF

Need a professionally designed interactive PDF? Hire me for Ebook & Workbook Design and let’s create something stunning together.

Open the PDF you downloaded, check that your interactive workbook is working as expected, go back and make changes if needed, then upload it to your website, your course platform, or if you’re creating an opt-in freebie, your mailing list provider.

Ready to create professional-looking interactive workbooks effortlessly? Get my E-book/Workbook Templates and get started today!

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7 Comments

  1. Avatar for Paige Paige

    Thank you so much for this tutorial.
    Once it’s in a pdf. In order to fill it out, do peopl e have to open it in a certain software to use it like photoshop/ adobe?

    • Your clients/students/customers/subscribers can download the PDF and can use Adobe Reader (free) or any other PDF viewer that allows for filling in fillable fields.

  2. Avatar for Heather Echols Heather Echols

    This is really helpful, thanks. Does this work well if you plan to mostly use the pdf but may print some as well?

    • Yes, you can design a PDF that works well if printed, and add fillable fields for those who prefer to use it digitally. That way, it will also work if someone will only print some of it.

  3. Avatar for amanda amanda

    Thankyou so much!!

  4. Avatar for Rosangela Rosangela

    Hi,

    I liked your video very much. I wrote a e-book but it is 300 pages and I upgrade the pdf escape but its just work with windows and I have a mac. How could I solv the problem? Can you suggest me something? And one more question, for smaller works do I have to have adobe reader to write on?
    Best regards,
    Rosangela

    • Wow, 300 pages is a large e-book! For fillable fields in a large document like that, I recommend using Adobe InDesign which is professional software for creating e-books, workbooks and magazines. It’s not free, but you could sign up for only the InDesign app and for only a month while you need it, then cancel your subscription after you’ve finished your e-book. The great thing about InDesign is that you can edit your e-book without having to add the fillable fields all over again (which you would need to do if using Canva and PDFescape), but there’s more of a learning curve to use InDesign.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “For smaller works do I have to have adobe reader to write on?”. No matter the size of the fillable workbook, your clients/students/customers/subscribers can download the PDF and use Adobe Reader (free) or any other PDF viewer that allows for filling in fillable fields. It doesn’t have to be Adobe Reader, but it’s free and the most well-known PDF reader. Please let me know if that answers your question or you wanted to know something else.

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