Making magic with Canva's Magic Write ✨

A GIF-laden account of how to get started with Canva's Magic Write, the new AI-powered text generator in Canva Docs.

Right around the time ChatGPT was breaking both the internet and itself (sooo many error messages), Canva launched Magic Write into open beta. Talk about good timing!

Now that it's available to almost everyone as part of Canva Docs, I've gathered a few tips on how to start using Magic Write – including how it can send your creativity to the moon and back 🚀🌖

Disclosure time! I work at Canva and helped out on Magic Write in a few small ways. This article is a broad how-to guide and contains no juicy secrets (sorry)

How to access Canva's Magic Write

Magic Write is located within Canva Docs, our new word processing tool.

To get to it, you'll need to open a new Canva Doc from either your For you tab...

A screenshot of Canva's logged-in homepage, with the 'For you' tab selected
You'll find Canva Docs are the first tile in your 'For you' tab, right beneath the 'You might want to try...' subheading.

...or the new Docs tab...

A screenshot of Canva's logged-in homepage, with the 'Docs' tab selected
It's also located in the new Docs tab, its primary place of residence within Canva.

When you open a new Canva Doc for the first time, you'll see a pre-written guide with a bunch of ways to use all its new features. You can find the instructions for Magic Write in there, or you can simply follow these steps:

  1. Open a Canva Doc you want to Magic Write in.
  2. On an empty line, select the 'Add Magic' button, which can be found in the left margin with a plus sign on it (it can also be accessed by hitting the '/' key).
  3. Magic Write will be the top option appearing in the menu. You can also use this button for a bunch of other things. It's super handy.
An animated GIF of Magic Write being accessed from within a blank Canva Doc.
Magic Write is in the /Magic menu, which you can access by pressing the 'Add Magic' button or hitting '/' on your keyboard.

You're ready to go! If you're a free user, you'll have 25 uses of Magic Write to start with. After that, you can start a 30-day Canva Pro trial to get another 75.

For those on Canva Pro or Canva for Teams, you get 75 uses every month.

What Canva's Magic Write is good for

Magic Write is a great brainstorming tool, storyteller, poet, and all-around blank page banisher.

It can generate headlines, lists, article outlines, short and long-form text, and help you decide what to write next.

Given I like to focus on the artsy side of things, here are some creative writing tasks I've given it that yield good results:

  • Penning specific kinds of poems like sonnets, limericks, and haikus.
  • Writing stories with a lively cast of characters and wacky plots. The livelier and wackier the better. Our Magic Write homepage suggests a flying guinea pig named Cinnamon. I wrote a good one about my friend Sam using his three favourite things: Rugby, cheap beer, and parliamentary democracy.
  • Scripting out funny/witty/dramatic/comedic/tragic/romantic dialogue between 2 or more characters. Like with storytelling, you may need to be a little imaginative with your character selection and what they're talking about. But the results are worth it!

    Here's one of a viking and a medieval knight exchanging tips on the best way to make mead 👇
An animated GIF of Magic Write turning the prompt "Draft some funny dialogue between a viking and a knight about the best way to make mead" into the following exchange: "Ahoy, knight! What do you think is the best way to make mead? Well, I think the key is to get the fermentation process just right. The perfect balance of honey, yeast, and water is essential. Hmmm, I suppose that's true. But I think the secret is to add a little bit of fire-berry juice to give it a nice kick!"
I got worried about the viking saying 'Ahoy' at first but hey they technically are sailors too.
Tip: It's also really good at speaking like a pirate 🏴‍☠️

How to turn Magic Write's creativity up to 11

Here's a quick (write)hack to really get Magic Write's juices flowing: ask it to write in iambic pentameter.

What's iambic pentameter?

It's the pattern the great playwrights like Shakespeare and Milton liked to write in. A line of pure iambic pentameter has ten syllables divided up into sets of 2.

Here it is in action on the opening line of Romeo and Juliet:

  • Two house/holds both/a-like/in dig/ni-ty

There's also more complicated stuff like how these sets of syllables have stresses and unstresses that tend to follow a 'da-DUM'-style pattern (which these days sounds like the Netflix intro), but that's not important*.

What is important is that iambic pentameter, when used just right, feels natural, hypnotic and strangely personal – almost like the words are moving through you.

And there's a reason for that: iambic pentameter mimics the rhythm of our own heartbeats.

*This Wikipedia article explains it pretty well – just ignore the top definition bit and go straight to examples.

Adding iambic pentameter to your Magic Write prompts

Simply append in iambic pentameter to the end of any prompt you ask it, whether poetic, creative, or deadly serious. It'll work for all of them!

These prompts should all work well with Magic Write:

  • Write a viral Tweet about [subject] in iambic pentameter
  • Write a thoughtful get well soon message in iambic pentameter
  • Write a humorous memo to keep the kitchen tidy, in iambic pentameter
  • Write a funny best man's wedding speech in iambic pentameter 👇
Animated GIF of Canva's Magic Write turning the prompt "Write a funny best man's wedding speech in iambic pentameter" into a 3-paragraph poem starting with the line "A witty speech I'll give today, for this special couple who did wed."
Pretty creative! But also not actually iambic pentameter.
But what it wrote above wasn't iambic pentameter!

Good spotting! Magic Write seems to do fine with basic rhyming and poetic forms like haikus and sonnets. But while it seems like it's awfully close to nailing iambic pentameter in the example above, it doesn't quite get there.

Take that first line. Let's break it down in the same way we did for Romeo and Juliet's opener:

  • A wi/tty sp/eech I'll/give to/day, for/this spe/cial cou/ple who/did wed

That's...iambic nontameter? With a very unusual set of syllables and stresses? I'm not even sure. It looks like what would happen if Elizabethan poetry and experimental jazz had a baby.

But you know what, that's OK! Because the speech as a whole has a lot of good ideas and playful wordings to start working with. We don't need to grade Magic Write's ability to adhere to the creative constraints of Elizabethan theatre dialogue*.

Just treat the in iambic pentameter part of the prompt like you're actually saying "hey Magic Write, please be extra-creative and poetic", and your expectations will be met, nay, exceeded (hopefully).

*Unless you yourself do, in which case, what kind of English course are you taking?!

What Canva's Magic Write is limited in

So I've covered a lot of what Magic Write excels in, but what are its limitations? Here are the main ones you should be aware of:

  • It is not a factual search engine. Magic Write is trained on data from mid-2021 and earlier. It also generates text probabilistically, not deterministically. What that means is, don't rely on it to reproduce factual statements. Always always (always) check every output for accuracy 🎯
  • It doesn't give advice, nor talk about politics. Hopefully self-explanatory. Do not make Magic Write your doctor, your lawyer, your accountant, your therapist, or your politically-opinionated friend who loves to tell you who to vote for.
  • Your prompts can be 200 words, and the results 5oo words.
    Be prepared for some of its wordier results to be cut-off mid-sent...
Most importantly, don't use it for anything nefarious!
At Canva we like to say "be a good human". As we enter this new phase of AI-driven human-computer interaction, this value is getting more vital by the day hour minute second. Stay good, friends!

That's it! Now go forth and write magically ✨✍️✨

Where to get more Magic Write goodness