Learn how to use a new Canvas design feature to create quick buttons or icons for common course items, such as Syllabus and Grades.

Want to quickly and easily make buttons to help your students navigate your course? With the new Icon Maker in Canvas, you can have buttons like these up and running in 1-2 minutes, without ever leaving Canvas.

Three buttons in a row show visual icons linking to Home, Grades, and Syllabus

How to Use the Icon Maker

To open the new RCE Icon Maker, select the icon to the right of the “Documents” icon in the Rich Content Editor (RCE) toolbar. This will open a dropdown asking if you want to create a new icon or insert a previously created (saved) icon.

Canvas editor with dropdown showing Create Icon Maker Icon and Saved Icon Maker Icons

Selecting “Create Icon Maker Icon” will open a right sidebar where you can create the icon. The initial options include:

  • Name: For internal purposes only, this will not display on the icon
  • Alt Text: Absolutely critical, since these buttons are images – use the text the button shows, such as Home
  • Icon Shape: Any shape will work
  • Icon Size: Any size will work, but we recommend Medium
  • Icon Color: Any color will work
  • Icon Outline: Any color will work, but choose one that contrasts well with the icon color; neutrals are preferred
  • Icon Outline Size: Any size will work, but we recommend Medium

After that, you’ll need to set up the text of the button. The text position is particularly important here, as including the text on top of the icon will only make it extremely hard to read if you have an icon image. As such, we recommend choosing “Below” for the text position. We also recommend choosing “Large” text, as the smaller text sizes are not particularly legible in the Canvas design.

Finally, you’ll add the image part of the icon. The Icon Maker comes with preset image options (single color and multi-color). You can also upload your own image or use an existing course image. To get started with the image selection, click “Add Image.”

The Icon Maker image selection window.

From the drop-down menu, select the option you want. If you choose to upload an image, you will have the option to crop the image to the shape as you see fit. For example, here is an icon where I uploaded an image of Shafer Tower to go along with the word “Home.”

Example icon with an image of the Shafer Tower to go along with the word “Home.”

Once you’ve set up the icon options, select “Apply” and the icon will insert into your content. You can edit it by selecting it and selecting “Edit.” When editing, there is a box you can check to apply changes to the icon across your entire course (anywhere that same icon appears in your Canvas design).

If you want to link the icon, this works just like linking an image. Select the icon and select the Link icon in the RCE toolbar (or press Ctrl+K / Cmd+K). You can link the icon to an external website or to any item in your Canvas site, such as an assignment, a module, your syllabus, or your homepage.

That’s it – all it takes for new icons is 1-2 minutes! Your icons will save in your course, so they will copy over whenever you copy that course in the future.

Ways to Use the Icon Maker in Your Canvas Design

The new Icon Maker can be used to create any icon, but its most natural fit is in creating buttons. Here are a few ways you could incorporate buttons created with the Icon Maker into your Canvas design:

  • Add a “Quick Links” section to your course home page with buttons directing students to commonly-used links, such as the syllabus, course schedule, and the current module.
  • Add “Back to Module Overview” buttons to any items in a module so that students always have quick and easy access to how the various pieces of the module fit together.
  • Add a “Send Me an Email” button to your instructor contact information so that students have a visual reminder to contact you with questions or concerns.
  • Add buttons linking to each module on the course home page, so that students can access current and past modules without having to scroll through a long Modules list.
  • Add a “Discussion Board Guidelines” button to any discussion board so that students can visit your overall guidelines/rubric for discussions in the course.

These are just the beginning – share in the comments below how you could use this new Canvas design feature to help students navigate your course!

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  • Eva Grouling Snider

    Eva joined the Division of Online and Strategic Learning in 2021. Previously, she taught professional writing courses in the English Department, including graphic design and web development. She launched Jacket Copy Creative (now known as Compass Creative), an immersive learning course in which students helped market the English Department (and now the entire College of Sciences and Humanities). She also served as a director of advertising at a social media advertising agency in Muncie. Her interests include UDL, digital accessibility, and design. She’s often busy “hacking” Canvas to do cool things.

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