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You don’t need to be a Grade A student to know how good it feels to get recognition for your hard work.

Whether you’re a course creator, coach or educator, you can give your learners a sense of achievement and pride by making your own certificates.

It doesn’t matter if you have an official certification course, a training program, or an informal mini-course, take the time to make a certificate to give your learners acknowledgement for how far they’ve come and what they’ve learnt along the way.

The best part? The process of how to make a certificate is so easy thanks to the range of certificate-making tools on offer including pre-built templates, content suggestions, graphics, and more.

Here’s how to make a certificate in 8 simple steps – plus our top certificate design tips.

Follow along or skip ahead:

5 common types of certificates

Not sure what types of certificates to create for your learners? Here are 5 of the most common types of certificates and what they’re used for: 

  1. Certificate of completion: A completion certificate shows that a learner has successfully completed your learning program or course, including finishing any required assignments and activities.
  1. Certificate of achievement: For the highest performing learners, a certificate of achievement demonstrates that an individual has achieved a high level of proficiency in a specific skill, subject, or field.
  1. Certificate of participation: Give your learners proof that they’ve taken part in a specific course or learning program with a certificate of participation. This type of certificate is often used for more informal learning programs, especially those without formal assessments.
  1. Certificate of training: A certificate of training is specifically used to mark the completion of a training program or training modules, including any required assessments.
  1. Skills certificates: If you want to offer your learners certificates to demonstrate that they’ve gained specific skills or capabilities by taking your learning program, you can create skills certificates listing the key skills learners have acquired.

You can choose to create one or more types of certificates, depending on your learning program and your target audience. 

Ready to learn how to make a certificate? Here’s a breakdown of the 8 steps you need to design and create your own certificate, as well as how to export and distribute your finished certificates.

How to make a certificate in 8 simple steps

  1. Define your target audience

Whether you’re looking to create certificates for your learners, customers or team members, you need to start by understanding your target audience.

Who are you giving your certificates to? 

Define your target audience to understand the purpose of your certificates and make sure that your certificates deliver on your overall aims.

Use these questions to help you get started:

  1. Who am I creating the certificates for? 
  2. What are my audience’s key demographics? E.g. age range, location, education level
  3. What are their biggest problems and desires?
  4. What do they need a certificate for?
  5. Where will the certificates be used?
  6. What types of certificates will they find most valuable?

Conduct audience research to find out more about what your target audience is looking for – and what types of certificates they most want and need.

For example, if you’re offering a professional certification course, your target audience is likely to need a certificate of completion to mark their participation and successful completion of the course to use in professional contexts, such as job applications. They might also benefit from skills certificates to show future employers or clients the specific skills they’ve acquired from the course.

If you’re offering a course based around a hobby – such as an art or cooking course – participants might prefer to receive a certificate of participation to give them a sense of personal achievement and pride.

  1. Choose a certificate design platform

Nowadays the process to make a certificate is quick and easy thanks to the wide range of graphic design platforms on offer. You can create your own certificates in just a few taps – no design experience necessary.

If you want to learn how to make a certificate, you need to start by choosing a platform that’s right for your needs. Here are 4 top picks for making certificates.

  • Canva: One of the leading platforms for creating certificates is Canva. It’s free to get started and you can create your own certificate easily using their range of pre-made templates and intuitive editor, available online or via the Canva app.


  • Adobe Express: Adobe Express is ideal for making your own certificates – choose from thousands of professionally-designed templates and get access to basic editing tools to customize your certificate using their free subscription.


  • VisaCreate: Use VistaCreate’s library of 150K+ templates to find your dream certificate design and then customize it to your needs using their wide range of creative assets.


  • Thinkific: When you use Thinkific to create and deliver your online course, training, or digital products, it’s easy to make a certificate using the built-in certificate design tool to create, customize, and automatically distribute certificates directly to your learners, without needing to switch apps or platforms.

While you can design your own certificates from scratch if you want to – it’s easier than ever to make a certificate using the wide range of design platforms on offer. Simply choose a platform, sign in, and start designing right away. 

  1. Customize your template

When you’ve chosen your design platform and your template, it’s time to customize your certificates. Here are some certificate design tips you need to know:

  1. Color

Customize your certificate color scheme to make it feel like yours. 

Certificates usually have a limited palette of 2-3 colors to create a cohesive design and a more professional aesthetic. Pick colors that best represent your brand and your learning program or course – think about the message you want to convey to your audience. 

It’s a good idea to make sure there’s a high contrast between the background color and the text on your certificates. As a general rule, your background color should be lighter than your font color to allow any text to be readable even from a distance. If you have to squint to read it, you need to switch up your colors!

  1. Formatting

When you’re formatting your certificate, you also want to focus on readability and simplicity. Use hierarchy and layout rules to organize the information on your certificate. 

Hierarchy: Hierarchy is the arrangement of elements on your certificate in order of importance. The most important information should be highlighted by using larger font sizes, bold or italic text, or by placing it in a prominent position on your certificate, such as at the top and center of your page. 

Layout: Layout is the overall design of your certificate – or how you choose to arrange the different elements on the page. Your layout should be balanced with enough white space to make sure your certificate doesn’t look crowded or overwhelming.

When you’re designing your certificate, you can follow the guide of the template and add your own elements too. To keep your design cohesive and easy-to-read, keep these 3 tips in mind:

  • Group related information together
  • Use lines and borders to separate different sections
  • Add graphics for visual interest

Top Tip: Graphics can be used to enhance the design of your certificate – but be careful not to overdo the number of elements on the page. Remember, your certificates should be readable at a glance.

  1. Select your fonts

As your certificate will be mostly text-based, your font choice has a big role to play in the design of your certificate.

While you might be tempted to mix several different fonts together to make your certificates more visually interesting, it’s important not to overcrowd your certificate or risk making it look cluttered and confusing.

Here are 3 general rules to keep in mind when choosing your fonts:

  1. Easy-to-read: Fonts should be easy-to-read and appropriate for the context of the certificate. Serif fonts are the more traditional choice for formal certificate designs, but you can also opt for more minimalist or modern designs depending on your brand aesthetic.
  2. Consistent: Your font choice should be consistent throughout your certificate. Avoid mixing too many different fonts as this can make your text harder to read.
  3. High contrast: To make sure text is easily readable, there should be a high contrast between the font and the background. Black, dark grey, or dark brown text on a light-colored background is usually best.

Keep these basic design principles in mind when customizing your certificates to make sure your designs are legible – and look good.

  1. Add your branding

As well as customizing the design of your certificates, add elements to reflect your brand too. This helps to make your certificates more unique, while also giving you a chance to market your brand and turn learners into brand advocates with every share and every post.

Every certificate is a potential lead generator, so make your branding strong and easily recognizable. Here are some simple ways to add your branding to your certificate:

  • Logo: Include your logo in your certificate design to make sure that people know who issued the certificate – and increase awareness around your brand.
  • Brand colors: Match your certificates to your overall brand colors for more cohesiveness across your brand assets.
  • Typeface: If you have a specific typeface or font for your brand, use this in your certificates to help your certificates stand out.
  • Brand voice: Have you developed a strong brand voice? You could use this to customize your certificates to make your content more interesting and add pizzazz. (More on this below)

Use your certificates to keep your brand front of mind for your existing customers and generate more interest and potential leads for your business when your certificates are shared or displayed. 

  1. Fill in the content

When you’ve created your master design for your certificates, you can fill in the content for your certificates.  

While the exact content of your certificate will come down to personal preference, there are some essential elements to include. Here are 5 key details you’ll need:

  • Name of the award
  • Recipient’s name
  • Certificating institution or organization 
  • Date of issue
  • Signature from an authorized signatory

You might also want to add a short section of text explaining what the certificate is recognizing, for example:

[Recipient’s name] has demonstrated a strong work ethic and a passion for continuous improvement. Their dedication to personal and professional growth, coupled with their exceptional achievements, has earned them this award.

If you’re looking to make a certificate to mark a specific achievement or award, customize your content to explain what the recipient has achieved and why they’re receiving the award.

You can choose to personalize the blurb for every recipient – or create a general template to use across all your certificates. If you have a high volume of students, it’s a good idea to standardize your content to allow you to automate the certification process and reduce the time it takes to create and issue certificates.

  1. Review and finalize your design

When you’ve customized your certificate and added your content, it’s time to review and finalize your design. 

Ask for feedback from your target audience to assess whether your design is the right fit for their needs and for your existing customers. Adjust your certificate design according to their feedback.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have an established business or audience yet, you can ask for advice from family and friends too.

  1. Save and distribute your certificate

Now you’re ready to save your design and distribute your certificate to your learners.

If you just have a small number of learners, you can do this step manually via email or direct message – but if you want to scale your business and start issuing more certificates to more customers, you need to automate the process.

Automate your certification workflow

Choose an LMS that lets you automate the certification process to reduce your workload and eliminate the delay between course completion and issuing certificates.

Simply create your master certificate design and then upload it to your chosen platform. Use automation tools to automatically customize your template to each user and instantly issue certificates when someone completes 100% of your course. 

Thinkific makes it easy to automate the certification process – certificates are automatically issued on completion of the course, with no manual input.

4 certificate design tips

Now you know how to make a certificate, check out these 4 certificate design tips to help you create professional-quality designs that your learners will love.

  1. Don’t clutter your design

When you’re designing your certificates, try to keep your design clean and simple. Be careful not to crowd out essential information with too many details, graphics or images and make sure any fonts are clearly legible. 

Your certificate should be scannable and easy-to-read so only include essential details and take a pared-back approach with your design. To make a certificate that’s both beautiful and professional, choose a theme and stick to it.

  1. Watch out for copyright infringement

While certificates might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of copyright infringement, if you’re using graphics and images on your certificates then you need to be careful of falling foul of copyright laws.

Whatever your plan for your certificates, make sure you only include graphics, images, and logos that are not protected by copyright. To avoid copyright infringement, source graphics and images from free image sites – like the ones from this list.

  1. Double check key details

If you want your certificates to look professional and polished, double check your content and then check it again for good measure.

Make sure that key details are correct, including:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Recipient’s name and title
  • Date and location
  • Modules or skills completed

There’s nothing worse than spelling or grammatical errors on your certificates. If in doubt, use a typing assistant like Grammarly to check your work for mistakes.

  1. Offer digital badges too

If you want to add extra value for your learners, offer digital badges as well as certificates after they’ve completed your course. Badges can be easily displayed and used online and are more flexible than traditional certificates.

If you can provide multiple formats, your learners are more likely to show off their credentials across multiple channels – including on their website, social media, email footers and more. 

Top tip: If you’re sending out certificates via email, add social sharing buttons to encourage recipients to post their certificates directly to their social media to celebrate their achievements and boost social proof for your brand.

Ready to make a certificate online?

It’s easy to make a certificate and tailor the design to your brand and your business. Use these tips to create beautiful, polished certificates that your learners will be proud to show off.

Use Thinkific’s built-in certificate builder to create the perfect certificate in minutes and automate your certification process to streamline your workflow and celebrate more learners’ achievements in less time.

Try Thinkific for free today.