Posted by Ancestry Team on March 27, 2009 in Site

In keeping with our “freedom of expression” philosophy, the MyCanvas publishing service provides many different tools for editing and manipulating text in a book, poster or calendar. We give you so many options that you may not be aware of some of them, even if you’re an experienced MyCanvas user.

In MyCanvas you can:

  • Position a new or existing text box anywhere on the page
  • Resize, rotate and copy a text box
  • Choose from 30 different fonts
  • Customize the font color to match another element on the page
  • Customize the color of a text box background
  • Adjust the opacity of a text box background
  • Layer a text box on top of an image or another text box

To help you visualize how it all works, here’s a sample page I threw together. It’s a collage poster that I designed from scratch. Of course you could also create a page like this in a photo book or calendar.

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Since I wanted to stack the letters vertically instead of typing them in horizontally, I created a new text box for each letter. To make the last letter, “X,” I have two options. I can click the “Add text” icon in the main toolbar to create a new text box, which I can then place anywhere on the page.

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Or, since I’ve already formatted three text boxes, I can copy one of them using the Copy icon in the text editing toolbar.

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I just move the copy where I want it and then type an “X” in place of the “E.”

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Notice that I’ve put drop-shadows on all of these letters to add some depth. You can add drop-shadows to text just as you can to images.

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If I want to change the typeface, I click on a text box to bring up the text editing toolbar and then select a font from the drop-down menu. In this case, since I’m working with four text boxes, I’m going to apply the change to all of them at once to save time. To do this, I select the first text box and then hold down the Control key (or the Command key, if I’m working on my Mac) while I select the other three boxes.

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A few weeks ago I blogged about our new color picker, which lets you pick a color from a precise spot on a photo and apply that color to a border or page background. You may have noticed that the background of this poster exactly matches the blue from the side panel of Alex’s Spiderman costume. The color picker also works for text: you can use it to customize a font color or the background of a text box.

In this example, I’m going to multi-select the four text boxes and then change the font color to a custom shade of red that matches Alex’s costume — or, more accurately, a particular spot on his costume. I just grab the eyedropper tool and place it on the exact spot that I want to match. If I choose an area with no shadows I’ll get a different result than if I pick a spot close to a seam in the fabric, where the color appears darker.

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To add a background to a text box, I click the little white “A” box that’s right next to the color box in the text editing toolbar. I check the “Background” box to make a background appear. The background is white by default, but I can change it to any color I want.

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Now look at the slider just below the checkbox. It lets me adjust the opacity of the text box background.

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By default the transparency is always set to zero, meaning that the background is fully opaque. To make the background transparent, I can either slide the little bar to the left, type in a percentage or use the arrow keys to increase or decrease the transparency. In this case I decide to make the background about 50% transparent.

I play around with the backgrounds for a while and decide I like the effect of making two of the boxes fully opaque and the other two 50% transparent.

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To create the illusion of depth, I can copy a text box and then layer the original on top of the copy. I like how the “A” stands out when I set it apart from the other letters in this way.

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In this last version, I keep the layering effect but change the background colors for the other three letters, using a darker shade of blue that matches the shadowy part of Alex’s costume. In this example all the text boxes are fully opaque.

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I’ve only covered the advanced text editing features because the basic features — like changing the font size, changing the text alignment and using the bold, italics and underline tools — are pretty self-explanatory to anyone who’s ever used a word processing program. But it bears mentioning that only a handful of online photo book applications even let you do something as basic as centering or italicizing text. Most only let you change the font type and size and choose a font color from 15 or 20 options.

At MyCanvas, our goal is to provide much greater flexibility than other self-publishing sites without an overly complicated user experience. If you have any suggestions for how we can improve our service — with regard to our text editing tools or any other aspect of the MyCanvas experience — please let us know.

To provide feedback, you can post a comment on this blog or send us a message through the “Give Feedback” link in MyCanvas.


  1. I need help! I looked all over for “help” email and found none.
    Somewhere in Ancestry links I found the following but I have not been able to find it again. Can someone please advise me where I can again find:
    # 3 Catherine Richart mar. Melton Zinck sm000407
    # 5 Catherine Richart mar.Hess, Henry ba002544
    Thanks a lot RR

  2. Stefanie Condie

    Roland, for customer support, please call 1-800-ANCESTRY (262-3787) between the hours of 10am and 6pm Eastern Time.

  3. Neil Barnett

    The changes you describe to improve the text boxes are welcome. Any chance you will provide “copy & paste” for Word on either Windows or the Mac? Apparently Apple is doing so for the IPhone.

  4. Stefanie Condie

    Neil, I hope I’m understanding your question correctly. You can copy text from Word by selecting it and clicking Control-C and then paste it into MyCanvas by clicking Control-V. You’ll need to create a text box on your MyCanvas page before you paste in the text (by clicking the “Add text” icon in the main toolbar) — or you could paste the text into an existing text box that’s already on the page.

  5. I am developing a book but I want to learn how to cut & past a 2-section page so I can enlarge and stack the two sections on top of each other.

    Please address how I can cut and paste and how to cut a section of a Census to include only your family.

    Margaret C. Harmon

  6. Janis Orleman

    I am adding text to my timeline but I don’t see how to draw the vertical lines. Also, can a timeline be a double page?

  7. Marge

    I don’t understand how to get into mycanvas without paying for a project. The instructions about it say it is free, but when I go to get access to it, it asks me what project I want to purchase. Can’t I just start mycanvas and purchase a project type later? Thanks

  8. Wanda Cook(Condie)

    My family came from Scotland on the Columbia from Scotland in 1907, They all came to America for better opportunities and initially worked as coal miners

  9. Stefanie Condie

    Margaret, select the census record and then click the Copy icon in the image toolbar. Crop the new image so that only the names of your relatives are showing. (The Crop tools are the little boxes that appear on each side of the image when the image is selected.) Then grab the Resize icon (the little box in the bottom right corner of the image) and drag it to enlarge the image. You can position the image anywhere you want, layering it on top of the full record image if you wish. You can highlight the names by changing the color of the new image to sepia (using the color drop-down menu in the image toolbar) or by dragging a colored highlighter onto the page (in the left panel, click the “Other Content” tab and then go to the Highlighers folder).

  10. Stefanie Condie

    Janis, what you need to do is copy a vertical line from one of the existing timeline events. Just click on the line and then click the Copy icon from the image toolbar. You can then place the new line anywhere you want on the page.

    Unfortunately we don’t have a two-page timeline option at the current time.

  11. Stefanie Condie

    Marge, there is no charge to create or edit a project (or multiple projects) in MyCanvas. We’ve included information about starting prices in the product selection process just to give you an idea of what the prices are, but you will not be charged until you put your project in the shopping cart and initiate the checkout process. (You’ll be asked for a credit card number during checkout, but your card will not actually be charged until your product has shipped.)

    If you’re making a book, the final price will depend on the number of pages and the cover options you select, so the actual price may be different from the “Starting at…” price you see on the size selection page. For more detailed information about pricing, click the “Pricing and Shipping Details” link in the top right corner of the MyCanvas home page.

  12. Joey

    I’m trying to do a family tree poster with my canvas It gives me more ancestry lines than I need and I’ve been trying to figure out how to get rid of them.
    Also I was starting the tree with myself, but I can’t seem to add my brothers, and they’ll be mad if they aren’t on there. Help

  13. Stefanie Condie

    Joey, currently there is no way to delete the extra lines in a family tree poster. If you don’t have data for the generations further back, you might want to make a poster with fewer generations. You can include 4 to 7 generations in a combination tree poster or 4 to 9 generations in a standard tree (pedigree) poster.

    The easiest way to include your brothers would be to make a combination tree poster starting with your parents. The combination tree format includes a starting couple, one generation of descendants (you and your brothers) and up to five generations of ancestors.

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