#32: Microsoft Designer gets everywhere


Assuming you haven’t woken from cryonic stasis (leaving aside all the practical difficulties of doing that) then you’ll already know of the hallucinatory ChatGPT and its image-creating sidekick, DALL-E, which will spit out a computer generated image from a text-based description of what you want.

Predictably, there are many memes on whether AI is a good thing or not, along with worries that it’s coming for your jobs/freedom/happiness etc. In many ways, it’s just another wave of technology which is certainly impactful, but its benefit will be seen by how we creatively embrace it.


Also doing the rounds is the trope of “I want AI to do my laundry” which is poignant if not really a new thing (see Keynes c1930, or Bertrand Russell’s “In praise of Idleness”, c1932). Technology is invented to supposedly give us more time but often displaces one form of work for another. Now, AI prompt engineering will be a creative skill, to a degree replacing the need for designing, drawing or painting skills.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has been busy embedding DALL-E technology into other apps and services, broadly packaged under its “Designer” branding. You can generate images for embedding into LinkedIn articles, for example …


… though with some mixed level of success, depending on what you want…


Alternatively, just go straight to the Copilot prompt…


Even the venerable Paint has gotten a new Image Creator function which does much the same thing, though annoyingly defaults to a 1:1 aspect ratio, regardless of the orientation of the canvas. In the main Copilot/Designer UI there is a little icon to change the ratio of your image from square to landscape, however it ends up generating a new image entirely.


Restyle it out

Remember all those early 2000s makeover TV shows which gave frumpy looking people another view on what to wear? Well, there’s a Restyle capability in Designer that’s so much fun to play with, you could easily spend the rest of the day mucking about with pictures to see what selfies look like in art style, how the dog would be if made of Plasticine, and so on…


Take your source image…


…then choose one of a variety of styles, and be prepared for outright weirdness or outright flattery…


Right, that’s enough of the day wasted. Get on with your work!

Tip o’ the Week 390 – Paint it black

SHOCK, HORROR!”, the internet & news media said, “Microsoft is killing Paint!”. Cue the opportunityclip_image002 to make Clippy comparisons, and reflect on a bit of software that appeared in its first version in Windows 1.0, bring out the odd eccentric who manages to produce quite amazing art using Paint (like Pat Hines, who’s tried other paint software but “never managed to ‘connect’ with it”, or Jim’ll Paint It, who paints odd scenes on request, and whose fondness for MSPaint means he prefers the WinXP version).

Most of us probably don’t use MSPaint for much these days; maybe the odd bit of clumsy touching-up of images, or using it to snip bits out of screen grabs for documentation purposes.

Here’s one use case, if you’re in the UK and want to print out a map for a walk you’re going to do – fire up MSPAINT, set the clip_image004canvas dimensions to something huge like 4096×4096 (in File / Properties), then go to Bing Maps and screen grab (WindowsKey+S, or use the Snipping Tool) the relevant sections of your planned walking route, looking at the Ordnance Survey view in the top right, and zooming in so you see the footpath details.

For longish walks, you’ll struggle to fit the whole route on one screen at the max detail level, so you’ll need to grab a bit, paste it onto the Paint canvas, move the map view, grab the next section, then using Paint, assemble the bits together like overlaying jigsaw pieces by moving your newest-pasted chunk around so it fits the rest. Copy the whole finished lot into a Word doc, and print.

Anyway, Paint is most definitely not dead – it’s just going to be an app that’s packaged and maybe delivered via the Windows Store, just like lots of other apps that are traditionally part of Windows and may or may not be installed by default (like Calc, Mail, Groove etc). There’s always Paint3D, too (ToW 358).

If you do need to do some more intensive image manipulation, especially of photos, there are many free options, from Adobe’s PhotoShop Express or the built-in Microsoft Photos app, which lets you carry out simple tweaks to photos you’ve acquired. For more creating and pixel-by-pixel tweaking of images, though, you’d be hard pressed to find a better value yet powerful tool than Paint.NET. It looks a bit 1990s in some respects, but it’s a simple and effective image editing tool, that has been likened to the bits of Photoshop that people like, simplified and delivered for free.

Find out more about Paint.NET here – download directly from here, and keep an eye out for a packaged version of Paint.NET hitting the Windows Store at some point, too. Who knows – maybe it will be there before MSPaint is loaded on the cart and taken away?