Microsoft is taking its superb AI art / visual designer tool, Microsoft Designer, and opening it up to the general public today. The company is also publicizing its intelligent features: AI-generated captions and hashtags, new image formatting for social media, and AI-powered editing tools.
We called Microsoft Designer nearly an AI masterpiece when we went hands-on with the tool several months ago, and now you have a chance to try it out for yourself, too. While Designer doesn’t fall into the category of the best AI art generator tools, it stands nearly alone with Canva and Adobe’s design tools as a way to develop a holistic design from the ground up.
You can try Microsoft Designer here.
Designer starts with an image, either one you supply or one it can generate via the AI art tools found within Bing Image Creator. The magic is that it either can generate the image from your description of the image or the event: you can ask it to generate a baseball for a meetup at an Oakland A’s game, but Microsoft Designer is intelligent enough to take “Let’s meet up at the A’s game” and generate layouts that involve baseball imagery. You can then work with the text, changing the font and so on, to create the final design.
Mark Hachman / IDG
What Designer has lacked, though, are some of the more advanced design tools that competitors offer. Designer includes templates, but nothing specific to the end product. Microsoft’s “open house” layout intelligently combines text and house photos, but doesn’t understand where that design will end up.
Now, it does. You can format Designer’s end result to match up with the layouts used by Instagram and Facebook, for example, or a total of 20 different social media formats — and, in a nice touch, use AI to generate captions and even hashtags to make your images more discoverable. If you resize the image, the layout will “flow” to accommodate the new dimensions.
Microsoft Designer can even post to your social media feeds directly from Designer. (The option to add AI captions appears when you download your image for posting, then allows you to connect to those feeds.)
It’s true that AI-generated art exists in somewhat of a “Wild West” scenario, where creating AI-generated design is neither explicitly outlawed or permitted. Recent guidance by the U.S. Copyright Office strikes a middle ground: as long as a human has tweaked AI-generated content, it can be copyrighted. (It specifically mentions approving a graphic novel that combines AI art and human-generated text.) Since Designer’s whole purpose is to allow you to mix your own design and text on top of AI-generated art, it’s pretty likely that you can claim ownership of the work.
Microsoft says the same, basically. “The Azure OpenAI service, Designer app, and Image Creator are all governed by their respective service terms,” the company said in a statement. “Under these terms today, Microsoft does not claim ownership of either content input by customers or content output by the service. Except for our acceptable use policies, Microsoft’s terms do not restrict the commercialization of images created with these services, although customers are ultimately responsible for making their own decisions about the commercial usability of images they create. ”
Mark Hachman / IDG
Designer now appears within Edge, too
Designer also works the other way around, too. Like Edge’s Image Creator, Microsoft will add Designer to its Edge browser, where you’ll be able to find it in the right-hand sidebar. (You may need to scroll down and expand the sidebar options to view it.)
While you’re browsing Twitter or Facebook within Edge and posting updates, Designer can automatically generate additional art to spice up a post, according to a demonstration video Microsoft provided.
Finally, Microsoft is adding editing features to Microsoft Designer. Those who use AI art generators know that editing AI art with AI is one of the newer features. Often called “inpainting” or “outpainting,” Microsoft’s Erase and Fill features allow you to add and subtract elements of a photo, illustration, or AI-generated art.
If Microsoft’s features work like other AI tools, you’d be able to highlight a king’s crown, for example, and either delete it entirely or replace it with something else, like a baseball cap. Microsoft is also offering a similar feature, Replace Background, that uses AI to first identify the background and then replace it with something else. (Adobe Photoshop offers the same feature, incidentally.)
And yes, Microsoft Designer is free. Like Clipchamp, its equally talented cousin for video editing, Microsoft is using a “freemium” model: offer the base app for free, then add premium features on top of it. Microsoft hasn’t said what those premium features will be, but the company said Thursday that it plans to lock them behind a Microsoft 365 subscription. If everything that Microsoft has shown so far remains free, Designer will offer substantial value all by itself.
This story was updated at 10:06 AM with additional comment from Microsoft.