Microsoft Designer review – Graphic Design for the Chromebook

A few years ago there was very little choice when it came to graphic design on a Chromebook. Of course, you’ve got GIMP, which is a professional graphic design program you can install on your Chromebook provided you’ve installed Linux.

For the majority of people, you would have most likely used Android apps for your graphic design needs. Android apps are great, but when it comes to ChromeOS, you get a much better experience using software directly from a browser or by installing a PWA App on your Chromebook.

The good news is things have changed a lot in the last few years. This is mainly down to the whole tech industry realising Google’s approach with the Chromebook, and that everything will be done in the cloud is now a reality no matter what computer you use. Therefore, software developers such as Google, Microsoft and Adobe invest heavily in making software that can be used directly in a browser.

Microsoft Designer

Microsoft Designer was launched in late 2022. It’s available to use directly from your browser provided you’ve registered for a Microsoft 365 account at office.com. I’ve used Microsoft 365 on my Chromebook and it has improved tenfold compared to how it was a couple of years ago. I’ve written about using Microsoft 365 on a Chromebook previously if you’d like to know more.

You can use Microsoft 365 for free, which includes ‘Designer’ making it perfect if you’d like to see how it works. However, if you want all the functionality without limitations, you may want to register for a paid Microsoft 365 account. This review is using Microsoft Designer from a paid plan, however, a lot of the functionality may still work on a free plan.

Watch my review of Microsoft Designer on YouTube

What I like about Microsoft Designer is that anyone can use it, as you don’t need to have much knowledge of graphic design software. This makes it far more accessible compared to professional graphic design software, but it obviously doesn’t offer the same in-depth features. That being said, you can still make some great designs using Microsoft Designer on your Chromebook.

Launching Microsoft Designer on a Chromebook

As I’ve previously mentioned you first need to register for a Microsoft 365 account. Once you’ve done that you should reach a page similar to the one below providing you’re logged into your 365 account. This is the page you should see when visiting office.com when logged in.

Office homepage on your Chromebook
The Microsoft 365 office.com page on a Chromebook

You’ll see on the left panel a list of the most popular apps used such as Excel, Word and Powerpoint. To access other apps available simply click on the menu at the top of the page above the Home icon, as shown below.

Launching Microsoft Designer on ChromeOS
How to launch Microsoft Designer on ChromeOS

For the rest of this review, I’ll discuss all the features that you have available when using Microsoft Designer on your Chromebook. In terms of visualising this, it’s far easier to show you by video. Therefore, to help, I’ve created a video on my Chrome Computing TV YouTube channel, which goes through all of the features I’ll mention during this review. I’ve added the video to this page, so you can easily refer to it.

Getting started

When you’ve launched Microsoft Designer you have a few options available to get started. You can start with a blank canvas, work from a template, import an image you want to work on or create a design using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Blank Canvas

When you select to start with a blank canvas you’ll see a pop-up box similar to the image below. This provides you with some default image sizes to choose from. You don’t need to use these size options if they are not suitable, as you can also choose your own custom size. This makes Microsoft Designer extremely versatile.

Microsoft Designer blank canvas on your Chromebook
Default image sizes or custom sizes when choosing to start with a blank canvas

The good news is Microsoft Designer is capable of dealing with images of a high resolution. This makes it perfect if you need super-crisp images. Perfect for anyone who wants to create designs for printing on a T-shirt for example. This is something that you could not do with Google Slides, as it is extremely limited when it comes to resolution size.

Microsoft Designer is capable of a canvas size of 5,000 pixels in width and 5,000 pixels in height. That’s a great resolution for anyone who needs high-quality images.

Work from a template

Sometimes when it comes to Graphic design you need some inspiration; certainly if you haven’t got your creative head on. If this is the case then starting from a template is a good idea. Once you’ve chosen a template idea AI will come up with suggestions based on the template you have chosen. You can then start your design with these ideas making it much quicker to get your designs created.

Starting with your own media

There will be plenty of situations where you already have media that you want to work with. The good news is you can easily get started with your own media by clicking on the ‘add media button’. When you add your own media Microsoft Designer gives you a few templates to use with your design or you can use AI to help.

Personally speaking, I’m not a big fan of the start with your own media option. This is because it should have the option to edit the image without assuming you want to use it with other media predicted by Microsoft Designer. Also, it does not appear to give you the option just to start with your image and no other media. However, you may want this, so it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

The good news is you can still work with your image directly without any other artwork. To do this, you can start with a blank canvas, and then import your media.

Using AI to create your perfect artwork

I’m sure you’ve all heard how AI has advanced a lot in the last couple of years. You’ve got Chat GPT and Google Bard, which you can use for many different purposes. Another place you’ll start seeing AI is when using software you use on a daily basis, where AI is used to help you achieve what you need.

Microsoft Designer allows you to start with a new design by simply typing what you want. AI is still a work in progress, so the results you might get vary dramatically depending on what you ask AI to create.

AI created image on ChromeOS using Microsoft Designer

I typed the following ‘a lovely day on the beach with someone eating a lovely ice cream’ and AI came back with many different templates to get started with. One of those you can see above.

Microsoft Designer image tools

Once you’ve got your image or images on the canvas you have access to some built-in image tools. When it comes to graphic design you should not feel afraid to experiment because it’s the only way to find out what all the features you have available can do. After all, there is always an undo button if you do something that you don’t like.

An easy way to change your image is by using many of the ready-made filters available. You can make subtle changes to an image using these filters. There is also an intensity bar, which you can move from left to right. If you’d prefer AI to give you some ideas you can click on the ‘inspire me’ button, which will change your design for you.

You can also adjust things such as brightness, saturation, temperature and sharpness. All of these controls change the image you have selected on your canvas. Therefore, you have complete control and can use different settings for each image.

Microsoft Designer AI tools

AI Eraser tool

There are some great AI tools you can use when you have an image on your canvas selected. This includes the eraser tool, which lets you erase objects on an image. The results you get will vary dramatically depending on the image you’re working with and what you’re trying to erase.

Remove background tool

The option to remove the background from an image is something that can be very useful. There are many different programs you can use to do this, and you’ll find some online tools. Online tools work just fine, but usually only provide you with a low-resolution export unless you make payment.

Therefore, it’s really good that Microsoft Designer includes a background removal tool, which provides some pretty good results. It’s also much easier to do compared to professional graphic programs where you’d need to be a lot more involved. This is thanks to the AI that is used when using the removal background tool. However, at the moment the remove background tool isn’t perfect compared to what you can achieve with professional graphic design programs.

Blur background tool

Another useful feature is the ‘blur background tool’. This is great if you want something to stand out in the image, and works great with the right image. You’d be surprised how adding a blur to the background can really change the feel of the image, and make the main object in the image pop.

Adding text to your design

Although you can use Microsoft Designer for just about anything. It’s targeted at creating banners and images to use on social media. Social media posts need to stand out, and a great way to do this is by adding some striking text.

Text tools Microsoft Designer
There are plenty of text effects available on Microsoft Designer

It’s easy to add text to your designs, and there are plenty of ready-made text styles to choose from. You can also add text without any styling, so you can do the creative side yourself. There are plenty of fonts to choose from, and the results are fantastic. Super smooth crisp text that looks professional.

Visuals with Microsoft Designer

The visuals selection on Microsoft Designer offers plenty of extras you can add to your designs. Whether that is shapes such as squares, rectangles, triangles or images.

What I love about Microsoft Designer is that AI is always there making it really easy to find visuals you may want to add to your design. A great example of this is when I created the text effect above. When I typed the words ‘chrome computing’; the AI started to suggest images related to computers.

AI suggests images that match your design in Microsoft Designer
One of the images Microsoft Designer suggested when Chrome Computing text was recognised in my design

As you can see above, this was one of the images that Microsoft Designer suggested I might want to add to my design, simply based on AI reading the ‘Chrome Computing’ text I had added to my design. This makes it really easy to come up with a great design because AI is helping you all the time.

Videos

Because Microsoft Designer is aimed at designers who want to make some striking social media posts. It isn’t just image designs that you can create. You can also create short video designs, which are perfect for your next Facebook or Instagram post. Again, AI does the hard work for you, as it continues to suggest ideas based on the design you’re working on.

Conclusion

Microsoft Designer is a great design tool that you can use on your Chromebook. Considering what we had available just a few years ago, it’s amazing the type of software now available for ChromeOS directly from the browser.

Microsoft Designer is a great example of what can be achieved from your browser. Making it perfect for anyone who owns a ChromeOS computer. Another added bonus is you can use Microsoft Designer on your Chromebook free of charge. Sure, you may get some extra features when paying for a Microsoft 365 plan, but even on the free plan, you can make some amazing designs.

It’s also a great example of how AI can really help you with your daily tasks. Graphic design can be great fun, but sometimes you can struggle with ideas. The AI on Microsoft Designer is constantly giving you new ideas that will help inspire you to make some great designs.

If you’re looking for a graphic design program to use on your Chromebook. Then you might want to give Microsoft Designer a try. I’m sure you’ll have some great fun, it’s really easy to understand, and you’ll be making some great graphic design work directly from your Chromebook.