5 AI Tools for Design

At the beginning of the year, a designer friend mentioned this new thing that was going to take away our jobs and ruin our industry. For a month it stayed in the corner of my mind and I quietly stewed on how scary that was (if it was true!), the unfairness of it and that I wish it didn’t exist.

Then I decided to learn about it.

What I found was a set of incredible tools. And like all tools, you must learn to use them effectively. So I started playing. Just like computers were in the 90s and just like Canva is now, Artificial Intelligence gives us an amazing opportunity to create even better design.

Today I use several AI tools in my business and I’d like to share a few of them with you.


1. Profile Picture Maker

Brand your profile image

This one is a bit of fun. Just take a selfie and upload it to the site. It will remove the background from any image (even if you don’t have a nice plain background) and give you a bunch of options to replace your background. What you should do, is get the hex code (a 6 digit code preceded by a #) of your main brand colour and use this for the background. Click Background then RGB and you’ll see the space to paste your hex code. Instant branding! Play around with the different textures and patterns, but make sure you choose something that is on brand for you.

To get your new profile pic, just hover over the image you like and click the green arrow. That badboy is in your downloads.

This is a perfect entry level AI tool. If you haven’t played with any AI, give this a go. It’s free, but you can pay to get some more advanced options.



2. Background Remover

Take out that pesky background

Do you pay a Canva Pro subscription just for the background remover? I’m about to save you $15 a month*

*This tool is free whilst in beta, and was still in beta at the time of writing this article!

Just upload an image, remove background, download and then upload into Canva. Ready to go!



3. Vectorizer

Make my logo bigger!

Designer jokes aside, if you’ve created your own logo in a tool like Canva, you likely won’t have a vector file of it. Image files like jpg or png are made up of pixels, when you scale them they lose quality and look “pixellated”. Vector files are made with an algorithm and are scalable to any size. Your signwriter or embroiderer will definitely want one of these. This is the professional grade file, with this you can put your logo on a banner, a billboard, or the moon.

Previously the domain of designers with expensive Adobe subscriptions only, vector files are now a click away with AI. Get the highest resolution image you have of your logo and upload it. The bigger the image, the sharper the result. Text will not always come out exactly right and there can be a little distortion for images as well. But overall, this tool does an incredible job. It’s better than the equivalent tool in Adobe Illustrator (live trace) and I use this all the time.

When you get to the downloads page, get yourself an eps file and a pdf. You likely can’t open the eps, but this is the professional file you send to your printer. Keep it on file, trust me. The PDF is a vector you can view and use more easily.

This is free while in beta too. Get your logo vectorised while it lasts!



4. Image Upscaler

Make your photos bigger

Similar concept to the vectorizer, but this time with pixels. If you ever had a photo that was oh-so-perfect but low resolution, I have the solution for you!

The bot analyses your image, decides what it is and then uses thousands of other similar reference images from the internet to upscale your image with believable content. It does an excellent job of inanimate objects and food, pretty good with animals, but a little questionable with people.

For instance, I uploaded an elderly gentleman. He didn’t have glasses on before, but he did when the bot was finished with him! So many of it’s reference images wore glasses that it decided to give him some. He didn’t quite look like himself anymore either. In this case, I couldn’t use the image. But I was recently sent some food images for a cookbook I was designing and they weren’t very big. This tool did an excellent job of enlarging them so we could go ahead with the print job.

This is a handy one to bookmark and keep in your back pocket. Free as well!



5. Midjourney

Create anything you can imagine (and put into words)

This is the big baddy of the visual AIs. The one that was going to take my job and ruin my industry. I’ve had so much fun with this thing.

It takes a bit more setting up. You need a Discord account, then sign up to Midjourney and add the Midjourney bot to your Discord so you can talk to it. Discord reminds me of a 2000’s chat room. It basically is that actually.

Once you’re in a chat with the bot you type the command /imagine. Then let that imagination run wild. You can ask it for an image of the Queen and 50 Cent having a tea party in the gardens of Buckingham palace with corgis and flamingoes… and it will make it! It searches the internet for who and what those things are and creates you an image.

It doesn’t always nail it. In fact, here is a hilarious outtake. You can see from the cover image too that hands are also not its speciality.

Midjourney is no longer free, it’ll set you back $10 a month. Pay the $10. It’s worth it for a month of giggles (if nothing else).

In my business I use this for creating stock images and conceptualizing illustrations.

Instead of trawling stock image sites to find the perfect combination of objects, people, mood and colour, now I just ask for it. It can take a few goes and tweaking my “prompt”, but I can usually get a result. And faster than searching.

I can ask it for characters to give me ideas for illustrations, giving me another way to conceptualise and develop ideas. If the results are really good, we can put them into the vectoriser then take them into Adobe Illustrator to edit and play with.

Try it out.



In conclusion

AI wasn’t so scary after all and I’m thoroughly happy with my choice to combat it head on. Now we’re not fighting at all, we’re good friends. If you’re new to this strange new world, I hope this has given you a chance to dip your toes and build some confidence with the technology. And if you’re an AI buff, I hope there was something here to peak your interest.

AI isn’t coming for your job, not yet anyway (it’s not that intelligent) but your job could be in danger from someone who is using these tools to their advantage. This stuff is designed to be easy as pie, have a play and see what you can find to make your life and job a little easier.

This article was surprisingly NOT written with the help of ChatGPT (though I do use that guy for many things!).