How to create a #ThursdayAesthetic with only Word and MS Paint

If you’re part of the book community on Twitter, you may have seen the #ThursdayAesthetic go round – you’ve guessed it – every Thursday! Started by literarilyjess, #ThursdayAesthetic is a chance for writers all over the world to post a selection of images that they feel encapsulate the themes, atmosphere, and general “aesthetic” of their novels.

I personally have been making novel aesthetics on Tumblr for years, but I’m really excited for the chance to start sharing mine on Twitter with a different audience.

Now, I made the decision earlier this year to start paying for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, so I have a fairly easy option for making aesthetics whenever I’d like. But not everyone is interested in Photoshop. It can be too expensive or just too fiddly and complicated to bother with. I don’t blame you at all, by the way! It’s taken me years just to get to the basic ability I’ve got.

So how can you get involved if you don’t have photoshop?

Well, there are free image editing options out there. GIMP, BeFunky, Canva, and so many others. (I could do a round-up post in the future if anyone is interested?)

Again, though, those can be fiddly, and you might just not want to learn to use a whole new software system.

Here’s where my magic system comes in. All you need is Microsoft Word and Microsoft Paint, which come pre-installed on almost every Windows computer. I’m afraid I’m not very familiar with Macs, but I imagine they must have something similar?

Now, how do you actually create your aesthetics?

First of all you need to collect your images. I like to use Pinterest for this. I have a board dedicated just to my novel ideas, and I quite regularly spend a happy half an hour on the bus adding to my various inspiration boards.

You’re more than welcome to use any of my pins, and of course you can easily search for more images using Pinterest’s own search feature!

Another good place to look is, of course, Google images. I usually add “Tumblr” or “aesthetic” to the end of my search (e.g. “desert Tumblr” or “blonde girl aesthetic”), as this results in more of the types of images you tend to see in Thursday Aesthetics rather than lots of stock photos.

Your aesthetics can be any shape and size, but a good standard is 3 x 3 square images in a grid, for which you need 9 photos. I usually collect anywhere between 10 – 20 to make sure I find enough that will fit together well.

A tip to make your aesthetic more visually pleasing is to try to choose pictures with the same/a similar colour palette as much as possible, such as lots with a deep pop of red or a blue.

The second step is to square off all of your images.

This is where Paint comes in. Open up your first image and use the selection tool. I have a terrible eye for shapes, so I like to use the handy-dandy dimensions down at the bottom like below:

It doesn’t matter if it’s not precisely square, mine never are.

(Also, please excuse the capybaras! I just think they’re so cute…)

Once you’ve got your square selected, just crop and save!

Now you need to open Word and get busy in there.

There are lots of ways to get your pictures in a square. Either insert them in and use the “square” text wrap to position them side by side, let them sit “inline” (if they’re small enough) as they should nestle together nicely, or – my favourite way – use a table to ensure they’re evenly spaced.

Here’s a Google docs template to use if you’d like it! You should be able to make a copy and play around with it. Just highlight it to see where the boxes are.

All I did to create this was insert a 3 x 3 table, set the row height to be the same as the width like so:

And then I made the borders white/invisible and voila! You’re ready to insert your images.

Once your images are in, don’t be afraid to play around with them.

Try swapping one or two around if you’ve got a lot of the same colour concentrated in one particular corner or down one column, for example. A good tactic is to try to have a roughly even number of images with busy backgrounds and ones with simple contents and spread them out, or to balance lots of busy images with a simple central one, like this aesthetic I made for a friend on Tumblr:

If you’ve picked images with a largely cohesive colour theme, they should look pretty dang good together!

Lastly, you need to print screen your table/grid and paste it into Paint so you can crop it into a square image!

Print screen should be a keyboard shortcut on your computer (sometimes called PrtSc if you’ve not spotted it before). Press that, open Paint, press CTRL + V, and you should have an image of your computer screen exactly as it looked when you print screened.

Use the selection and crop tools again, save – and there you have it! Your #ThursdayAesthetic ready to go.

I hope this was helpful!

I’d love to see what you make with this method, and you don’t even have to wait for a Thursday. Put it up on Twitter and tag me @elisabethhewer, or leave me a comment below to show off your amazing work!

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