How to use DALL·E 2 to create jaw-dropping AI art

Wondering how to use DALL·E 2? The AI art generator has been making waves online since it was announced in April, and it looks like it might be the most advanced tool of its kind to date. And while some are concerned about whether AI could replace human creativity, some artists and designers have been learning how to make the new tool work for them.

So how do you use DALL·E 2? The tool generates art based on text prompts. On the face of it, that couldn’t be more simple – you type in what you want, and DALL·E will create the artwork. In reality, though, it appears that results can be a little haphazard and that it can be useful to consider a few pointers to hone your prompts and increase the likelihood of getting the result you want. That’s where a new DALL·E 2 prompt book comes in. If you prefer to create your own original work the traditional way, see our guide to the best graphic design software; otherwise, read on to learn more about how to use DALL·E 2.

How to use DALL·E 2

DALL·E 2 has a simple premise. You type in a descriptive prompt of up to 400 characters, for example “an astronaut riding a horse in an impressionist style”, and AI magic will create the image. However, anyone who’s tried AI art generators has probably found that if you type the first text that occurs to you, the results can be a little – erm – weird. But now a handy DALL·E 2 prompt book provides some advice on how to phrase the prompts to get the results you want.

Created by Guy Parsons and published by the AI art website the DALL·Ery GALL·Ery, the DALL·E 2 prompt book (opens in new tab) is a visual resource designed to inspire your own creations using DALL·E 2, and it offers some valuable pointers on how to get the most out of the AI art generator.

A page from the DALL·E 2 prompt book

The DALL·E 2 prompt book shows examples of parsing for photography prompts (Image credit: The DALL·Ery GALL·Ery)

The 82-slide guide covers techniques for eliciting the results you want from DALL·E 2 It covers aesthetics and vibes, recommended adjectives to use to get the feel or composition you’re after and tips on everything from photography to creating painterly portraits and landscapes, film and illustration styles, historic art styles and 3D art. For photography, it suggests including proximity, angles, lighting quality and even lens-type in the prompt. For illustration, it provides examples of different styles, media and textures. It also shows how you can use styles from art history to get interesting results.

The guide points out that even the creators of DALL·E 2 don’t know what the tool knows and doesn’t know. Instead, users have to work out what it’s capable of doing and how to get it to do what they want. One piece of advice is to be specific – state whether you want a close-up image or a particular angle. And remember that an adjective without further definition could be interpreted in different ways – to influence the whole look of an image or something as specific as the style of dress of the subject.

It’s unlikely that DALL·E 2 is going to give you the results you want the first time. But the prompt book also shows how to edit images by writing new prompts for specific elements within them. It also shows how you can use DALL·E 2 to combine separate images. 

We’ve not had access to the tool ourselves, but we have to admit that some of the results look scarily impressive. Our take, for now, is that shouldn’t be putting any artists out of work, but rather that there may be potential for creatives to make the tool work for them. For that, this new prompt book should be a useful resource for any creatives who’ve managed to gain access to the AI tool. If you’re out of the loop, here’s some more details on the tool.

What is DALL·E 2?

DALL·E 2 is a text-to-image AI art generator based on machine learning that’s been provoking both horror and awe online. Created by the artificial intelligence company Open AI, it’s a generative tool, which means it creates art from scratch rather than simply allowing you to edit existing work. It doesn’t actually ‘know’ what it’s creating but it makes assumptions based on the massive database of 650 million image and caption combinations that it’s already been fed. 

The name is a portmanteau of ‘Dali’ (as in Salvador) and Pixar’s ‘WALL-E’. As the name suggests, this is the second iteration of the tool. It’s by no means the only generative AI art creator to work based on text prompts. Artbreeder has recently launched Artbreeder-collages, which blends text prompts with a collage-like design process. What appears to potentially set DALL·E 2 apart is that the results appear to avoid the uncanny valley effect often associated with AI art.

How can you access DALL·E 2?

The makers of DALL·E 2 are currently being selective on who gets access to the tool. Access is currently by invite only and there’s a waiting list – Open AI says it will be “sending invites gradually over time”. The tool is expected to go public at some point in the future, but for now, you can join the waiting list on the DALL·E 2 website (opens in new tab) and hope you get lucky.

Is DALL·E 2 free?

Open AI is currently inviting select people to try DALL·E 2 for free but we assume the tool will have a cost when it goes public. The cost could be for access, but there has also been a suggestion that the tool will charge per image, the way an artist might. 

Is there a free DALL·E 2 alternative? Yes, there are several free AI art generators available. As well as Art Breeder-Collages, which we mentioned above (currently in beta), we’ve also been pretty impressed with DALL-E mini.

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