DALL·E 2 is one of the best AI image generators available—and you can try it out now for free. The idea is that you enter a text prompt—like, "an oil painting of a monkey in a spacesuit on the moon"—and the AI does its best to generate an image that matches your idea. It's super fun to use, but DALL·E 2's results can be…erratic.
I've been writing about AI image generators for nearly a decade, and I can confidently say that DALL·E 2 (built by OpenAI) isn't yet a replacement for photographers, Photoshop, or other artists—and likely never will be. But it's an impressive tool and absolutely worth checking out. Here's how to get started.
How to use DALL·E 2
The best way to get started with DALL·E 2 is to dive right in. Here's the quick version:
Go to DALL·E 2's web app, and sign up (it's free).
Type your prompt on the home page, and click Generate.
Wait a few seconds, and you'll have four AI-generated images to choose from.
Click into any of them, and then either Download, Save to a collection, Share to DALL·E 2's public feed, Edit, or create more Variations with a click.
Now let's dig a little deeper.
When you go to sign up for a free OpenAI account, you'll need to verify your phone number. The AI tools they make are pretty powerful and can easily be abused by spammers and scammers, so there are a few more security features in place than you'll find in most other apps.
When you set up a new account, you get 50 image generation credits on DALL·E 2 (each credit gets you four image variations). You'll also get 15 free credits each month. That's more than enough to play around and learn to use the tools, so don't be too precious starting out. And if you run out, you can buy 115 more credits for $15.
Once you're in, you'll see DALL·E 2's deceptively simple home screen. There's a gallery of art created with DALL·E 2 and a text field where you can input a prompt. That's where you have to start.
Type your first prompt, and click Generate. If you're short on ideas, you can click Surprise me, or try one of these:
A painting in the style of Vermeer of a large fluffy Irish wolfhound enjoying a pint of beer in a traditional pub.
A Canadian man riding a moose through a maple forest, impressionist painting.
A portrait of a cartoon purple cow, high definition digital art.
Wait a few seconds, and you'll have four AI-generated options to choose from.
Click into any one, and you'll be able to download it, Save it to a collection, Share it to DALL·E 2's public feed, Edit it, or create more Variations.
Seriously, DALL·E 2 is this easy to use—but there is more to it.
Learn to create better DALL·E 2 prompts
To get the most out of DALL·E 2, you need to learn how to write good prompts. While experimenting is the best way to get a feel for how the AI interprets different ideas, here are a few tips:
The more specific and detailed your prompt, the better. If you just ask for "a cow," all you'll get is slightly weird-looking photographs.
However, ask for "a cubist painting of a large cow in a small field," and you'll get some fun results.
Try different descriptors and styles. I've found that the more realistic I ask DALL·E 2 to be, the less impressed I am with the results. I've had fun getting DALL·E 2 to mimic impressionist paintings, artists like Vermeer and Rembrandt, digital artworks, and particular vibes, like chaotic or happy. Almost any idea you can think of is worth a shot.
Don't expect amazing results the first time you try something. You'll often need to change up your prompt, try a few more variations, and otherwise tweak things to get something awesome.
But don't make your prompts too complicated. If you add in too many characters and details, DALL·E 2 won't quite know what to focus on, and it will just end up a mess. "A Vermeer-style painting of the Justice League teaming up with the Avengers to fight the Rugrats and Bowser from Super Mario" was fun to type, but the resulting images weren't very coherent.
"A Vermeer-style painting of Iron Man from the Avengers," on the other hand, gave me something much more realistic.
If you want more ideas, you can check out the free DALL·E 2 prompt eBook. It breaks down hundreds of different suggested prompts and how they affect your images. It's no replacement for trying things yourself, but it's great for coming up with ideas and figuring out what kinds of words will give you the results you want.
DALL·E 2's advanced features: inpainting and outpainting
In addition to generating images using AI, DALL·E 2 can edit them. There are two main techniques:
Inpainting is where you erase some aspect of an existing image and use AI to fill in the gap with whatever you want.
Outpainting is where you use AI to expand the borders of an existing image.
You can combine both techniques to fine-tune your images, and there are a few ways to get started editing.
How to edit images with DALL·E 2
To edit a photograph or other image you have saved on your computer:
Go to the DALL·E 2 homepage, click Upload an image, and select the one you want.
You'll be prompted to crop it into a square, though you can skip this step.
Next, click Generate variations, if you want DALL·E 2 to use your image as a prompt, or Edit image if you want to edit it with some advanced techniques.
Alternatively, you can select any image you've made using DALL·E 2, and click Edit.
How to inpaint with DALL·E 2
With an image open in the editor, select the Eraser tool (the keyboard shortcut is E).
Paint over the area of your image you want to replace, and then use the pop-up prompt bar to describe what you want the whole image to look like, including what fills in the gap. Then click Generate.
As always, you'll get four options, so hopefully one of those will match what you want. If not, create some more variations, try a new prompt, or try inpainting again.
How to outpaint with DALL·E 2
With an image open in the editor, select Add generation frame (the keyboard shortcut is F). Position it so it expands your image in the direction you want.
Next, use the prompt bar to describe what you want, and then click Generate. I want to give my wolfhound a companion, so I've gone with "a painting in the style of Vermeer of a small short-haired Irish terrier facing left enjoying a pint of dark beer in a traditional pub."
Once again, you'll have four options to choose from. Click through the arrows to see them. If you don't like any, click Cancel. Otherwise, click Accept. Then you can either add more generation frames or click the download button to save your creation.
Going further with DALL·E 2
DALL·E 2 is great fun to use, but it also connects to Zapier, so you can create AI-generated images as part of your business workflows. Do things like automatically create images from Google Forms or HubSpot responses—or any other apps you use.
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