How To AI: Best AI Tools for Image Generation

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How To AI: Best AI Tools for Image Generation
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In the fast-evolving digital art and design world, AI image generators have quickly become indispensable tools for creators. Whether you’re a professional designer, a hobbyist, or just someone looking to spice up your social media feed, the right art generator can make all the difference.

Each platform offers unique strengths, from MidJourney’s vivid, photorealistic compositions to the total creative control offered by Stable Diffusion. But with so many to pick from, how do you know which one is the right one to realize your artistic vision?

We can help. Decrypt will break down the key players, analyzing everything from aesthetics to ease of use, and compare the capabilities, ideal users, and pros and cons of leading AI image generators like MidJourney, DALL-E 2, Stable Diffusion, and more.

To help you compare the results, every illustration in this article corresponds to the prompt “the sands of time flowing in the universe as time passes”—with minor changes to convey the best results from each model. For example, we used the “16:9” switch for MidJourney, a negative prompt for Stable Diffusion, and Firefly was prompted to depict a woman holding the sands of time because it produced a nicer result.

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It’s time to find your perfect AI-powered art match and let your imagination run wild!

MidJourney: Create something nice—anything, really

Image generated with MidJourney.

MidJourney, a tool known for creating images of exceptional beauty, realism, and composition, has carved a major niche in the world of image generators. Though it has seen some competition from DALL-E 3, MidJourney remains a popular choice for users seeking visually appealing results.

Cost: From $96 to $1152 per year

Pros

High-Quality Imagery: Known for its aesthetic appeal and realism, the images generated by MidJourney stand out for their excellent composition.
Simplicity: The tool works with simple prompts, making it user-friendly for those not well-versed in complex AI interactions.
Inpainting and Outpainting Capabilities: MidJourney offers features like inpainting and outpainting, allowing for creative flexibility in image generation.

Cons

Reduced Precision: While the images are aesthetically pleasing, they may not always align precisely with the user’s intent, as the tool takes certain creative liberties.
No Text Generation: Unlike some of its counterparts, MidJourney cannot generate text within images, which could be a limitation for certain users.
Dependency on Discord: The tool operates through a Discord bot, lacking a standalone website, which might restrict accessibility and ease of use.
Limited Adjustability in Editing: Its inpainting and outpainting capabilities, while present, are not as advanced as other tools in the market.
Subscription Cost: At approximately $100 per year, the cost factor might be a consideration for users comparing it with other free or less expensive alternatives.
Content Censorship: MidJourney implements content censorship, which could be a limitation for users seeking complete creative freedom.

Ideal User Profile

MidJourney is best suited for users who prioritize visual beauty and composition in their images and are comfortable with using Discord for commands and operations. It’s ideal for those who need straightforward image generation without the complexity of detailed prompts or including specific text. This tool appeals to both amateurs and professionals who are content with stunning visuals—even if it means occasionally compromising on exact representations.

DALL-E 3: Talk to your AI as if it were a friend

Image generated with DALL-E 3.

DALL-E, a product of OpenAI, delivers significant advancements in AI-driven image generation. When its first version came out, it captivated thousands with unique capabilities that were never seen before. However, it was quickly eclipsed by newer tools that offered better accuracy, speed, and results,

But now, DALL-E 3 has reclaimed its position as a leading image generator. It stands out for its ability to understand complex requests—including incorporating text—bridging the gap between human-like interaction and AI efficiency.

Cost: $20 per month Included in ChatGPT Plus. Free in Bing’s Copilot

Pros

User-Friendly Interaction: Unlike traditional image generators that require specific prompts or instructions, DALL-E 3 allows users to interact conversationally, making it more accessible and intuitive.
High Accuracy and Creativity: It excels in interpreting elaborate ideas, offering a high degree of accuracy in realizing users’ visions.
Text Generation Capabilities: Unique among its peers, DALL-E 3 can incorporate text into its image creations, adding a new dimension to its outputs.
Distinctive Aesthetic: The images generated have a recognizable style, often with a cartoonish flair, making them ideal for certain artistic preferences.
Variants for Different Needs: Available in two versions, DALL-E 3 caters to diverse user requirements. The ChatGPT Plus version is ideal for interactive usage, and the Microsoft Copilot variant offers less censorship.
Flexibility in Image Dimensions: While the Microsoft version offers free access with a limitation to 1024 x 1024 resolution, the ChatGPT Plus variant provides more versatility in image dimensions, albeit at a cost.

Cons

Realism Limitations: Despite its strengths, DALL-E 3 lags in creating hyper-realistic images, a domain where tools like MidJourney have an edge.
Censorship Levels: The tool heavily enforces censorship, with the OpenAI version being more restrictive than Microsoft’s. It is probably the most censored image generator today.
Limited Editing Capabilities: Users cannot perform inpainting or outpainting, restricting the scope of image manipulation.
Identifiable Aesthetic: Yes, we put that in the “Pros” too. But this is a double-edged sword. While its distinctive style is advantageous for some, it may not suit all artistic needs, especially for users seeking a wider variety of visual expressions like photorealism or other identifiable art styles.

Ideal User Profile

DALL-E 3 is best suited for users who prioritize ease of interaction and creativity in their image-generation process. Its conversational interface makes it ideal for those not well-versed in technical prompting. It’s the only tool that will understand if you prompt something like “make that bitcoin look more bullish,” for example. GPT-4 will understand your order and create a prompt that will be processed by DALL-E 3.

Its cartoonish but aesthetically pleasing outputs cater to a niche that appreciates its particular style. Users who require less censorship and more flexibility in image dimensions may opt for the Microsoft Copilot version, while those seeking an interactive experience with the model might prefer the ChatGPT Plus variant.

Stable Diffusion: For control freaks who want versatility

Image generated with SDXL.

Stable Diffusion, widely regarded as the best open-source image generator, stands out for its versatility and depth. It offers two versions catering to different user needs: SD 1.5, ideal for mid-range computers, and SDXL, designed for more powerful processing, trained specifically at 1024×1024 resolution.

Cost: Free

Pros

Control and Customization: Stable Diffusion is perfect for users who desire full control over their creative process. It allows users to create images precisely as they envision, even extending to the creation of nudity.
Local Running Capability: The tool can be run locally, offering greater privacy and control.
Model Fine-Tuning: Users can fine-tune their models, tailoring the output to their specific needs.
Uncensored and Open: The platform is completely uncensored, providing a vast scope for creativity and expression… It’s the only model that will let you create a nude image of your imaginary waifu
Extensive Custom Models: It boasts hundreds, if not thousands, of exceptional custom models, each excelling in areas like anime, photorealism, 2.5D images, dark styles, etc.
It’s free

Cons

Complexity: The requirement for complex prompts, negative prompts, and substantial tweaking can be daunting for beginners.
Time-Consuming: The level of control and customization means users might need to dedicate significant time to master and use the tool effectively.
Requires a PC with a GPU of at least 4 GB of VRAM and 6GB for some models. This can be a problem for people with weaker PCs or laptops with integrated graphics.

Ideal User Profile

Are you the type of person who thinks that in order to have something done right you’ve got to do it yourself? Well, this is the model for you. Stable Diffusion is best suited for users passionate about having granular control over image generation and willing to invest time in learning and tweaking the system. It’s a perfect match for both artistic creators and tech enthusiasts who enjoy experimenting and pushing the boundaries of digital art creation.

Honorable Mention: Fooocus — Bridging simplicity and power

Non-cherry-picked random batch by just typing two words “forest elf.” Image: Fooocus Github

Developed by an indie coder with a vision to meld the simplicity of MidJourney’s user interface with the robust capabilities of Stable Diffusion, Fooocus emerges as a game-changer in the open source community. This tool simplifies the process, taking care of all the intricate tweaking behind the scenes. Users only need to input a prompt, and Fooocus handles the rest.

Running locally, it provides an accessible gateway for those new to the world of Stable Diffusion, eliminating the need to delve into the complexities of the platform. It’s an ideal choice for users who wish to explore the power of Stable Diffusion without the steep learning curve.

Leonardo AI: MidJourney pretty, Stable Diffusion power

Image generated with Leonardo AI

Leonardo AI is an innovative image generator developed by an independent team that leverages the power of Stable Diffusion models. It is a strong option for those considering investing in image-generation tools like MidJourney.

Cost: From $12 to $60 per month. Has a free tier.

Pros

Variety of Models: Leonardo AI offers various models to choose from, catering to diverse creative needs.
Native Models with Unique Aesthetics: Its native models boast a beautiful aesthetic, comparable to MidJourney, offering distinct and visually appealing results.
Intuitive Interface: The platform is user-friendly, making it an excellent choice for beginners or those new to Stable Diffusion technology.
Daily Credits in Free Version: Users get 150 generation credits daily with the free version, allowing regular use without immediate cost.
Versatility: Leonardo AI is versatile in its applications and suitable for various image generation needs.

Cons

Limited Capabilities in Free Version: The free version restricts access to advanced features like Alchemy and PhotoReal, limiting the quality and realism of generated images.
Credit Consumption Based on Operations: Different operations consume varying amounts of credits, with high-resolution images costing more, which might limit extensive use for free users.
Exclusive Models Not Publicly Available: The platform’s most aesthetically unique models are not available to the public, limiting access to some of its best features.
Censorship in Models: Despite using uncensored models, Leonardo AI maintains censorship, which might restrict the creative freedom of users.

Ideal User Profile

Leonardo AI is perfect for individuals exploring Stable Diffusion technologies but don’t possess a powerful machine. It’s also suited for those who appreciate aesthetic quality and are willing to navigate the limitations of the free version or invest in the paid version for more advanced features. Its user-friendly interface makes it a great choice for beginners in image generation.

Adobe Firefly: Stock images with one click

Image created with Adobe Firefly

Adobe Firefly is an innovative image generator developed by Adobe, renowned for its ability to produce images with a distinctive “stock photo” or “advertisement” aesthetic. This tool stands out for its simplicity and effectiveness, especially for users aiming to create professional-looking visuals without the complexities often associated with advanced image-generation tools.

Cost: Varies according to the country. Has a free tier

Pros

User-Friendly Interface: Adobe Firefly boasts an extremely simple interface. Users can quickly select an area on their canvas and input a prompt to generate images, making it accessible even to those with minimal technical expertise.
Sophisticated Inpainting Tool: While it also functions as a standalone image generator, Firefly excels as an inpainting tool, offering impressive capabilities to refine and enhance existing images.
Integration with Adobe Photoshop: Firefly seamlessly integrates with Adobe Photoshop, allowing users to leverage its capabilities within a familiar software environment. This integration streamlines the workflow for Photoshop users.
Generative Credits System: The tool operates on a generative credits system, providing users with a set amount of image generations and edits, which helps manage and ration usage effectively.
Safety-First Approach in Image Generation: The images produced are identifiable as AI-generated for safety reasons, as it was trained on copyright-free images. This might limit the tool’s appeal to users seeking more organic, less discernible AI-generated images.
Extreme realism in stock image generations: This tool produces great results with humans in generations that require that specific look, surpassing even the best Stable Diffusion checkpoint for that specific use case.

Cons

Limited Standalone Capabilities: As a standalone image generator, Firefly may not be as robust compared to other tools that specialize solely in image generation.
No Conversation Understanding: Unlike some advanced AI tools, Firefly does not understand conversational prompts or negative prompts, which might limit creative flexibility.
Requirement of Internet Connection: The tool requires an internet connection to function, which could be a limitation for offline usage.
Extreme Content Censorship: Firefly has a heavy censorship mechanism in place. For instance, inputs like “Dogecoin” or “bikini” violate its usage rules, which could be restrictive for certain creative endeavors. So if you work for Victoria’s Secret or want to generate a bikini with this tool, good luck with that.
Generative Credits Limitation: The reliance on a generative credits system means that users have a capped number of uses, potentially limiting extensive experimentation or professional use.

Ideal User Profile

Adobe Firefly is particularly well-suited for users looking for a straightforward, no-frills approach to creating stock photo-like images or advertisements. It’s ideal for those who prefer a simple, prompt-based image generation method without the need for deep conversational AI interactions or complex editing techniques. Its integration with Adobe Photoshop makes it a great choice for existing Adobe users looking to add AI-powered enhancements to their toolkit. However, the generative credits system and censorship guidelines suggest it’s more suitable for casual or moderate use rather than heavy, unrestricted creative exploration.

Amazon Titan: When Firefly is not enough

Image generated with Amazon Titan

Amazon Titan, an image generator developed by Amazon Web Services (AWS), represents a significant step in the realm of digital imagery. Its development by a tech giant like Amazon ensures a robust and reliable platform. Amazon Titan emerges as a strong alternative for users contemplating investing in a tool like Adobe Firefly, offering a blend of realism and customization.

Cost: Complex On-demand scheme. Can be used for free

Pros

High-Quality Realism: Amazon Titan boasts a level of realism akin to Adobe Firefly in stock images, making it suitable for projects requiring high-fidelity images.
Customization Capabilities: Drawing from the flexibility seen in Stable Diffusion, Amazon Titan allows users to tweak images more intricately than with Firefly, offering greater creative control.
Versatility: Its ability to combine the realism of Firefly with the customization options of Stable Diffusion makes it a versatile choice for a wide range of image generation needs.
Free Version Available: There is a free version of Amazon Titan, which can be appealing to those wanting to try the service before committing financially.

Cons

Complex Setup: To use Amazon Titan, users must navigate the complexity of setting up an AWS account and obtaining permission to use the model, which can be daunting for less tech-savvy individuals.
Censorship: Amazon Titan has built-in censorship, which might limit its use in certain creative contexts or for generating specific types of content.
Unintuitive Payment System: The payment system for accessing the more advanced features of Amazon Titan is not straightforward, potentially causing confusion and inconvenience for users.
Integrated into AWS Interface: Being housed within the AWS interface instead of a standalone site, it might not be as user-friendly for those unfamiliar with Amazon’s cloud services platform, potentially steepening the learning curve.

Ideal User Profile

Amazon Titan is best suited for users already familiar with AWS or those willing to invest time in learning the AWS ecosystem. It’s ideal for professionals or hobbyists who require high-quality, realistic images with the added benefit of detailed customization. This tool is particularly appealing to those ready to navigate a more complex setup and payment system in exchange for the advanced capabilities that Amazon Titan offers.

Conclusion

Choosing the right image generator is all about understanding your needs, preferences, and the level of control you want over the creative process. Whether you’re drawn to the artistic flair of MidJourney, the conversational ease of Dall-e 3, the precision of Stable Diffusion, the aesthetic appeal of Leonardo AI, the straightforward simplicity of Adobe Firefly, or the advanced realism of Amazon Titan, each tool offers unique features that cater to different types of users.

Time and money are too valuable to throw them into a tool that won’t fit your needs and when creativity is involved, the best tool is the one that aligns with your creative vision and enhances your workflow. So, experiment, explore, and most importantly, have fun creating!

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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