How to use DALL-E 2 to turn your creative visions into AI-generated art

Christina Darby/ZDNET

Life imitates art, or does art imitate life? With OpenAI’s DALL-E 2, art can imitate just about anything. The trending text-to-art platform allows users to generate images, but with their words instead of art supplies. 

The concept sounds almost too simple (and futuristic) to be true: Type your idea into a search bar and voila! But for the best results, you’ll want to follow these tips and tricks to get the most realistic and accurate representations of your desired searches. 

Also: The best AI art generators to try

Before you get started with DALL-E 2, there are three housekeeping rules that you should know: 

  1. Since you technically create the idea for your artwork, you, by default, are the accredited artist for the AI-generated product. If you choose to download the image, though, there will be a colorful DALL-E 2, watermark on the bottom right corner. 

  2. There are limits to what you can create with the platform. For example, DALL-E 2’s content policy prohibits harmful, deceitful, or political content. To discourage deep fakes, search terms for many public figures — Taylor Swift, for example — are prohibited. While not all celebrities violate the content policy, their faces will often be distorted for safety. 

  3. DALL-E 2 is currently free to use, but there is a catch. You’re allotted 50 free credits during your first month’s use and 15 free credits after that. A credit is only cashed after a generation is inputted and completed, so searches that violate the content policy and, therefore, end up not being generated won’t be deducted from the free credits. You can check how many credits you have remaining each month by clicking on your profile icon in the upper right hand corner of the search interface. 

How to use DALL-E 2 to create custom art

Before you start generating images, either create or log into an account on DALL-E 2’s website. You can do this on mobile or the web. 

Once you’re logged in, you’re ready to start creating. At the top of the webpage is the search bar. You will also find other images created by DALL-E 2 artists underneath it. If you need some inspiration, you can roll your mouse over each one to see what words the artists used to generate the image. 

DALL•E 2 interface

Some DALL-E 2-generated art pieces for inspiration. 

Christina Darby/ZDNET

Once you’re ready to give your own idea a try, type a phrase into the search bar. 

Also: The best AI writers: ChatGPT and other interesting alternatives to try

For example, “a modern painting of a cowboy using spaghetti to lasso a cow in the middle of outer space.” 

You may be thinking that the wording is oddly specific, and it is. Since the AI is reliant on your words, I’ve found it best to be as particular as possible when describing the image.

Also: How to use ChatGPT: Everything you need to know

You can also designate an art style for the image by mentioning it in the search phrase. Also, be clear about the positioning of your subject(s) if you want something in the foreground versus the background. Otherwise, DALL-E 2 will just populate everything through its own interpretation.

Select “Generate” when you’re satisfied with your search term and DALL-E 2 will produce four different images for you to preview. If you’re not satisfied with the images, identify any common denominator between the four and tweak your search phrase accordingly.

For example, you may want to move a subject to the foreground or background, or reorder the terms in the phrase so that one thing comes before the other. 

If you’re satisfied with the output, select the image that you’d like to save. 

DALL•E 2 generation preview

Generating the phrase presents you with four AI-generated interpretations. 

Christina Darby/ZDNET

Once you’ve made a selection, the image will appear in full size. From here, you can save the image to your DALL-E 2 gallery by selecting the save button on the top right corner. You can either save to your “Favorites” collection, which will constantly appear in a window to the right of your DALL-E 2 workspace, or to a specific collection you’ve started — Pinterest-board style. 

There is also an option to download the artwork in the upper right corner of the image. Your creation will save to your device and you’ll be able to send it to friends and family. Or, you can print the photo to have on display.  

Save image on DALL•E 2

You can save the generated image to the Favorites collection or a custom one.

Christina Darby/ZDNET

Also: 5 ways ChatGPT can help you write an essay

Tips and tricks to get the best DALL-E 2 results

Using AI tools to generate art can be fairly intuitive, but between having so many possibilities and needing to specifically communicate your abstract ideas with a robot, here are some tips I’ve curated that make creating funky art even easier. 

If inspiration hasn’t struck you quite yet or you’re feeling overwhelmed, hover your mouse over an image or concept you like from the main page gallery and select “Click to try.” 

Also: What is GPT-4? Here’s everything you need to know

From there, DALL-E 2 will create similar variations which you can customize with your own text description(s).

hover over the image and click to try

The main page displays previously-generated images.

Christina Darby/ZDNET

If you lack inspiration, let the software be your muse. Above the search bar, select the “Surprise me” button. From there, a phrase will appear in the search bar. You can either hit the button again for a different result, modify the phrase with your personal touch, or keep it as is and generate.

DALL•E 2 surprise me feature

You can select the “surprise me” button if you’re stuck or just want some fun art. 

Screenshot by Christina Darby/ZDNET

The other day, my colleague Sabrina Ortiz was trying to create a piece with a Corgi and a Yorkie. DALL-E 2 had no problem recognizing the word “Corgi” but struggled to process “Yorkie” or “Yorkshire Terrier”. Instead, “Yorkie dog” did the trick. Essentially, the more specific, the better — AI is smart, but you’re smarter. 


What is DALL-E 2?

Originally launched in early 2021, DALL-E 2 is OpenAI’s artificial intelligence system that allows users to create art from textual input. 

Is DALL-E 2 free?

In September 2022, DALL-E 2 officially closed its waiting list and opened the platform to the public. Users start with 50 free credits to transform searches into fully generated artwork and 15 free credits every month from then on. The site also allows you to buy more credits.

Can I use my DALL-E 2 creation for merchandise?

Yes. Arguably the best thing about DALL-E 2 is that users have full rights to commercially use, print, and merchandise their own unique, AI creations.

Is making art on DALL-E 2 ethical?

It’s definitely cool that your art is credited to you and DALL-E 2, but it’s important to recognize that DALL-E 2, along with other AI art generators, are trained on billions of art culled from the internet. These images have, and belong to, an original artist. While that artist isn’t directly creating your DALL-E piece, your art does have elements from the original art without being credited to the artist. Whether or not AI-generated art is ethical is currently a hot topic of debate.

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