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

A page from the DALL·E 2 prompt book
(Image credit: The DALL·Ery GALL·Ery)

Wondering how to use DALL·E 2? The makers of the AI art generator have just opened access to allow anyone to use DALL·E 2 to generate images. The platform remains in beta, but finally there's no more waiting list. DALL-E 2 sign up is now open to all.

DALL·E 2 has been making waves since it was first revealed back in April because it looks like it might be the most advanced AI art generator yet. And while some people are understandably concerned about where AI might leave human creativity, some artists and designers have been learning how to make the tool work for them.

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. Once you've completed the DALL-E 2 sign up to open an account, you use the program in your browser on the DALL-E 2 website. You type in a description of what you want, and DALL·E will create the image. In reality, though, it appears the results can be a little haphazard and that can be useful to learn how to hone your prompts to 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, and you can even get one of the best for less as Rebelle 5 is now free for classes and 40% off for individuals. Read on to learn more about how to use DALL·E 2 and how to access DALL·E 2.

How to use DALL·E 2

Open AI's 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. You can complete DALL-E 2 sign up (opens in new tab) on the Open AI website and get started as soon as you have an account. 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. 

Some people are concerned about what AI image generators mean for the future of creative jobs. 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 (see our pick of the weirdest AI art created by DALL·E 2). Created by the artificial intelligence company Open AI, it's a generative tool, which means it can generate art from scratch as well as create edits or variations of 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, and it seems to be a major improvement on the first, which tended to produce grainy images, and take a long time too. 

It's not only generative AI art creator to work based on text prompts. Artbreeder has launched Artbreeder-collages, which blends text prompts with a collage-like design process. Stable Diffusion and Midjourney are also popular. What appears to potentially set DALL·E 2 apart is the results for particular styles of image, particularly more photorealistic images (see how the best AI art generators compare).

A variation created in DALL-E 2

DALL-E 2 can be used to generate original art or to create edits or variations of pieces uploaded to the platform (Image credit: OpenAI)

Is DALL·E 2 available to the public?

For the first five months after the tool's release in April, DALL-E 2 access was limited, and there was a long waiting list. But in September 2022 access has been opened so that anyone can complete DALL-E 2 sign up (opens in new tab).

According to OpenAI, “Responsibly scaling a system as powerful and complex as DALL-E – while learning about all the creative ways it can be used and misused – has required an iterative deployment approach.” It says it's now shored up its safeguards enough to open access to everyone.

The catch? DALL·E 2 is no longer free to use. Instead, users will be given a limited number of monthly credits, with the option to pay to top them up (see below).

How do I sign up for DALL-E 2

You can complete DALL-E 2 sign up by creating an account on the Open AI website. You'll be asked to enter your email address and a security code and to create an eight-digit password. You'll then receive an email with a link that you'll have to click through to verify and you'll also receive a text code by SMS that you'll have to enter to confirm your identity. You can also create an account using the likes of Google or Microsoft. Click 'continue' to accept the terms and conditions, and you're ready to get started using DALL-E 2.

How much does it cost to use DALL·E 2?

Is DALL-E 2 free? Well, until July is was (for those that had access), but OpenAI has now started using a credit-based model. New DALL·E 2 users get 50 free credits that they can put towards generating, editing or creating a variation of an image (new image generations return four 1024 X 1024-pixel images for the cost of one credit). 

After that, users get 15 free DALL-E 2 credits each month. To get more, you have to buy them at a price of $15 for 115 credits (enough to generate 460 1024 X 1024-pixel images). OpenAI has invited artists who need financial assistance to apply (opens in new tab) for subsidised access.

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), there's DALL-E mini – now called Craiyon (although it produces some nightmarish results), and Stable Diffusion, which is open source.

An image of a fox in a field created in DALL-E 1 vs DALL-E 2

An example of how DALL·E 1 vs DALL·E 2 compare for the prompt "a painting of a fox sitting in a field at sunrise in the style of Claude Monet" (Image credit: OpenAI)

How do I start to use DALL-E 2?

There are several ways to use DALL-E 2. The first thing you'll see once you've created an account is a big box that you can type in. This is the prompt field. You can type in a description of the image you want to create in up to 400 characters. 

Try to be as detailed as possible – as we've seen above in the DALL-E 2 prompt book, there's a knack for crafting descriptive DALL-E 2 prompts to get the results you want, but it will take some practice. Click 'generate' and DALL-E 2 will create four image options based on your prompt. If you get an error message, just try again after a moment.

A screenshot showing how to use DALL-E 2

Use a descriptive prompt to generate the image you want (Image credit: Joseph Foley)

Until you get used to how much detail you need to include in the description, you'll often find that you need to edit the prompt and try again after the first results. In the first set of images of the marmot skiing above, the marmot looks kind of terrified. Perhaps, I want him to look like he's enjoying himself, so I'd ned to change that by editing the prompt. I could add 'smiling'. Now he looks happier... kind of... in some of the options. Be careful, because each new generation will cost you a credit.

A screenshot showing how to use DALL-E 2

The more descriptive the prompt, the closer you should get to the image you want (Image credit: Joseph Foley)

When you have an image you're happy with, click on that one of the four images. On the next screen you can download the image (click the arrow in the top right of the image). You can also edit the image (click 'edit'; this gives you tools such as an eraser and options to upload an image to add to the AI creation or to add more squares to expand your image). You can also create 'variations' of the image – DALL-E 2 will create 4 alternative version of the image you created.

The other way to use DALL-E 2 is to upload an image from your phone or computer. You'll find a link to click to upload an image right below the prompt field. The image will be cropped to a square. Once you've uploaded the image you want to use, you can have DALL-E 2 create its own variations of the image or you can edit the image. In the example below, I uploaded an image of a girl cycling past someone carrying an umbrella. With no further input DALL-E 2 generated some interesting variations, including combining the two subjects to show someone riding a bike with an umbrella.

A screenshot showing how to use DALL-E 2

You can also use DALL-E 2 to generate variations of an image (Image credit: Joseph Foley)

One newer feature is DALL-E 2 outpainting, which lets you expand an image beyond its original borders. This can be used with an image created in DALL-E 2 itself or an image you've uploaded – people have been using it to expand famous works of art, such as the Mona Lisa, adding more background to the image. 

To do this, in the editor generate or upload an image as above, and then drag the corner of the image to reduce its size in the generation frame. Write a prompt (this time it can be more general because DALL-E 2 will try to match the style of the existing image – in the example below, I wrote 'mountainous landscape'). DALL-E 2 will then fill the rest of the frame with something that will – hopefully – fit your image.

Can I use DALL·E 2 for commercial use?

Until now OpenAI had prohibited commercial use of images generated by DALL·E 2, but in the beta version, it's now giving “full usage rights” for images created with the platform. That includes the right to sell and reprint images and to use them on merchandise. We have already seen the first case of someone copyrighting AI work.

However, there are concerns about the copyright implications of training an AI model on existing images. Getty Images has banned the use of AI content on its stock image library out of concerns that copyright is murky, and some politicians are calling for specific legislation to clear the matter up.

Are there restrictions on DALL·E 2?

OpenAI says that it's able to start expanding access now thanks to changes in its policies and advances in mitigating "bias and toxicity" in images generated by the platform. The company says that this week it made a change that will push DALL·E 2 to generate images of people that “more accurately reflect the diversity of the world’s population” if race or gender is not specified in the text prompt.

It says that it's also taken steps to ensure that the platform rejects image uploads that contain realistic-looking human faces or the likeness of public figures, such as politicians and celebrities. OpenAI says it doesn’t allow DALL·E 2 to be used to create images that could cause harm, for example, images showing self-harm, hateful symbols or illegal acts. It stressed that it has both automated and human monitoring systems to prevent this, as well as to prevent DALL·E 2 from memorising faces that appear a lot online, however it recognises that there's more work to be done in this area.

An image of an astronaut on a horse created by DALL-E 2

(Image credit: OpenAI)

How can you tell if an image was created by DALL·E 2 AI?

Images generated by DALL·E 2

You can tell is an image has been created by DALL·E 2 because they contain a signature that looks like a row of coloured squares at the bottom right of the image (assuming the image hasn't been cropped. See the example above.

Can you remove the DALL-E 2 watermark?

When you download an image created in DALL-E 2 it will have the colour swath watermark in the bottom right of the image, however according to DALL-E 2 terms this can be removed – which in many cases might be necessary for commercial work.

It should be fairly easy to remove the watermark in any app a with an object removal, clone stamp or content-aware fill tool, for example Photoshop. There is also a way to directly download the image without the watermark. On desktop, you can right click the image, choose 'Inspect' and then look for the windows.net URL. Copy this image link and you should find it doesn't contain the watermark. On mobile you can tap and hold the image on the generation page and click 'save image'.

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Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.