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How to use DALL•E 2 to turn your wildest imaginations into tangible art

AI art platform, DALL•E 2, creates images from text descriptions in seconds. In this article, we show you how to get the results you desire.
Written by Christina Darby, Associate Editor on
Dall-E cat with hot sauce
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 just about anyone to generate images, but with a keyboard instead of a brush. 

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: OpenAI's DALL•E 2 may mean we never need stock photos again

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 content that is harmful, deceitful, or political. To discourage deep fakes, search terms of many public figures -- Taylor Swift, for example -- fall under the platform's content policy. 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.

How to use DALL•E 2 to create custom art

1. Create an account on OpenAI's DALL•E 2's website

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. 

2. Getting started

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

3. Type a specific phrase into the search bar

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

For example, "a modern painting of a dancing cat with hot sauce in the background spouting off fireworks." 

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.

You can also designate an art style for the image by mentioning it in the search phrase. Also, make sure to 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.

More: Microsoft announces OpenAI-powered Designer app

4. Generate and modify

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, it's good practice to 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

5. Save and share

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: AI's true goal may no longer be intelligence

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

1. Draw from others' inspiration

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." 

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

2. Don't be stuck, be surprised

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
Screenshot by Christina Darby/ZDNET

3. Explain to DALL·E 2 like it's a five-year-old

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. Sometimes, you'll need to phrase things as if you're explaining them to a five-year-old. 

FAQs

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.

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