A.I.-Generated Art: Comparing and Contrasting DALL-E 2 and Midjourney as Both Tools Move to an Open Beta

You might remember that I was one of the lucky few who received an invitation to be part of the closed beta test (or “research preview”, as they called it) of DALL-E 2, a new artificial intelligence tool from a company called OpenAI, which can create art from a natural-language text prompt. (I blogged about it, sharing some of the images I created, here and here.)

Here are a few more pictures I generated using DALL-E 2 since then (along with the prompt text in the captions):

DALL-E 2 prompt: “feeling despair over a uncertain future digital art”
DALL-E 2 prompt: “feeling anxiety over an uncertain future digital art”
DALL-E 2 prompt: “feeling anxiety over a precarious future” (sensing a theme here?)
DALL-E 2 prompt” “award-winning detailed vibrant bright colorful knife painting by Françoise Nielly” (Note that this used an inpainting technique; I expanded the canvas borders and asked DALL-E 2 to fill them in to match the Nielly knife painting of the man’s face in the middle)

Meanwhile, other DALL-E 2 users have generated much better results than I could, by skillful use of the text prompts. Here are just a few examples from the r/dalle2 subReddit community of AI-generated images which impressed and sometimes even stunned me, with a direct link to the posts in the caption underneath each picture:

DALL-E 2 prompt: “an image of the Cosmic Mind, digital art”
DALL-E 2 pompt: “cyborg clown, CGSociety award winning render”
DALL-E 2 prompt: “a young girl stares directly at the camera, her blue hijab framing her face. The background is a blur of colours, possibly a market stall. The photo is taken from a low angle, making the girl appear vulnerable and child-like. Kodak Portra 400”
DALL-E 2 prompt: “a close-up photograph of a man with brown hair, ice-blue eyes, red and brown stubble Balbo beard, his face is narrow, with defined cheekbones, he has a scar on the left side of his lips, running down from his top to the bottom lip, he wears a dark-blue hoodie, the background is a blurred out city-scape”

As you can see by the last two images, you can get very detailed and technical in your text prompts, even including the model of camera used! (However, also note that in the fourth picture, DALL-E 2 ignored some specific details in the prompt.)

Yesterday, OpenAI sent me an email to annouce that DALL-E 2 was moving into open beta:

Our goal is to invite 1 million people over the coming weeks. Here’s relevant info about the beta:

Every DALL·E user will receive 50 free credits during their first month of use, and 15 free credits every subsequent month. You can buy additional credits in 115-generation increments for $15.

You’ll continue to use one credit for one DALL·E prompt generation — returning four images — or an edit or variation prompt, which returns three images.

We welcome feedback, and plan to explore other pricing options that will align with users’ creative processes as we learn more.

As thanks for your support during the research preview we’ve added an additional 100 credits to your account.

Before DALL-E 2 announced their new credits system, I had spent most of one day’s free prompts during the research preview to try and generate some repeating, seamless textures to apply to full-permissions mesh clothing I had purchased from the Second Life Marketplace. Most of my attempts were failures, pretty designs but not 100% seamless. However, I did manage to create a couple of floral patterns that worked:

So, instead of purchasing texture packs from without and outside of Second Life, I could, theoretically, generate unique textile patterns, apply them to mesh garments, and sell them, because according to the DALL-E 2 beta announcement I received:

Starting today, you get full rights to commercialize the images you create with DALL·E, so long as you follow our content policy and terms. These rights include rights to reprint, sell, and merchandise the images.

You get these rights regardless of whether you used a free or paid credit to generate images, and this includes images you’ve created before today during the research preview.

Will I? Probably not, because it took me somewhere between 20 and 30 text prompts to generate only two useful seamless patterns, so it’s just not cost effective. However, once AI art tools like DALL-E 2 learns how to generate seamless textures, it’s probably going to have some sort of impact on the texture industry, both within and outside of Second Life! (I can certainly see some enterprising soul set up a store and sell AI-generated art in a virtual world; SL is already full of galleries with human-generated art.)


Another cutting-edge AI art-generation program, called Midjourney (WARNING: ASCII art website!), has also announced an open beta. I had signed up to join the waiting list for an invitation several weeks ago, and when I checked my email, lo and behold, there it was!

Hi everyone,

We’re excited to have you as an early tester in the Midjourney Beta!

To expand the community sustainably, we’re giving everyone a limited trial (around 25 queries with the system), and then several options to buy a full membership.

Full memberships include; unlimited generations (or limited w a cheap tier), generous commercial terms and beta invites to give to friends.

Although both DALL-E 2 and Midjourney use human text prompts to generate art, they operate differently. While DALL-E 2 uses a website, Midjourney uses a special Discord server, where you enter your prompt as a special command, generating four rough thumbnail images, which you can then choose to upscale to a full-size image, or use as the basis for variations.

I took some screen captures of the process, so you can see how it works. I typed in “/imagine a magnificent sailing ship on a stormy sea”, and got this back:

The U buttons will upscale one of the four thumbnails, adding more details, while the V buttons generate variations, using one of the four thumbnails as a starting point. I choose thumbnail four and generated four variations of that picture:

Then, I went back and picked one of my original four images to upscale. You can actually watch as Midjourney slowly adds details to your image, it’s fascinating!

I then clicked on the Upscale to Max button, to receive the following image:

My first attempt at generating an image using Midjourney

Now, I am not exactly satisfied with this first attempt (that sailing ship looks rather spidery to me), but as with DALL-E 2, you get much better results with more specific, detailed text prompts. Here are a few examples I took from the Midjourney subReddit community (with links back to the posts in the captions):

Midjorney prompt: “cyberpunk soldier piloting a warship into battle, the atmosphere is like war, fog, artstation, photorealistic”
Midjourney prompt: “Dress made with flowers” (click to see a second one on Reddit)
Midjourney prompt: “a tiny stream of water flows through the forest floor, octane render, light reflection, extreme closeup, highly detailed, 4K

So, as you can see, you can get some pretty spectacular results, with incredible levels of detail! And unlike DALL-E 2, you can set the aspect ratio of your pictures (as was done in the fourth image generated). You do this with a special “–ar” command in your text prompt to Midjourney, e.g. “–ar 16:9” (here’s the online documentation explaining the various commands you can use).

And one area in which Midjourney appears to excel is horror:

Midjourney prompt: “a pained, tormented mind visualized as a spiraling path into the void”
Midjourney prompt: “a beautiful painting of Escape from tarkov in machinarium style, insanely detailed and intricate, golden ratio, hypermaximalist, elegant, ornate, luxury, elite, horror, creepy, ominous, haunting, matte painting, cinematic, cgsociety, James jean, Brian froud, ross tran”

You can see many more examples of depictions of horror in the postings to the Midjourney SubReddit; some are much creepier than these!


So, in comparing the two tools, I think that Midjourney offers more parameters to users (e.g. setting an aspect ratio), which DALL-E currently lacks. Midjourney also seems to produce much more detailed images than DALL-E 2 does, whereas DALL-E 2 is often astoundingly good at a much wider variety of tasks. For example, how about some angry bison logos for your football team?

I think these images are all very good! (Note that DALL-E 2 still struggles with text! Midjourney does too, but it gets the text correct more often than DALL-E 2 does at present. But note that might change over time as both systems evolve.)


So, the good news is that both DALL-E 2 and Midjourney are now in open beta, which means that more people (artists and non-artists alike) will get an opportunity to try them out. The bad news is that both still have long waiting lists, and with the move to beta, both DALL-E 2 and Midjourney have put limits in place as to how many free images you can generate.

Midjourney gives you a very limited trial period (about 25 prompts), and then urges you to pay for a subscription, with two options:

Basic membership gives you around 200 images per month for US$10 monthly; standard membership gives you unlimited use of Midjourney for US$30 a month.

For now, OpenAI has decided to set DALL-E 2’s pricing based on a credit system (similar to their GPT-3 AI text-generation tool), as described in the first quote in this blogpost. There’s no option for unlimited use of DALL-E 2 at any price, just options for buying credits in different amounts (and there are no volume discounts for purchasing larger amounts of credits at one time, either). The most you can by at once is 5,750 credits, which is US$750. So, yes, it can get quite expensive! (As far as I am aware, your unused credits carry over from one month to the next.)

There’s quite a bit of discussion about OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 pricing model in this thread in the r/dalle2 subReddit; many people are very unhappy with it, particularly since it can take a lot of trial and error with the DALL-E 2 text prompts to generate a desired result. One person said:

In my experience, using Dall-E 2 to generate concept arts for our next project, it takes me between 10 to 20 attempts to get something close to what I want (and I never got exactly what I was asking for)…

Dall-E 2, at this point, is not a professional tool. It’s not viable as one, unless you produce exactly the type of content the AI can produce instantly just the way you want it.

Dall-E 2, at this point, IS A TOY! And that’s OpenAI’s mistake right now. You can’t sell a toy the way you sell a professional service! I’m ready to pay for it because I’m experimenting with it. I’m having fun with it and, when it works, it provides me with images I can also use for professional project. However, I wont EVER spend hundreds of dollars on this just for fun, and I certainly wont pay that amount for it as a tool until it can provide me with better and more consistent results!

OpenAI is going after the WRONG TARGET! OpenAI should be seeling it at a much lower price for everyday people and enthusiasts who want to experiment with it because this is literally the only people who can be 100% satisfied with it at this point and these people wont pay hundreds of dollars per month to keep playing when there are other shiny toys out there, cheaper and more open, existing or about to.

Several commenters said that they will be moving from DALL-E 2 to Midjourney because of their more favourable pricing model, but of course it’s still early days. Also, there are any number of open-source AI art-generation projects in the works, and competition will likely mean more features (and better results!) at less cost over time. One thing is certain: we can anticipate an acceleration in improvement of these tools over time.

The future looks to be both exciting and scary! Exciting in the ability to generate art in a new way, which up until now has been restricted to experienced artists or photographers, and scary in that we can no longer trust our eyes that a photograph is real, or has been generated by artificial intelligence! Currently, both systems have rules in place to prevent the creation of deepfake images, but in future, things could get Black Mirror weird, and the implications to society could be substantial. (Perhaps now you will understand the first three DALL-E 2 text prompts I used, at the top of this blogpost!)

P.S. Fun fact: the founding CEO of Linden Lab (the makers of Second Life), Philip Rosedale, is one of the advisors to Midjourney, according to their website. Philip gets around! 😉

UPDATE July 22nd, 2022: Of course, the images generated by DALL-E 2 and Midjourney can then be used in other AI tools, such as WOMBO and Reface (please click the links to see all the blogposts I have written about these mobile apps).

Late yesterday, a member of the r/dalle2 community posted the following 18-second video, created by generating a photorealistic portrait of a woman using DALL-E 2, then submitting it to a tool similar to WOMBO and Reface called Deep Nostalgia:

What you see here is an AI-generated image, “animated” using another deep learning tool. This is a tantalizing glimpse into the future, where artificial intelligence can not only create still images, but eventually, video!

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