Art reference

The Best Way to Create AI-Generated Digital Art for Free

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Image: Brendan Hesse / Midjourney

The internet is collectively obsessed with art-generating AIs lately, and one of the newer tools is Midjourney. And while the full version requires a monthly subscription, Midjourney is free for up to 25 images, and you can browse and download images created by other users even if you never sign up for a paid account.

Midjourney images are impressive compared to other art generating apps, with results that almost they look like they were made by human artists. And I am really emphasizing the “almost” in this sentence. This is a machine that mixes the works of real human painters, illustrators and digital artists (none of whom are paid for their work used in this way, by the way). Midjourney is still in beta and the AI ​​may continue to improve, but even the best Midjourney image will look a bit…off. And for now, claims (or threats) that AI will “replace” human artists are unfounded.

Nonetheless, Midjourney is fun to play and can create some really cool stuff if you keep your expectations in check. Here’s how to check it out for yourself.

Join the Midjourney Beta and Discord Server

The only real requirement to try out Midjourney is a Discord account, as the AI ​​runs on its own dedicated Discord server. Discord is free and although most users run it as a desktop application, you can also run Discord in a browser if you don’t want to install it on your computer.

  1. Go to midjourney.com and click “Join the beta.”
  1. Log in with your Discord account or create a new one.
  2. Accept the Discord invite and link Midjourney to your Discord account when prompted. You are now in the beta version of Midjourney.

How to generate AI images

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Screenshot: Brendan Hesse / Midjourney

Once you are logged into Midjourney Discord, you can start using the service.

  1. On the Midjourney server, find and join one of the channels labeled “Beginners.” There are several newbie channels to choose from and new ones are added regularly to accommodate more users, but if the server is overloaded these channels can be hidden. Check back later if you don’t see a beginner channel list.
  2. In the channel, type /to imagine followed by your prompt. For instance: /imagine a night sky filled with stars and spaceships then press Walk in to send the message. You can also use additional settings and even provide reference photos if you go for something hyper specific. Consult the online user manual for all the different terms and parameters recognized by the AI.
  3. (Note: Your prompts and resulting images are freely viewable by other Midjourney users, and Midjourney Discord rules and Terms of use expressly prohibit sensitive content such as gore, nudity, and offensive or overly aggressive images.)
  4. After sending your message, the AI ​​will generate four variations of your prompt. This may take a minute or two depending on the AI ​​workload, but the server will ping you with a new message containing the images once the process is complete. The resulting images will be lower resolution and might look a little wonky (it’s AI-generated art, after all), but should provide a good starting point.
Image for article titled The Best Way to Create AI-Generated Digital Art for Free

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

From here you can trigger another prompt or fine tune the images with variations and scaling.

Below the four image grid will be a row of clickable buttons labeled “V1” through “V4,” and “U1” through “U4”, plus a resume button. The “V” the buttons allow you to create variations based on one of four images, while the “U” the buttons will scale up one of the images with more detail. You can also re-prompt to try again. Just keep in mind that any variations or scaling you request will reduce your free image limit. There is also a limit to high-end quality; can usually get about three scales before the AI ​​hits max resolution.

How to find your Midjourney Image History and find other artwork

The images you specifically generate are also visible on your Mid-Day Profile Page or in your Discord message history. That said, you can freely browse the Midjourney public gallery even after your free trial ends. The web app lets you filter by art style and other search options, and you can follow specific users to see what else they’re up to.

How much does the paid Midjourney account cost?

If you dig AI and want to keep using it, subscriptions start at $10/month for 200 images per month. Additional plans and bonus features like a “private” mode are also available for an additional monthly cost. Midday images are only available for personal use, and anyone can freely download them from the public gallery. Users must subscribe to one of the enterprise-level subscription plans to use their images for commercial purposes.