AI Art Prompting for Writers

Nicholas Ptacek
7 min readFeb 8, 2023

AI art is an exciting new medium of artistic expression and creativity, and it can be a great tool for writers looking to add visual interest to their published works. AI art is created using Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms, which generate visual designs based on given prompts and settings. By using an AI art generator, you can create custom visuals that are uniquely tailored to your writing — no need to pay for unoriginal and expensive stock photography!

This guide was designed for TNS Creators – Cohort 3

Create a sculpture of an animal in the style of Henry Moore, using abstract forms and textured surfaces to convey a sense of power and movement. Use bronze as the medium and pay attention to the play of light on the surface.

Prompting Basics

When creating AI art prompts, there are several approaches to take. It helps to focus on the overall composition, as getting too specific tends to clutter the output. The sky is the limit when it comes to things to prompt for. For example, you could:

  • Prompt for style such as artist, media, theme (e.g. “exaggerated brush strokes” or “in the style of Vincent Van Gogh”).
  • Prompt for locations (e.g. “a serene forest” or “a bustling city”).
  • Prompt for color palettes (e.g. “vivid colors” or “pastel tones”).
  • Prompt for lighting such as volumetric, soft, hard, shadows (e.g. “ominous lighting” or “cinematic lighting”).
  • Prompt for size (e.g. “an enormous room” or “a gigantic statue”).
  • Prompt for angles (e.g. “fisheye lens” or “wide angle”).
  • Prompt for emotions (e.g. “an anxious feeling” or “a sense of joy”).
  • Prompt for weather and time of day (e.g. “a foggy morning” or “a starry night”).

Finally, don’t forget to try using emoji in the prompt!

Create a portrait of a cityscape in the style of Edward Hopper, using exaggerated brushstrokes and a muted color palette to convey a sense of isolation and melancholy. Use oil paints on a large canvas and pay attention to the play of light and shadows. Set the scene in a bustling city at night. 🌃

It can help to think of the process like a workflow, going from general to specific as you dial in on a style you like, experiment with settings, and fine-tune your prompt. Once you’re satisfied with an image, you can enlarge it without reduction in image quality by using an AI upscaling service such as upscale.media.

Once you find a style you like, it’s a good idea to save the prompt, settings, and some sample output images in case you want to reuse them later — screenshots work great for this. You can also use these records to start building your own list of go-to prompts that work great as starting points and which work to establish your unique stylistic aesthetic over time.

It’s important to note that the same prompt won’t work the same across different platforms (and usually not even across different versions of the same model!). This is why documenting your prompt *and* settings (including the version number for the AI model) is so important — prompt drift occurs as models are updated, so be sure to test your prompt across a wide range of models and settings.

Different image aspect ratios, seed numbers, CLIP Guidance, and machine learning models are just a few of the variables to consider when creating AI art.

Imagine a post-apocalyptic world where machines have taken over and nature has reclaimed the cities. Write a story from the perspective of a sentient AI who discovers a hidden garden amidst the ruins, and reflects on the beauty and fragility of life in a world of artificial intelligence.

Co-create with ChatGPT

If you’re ever stuck or need help, ChatGPT is a great resource.

ChatGPT helping craft prompts

ChatGPT input: Thinking step by step, galaxy brain style, you generate text prompts to create stunning images, being sure to include details such as artist, style, mood, media, or lighting in the prompts (be as verbose as possible):

ChatGPT output:

Create a landscape of a mountain range in the style of Ansel Adams, using black and white film and carefully composed shots to convey a sense of grandeur and timelessness. Use a medium format camera and pay attention to the play of light and shadow on the rocks.

Create a sculpture of an animal in the style of Henry Moore, using abstract forms and textured surfaces to convey a sense of power and movement. Use bronze as the medium and pay attention to the play of light on the surface.

Create a photograph of a still life in the style of Irving Penn, using a simple composition and high-key lighting to create a sense of elegance and refinement. Use a large format camera and pay attention to the texture and shadows in the image.

ChatGPT can also act as a thesaurus/dictionary, automatically upgrading a given prompt to something even more descriptive. For example, if you give it the prompt “A quiet night”, it might suggest “A still evening” or “A hushed night” instead.

A peaceful forest, with vibrant colors and soft light, creating an atmosphere of serenity.|A majestic forest illuminated by dappled sunlight, with tall trees casting long shadows and the sound of birds singing in the distance.

Finally, it can summarize text for keywords that might work well in an AI art prompt to accompany it. For example, if you give it a text about a forest, it might suggest keywords like “trees”, “shadows”, “sunlight”, and “birds” for use in an AI art prompt *e.g. ”A majestic forest illuminated by dappled sunlight, with tall trees casting long shadows and the sound of birds singing in the distance.” or “A peaceful forest, with vibrant colors and soft light, creating an atmosphere of serenity.” or “A surreal forest, set in a distant future, with bizarre creatures and strange plants.”).

ChatGPT Mad Libs Demo

Using ChatGPT, I created a Mad Libs-style generator, which showcases the power of using emoji in your AI art prompts.

The ChatGPT conversation to generate Mad Libs-style templates.

In a (emoji) setting, the (noun) (verb) a (adjective) (noun).

Try filling out this template yourself and see how the prompt influences the resulting output from the AI art generator.

Here are some of the ones that ChatGPT came up with:

In a 🏰 setting, the prince rescued a damsel in distress.

In a 🌋 setting, the explorer uncovered a lost temple.

In a 🚀 setting, the astronaut repaired a faulty spaceship.

By changing the emoji, we can see how the resulting image changes each time.

In a 🌋 setting, the explorer uncovered a lost temple.
In a ❄️ setting, the explorer uncovered a lost temple.
In a 🌌 setting, the explorer uncovered a lost temple.

Beyond the Basics

There are a number of community-created machine learning apps that can supercharge your prompts, many of which can be found on Hugging Face Spaces. Two of my favorites are Magic Prompt and CLIP Interrogator.

Magic Prompt allows you to extend and explore alternative prompts based on your initial input text. Please be aware that this particular tool often includes living artists and phrases like trending on artstation in its output. While these can improve the quality of the output dramatically, it’s not without controversy. It is often a point of contention between AI artists and non-AI artists whose work is referenced in these type of prompts, so it’s important to be respectful and do your own research into the preference of living artists before prompting for their name or specific style.

Initial Text and Generated Prompt using Magic Prompt on Hugging Face Spaces

Comparing the output of the initial prompt to the output of the enhanced prompt shows the night and day difference that complex prompts can make!

Output for a basic prompt
Output for a complex prompt

Another amazing tool is CLIP Interrogator, which takes an image and generates a prompt that can be used to generate similar images. This can not only be great for initial research into a specific style, but can also be used to improve your own images by analyzing their output for words that you could add to the initial prompt to reinforce specific concepts.

Unfortunately, these tools frequently experience periods of heavy traffic, so it’s best to try them out at non-peak hours.

Important Notes

  • Some artists don’t like their name and style being used in AI art, so do your research and be respectful in your prompting!
  • It’s important to note that some words are not allowed, while others are allowed but may result in censored output. In cases like this, it’s best to try rewording your prompt — synonyms are your friend in situations like this! Also note that some platforms enforce their Terms of Service more strictly than others, so be sure to read and understand the TOS before using a platform.

Resources and Links

To help you get started, here are some useful websites and platforms for AI Art:

Stable Diffusion (free (but slow) image generation with limited options): https://huggingface.co/spaces/stabilityai/stable-diffusion

DreamStudio (paid service with faster image generation, more options): https://beta.dreamstudio.ai/

Upscale.media (upscale and enlarge your AI generated images): https://www.upscale.media/

DALL-E (paid image generation): https://openai.com/dall-e-2/

Midjourney (free image generation, all prompting is done publicly through Midjourney’s Discord server): https://midjourney.com

Aesthetics Wiki: https://aesthetics.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_Aesthetics

CLIP Prompt Engineering for Generative Art: https://matthewmcateer.me/blog/clip-prompt-engineering/

Lexica (stable diffusion search engine): https://lexica.art/

Hugging Face Spaces: https://huggingface.co/spaces

Magic Prompt: https://huggingface.co/spaces/Gustavosta/MagicPrompt-Stable-Diffusion

CLIP Interrogator: https://huggingface.co/spaces/pharma/CLIP-Interrogator

Follow me on Twitter: @nptacek

--

--