5 Best AI image generators — tested and compared

An AI generated image created by Midjourney
(Image credit: Midjourney)

ChatGPT and Google Bard may be the hot topics right now, but great art is timeless — and, until now, a uniquely human pursuit. These day, though, the best AI image generators are busy blurring the lines between human and machine creativity.

Maybe one day you could go to a gallery to catch the latest DALL•E exhibition? 

Even if that doesn't happen, AI image generators are a great way to have fun bringing your imagination to life. With AI image generation coming to the new Bing (and surely one day to Google Bard), it could become a big part of our lives. 

Hopefully, there will always be a place for human artists and photographers but for those of us without serious talent, image generators are a great way to visualize things. Because who hasn't always wanted to see a T-Rex on a skateboard?

What makes the best AI image generators? 

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Of course, when looking for the best AI image generator, the end result is important. Does the image look good? Does it match the prompt? Can it be edited further? But there are other factors to consider as well.

Value for money is also a concern. Many image generators offer a free version but these can often be quite limited in the number of free uses. Ease of use should be considered as well, are they clear and easy to understand? Additional features such as the ability to work via both text and image prompts are also a bonus.

For demonstration’s sake, all of the images below have been generated using the prompt “A frog on the moon”. Because why not?

An image created by the DALL E 2 AI

(Image credit: DALL E 2)

1. DALL•E 2

The best AI image generator

Reasons to buy

+
Produces great results
+
Adding AI to real photos is mindblowing
+
Reasonable free service

Reasons to avoid

-
Image credits could be a bit more generous

Created by OpenAI, the team behind ChatGPT, DALL•E 2 is a seriously impressive bit of kit. Its image-generation skills are second to none and can indulge your wildest imagination. It’s easy to see why it has 3 million users generating 4 million images a day. 

The ability to expand on an AI generated image with additional prompts is a great way to go wild with creativity while adding AI elements to your real-life photos and own images feels like something out of science fiction. If you’ve ever wanted to add a pirate ship to your backyard, check out how to use DALL•E 2

DALL•E 2 is free to use although you will only get 15 free credits a month. Additional credits can be purchased starting at a price of $15 for 115 additional prompts although, rather annoyingly, paid credits expire a year after purchase.

An image of a Frog created by Midjourney

(Image credit: Midjourney)

2. Midjourney

The best AI Image community

Reasons to buy

+
A great creative space
+
Impressive renders
+
Opportunities to learn and improve

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Free version has a hard limit
-
Can be a bit overwhelming

Intergrated within Discord, Midjourney can appear a touch impenetrable at first. But dig a little deeper and it offers the most engaging AI art community out there. 

To start, join a newbie server and start generating your own images by typing /imagine and then entering your prompt. It can be overwhelming seeing hundreds of images for other users being generated by the AI but at the same time I found it inspiring to see what others are creating.

In my own use, I have found Midjourney to offer some of the best results out there and the fact each prompt produces four different results means you are likely to be happy with at least one. In this case while the image may not be of a frog ON the moon, it's certainly a striking one. As with most AI tools, being specific with your prompts leads to the best results but you can also ask the AI to iterate on a specific result and develop that idea further with the touch of a button.

Because it is built into Discord, Midjourney has a strong focus on community. There are regular showcases, daily themes, and even Q&A sessions with prominent digital artists.

The free trial of Midjourney only grants a measly 50 credits and paid plans start at $10 a month ($96 a year) all the way up to the $60 a month ($576) Pro option. It's expensive but if you’re looking to get serious about AI art, Midjourney is a great platform.  

An image generated by the DreamStudio AI

(Image credit: DreamStudio)

3. DreamStudio

The best value AI image generator

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing value
+
Plenty of free tokens
+
Decent editing tools

Reasons to avoid

-
Very similar to free opensource options
-
Middling performance

StableDiffusion is a process used in many AI image generators and if you’re looking for a completely free basic AI image generator, try stablediffusionweb.com for the impressive open-source version. However, if you want a more refined Stable Diffusion tool, DreamStudio offers excellent value for money.

For starters simply creating a DreamStudio account nets you 100 tokens, enough to create up to 500 images, and you can buy 1,000 more tokens (up to 5,000 images) for just $10. 

Compared to the open-source equivalent, DreamStudio has a lot more functionality. As well as being able to use both visual and text prompts across a choice of Stable Diffusion models, you can also edit the size, number of AI steps (increasing the detail of your image) and the Cfg scale (how accurate the results will be to the prompt) of generated images. While it has created a great image in response to this prompt, we found it a bit more hit-and-miss than Midjourney and DALL•E 2.

DreamStudio makes the likes of Midjourney and DALL•E 2 seem stingy with their credit allocations and comes close to matching them with its results.

An image created by StarryAI

(Image credit: StarryAI)

4. StarryAI

The best mobile AI image generator

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing range of art styles 
+
Easy to share and download
+
Produces multiple variants

Reasons to avoid

-
Free version full of ads with limited credits
-
Sometimes produces 'glitchy' images 

Available on both iOS and Android, StarryAI is an easy-to-use platform with a credits-based system. Free users are given 5 credits a day and can earn 5 more by watching ads. While one credit will create four variations of a prompt you can spend more to get extra results.

The best thing going for StarryAI is its overwhelming customization options. You can ask the AI to render images in hundreds of different styles and genres, from a basic watercolor, political cartoon or photorealistic. 

Impressively — or perhaps, worryingly — the AI can also imitate the style of dozens of famous artists including the likes of Rene Margritte, H.R Giger and Andy Warhol. While results can be amazing, don't be surprised to find the odd strange result — we found extra arms and legs to be a common issue.

Being able to change the canvas size and aspect ratio before the image is generated is something not every AI image generator offers, it’s just a shame it’s exclusive to the paid model. Speaking of the payment plan, one month of StarryAI Pro will set you back $11.99 and you still only get 50 credits (plus the standard 5 a day). 

An AI image created with Bing image generator

(Image credit: Bing Image Generator)

5. Bing Image generator

Completely free AI image generator

Reasons to buy

+
Unlimited uses with no payment methods at all
+
Uses DALL E model
+
Easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
No image prompts
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Only 10 "Boosted" prompts
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Doesn't have the full DALL•E 2 features

If you like DALL•E 2 but don’t want to pay, Bing’s AI image generator uses the same model and is completely free of charge.  The Bing image generator has now arrived in the Bing chatbot AI but there is also a dedicated free web version. 

It’s hard to argue with the results of the DALL•E 2 algorithm and you aren’t stuck to the 15 free credit limit. Sure Microsoft’s effort does have a credit system — 10 daily boost tokens that create images faster but there is no way to buy these tokens with money (only Microsoft reward points) and you can still generate images without them. In our testing, unboosted prompts were still available after 20 to 40 seconds which is hardly an age. 

Sounds perfect right? Well sadly unlike DALL•E 2, you cannot currently use image prompts or add extra AI elements to your own photos. But as a glimpse into the future, it’s promising.

Want to learn more? Read how to use Bing Image generator

Andy Sansom
Staff Writer - VPN

Andy is Tom's Guide Staff Writer for VPNs. Based in the UK he originally cut his teeth at Tom's Guide as a Trainee Writer (go and click on his articles!) before moving to cover all things Tech and streaming at T3. He's now back at TG to keep you safe online and bring you the latest news in VPN and cyber security. 

  • EgadZoundsGadzooks
    DALL E 1st? With that image? The only real public contender to Midjourney right now is Firefly, and that's still highly limited access.
    Reply
  • ethereal1
    Why no mention of stable diffusion ? With a bit of work it can be run, trained, etc locally for free.
    Reply
  • Dremag
    Starry on PC seems to skip watching Ads. And there's one called NightCafe that's nice. (You can spend credits or do it completely free if you do one picture at a time in some modes)
    Reply
  • joe.bauers2040
    Really? YadayoAI dances circles around these, which is based on Stable Diffusion. And yeah, why no mention of Stable Diffusion. https://yodayo.com/1/posts/6fe74fa7-0298-4688-a54f-675cc57404af/
    Reply