Midjourney is an amazing new tool for creating AI art with nothing more than a text prompt… and it’s ready for you to use… but how?

WARNING: this post was up to date as of publication (August 2022). This is a open beta version of a product I do not control, and it may go any number of ways from now until when you’re reading this.

What is Midjourney?

According to itself, “Midjourney is an independent research lab exploring new mediums of thought and expanding the imaginative powers of the human species.” For users like me, it’s an opportunity to create astonishingly detailed images using a powerful AI from a text-based description. The service connects your prompt to supercomputers running powerful GPU’s, so it’s not a program that runs on your computer. It’s accessed via Discord, and as of July 13th, 2022, it’s in open beta (meaning anyone can join and use it for free). There are paid plans to make a lot of images and get commercial-use rights.

For board game designers (or really anyone that likes art, but has wanted an easier way to create it), Midjourney and other AI art services are about to change the way we make art for prototypes, cards, or possibly publishing-ready art. ‘Publishing-ready art’ is likely to take some editing or manipulation in other photo-editing software, so look at Midjourney / AI art as one step of the art creation process, not the whole shebang.

Step 1: download the Discord program.

2022 08 02 21 06 05 Discord Your Place to Talk and Hang Out

First things first – you will need Discord. Go download it here. Discord is a free program to install on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Midjourney will work on any of these.

Step 2: join Midjourney’s Discord server.

It’s in open beta and free to join. Click this link: https://discord.gg/midjourney.

Step 3: find one of the #newcomers channels.

As an extremely active and busy server, there’s a LOT going on. Feel free to scroll up through them to go down the rabbit hole and see what other people have created. There’s a whole syntax that can be used to interact with the AI, and it’s ever-evolving to take advantage of the different ways to coax the AI to creating what you want it to create.

In the interest of keeping this post as futureproof as possible, I won’t try to go into all the various pieces of the puzzle. My advice for now is to not worry about them too much – this post is for absolute beginners, after all.

Step 3a (optional): keep exploring the Discord server.

2022 08 02 19 34 43 newbies 37 Discord

There’s literally millions of images that have been generated, and many of them are right there on the server. Left-click on any of the newcomer or general channels you have access to and scroll up.

Step 4: imagine!

2022 08 02 19 38 29 general Discord

As a free user that just joined, you’ll have about 25 free uses. (Technically speaking, the currency you use when creating images is ‘GPU-minutes’ or ‘GPU-hours’. This is what you buy when you pick up a paid plan. Presumably, some images use more while others use less.)

This is enough to play around and get comfortable with the technology, but if you like what you’re creating, you’ll probably want to pay for a monthly membership (more on that later). The powers that be periodically give out more credits to try out new versions or tweaks to their algorithm, but I wouldn’t count on those showing up when you want them to.

For now, head (back) to a #newcomers channel, find the text box at the bottom of the channel, then type ‘/imagine’, a space, and then your prompt. When done, hit Enter.

Step 5: give the bot a minute to work its magic.

Watch the process if you like, or go grab a cup of something. Be aware that if you’ve scrolled all the way down in a channel, Discord will automatically show the newer posts as they come in… and with hundreds of thousands of people on the server, there’s a lot of requests coming in. Scroll up a bit to stay on your post.

Step 6: take in what Midjourney has created.

2022 08 02 19 36 39 general Discord

Hmm. Well. That isn’t exactly what I asked for… but that’s how it goes sometimes. It’s all part of the learning process with the AI.

Step 7: choose to upscale, create variations, or tell the bot to try again.

When the bot’s done, you should see 4 pictures in a 2×2 grid, each a different take on your prompt.

Below those pictures, you’ll see a number of buttons related to those images.

‘U’ means ‘upscale’, as in ‘create a larger version of this exact photo‘, or ‘add more pixels to this picture so I can use it for something. Click ‘U1’ to upscale the first picture, or the one in the top left.

‘V’ means ‘variations, ‘as in ‘use this image as a starting place to create new variations’, or ‘riff off of this one!’. Click ‘V4’ to make 4 variations of the fourth picture, or the one in the lower right.

There’s also a refresh icon to the right of U4, which is short for ‘give it another go’.

Step 8: Use Midjourney’s website to see all your photos.

Head to https://www.midjourney.com/app/ – it’ll ask you to sign in using your Discord account. Once you’re signed in, it’ll show you all the photos you’ve created. As of publication, there isn’t a way to create or edit photos from the website – you’ll have to use Discord to do that.

Step 9: Read the official documentation at some point.

The official stuff is over here: https://midjourney.gitbook.io/docs/


What communities should I join?

I haven’t dived completely down this particular rabbit hole, but Reddit’s r/midjourney is a solid place to start.

Does Midjourney allow commercial use?

YES if you’re a paying member, NO if you are not. The terms of service say free members get a CC BY NC license, which requires attribution and non-commercial use.

If you’re using the images for blockchain purposes (such as NFTs) or for a company that makes over a million dollars in revenue a year, there are a couple of other sentences for you to read. For the rest of us, “If you are a Paid Member, Midjourney grants to You the rights to deal in the Assets you create without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, and/or sell copies of the Assets”

How do I reduce the amount of variety in the creations?

The AI has a ton of ‘free will’ and randomness built in that isn’t entirely under your control. This is perhaps the biggest trade-off of AI art, whatever program or service you’re using. As of publication, there are two ways to work towards standardizing what the AI creates:

  • The ‘seed’ element. In most traditional generative systems, a random ‘seed’ controls the randomness (or pseudo-randomness)
  • (As of July 25, 2022) The ‘stylize’ command, which is followed by a three-to-five digit number. According to the Discord post announcing it, “The stylize argument sets how strong of a ‘stylization’ your images have, the higher you set it, the more opinionated it will be. If you set it high enough it will get so opinionated it will start ignoring your words. It’s great fun!”
    • To use it, add ‘–stylize XXXXX’ to your prompt (that’s two dashes, the word ‘stylize’, then a three-to-five digit number. From the Discord post:
      “–stylize 625 if you basically want to turn it off
      –stylize 1250 is good for when you want it to be ‘less strict’ but still ‘pretty’ (this is probably recommended for skilled users)
      –stylize 2500 this is the default value
      –stylize 20000 if you want it to ‘take over’ and start drifting from your text
      –stylize 60000 hands off the wheels who knows what will happen”

It’s not just me…

As I was writing this post, I saw one of my favorite video creators, Edo from Gaming with Edo, had produced a 14-minute video about this very same subject. Go watch it:

Over to you

What have you created with AI art?