Taking a Midjourney Through Image-Generative AI

As of this moment in time, if you were to mention the term artificial intelligence or AI to someone, you’d likely land on the topic of ChatGPT, as it’s been dominating headlines lately. And with good reason, ChatGPT is capable of some really impressive stuff, and it warrants discussions about its ethical uses, what it means now that Microsoft has a stake in it, and how it’s going to ruin human jobs and replace everyone with robots.

But beyond the world of text-based chatbot AI, there’s some arguably more impressive (and controversial) stuff happening in the world of AI as it pertains to image creation. And in that space, Midjourney is one of the stars.

What is Midjourney?

According to Midjourney’s website, “Midjourney is an independent research lab exploring new mediums of thought and expanding the imaginative powers of the human species.” So sci-fi. So futuristic. But what is it, really?

In a much more human description, Midjourney is a generative AI tool that turns text prompts into images. It’s like if a Google image search was able to create exactly what you searched for instead of scouring the internet for images that already existed. For example, have you ever wondered what a polar bear playing volleyball on Mars would look like? Well, now you don’t have to. It’d look something like this:

Image generated by Midjourney using the prompt: polar bear playing volleyball on Mars
Image generated by Midjourney using the prompt: polar bear playing volleyball on Mars

Using Midjourney

Using Midjourney is a bit different from some other AI tools, like chatGPT, for example, in that the image creation all happens within a Discord server. Within Discord, you can type the command /imagine followed by the prompt that you want Midjourney to create. For example, the input to create the image above was:

/imagine prompt polar bear playing volleyball on Mars. 

Once the prompt is entered, the job is kicked off, and you can see a grid of four images begin rendering. Once the job is finished, you’re presented with four different image representations of the text prompt that you typed. Like magic.

After you have your first four images, you then have the option of regenerating four new images based on the same prompt, generating four new variants of an individual image, or upscaling one of the four generated images to a higher resolution copy.

The whole workflow takes some getting used to and can be a bit chaotic (at least in the beta version. I can’t speak to the paid plan experience) because while your creation is being created, a bunch of other users’ jobs is running at the same time in the chat. It’s definitely not as clean of an experience as some other tools, but it’s hard to argue with the results. Here are a couple of other examples that I prompted Midjourney to generate:

Image generated by Midjourney using the prompt: robotic dolphin in red and silver color scheme
Midjourney prompt: robotic dolphin in red and silver color scheme
Image generated by Midjourney using the prompt: logo of a male teacher with brown hair, glasses, and a goatee holding a camera
Midjourney prompt: logo of a male teacher with brown hair, glasses, and a goatee holding a camera
Image generated by Midjourney using the prompt: team of 7 instructional technologists, 4 women and 3 men, fighting a monster that represents online teaching and learning
Midjourney prompt: team of 7 instructional technologists, 4 women and 3 men, fighting a monster that represents online teaching and learning

As you can see, what Midjourney is capable of producing in about a minute or so is pretty impressive. I’d argue, though, that none of these would pass for a commercial illustration or design due to some of the weird things that AI does (look closely at the faces and limbs in the instructional technologists’ image). They do, however, all serve as great reference points.

While Midjourney offers several paid plans with varying limits on how many image generations you can use, users can join the beta to give Midjourney a test drive for free.

Thoughts, Musings, and Ponderings

As an artist and a tech-nerd, I have mixed feelings about Midjourney, but they’re mostly positive. From a technology perspective, it’s an amazing feat that creates really cool stuff. Even from the artistic perspective, it’s a really cool tool for rapid prototyping and generating visual ideas from textual thought. I love it. And like other AI tools that have come into the spotlight recently, it’s causing me to rethink how I search for things and how I can use more specific language to get a better result. It’s also causing me to think about how I can use this technology to make my work more efficient.

On the more doom and gloom side of things, there are potential problems with technology like Midjourney. A lot of those problems simply come from the fact that this is a new technology that the rules haven’t been written for yet, but there are problems nonetheless. One of the biggest issues that have come up is that artists’ work has been scraped from the internet to train these generative AI tools, like Midjourney, oftentimes without the artists’ consent. Several artists have taken this issue to court in the form of a lawsuit. And this concern is completely valid. Art is deeply personal and takes tons of time and talent to produce. So, it makes sense that creatives are worried about generative AI tools like Midjourney. However, there was another case where images created by Midjourney that were used in a graphic novel were denied copyright due to the fact that they were “…not the product of human authorship.” So, it’s safe to say that these types of tools are in a bit of a murky area at present.

However, at the end of the day, I find Midjourney exciting. The images that it’s capable of creating are fun to look at, and I’ve personally found it to be a great tool for gathering inspiration and even generating references for my own design and illustrative work. Do I think the tool comes without its flaws? Absolutely not. The ethics and legality of it all are things that are rightfully being questioned and debated. We’re at the forefront of a new era of technology. And with that comes a lot of new decisions, rules, relegations, and controversy. But I can’t help but be excited to see what’s to come.

What are your thoughts on Midjourney?

5 thoughts on “Taking a Midjourney Through Image-Generative AI

  1. AI image generation is a great tool to help convey a thought very quickly. Humans for the most part are visual learners and that old saying; “A picture is worth a 1000 words” tells you just how valuable this tool can be. Explaining a new innovation, thought, concept or idea is difficult, as often new domains come with new vocabulary as well, all of which has to be invented on the spot. However, a picture or illustration can speed up the process for the viewer/reader in digesting the information quickly and understanding what is being discussed even if a complete novice to the new field or area of science. For this, it’s great, and yes, Social Media, Blogs, Articles too. So, humans will like to use this. Where it gets tricky is the deep fake problem which is already over the horizon coming at us like a hypersonic missile – so buckle up.

    1. This is very true and a point that I didn’t really address in my post. Thanks for bringing it up and for reading, Lance! The recent news about Midjourney’s latest version creating a now-viral image of the Pope in a puffer jacket is the perfect example of how this technology can be used to create some things that are easily mistaken for factual. I think we’re in for a very interesting new era, to say the least.

  2. Your robotic dolphin is so much cooler than mine! 😂 Thank you for this post. I appreciate the different perspectives you take after you walk us through the tool.

  3. Hi Michael, thank you for sharing your post on AI tools. Your insights were incredibly helpful and inspired me to dive deeper into the field. In fact, your post motivated me to create my own images, and I’m excited to continue exploring Midjourney. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!
    P.S. I wanted to share my humble creation, these were my prompts:
    A fashionable woman is strolling down the iconic Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. She is dressed in a 1940s-style dress that exudes sophistication and elegance, and a small hat completes her chic ensemble. In her hand, she carries a luxurious black bag. The background of the painting should showcase the vibrant beauty of the City of Light. Impressionistic painting in the style of Edouard Manet. –ar 2:3 –s 100 –upbeta –v 5


    1. Wow! What an awesome creation Diana. The specificity goes a long way with the prompts for sure. I love that you used the aspect ratio one too! I didn’t realize those things existed until afterwards but they’re so useful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *