See at Adobe

firefly-crocodile-2jpg.png

Adobe Firefly

Best AI image generator for professionals

See at Canva

girl at a computer with bright colors surrounding her

Canva

Best basic AI image generator for beginners

As artificial intelligence technology advances, so does AI-generated art. Services like Dall-E 3 and Midjourney aren’t meant to replace human artists and creators, but these programs can help spark inspiration, aiding professional creators and giving amateur artists an easy way to create custom, personalized art. AI image generators are constantly evolving and offer endless creative opportunities. 

The AI image generators on this list have undergone thorough testing. CNET reviewers have spent months with these programs, generating hundreds of images and creating everything from cartoon rainbow safaris to dramatic sci-fi scenes and photorealistic stock imagery. At some point, every service on this list spits out a wonky or unusable image. The test of a truly superior AI image generator is how well-equipped it is to handle those quirks and remediate flaws. Editing tools and customization options are a big part of that, which is why we test those extensively. Privacy policies, including how generators potentially train on your data, are also important considerations when selecting the best services. Here’s what made the cut.

What’s the best AI image generator?

Dall-E 3 by OpenAI is our best AI image generator pick. It can handle long, complex queries, gives you many editing and customization options and its unique conversational flow makes it easy to bring your artistic visions to life. If you don’t want to sign up for the $20 per month ChatGPT Plus subscription, Leonardo AI offers great AI imagery in its free plan. Beginners will find Canva’s user-friendly design easy and accessible to use, and professional creatives looking to experiment with AI art ought to try Adobe Firefly and its family of AI tools.

Best AI image generator of 2024

Like

  • Understands long, complex queries
  • Engaging, dynamic images
  • Conversational style allows for easy modifications

Don’t like

  • Photorealistic images can look fake
  • Slow to generate images

Dall-E 3 by OpenAI is CNET’s 2024 Editor’s choice for the best AI image generator. Dall-E 3 is great for amateurs and professionals, with many editing tools like different styles and customizations to take advantage of. Dall-E is unique among its competitors for its conversational flow, making it easy to send follow-up requests, and its ability to handle complex queries. OpenAI may use your content to improve its models, but the company says it won’t share your data with advertisers and offers a way to request to opt out of model training. With the $20 per month ChatGPT Plus subscription, Dall-E 3 creates vivid, engaging images with limited AI quirks.

Read our full review.

Like

  • Clear and detailed images
  • Helpful prompt engineering tools

Don’t like

  • No post-generation editing tools on the free plan
  • Lackluster privacy policy

Leonardo is great for AI creatives on a budget. It has a comprehensive free plan that gives you ample generation credits at a fast speed. It doesn’t have any free post-generation editing tools (they’re paywalled), but it does have a prompt improvement tool and other customization elements that can guide you toward building the best prompts. Leonardo makes it easy to explore what’s possible with AI and create vivid, detailed AI images. Its free plan easily knocks its competitors out of the water, even the user-friendly Canva.

Read our full review.

Like

  • Excellent artistic styles
  • Good fine-tuning options
  • Competitive generation speed

Don’t like

  • Struggles with photorealistic images
  • Difficulty when elements contact or interact
  • Doesn’t accept complex queries

Adobe Firefly’s family of generative AI image tools is built directly into Adobe Creative Cloud, including Photoshop, which makes it a great option for professional creatives looking to experiment. Firefly offers a lot of stylistic and artistic options, and its refinement tools feel similar to editing software that creatives will be familiar with. Firefly is trained on Adobe’s own Stock catalog, which includes high-quality licensed and public domain content. Firefly does not train on your content. If you’re already paying for an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, Firefly can be an easy way to mock up ideas or spark inspiration.

Read our full review.

Like

  • Excels at creating fun, whimsy and cartoon images
  • Easy to use on desktop and on the mobile app
  • Doesn’t share your content to train its AI

Don’t like

  • Free plan has a hard limit on how many images you can create
  • Hard to generate non-square images

Canva is an extremely user-friendly graphic design service, and its AI image generator Magic Media is a great option for amateur AI creators. Magic Media is a minimalist service, which isn’t great if you need extensive editing tools, but it’s great for folks on a budget and time crunch. Canva’s privacy policy is notably secure, as Canva does not train its AI on your content, and the images you generate are always private, unlike many competitors. Canva also makes it easy to integrate your AI images into your other projects, on desktop and on the mobile app. It’s a no-frills, easy-to-navigate AI image generator perfect for beginners and Canva lovers.

Read our full review.

How we tested AI image generators

CNET takes a practical approach to reviewing AI image generators. Our goal is to determine how good it is relative to the competition and which purposes it serves best. To do that, we give the AI prompts based on real-world use cases, such as rendering in a particular style, combining elements into a single image and handling lengthier descriptions. We score the image generators on a 10-point scale that considers factors such as how well images match prompts, creativity of results and response speed. See how we test AI for more.

Factors to consider

Accuracy is an important factor to consider when evaluating AI image generators. Accuracy in this case refers to how well a service matches your prompt and how clearly elements and details are rendered. For example, a service that closely matches the sci-fi/fantasy spaceship scene described in a prompt would be considered accurate, as would a service that generates a picture of a human with a clear expression. 

On the flip side, hallucinations, or the way AI makes stuff up, are also important to consider. Hallucinations for AI images tend to be seen in the weird quirks or flaws that you didn’t request, like people with three arms or disappearing elements. Creativity is an inherent necessity of an AI image generator, but hallucinations are obvious flubs, not whimsical or non-realistic style elements. All AI image generators run into these problems, but great AI services have them less infrequently and offer editing tools ready to fix them.

The number of clarifying prompts required indicates how much work you’ll have to put into getting the image you want. If you can’t follow up with an edit or additional request, that can be a red flag or annoyance to look out for. Generators that adhere closely to prompts and offer editing tools make it easier to bring your vision to life.

Response speed is also important to consider. Most image generators are pretty quick, under two minutes or so. Services that can generate images quicker than that, between 10-30 seconds, bring an edge to their user experience.

Other AI image generators we tested

Midjourney is a solid option for an AI image generator, but it didn’t make our top picks because it’s currently only available on Discord, is paid-only and inconsistently matches prompts. Midjourney does offer nice upscaling or editing tools for individual images, but you’ll have to use them often. It’s also noteworthy that all your images will be public and accessible in an online gallery unless you create in stealth mode, which is only available in the more expensive Pro and Mega plans.

Google’s ImageFX also did not make our top picks due to persistent inaccuracies and its “overbearing nannying,” which results in rejecting innocuous prompts. All AI generators struggle with photorealistic faces and hands, but ImageFX also struggles with inanimate objects and logos. This wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, except its editing and fine-tuning tools aren’t up to par to make images usable. 

Editors’ note: CNET used an AI engine to help create several dozen stories, which are labeled accordingly. The note you’re reading is attached to articles that deal substantively with the topic of AI but are created entirely by our expert editors and writers. For more, see our AI policy.

Dall-E 3 by OpenAI is CNET’s Editor’s choice for the best AI image generator because of its breadth of editing and customization tools, close adherence to prompts and level of detail in images. Dall-E uses a conversational flow, and it’s great at handling more complex prompts well.

There are a couple of free and freemium AI image generators to choose from, but we recommend starting with Leonardo AI or Canva. Both of these services offer free AI image generation with quick response speeds and suitable prompt adherence.

To make the best AI image, you’re going to want to build the right image prompt. As you’re writing what you want your generator to create, make sure you’re including the style, aesthetic, dimension and any specific elements you want to be included. Some generators have a hard time adhering to specific prompts, but it’s better to start with a specific prompt and refine or scale back as needed.

There are many reasons your AI image generator might not be giving you what you want. Try adjusting your prompt, using customization settings and editing tools to eliminate quirks or conflicting elements. Unfortunately, sometimes your only option is to scrap your idea and start again.

Yes. If you are using an image that is entirely created by an AI image generator, you should disclose that wherever you are sharing it.



Leave a Reply

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