Midjourney vs. DALL-E 3 in ChatGPT: Which AI does Halloween better? – ZDNet

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve been diving into the DALL-E 3 implementation within ChatGPT Plus. By embedding the text-to-image tool within ChatGPT, the AI makes creating images super easy.
But I was curious. How do those images compare to Midjourney? I’ve done a lot with Midjourney, and have gotten to know it quite well. It has more customization features than the DALL-E in ChatGPT implementation, but how does it compare straight out of the box?
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So, let’s have ourselves a time-honored showdown, AI style. We’ll pit DALL-E 3 in ChatGPT against Midjourney in eight image comparison tests. And because it’s Halloween season, that’s our theme. Each prompt includes an art or presentation style, and an image to create.
To test, I gave identical prompts to both AIs. I had to prepend all the Midjourney prompts with /imagine and all the DALL-E prompts with “image of,” but otherwise, the prompts were identical. Midjourney automatically generates four images, while DALL-E does two. I ran the prompt twice with DALL-E so we’d have four to choose from with both AIs.
Then, I packaged them all up in Photoshop so we could see all eight candidate images side by side. My judging criteria consisted of the following:
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At the end, I’ll total up the results and declare a winner. And with that, let the Halloween-AI-off begin!
Here’s our prompt:
Photorealistic, 35mm, friendly cheerful witch, in doorway of suburban house, giving away treats on Halloween
Here’s what the two AIs came up with. The Midjourney results are on the left. The DALL-E 3 results are on the right. You can click the little rectangle in the upper-right corner to see the image enlarged.
Here’s where my prompt wasn’t as precise as it could have been. I wanted someone in a doorway, facing out of the house. But I didn’t specify, so I got some images facing into the house and some facing out.
Midjourney missed the spec, not really offering treats in any of the images. They all seemed a little weird. What exactly is the witch in #4 holding? Is that a phone, a razor, a tricorder? It’s definitely not a treat.
DALL-E 3 did a much better job. All four of its submissions had treats, although the witch with the cookies probably isn’t providing a practical trick-or-treat style treat.
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I was a bit torn about choosing a favorite from the DALL-E set. But I like #1 best. She’s not answering the door, but she looks a lot more like what I had in mind when I issued the prompt. My wife Denise preferred #3, opining that she seemed really into the holiday, clearly had a bowl of treats, and looked like she was an actual kindly witch, not just someone in a cheap witch costume.
For this round, DALL-E is the clear winner.
Here’s the prompt:
1960s style cartoon, the great pumpkin halloween, with happy Snoopy-like dog
I have to admit, the DALL-E renditions surprised me. DALL-E didn’t produce a Snoopy-like dog, it pretty much produced Snoopy. DALL-E image #1 even has a Charlie Brown in the background. Clearly, there are trademark issues here. We’re reproducing these images just to show you what DALL-E produces, as a journalistic endeavor, but you couldn’t, for example, use these images on a T-shirt or in production artwork that you planned to sell or use commercially in any way.
On the other hand, Midjourney did produce little white dogs, although none of the pumpkins are big enough to be considered a Great Pumpkin (which, itself, is an active trademark of Peanuts Worldwide LLC).
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Without regard to the trademark issue, and based only on preference, Denise preferred DALL-E #3. For me, DALL-E #2 is almost exactly what I was picturing in my head when creating the prompt, but I was hoping for something that was more inspired by Snoopy than cloning Snoopy outright. As such, I’d have to say I really like both #3 and #4 by Midjourney. The little hats are very cute. Overall, my favorite Midjourney pick is #4 because it has a grinning white dog with a dog bone collar and an array of fairly large pumpkins.
For this round, I have to call it for Midjourney. DALL-E produced Snoopy cartoons, but because it produced Snoopy cartoons so precisely, including Charlie Brown in the background, all four entries have to be disqualified as unusable without licensing.
Here’s the prompt:
Hyperrealistic, Matthias Haker style, happy Halloween black cat, full moon night
Matthias Haker is a German photographer who creates art with architectural images that have a sense of grandeur and ghostliness, as well as vivid colors. I wanted to see what would happen if I asked for his style, but for a cat. I had not previously heard of Haker, but I liked what I saw when I went searching for art styles in Midjourney, in the Midlibrary database of art styles.
Before we look at those results, let’s talk for a minute about the issue of using an artist’s style in an AI rendition. Artists spend their lifetimes creating signature styles, and there’s something disturbing about feeding their name to an AI and watching the machine spit out a near-perfect clone.
On one hand, using an artist to specify a style can be a form of shorthand for the AI to understand what you want. On the other hand, you’re flattening and appropriating that artist’s style.
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Here, in our example, it’s fairly unlikely that Haker will create a Halloween cat, and I am providing links promoting his website, but should we support AI’s use of an artist’s style? Let us know in the comments below. I also reached out to Hacker himself for his thoughts, and if I hear back, I’ll update this article.
Oh, and while DALL-E was perfectly comfortable reproducing Snoopy and Charlie Brown exactly, it didn’t like the Matthias Haker query, returning this:
I apologize, but due to content policy restrictions, I was unable to generate images based on the provided description. Please let me know if you have any other requests or if there’s another way I can assist you!
So the DALL-E prompt became this, instead:
Hyperrealistic, happy Halloween black cat, full moon night
And here’s the result:
Both Midjourney and DALL-E produced great pictures, although neither managed to present a cat that looks happy. My favorite is Midjourney #3, which has wonderfully vivid colors along with a lot of great contrast between the glowing moon, the haunted house in the background, and the cat. My only negative is that the cat only shows one eye.
I was unable to pin Denise down on one image. She liked Midjourney #1 and DALL-E #3 equally, specifically how the AIs presented the faces and the different moods and colors.
Both AIs did great with this challenge, but I’m going to give it to Midjourney because Midjourney introduced more vivid colors, which is the effect I wanted by specifying a Matthias Haker art style.
Here’s the prompt:
8-bit Halloween vampires, mummies, Frankenstein monster costumes
And here’s what we got:
It’s clear that DALL-E complied with the letter of the law, producing 8-bit images that could have been pulled out of an 8-bit video game. On the other hand, while Midjourney #3 met that criteria, it produced images that were not, strictly speaking, 8-bit images. Instead, it created images that were inspired by 8-bit style.
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That was not what I would have expected from my prompt, but I love it. So did Denise. We both totally grooved on Midjourney #1. But Denise chose DALL-E #2 because it got the monsters right and was clearly 8-bit.
Technically, DALL-E won this round. But I was much more charmed by the Midjourney results. I’m giving this round to DALL-E because it complied with the technicalities. But Midjourney was much more my favorite.
Here’s the prompt:
Photorealistic style, Graciela Iturbide style, haunted Halloween house mansion
As with the cat, I used a specific artist’s style in the prompt. Graciela Iturbide is a Mexican photographer who captures scenes of domestic life using a fairly stark, high-contrast black-and-white style that I thought might translate well to a haunted house scene. I had also not heard of Iturbide, but I liked what I saw when I again went searching for art styles in Midjourney, in the Midlibrary database of art styles.
As with Matthias Haker, I reached out to Graciela Iturbide to ask what she thinks about AIs referencing her style. I’ll update this article if I receive a reply.
Here’s the result:
One of the things I love about text-to-image AIs is that the result can be unexpected. My hands-down favorite is Midjourney #3, which doesn’t even have a house, but conveys such a great haunted feeling that I just love it. Denise preferred DALL-E #1, saying that it really stood out for her as a great inviting and scary haunted house of the kind meant to lure you in and trap you with illusions of coziness, even though it didn’t have anything to do with the specified style.
Wow. Both AIs produced wonderful images. I have to give it to DALL-E because if you were looking specifically for a haunted house image, the output of DALL-E is much more like what you might expect. That said, I personally love what Midjourney did from an artistic perspective.
Here’s the prompt:
Pixar-style trick-or-treating kids in Halloween costumes
I am not at all sure what Midjourney is trying to accomplish. Its kids look like a cross between cartoon and real-life kids. DALL-E’s kids are right out of a Pixar cartoon.
This is an easy slam dunk win for DALL-E. Denise loved the super-excited grinning faces on DALL-E #1, including the dinosaur. I liked DALL-E #3, especially the little alien.
Here’s the prompt:
Disney-style friendly ghost with scary jack-o’-lantern
To be clear, the classic Casper the Friendly Ghost character was never a Disney property. It was a Paramount property that wound up under the Dreamworks umbrella for both animation and comic books.
That said, I wanted a friendly ghost, not necessarily Casper. And I wanted it with a decidedly less friendly and hopefully actually scary jack-o’-lantern. By Disney style, I was hoping for a more modern animated style, rather than something that specifically looked like it was lifted from a vintage Disney artist’s celluloid hand drawing.
Here’s what we got:
Midjourney kind of missed the point, somehow conflating Nightmare Before Christmas style (that’s our next prompt) with the ghost images. Also, the ghosts are a bit scary and the jack-o’-lantern less so.
Denise and I both favored the DALL-E graphics, although she said that the art wasn’t really Disney style. Her favorite was DALL-E #1, with #2 as a close second. My favorite was DALL-E #1, hands down. I liked the friendly ghost and the jack-o’-lantern has some definite menace to it — exactly the juxtaposition of moods I wanted when I wrote that prompt.
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The winner here is DALL-E. Both drew nice cartoonish images, but DALL-E got the intention and had a friendly ghost with a scary pumpkin. Midjourney did just the opposite, missing the point of the prompt.
This is probably my favorite of all the prompts. Here’s what I fed the AIs:
Nightmare before Christmas style, Tim Burton style, IT professional in datacenter
I love these. All of them. DALL-E once again used the actual referenced imagery, while Midjourney was more inspired by it. I mean, there’s pretty much no doubt that Jack Skellington has somehow found his way inside a data center in the DALL-E images.
The Midjourney images show IT folks, but not really much of a data center. That said, Denise’s favorite is Midjourney #1, because the dude there is exactly what she pictures if she had to go down deep into the bowels of a company to hunt down the scary IT guy (she doesn’t, because her IT guy is sitting on the couch next to her every day).
My absolute favorite image is DALL-E #4. Yes, it’s undeniably Jack Skellington, but the design of the data center is spot on, and I just love it. I’d put that on my office wall, for real. That said, we again are dealing with licensing issues (Jack Skellington is a Disney trademark), so the Midjourney images might be more usable if you wanted to put them on a T-shirt or something.
For this round, I have to call it for Midjourney — for the same reason Midjourney won the Snoopy-style round above. DALL-E produced Jack Skellington cartoons, but because it produced Jack Skellington so precisely, all four entries have to be disqualified as unusable without licensing. DALL-E #1 is arguably not exactly Jack Skellington, but that’s splitting hairs considering the others are rocking the full Skellington.
Wow, that’s a tough call. If you add up the wins, DALL-E 3 in ChatGPT won five of the eight contests, while Midjourney won three of the eight. So, I guess that makes DALL-E the winner.
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DALL-E lost points for some of its better work, because it completely cloned Snoopy and Jack Skellington instead of using them as inspiration. Midjourney sometimes missed part of the assignment completely, but at least didn’t return results that were going to become licensing nightmares. That’s not the sort of nightmare I wanted to inspire in these images.
Do I have a buying recommendation based on these tests? Nope. I find Midjourney provides a great deal of value and some flexibility, but — like most artists — it has a mind of its own. DALL-E 3 inside of ChatGPT is a free bonus given I’m already paying for ChatGPT Plus. I will say I was pleasantly surprised by how good the DALL-E results were, but a bit freaked by its tendency to clone licensed properties.
What do you think? What are your favorite images? Who do you think won our competition? Let us know in the comments below.
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