There is a wide variety of illustration styles you can use as prompts, but you can get interesting results by trying illustration genres as prompts, too. Here are ten genre prompts that you can feed to DALL-E to create whole new worlds of illustrations.
Children’s book illustrations tend to be colorful and feature friendly characters that react visibly and emotionally to the world around them. Young children often feature prominently, as do a variety of anthropomorphized animals. Typically involving a lot of action, the genre’s uniqueness is represented in how easily it can be understood at a glance. Though sometimes complex, most often a children’s illustration represents its subjects with a simple drawing style.
There is a variety of styles when it comes to children’s illustrators, so if you are seeking a particular aesthetic, you may wish to use the specific name of the author you wish to emulate as a prompt. For example, “in the style of Dr. Seuss” will give you very different results from “in the style of Beatrix Potter.” A more general prompt (e.g. “children’s book illustration“) presents a cute, colorful, and friendly aesthetic.
For visually striking and lavish illustrations of other worlds, nothing beats fantasy illustrations. This genre of illustration is often very detailed. You’ll find intricate depictions of flowing hair, craggy mountains, gleaming swords, and resplendent wings. Magicians and mythological creatures weave their enchantment through details that pull the viewer into a fantastic universe. For art that transports the viewer to another world, fantasy is the prompt you want.
Fantasy illustrations often display dark forests teeming with evil, winged beasts swooping amidst the clouds, or city landscapes. But if you’re specifically looking for a lavishly detailed close-up picture, a prompt like “fantasy book cover of” can help get you there.
If you want to be transported to another world, then science fiction is a surefire prompt. Science fiction is filled with as many strange creatures as fantasy, but tends to trade parallel worlds for distant ones (either in time and/or space). While there is overlap between science fiction and fantasy, the former’s illustrations tend to feature more sharp clean lines and shiny metal, and focus more on planetscapes and robots.
But the realm of sci-fi illustration is ever widening, so it’s increasingly difficult to pigeonhole these illustrations with a single description. If you’re searching for the classic science fiction illustration aesthetic, try a prompt like “retro sci-fi” for an old-school look. Whereas if you seek a more alive and vibrant illustration, a prompt like “science fantasy” may help bridge the gap between fantasy and science fiction.
Concept art is an unconventional illustration style to the point where many don’t even realize it’s a genre, but it can be a surprisingly rich source of inspiration. In fact, that’s the purpose of concept art: to inspire the art and creations that follow. That makes it a powerful source of inspiration for future DALL-E prompts as well! Aesthetically, concept art tends to be essentialized in a way that may seem almost paradoxical: simultaneously pared-down to avoid an excessive number of details, while also exaggerated to highlight important details.
The result is an illustration that gets at the essence of the object being portrayed. This can be very helpful for artists and designers who are looking for a better sense of their subject, a mood that needs to be conveyed or the key points that define the subject. If you’re not just looking for concept art, but actually want to evoke classic concept art, you might consider a prompt like “black and white concept art variations,” as many artists produce a multitude of options for the same subject.
Comics / Graphic Novel
Comics and graphic novels generally combine illustrations with text, whether in speech bubbles or narrative captions. DALL-E can not (yet) effectively generate text but the sequential art format of a comic or graphic novel remains a visually appealing way to tell a story, especially one filled with a variety of action sequences.
Not all comics are graphic novels, of course. If you don’t want a modern “superhero comic” look, you can try “newspaper comic strip about…” to get more of a classic Sunday funnies style. While DALL-E won’t generate usable dialogue for you, it can certainly create interesting layout possibilities.
Cartoons / Animation
Beyond comics, cartoons can provide some of the same fun and hand-drawn style but without the frames, dialog, and sequential art. So if you’re looking for those rounded edges, squiggly lines, and cartoonish style that’s more about the idea than about verisimilitude, cartoons may be a useful prompt for you.
Likewise, an “animation” prompt generates cartoon-like illustrations, but as with cartoons, you’re likely to get backgroundish sketch style as opposed to the Saturday morning cartoon style. If you’re looking for the anthropomorphized faces of the latter, consider throwing an emotion into the prompt for some instant cartoonish fun.
While technically a type of cartoon, caricatures are a specific illustration style that takes the subject’s natural traits and essential characteristics, and then exaggerates them through a hand-drawn portrait. A caricature generally focuses on the face of the subject, which means that some caricatures will just be a portrait close-up of a face, while others may have the subject’s full body (but with an oversized face and head). This style allows the artist more real estate to display and exaggerate the details that are the focus of the portrait.
Traditionally, caricatures are used to ridicule public figures, such as politicians. For that reason, they are popular in editorial cartoons and frequently appear in magazines, newspapers, and political websites. Due to the nature of caricatures, using “caricature” as a prompt in DALL-E seems to work best when entered with the name of a specific famous person (be they fictional or real).
Scientific illustration is used to convey intricate concepts in a way that is easy for the viewer to comprehend. They focus on depictions that strive for clarity and simplicity, allowing those without advanced background knowledge to still understand. Medical, botanical, and museum illustrations are some of the most common types of scientific illustration—and can serve as a fruitful prompt.
For a more classical scientific illustration, consider a prompt like “black and white scientific diagram of…” Even if you can’t read any of the actual text generated, DALL-E will likely generate the type of traditional scientific diagram that you are used to from high school anatomy class: a subject broken down into parts with labels.
Advertising and Logos
The ads within web searches aside, marketing has long been a visual medium. Because advertising illustrations are designed to catch the viewer’s eye and convey a concept efficiently, they can be a useful genre prompt for promoting a specific idea. A prompt like “vintage advertisement” can lead you to classic advertisement inspirations. For centuries, talented artists have worked in this commercial space to supplement their income; this genre is an often overlooked source of art.
Logos are another type of marketing illustration that are typically designed to be a small, easily recognizable, visual cue to represent a company and what they represent. While many logos incorporate the name of the company, the most iconic logos are simple images that work without any text, like the golden arches of McDonald’s or the Nike swoosh. Try a prompt like “corporate logo” if you’re looking for ideas for a logo to go on a letterhead or business card.
While corporate logos may find their way onto business cards, there is another type of card that also captures its own style of art. Playing card illustrations use a small iconic representation of their subject with clean lines in the middle of number cards, with a larger full rectangular illustration of more complexity on the face cards.
Tarot cards, meanwhile, offer a different style of illustrations with full-color backgrounds situating the subject in various settings with a slightly more chaotic feel. Because there is a rich, centuries-old history of Tarot card art, it may help to specify a specific type of deck in your prompt. For example, the Conver deck may produce larger, bolder figures when compared to the more scene-focused Rider-Waite Smith deck.