In the visual arts, there are a seemingly endless amount of mediums in which an artist can work. Most artists prefer certain mediums over others, because of the vast differences from each other. (The mediums, but also the artists.) But while learning to create in a wide variety of media can be difficult, creating varying art in DALL-E is as easy as using a new medium in your prompt. Here are ten mediums you can use to fuel a wide range of new AI-generated art:
When one thinks of a classical fine art museum, oil painting is likely the first medium that springs to mind. Oil painting consists of pigments suspended in oil that are painted onto a canvas or wood panel. Because they are slow to dry and can be layered, oil paintings often have a depth of color and texture superior to many other mediums.
No wonder, then, that oil paintings have been the medium of choice for many of history’s greatest artists. And by using “oil painting” as a prompt in DALL-E, you can get a picture that may look like it belongs in a museum. If there’s a specific oil painter you’re hoping to emulate, it wouldn’t hurt to add their name to the prompt as well.
Many artists began painting using a small watercolor set, given that a water-based medium tends to be ideal for children. But don’t be fooled into thinking of watercolor as only a beginner’s medium; many practiced artists prefer it because the water is absorbed into the paper leaving just the pigments on the paper to present their truest colors.
Watercolors can easily be used to create a vast array of different colors and shades. By varying the ratio of water to pigment, the color saturation follows in kind. Watercolors also tend to bleed into each other rather than having sharp clear lines separating different regions, producing a calming, hazy feel. The most common subjects for watercolors are landscapes and nature scenes, but anyone wanting an illustration that looks handmade and fuzzy around the edges will enjoy using watercolor as a prompt.
Acrylics are a popular painting material, thanks to their fast-drying properties, their ability to be painted onto most any surface, and their strong static colors. Although acrylics can be layered like oil paints, they can also be mixed with water to create more of a watercolor appearance.
That said, acrylics are primarily used for bold and bright colors to make scenes pop off the page. Where watercolors are often used for landscapes that can fade into the background, acrylics are frequently used for bright foregrounds that draw in the eye.
If you’re looking for a fresh style for your illustration, why not consider a fresco? The word means “fresh” in Italian. In English, fresco refers to a mural painting which is done directly on plaster. This includes everything from wall paintings in ancient Egyptian tombs to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper.
There are a few different types of fresco. True frescos (aka “buon fresco”) are painted directly onto smooth fresh plaster to sink in before it dries, while dry frescos (aka “fresco secco”) are painted onto dry plaster with a binding agent and work best on a rough surface. Medium frescos (aka “mezzo fresco”) split the difference. As a prompt, any use of “fresco” will produce an intriguing wall painting.
If acrylics are known for bold colors, charcoal paintings are famous for subtle blacks and whites — and a lot of grays. Thick lines of black and white encourage the viewer to focus on form over a color palette. The contrast between light and shadow leads to distinctive pieces, which is why charcoal is often used for portraits and figure drawings.
Charcoal is a difficult material to work with, due to its propensity to smudge and flake. Conveniently, working with it in DALL-E is as easy as typing “charcoal” as part of your prompt. Along with pen and ink (see next section), charcoal is an ideal choice for a figure study in black and white.
Pen and ink
Pen and ink is traditionally a black and white art form (although colored inks can be used). Illustrations with pen and ink are high-contrast and are often used for portraits or figure studies of flora and fauna. The well-defined lines of a pen offer more precision than charcoal when it comes to drawing details. The flip side is that while charcoal is naturally used for shading, shading in pen and ink requires technique.
There are a few common shading techniques for pen-and-ink drawings: hatching (drawing many short parallel lines), cross-hatching (the aforementioned crossed by a perpendicular set of lines), and stippling (making a number of small dots). These each have a distinct look and feel, which you can experiment with by varying your “pen and ink” prompts to include specific techniques, such as “with stippling.”
Pastels often employ pigments similar to what’s used in oil paints, but one can also mix those pigments with chalk and a binder, for a result that’s akin to drawing with colored charcoal. Traditionally, pastels are drawn onto specialized pastel paper that will catch the chalk in its toothed grooves. This medium is surprisingly versatile, especially because there are different types of pastels.
Soft pastels are your traditional chalky pastels, good for vivid and blended colors. Hard pastels don’t blend as well, but create sharper lines with more precise borders. There are also oil pastels which produce works that look like oil paintings, and pan pastels that can produce art that looks like watercolors. In both cases, you’re probably better off just using oil paintings and watercolors as your prompts. But if you want the traditional blended look, there’s nothing quite like “soft pastels.”
Pencils are a great way to get some of the black and white contrast of a charcoal drawing, but with greater control and precision. Graphite pencils are commonly used for sketching and shading, using some of the same techniques as pen and ink such as hatching and crosshatching. Using “graphite pencil” as a prompt will likely return a more shaded artistic illustration in black and white.
But pencils don’t need to be monochrome. Color pencils mix colored pigments with oil or wax, so in addition to just adding color, they also have a different texture than graphite pencils, allowing for a wide variety of illustrations. Colored pencils can be used to create realistic illustrations, or just simple sketches, depending on the keywords used in your prompt.
The many types of markers that exist means that you can get surprisingly varied outputs by using “marker” as a prompt. Art markers (made specifically for art) are useful for those who want to approximate another medium. Acrylic markers have vibrant colors and clear lines just like acrylic paints, making them perfect for cartooning. Alcohol markers can blend more like watercolors and are well-suited for realistic scenes.
Try getting specific with a type of art marker. A prompt like “drawn in sharpie” will give you a roughly drawn picture with a marker that wasn’t meant for complex artistic drawings. And using whiteboard markers as a prompt may lead you to even simpler drawings for the purpose of illustrating an idea rather than trying to make a complex work of art.
Okay, fine art it usually isn’t. Crayons are much more likely to be used by a 7-year-old child than a renowned master artist. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from using crayons as a prompt for (at least) two reasons. First, just because something isn’t common, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. There is the occasional great work of art created in crayon, and it stands out all the more for using such an unconventional medium.
Secondly (and perhaps more importantly), not every occasion calls for fine art. Sometimes an illustration in crayon is just what the situation or mood requires. Although, if you want your crayon art to have that signature first-grade charm, you should probably include “child’s drawing” in your prompt.