5 AI graphic design tools for small business marketing

A little while ago, we wrote a piece all about ChatGPT, and its potential to revolutionise the way small businesses produce content. The world of AI innovation has only expanded since, with tools available for everything from maths to computer coding – and image creation.

In this piece, we’ll explore five AI design tools that could offer your small business a cost-effective, timely way of creating marketing graphics.

Bear in mind that all generative AI is based on the principle of learning from what it has seen before, and that the tools have all been “trained” on different styles and examples, so for something truly original, some human input may still be needed. This might be a graphic designer adding some finishing touches to your creation, or starting with your AI-generated image and customising it in a program like Canva.

Let’s dive in and look at 6 different generative AI image tools. You’ll see we’ve also included example images from each of them, based on the exact same basic prompt (the words used to describe the image you want) allowing you to compare and contrast.  

Just keep in mind that some tools are better for some image types than others, so it’s by no means a scientific test!

The prompt we used was: A photograph of a dalmatian with a red bib eating a pizza set at a wooden table” (and yes – we know it’s a stupid pointless image to generate!)

 

Canva

Yes, we just said this is what you’d maybe use for manual design work, but Canva has AI capabilities baked in. Its Magic Design tool, which is free and in Beta mode, offers you a selection of templates for AI image creation. You can upload your own images/ graphics or start from scratch, and it will create the graphics you ask it for in the format you need.  This image created by Canva simply used the AI “Text to Image” app, which again can be added to Canva’s free version.

 

Dall-E 2

Dall-E 2 is an AI that creates images from your text descriptions: you literally just type what you want to see, and watch it come to life!  “Dall E” is from OpenAI, the same company that’s behind ChatGPT, and you can be sure of some rapid advancements to their system in the near future.  Currently, you can play with Dall-E 2 for free with some usage limitations, and as well as generating new images from text based prompts, it can also perform “outpainting” – extending an existing image beyond the original canvas borders.  

 

Midjourney

This is another text-prompt AI generator that has become popular, but regrettably, it doesn’t even offer a free trial.  You’ll need to pay the monthly fee (starting at $10/month) and for ‘newbies’ there’s a bit of a learning curve getting to grips with Discord (the geeky tool you have to use to generate your images).  Once up and running, you start your prompt with a forward slash and the word ‘imagine’, then prompt it for what you want it to create, e.g. /imagine a cat travelling into space. It will offer a selection of four images, and you can select the ones you want it to refine further until you get the image that matches your mind’s eye.  

Some of the most impressive and realistic AI images that have gone viral recently (did you see the Pope in his puffer jacket on the news?) have come from Midjourney, so it’s worth a look if you’re willing to pay, and learn how to use it properly.

 

Leonardo

Originally targeted at gaming artists, Leonardo promises the ability to “craft worlds in minutes, not months”, and it’s fast becoming a free alternative to Midjourney. Capable of producing some amazing AI art, you can also train their model with your own existing assets or mood boards to help it produce new material in your desired company style. The free version does have some limitations, but there’s more than enough there to allow you to have a good play, and generate your own characters, scenes, logos, stickers and more.

 

Adobe FireFly 

Designed to integrate with Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications, FireFly is a new beta-mode AI built into Photoshop. Some of the capability is also present in the free Adobe Express tool. In addition to text-to-image, it offers features such as generative fill (removing or adding objects and backgrounds), text effects, generative recolour (creating colour variations from a text prompt), and ‘extend image’ (currently only available in Photoshop). 

The stand-alone version which anyone can currently use for free (just create an Adobe login) is impressive, with consistently strong images created with the “Text to Image” tool, and very accurate ‘inpainting’ allowing you to make changes to parts of your image (their own example being to change someone’s suit jacket, to a denim jacket)

 

Image generated from ChatGPT (using the Dalle-3 system) of a dalmation dog at the dinner table eating pizza.Dall-E 3 (Part of ChatGPT)

Users of ChatGPT’s premium subscription (version 4 priced at $20/month) can now take advantage of OpenAI’s latest upgrade to it’s Dall-E image creation software, with DALL·E 3 now built into the ChatGPT interface.  Using natural language, all users now need to do is ask for an image (with no clever image prompting now required).

By default, ChatGPT will serve up just 1 image at a time, but you can ask it for more, and unlike some of the other (more technical tools), you can request changes just by describing them (in a similar fashion to how you’d work with a designer).


Gary’s verdict: which AI tool creates the best graphics for small businesses?

Each of the six tools we’ve showcased are good for different things, and the best tool for you depends on what you’re creating, and how much you’re willing to spend.  

For me, Midjourney is a winner, but it comes at a cost.  And in the examples above, I would say it’s well above the others, with either Leonardo and Dall-E3 (ChatGPT) a close second place.  However, this is based on just one type of image. 

For cartoons, logos, illustrations, fantasy art, wireframes, web design mockups, product concepts, and other use cases, you might find another tool is even better. Start trying them out, and see how you get on! 

For more help with your digital marketing and how AI can help, get booked onto one of our AI for small business webinars, or talk to our team about our 1-2-1 consultancy and training.

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