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zenElan: AI Art Creation Tips From a Top NightCafe Artist

With the rise in popularity of AI art creation which was kicked off by Open AI DALL-E in 2021, more and more people are turning to their search engines for answers on how to generate amazing artificial intelligence artwork. Googling is the easy part; it's finding good answers to those questions where things can get tough. The internet is inundated with article after article about AI art, but no tips on how to create beautiful masterpieces!

NightCafe wants to help.

As an AI art creation platform, we don’t want our website to be a one way operation. We see how important it is to make this knowledge available to AI artists like you. So, we’re starting an artist spotlight! We hope that by regularly conducting Q&A’s with top NightCafe artists we will help to bring those once gatekept secrets to the masses!

Today we kick off the artist spotlight with none other than NightCafe user zenElan! He’s known by many for his otherworldly pieces and frequents our explore page. Read below to see what he has to say about his favorite modifiers, NightCafe itself, and the future of AI art creation.

Wanderer, by NightCafe artist zenElan

NC: Are there any tips/tricks you’d like to give artists just starting out on NightCafe or AI art in general?

ZE: Adopt the position of learning a new tool. It's common to start by randomly throwing words together just to see what comes back which is a great place to start, but if you want to go deeper recognize that you have an incredibly powerful tool in front of you. The basic modifiers that are provided are great entry point. Learn what works and why. Recognize the changes by adding just one modifier. Keep creations simple, subject matter + style. Then start combining modifiers knowingly. Eventually throw an artist into the mix, like "Thomas Kinkade" or "James Gurney". Once you add artists, new worlds become available. Then start combining artists… that’s where the fun happens.  

Overgrown Marble Statue

Overgrown Marble Statue

NC: What got you started as an artist on NightCafe?

ZE: [It] all started as a double-take. I noticed a picture while scrolling on Reddit and had to scroll back knowing something wasn't quite right. It was a piece of AI art. The caption confirmed what I saw, yet the details were way off. It was uncanny... And also hilarious, 'Randy Savage shopping at Ikea' or something like that.

This 'double-take' happened another half dozen times over a week or so. Finally decided to browse the subreddit itself, which happened to be NightCafe. I was intrigued, and horrified. And also hooked. Most of the creations were surreal abominations and some were absolutely hilarious. I couldn't believe that it was all generated through AI. A week later or so it happened again, this time it was an AI generation of Heaven. It was beautiful. I followed the link in the comments which led to the NightCafe website and from there my first creation “Ablutions” [was] made with the simple text prompt “heaven and fountains”. 



NC: What are some of your favorite modifiers to use in your text prompts? Why?

ZE: I used to be a photographer so find myself playing with modifiers as if playing with photography gear. "Bokeh" provides depth and "panorama" is like a wide angle lens. If too wide I drop the weight as if changing the "focal length" of the lens. Even "telephoto", "fisheye lens" and "time-lapse" works. "Colorful" is great, but even better specifying a color palette, "Colorful, mostly reds, purples, blues and black". “Hyperdetailed” often returns creations looking as if they are already upscaled, though if a creation comes back too “noisy”, the modifier “cel-shaded” or “polished” with a low weight cleans things up nice. Some favorite combinations that are fun to play with are “art nouveau rococo architecture” & "film noir, synthwave, glowing neon". Lastly, when in doubt... "eldritch". It works every time. It's interesting to approach AI art with both what you see and how you see it. 

Brain trust

Brain Trust

NC: Do you use start images? If so, what are your requirements for a good start image?

ZE: I have no hard and fast rules. Sometimes I'll start blank using VQGAN+CLIP and evolve that creation with CLIP-Guided diffusion. Often I'll browse free images looking for a particular color and structure. I do have a handful of basic starting images with a simple color palette that defines the space and works no matter the subject matter. I suggest everyone find a handful of something similar and keep as “styles”. 

NC: What inspires your work most?

ZE: The continual process of discovery and re-discovery. Even though the idea is there of what I want to see, I have never said to myself "that turned out exactly as planned". It’s a fascinating non-linear process that takes a life of its own driven by experimentation and curiosity. I'll notice a particular element within a creation that I had not expected and then expand on it by taking it into a new direction. Or take that new element or modifier and expand on a previous creation. Other times I’ll be reading a book and come across a string of words that combine in a way that I’ll write down to explore later as a text-prompt. Other times I’ll be inspired by other artists. It’s an endless playground. 

Natural Surreal Sculptures

Natural Surreal Sculptures LV

NC: Do you have a background in art?

ZE: Just photography.

NC: What role do you think AI art has in society?

ZE: Hard to say at this point. I think we're all learning as we go and how it fits within a larger context. NightCafe makes AI art easily available for anyone to jump in with near instant feedback of the creative process. Though they may not immediately recognize how powerful the tool is, with enough time everyone zeros-in on a particular style to express themselves that is unique to them like a thumbprint. From there that style is continually refined it, explored and expanded upon.

Through AI art we also change our engagement process with the digital space and our time spent online. It brings people back together by renewing that sense of wonder the internet had before social media, thought maintains the element of sharing and community. I’ve often said NightCafe is the most fun I’ve had online in 20 years. No question. Will be interesting to see where this goes from here.

Tales from the hunt

Tales from the hunt

NC: Pick one: Coherent or artistic creation setting??? Why?

ZE: 'Artistic' is fun and much more forgiving. Though my approach has always been to reign in the AI as much as possible. Coherent lets me do that considerably more than artistic. The results are jaw-dropping, and straight lines are actually possible! That said 'coherent' can also go off the rails quickly with too many modifiers. Less is more. It's also less predictable which adds an element of 'luck' into the equation. Though I don’t see this as a negative, it only enhances the curiosity and sense of discovery while carefully crafting and hunting for something that makes the algorithm sing.

We had a blast putting together this informative Q&A and we hope you learned just as much as we did! Hopefully these AI art tips and tricks are clear enough that you are able to apply them to your every day generative art process. We know AI art generation is here to stay. The demand for it will only increase, and with that the hunger for more knowledge about it will too! Beautiful AI art should be accessible to everyone because creation is part of being human. 

Please feel free to reach out to us with any other questions you may have regarding generating AI art!

Click here to browse zenElan's creations, and follow along with their AI art creation journey. 

For more artist spotlights, why not check out our interview with Jazzygirl111 where she tells us her secrets to create detailed AI Art. Also check out our tips for better neural style transfer AI art.

We hope to see your art, too!

Create jaw-dropping art in seconds with AI

This is the most fun I've had on the internet in a long long time

u/DocJawbone on Reddit

Fun Fast Free


  • i love the way you discoverd night cafe i discovered it from the internet just like you i love this story

  • I wish there were more people giving expert tips on NightCafe. I see a lot of comments about Midjourney, but not so much about NightCafe. Even after 400 + published images I have trouble getting images I desire. I try different ‘weights’ to words, I try simplying, I try making it complex, I try adding artist names, but sometimes it doesn’t pick up on even half the keywords, let alone the artist’s names – and there isn’t a single YouTuber that can explain why this happens or how to fix it. It’s incredibly frustrating. I’ve been trying to learn the ins-and-outs of NightCafe since I joined, and I’m still to this day left confused as to what works and what doesn’t.

  • Thanks zenElan and Night Cafe Creator’s creator :) this has indeed been the most fun Ive had recently online or using this computer for the most part since open source fractal generators like Apophysis…I wonder if somehow I could incorporate that and these prompts? Sorry side-tracked like the manic computer geek I used to be…it is fun to be inspired enough to rabbit hole a bit again…wow…

    Thanks for the ideas and the tools to cruise…

  • Does anyone know if the commas zenElan discusses around “colourful” helps the algorithm ‘sense’ our intention better or break the prompts up more?

  • First time try night cafe studio creator, since every google collab notebook i’ve tried does not run smooth in laptop, and with this i can access with android and create AI Art.
    Anyway, thank you for suggestion, and for those who have similar problem, then, you can try use Night Cafe


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