Discover your visual style using one word in Midjourney

Develop your brand aesthetic starting with just one word in Midjourney

By Nate Kadlac

By Nate Kadlac

By Nate Kadlac

using Midjourney to discover your visual style
using Midjourney to discover your visual style
using Midjourney to discover your visual style
using Midjourney to discover your visual style

Learning a new skill requires an appreciation for what's come before.

Kevin Garnett and Lebron James entered the NBA as high schoolers with an internet-sized index of knowledge of the Hall of Famers who came before them.

Filmmaker Quentin Tarintino often stylizes his films and produces musical scores that pay respect to his own influences.

They all have studied the output of another's work, learned from it, and remixed it with their own taste.

When I teach people how to draw, I often reference this tweet about why copying is the quickest way to learn. (And the history behind copy shaming)

Copying the work of another is like eating a mushroom in Super Mario. It’s the quickest way to level up.

AI-image tools like Midjourney can take any image and reveal the prompts behind it. This provides a better understanding of one's own visual style.

How I use Midjourney to discover my visual style

Note: Before we dig in, Meta just released their latest concept of AI-powered Ray-Bans this past week, which will likely do everything I’m about to explain just by looking at something. OpenAI is also rolling out image capabilities soon—but for now—let’s do this in Midjourney!

Let’s imagine you are standing in a store and a pattern from a slice of wallpaper caught your attention.

Wallpaper design

If you’re not an art history major, you'll likely lack the vocabulary to articulate what you love about it.

Most of us will squint and say, “This looks cool. I like the droopy pink flower tentacles.”

To try and recreate this in Midjourney*, you would normally type, "/imagine" and add your two second description of this image.

Using "/imagine" is the default way many people start out. It's an empty text field forcing you to think up an infinite amount of options.

*Tip: If you have never tried Midjourney, check out their docs for full instructions.

Midjourney prompt field

In about 30 seconds, you might get returned something much better than you anticipated. Like this:

Midjourney results

Not bad!

Now, you just need to refine using your high school grade art vocabulary to figure out where to take this.

Doable, but frustrating.

How to use the "Describe" function

Instead of starting from scratch, let's go back to the empty input field in Midjourney.

This time, type “/describe” into the field.

Midjourney empty prompt field

Once you hit enter, you’ll be greeted with a file upload button.

Now upload the photo into Midjourney and wait another 30 seconds.

upload image field

Like magic, MidJourney takes its Kevin Garnett-like IQ of everything that came before it so it can distill it down into simple and descriptive words you and I both can understand.

It's reverse engineering the image into text.

And instead of one, it gives us four options to be exact.

Four Midjourney prompts

Now, you can click the button “Imagine All” button and it will create four images based on the above prompts it just deconstructed for us.

Midjourney Imagine All

And now, I have recreated four images from the text prompt Midjourney already revealed to us.

Midjourney Results

Expand your curiosity

The goal isn’t to find an exact replica of our original, but to give us some visual hooks into an aesthetic we love.

It’s like looking in the references of your favorite book to find another unexpected trail of recommended books, or following the cinematic influences of your favorite director.

The first step is to pick one of the groupings of images, and then go back to the desired prompt and look at what influenced it.

For instance, I’m drawn to this visual style. It's close to our original but it's surfacing some new ideas I hadn't thought about before.

Midjourney Results sample

If I look back into the text prompt for this series, I can do some more exploring based on what was used.

  • William Malcolm custom fabric

  • Gaudy and grotesque

  • Renaissance inspired Chiascuro

  • Flowing surrealism

Honestly I never would have come up with these words to describe the original, and so I've just been given some new ways to communicate my style.

These might inform my style if I want to go back to Midjourney, but I’m normally more interested in some unexpected combinations. For example, I never would have thought I would be drawn to Flowing Surrealism in a gaudy and grotesque style!

Suddenly I have a few more words to describe my own interests and aesthetics, pulled directly from a sample wallpaper image I found in a store.

Now, if I ever want to develop a new brand aesthetic for a client, choose colors, design YouTube thumbnails, or explore my own visual style, I can use a single photo to make more timeless design decisions from my own visual curiosity.

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