Why Dall-e’s AI is not ready for prime-time publishing, a frustrating story of wasted time and credits

When all HOPE is lost! Despite repeated requests and revisions, begging Dall-e to give us an image of “the word HOPE with butterflies flying in the sky,” the AI refused to show the full word. Then, as if the software was getting mad at those fluttering butterflies, Dall-e began smearing the butterflies across the image as though they’d been smashed on a windshield. Yes, those pink and blue blobs in the center of this image once were graceful butterflies. After repeated requests and revisions, we gave up!

10 Dall-e AI Dead Ends that Burned Up Our Free Credits

Ever since Dall-e was offered for “beta” use as a generator of “art,” our publishing house team has been experimenting with the software, primarily for illustrations we could use in our weekly online magazine, ReadTheSpirit.com

We appreciated that Dall-e encouraged us to experiment with a limited quantity of free credits, adding a few more each month. What we didn’t realize was: If we had paid for those credits, we would have been disgruntled customers! 

For all of our efforts over many months, Dall-e did produce a half dozen quality illustrations we have used in our online magazine. However, this service is hardly ready for prime-time professional publishing! Even the handful of illustrations we used had their flaws and mostly we burned up our staff time and the “free credits” Dall-e gave us in frustrated wrestling matches with the AI software.

This column simply shares a sampling of the not-ready-for-prime-time results of our extensive efforts to tame Dall-e and make its inner-AI artist produce something worthy of publishing.

And, just to be clear: We had prepared this column before all the news stories began breaking about text-AI’s haywire “personality,” including this one from The Washington Post that went viral on Thursday.

No, we don’t think Jesus is scary! Surprisingly, this illustration came from a series of requests asking Dall-e to create “a stained glass window with Jesus in the desert” for a recent column in our magazine about that theme. Not only is there no desert in this stained glass window, but this Jesus’s eyes are likely to scare anyone away. Once again, we finally gave up on Dall-e and, instead, selected a Wikimedia Commons photograph of the real desert where Jesus spent 40 days.
Maybe this priest switched to a Sharpie marker on Ash Wednesday? Dall-e supposedly was built from a vast database of images from around the world, but somebody forgot to include images of common religious rituals! We repeatedly asked Dall-e to show us images of people with an ash cross placed on their forehead at an Ash Wednesday. And, yes, we tried a variety of different terms and phrases to help Dall-e succeed with this query. But we never found a single use-able image. This one looks like a frustrated priest might have switched to using his wide-tipped Sharpie marker instead of ashes on a fingertip. Perhaps he was thinking: At least this one won’t wash off!
Say what!?! It’s not just Christian traditions that baffle Dall-e. We burned up a bunch of credits trying to convince Dall-e to create a useable Chinese New Year illustration for our online magazine. Not only are some of the body parts crazy in this illustration, but Dall-e added gobbledygook! We have no idea what language Dall-e was trying to summon in painting a yellow holiday greeting across this version. After a long frustrating struggle, we finally got Dall-e to create an illustration of a New Year lion dancer that was clear enough to display.
Maybe it’s “PIECES” on the earth? We have all but given up on trying to have Dall-e add words to illustrations after a wrestling match over illustrations of “peace on earth” for a New Year’s issue of our magazine. Given that AI is pretty literal, this example from that long session shows how Dall-e thought about “Peace on Earth” as literally slapping some peace-themed labels on the planet Earth. Perhaps that version of “PAAC—” is “peace” in some language we don’t recognize? (Plus, there’s another a fatal error here: If you even closely at our planet, you’ll discover the continents are jumbled!)
Ever try to carve pumpkins while taking LSD? But seriously—we actually wanted a colorful, family friendly Halloween illustration of carved pumpkins lined up on someone’s front porch. We never mentioned hallucinogens in our request, but Dall-e apparently got carried away with the eerie spirit of the holiday! Seeing how these carvings progress, would you dare to knock on this front door? (Of course, if you look closely, the design of the door is helter-skelter as well and is blocked by the pumpkins themselves.)
And speaking of psychedelics! For a column about the beloved TV artist Bob Ross, we asked Dall-e a half dozen different ways to give us an illustration of Bob Ross painting some of his famous fluffy clouds. We began to suspect that Dall-e has a bad temper, because by this attempt, Dall-e slashed off Bob Ross’s left hand and began scribbling gibberish above his head. That’s when we gave up on this one.
Don’t you hate it when someone leaves their gum in your favorite Haggadah!?! This was part of a failed attempt to convince Dall-e to give us an illustration for Passover. Every time we adjusted our request or tried to revise the illustrations, we wound up with bizarre twists! This one was especially disgusting as this poor Jewish woman clearly has a big wad of gum stuck on her finger and a book that is supposed to be a Haggadah. (Beyond that: Not only is the gum gross, but we’ve never seen a Haggadah that looks like that object Dall-e generated. If you examine it closely, the “book” is bizarrely hacked into chunks.)
We call this one The Snail in the Shofar! When we tried to generate illustrations for the Jewish High Holy Days, Dall-e acted like it had never seen a real shofar! We got all kinds of bizarre images. And, of course, shofars do vary widely in their color, shape and size. Still, this one seems to have a giant snail crawling out of the shofar. We were so “weirded-out” at this point that we gave up and used some of the high-res photography available in Wikimedia Commons.


Finally, shocking but true! We were preparing a column for our online magazine about a family running to catch a train during a European tour. And, no, our readers never saw any of Dall-e’s ridiculous imagery. The most common flaws were that the family members sometimes had three legs or no heads. But this one was so shocking we gave up. By this version, the family’s poor little daughter gets sucked up under the wheels of the train. Horrors!


About David Crumm

David Crumm is founding Editor of Front Edge Publishing. Nationally, he is known as a veteran journalist—a top writer and editor—with experience both in the U.S. and overseas. He is based in Canton, Michigan, where he also serves as Editor of Read the Spirit online magazine. His columns on trends in media appear twice a month on our Front Edge Publishing website.

Sign up for Front Edge Publishing blog updates!

Please refer to our privacy policy (written in plain English) for information on how we handle your personal data. The section on subscription forms applies to this form.


Thank You!

The Front Edge blog discusses new developments in publishing and technology every Monday morning. Grab a cup of coffee and join us! Make sure to add info@frontedgepublishing to your address book to stay up to date.

Check out the authors and publishers powered by Front Edge Publishing in our bookstore.