In the past few years, art made by programs like Midjourney and OpenAI’s DALL-E has gotten surprisingly compelling. These programs can translate a text prompt into literally (and controversially) award-winning art. As the tools get more sophisticated, those prompts have become a craft in their own right. And as with any other craft, some creators have started putting them up for sale.
PromptBase is at the center of the new trade in prompts for generating specific imagery from image generators, a kind of meta-art market. Launched earlier this summer to both intrigue and criticism, the platform lets “prompt engineers” sell text descriptions that reliably produce a certain art style or subject on a specific AI platform. When you buy the prompt, you get a string of words that you paste into Midjourney, DALL-E, or another system that you’ve got access to. The result (if it’s a good prompt) is a variation on a visual theme like nail art designs, anime pinups, or “futuristic succulents.”
The prompts are more complex than a few words of description. They include keywords describing the intended aesthetic, the important elements for a scene, and brackets where buyers can add their own variables to tailor the content. Something like the nail art design might include the positions of the hands, the angle of the pseudo-photographic shot, and instructions for tweaking the prompt to produce different manicure styles and themes. PromptBase takes a 20 percent commission, and prompt writers retain ownership of their work — although the copyright status of AI art and prompts is largely untested waters.