NovelAI Image Generation Review & Guide (2023) Best Anime Generator?





NovelAI has 2 main features: an AI story writer, which we have reviewed in-depth here and an AI anime image generator, also known as NAI Diffusion.

Key Points

What I loved about NovelAI:

  • Fast generation times
  • Slick, easy-to-use interface
  • Inpainting feature works well
  • Image-to-image is powerful and adds a lot of potential to your generations.
  • Control Tools offer very powerful fine-tuned control over image-to-image generations

What I didn't like:

  • There is no "unlimited" plan. You can see your Anlas dwindling the entire time, which makes me less inclined to experiment.
  • Lack of versatility: NovelAI creates a distinctly recognizable style
  • Prompting learning curve: It takes a while to learn what prompts learn better, and you have to consult prompt guides.

Since its release, the anime AI generator has blown up in popularity, with commentators joking that users have abandoned the story generator for the anime image generator.

There's truth to the memes: in the NovelAI Discord and NovelAI subreddit, we noticed that image generation posts are much more popular than text generation posts.

While you can try the AI story writer for free, you'll have to pay to use the AI anime art generator.

That's why we're going to help you take an in-depth look at NovelAI's Anime capabilities, before deciding if you want to purchase a subscription.

We're going to show you the results it can get, and compare it to alternatives like Niji Journey (Midjourney) so you can decide it if NovelAI is worth it.

Key Features

Here are the key features of the NovelAI image generator:

  • Text-to-image generation: input a phrase called a 'prompt' and the AI will generate an image for you
  • Create variations of generations and increase their resolution
  • Image-to-image generation: upload an image (or use a previously generated one). to generate a new image.
  • Inpainting: Paint over a part of the image and regenerate it

First Impressions

We're using Opus, the $25/month plan since we wanted to get an idea of NovelAI's full capabilities.

NovelAI's new generation interface

There are 3 models to choose from right off the bat:

  • NAI Diffusion Anime (Curated): Good baseline quality and predictable subject matter. Recommended for streaming.
  • NAI Diffusion Anime (Full): The expanded training set allows for a wider variety of generations.
  • NAI Diffusion Furry: Model for furry and other non-human content.

Here's a comparison of all 3:

Here's the prompt I used:

ultra detailed, best quality, amazing, 1girl, small breast, finely detail, depth of field, extremely detailed CG unity 8k wallpaper, masterpiece, mature style, androgynous, {short red hair}, {{heterochromia}}, sharp eyes, floating hair, light shafts, soft focus, character focus, disheveled hair, flowing hair, floating, noble dress, luxurious library, writer

I didn't want to spend much time learning the settings, I just wanted to generate images. So I started typing:

novelai autocomplete

There's a cool autocomplete function: these are the actual tags the model has been trained on, with the tags at the top being the ones the model has the most knowledge of.

That's to say: you don't have to stay stick with the tags, but if you do, it's more likely you'll get quality generations.

The tags are also great to browse when you need some extra inspiration or ideas.

obeQoHm Imgur
And there's my first image! Prompt: magical girl, masterpiece portrait, purple eyes


The actual generation is fast, taking around 4 seconds for a 512 x 768 image.

You get a couple of options in the toolbar above images after you generate:

  • Enhance: Re-generates the image at a higher resolution
  • Variations (cost Anlas): Generate 3 new variations that are similar to the base image
  • Upscale: Increase the resolution of the image
  • Use as Base Image: use as the base image for image-to-image generation
  • Edit image: Basic limited paint over image functionality
  • Inpaint image: paint over (mask) a section of the image, then regenerate it


Enhance passes a selected images through NovelAI a second time, and you can tweak the prompt that goes with it. This is ideal if you like your image but want to change some aspect of it.

You have a couple of options to set:

  • Strength: How much the image will be changed. Higher strength = more change.
  • Noise: How much detail the new image should have. Higher noise = more detail.
  • Magnitude: A combined stat for Strength & Noise
  • Upscale amount: How much to increase the resolution of your enhanced image

Enhancing costs quite a bit of Anlas: 20 Anlas when you turn up Strength to the maximum

I found that the "new text prompt" part of enhancing did not work very well. This is what happens when you enhance:

Frame 176 1

You can see that higher strength creates more variation, and that higher noise must be paired with higher strength to work, or you will get unintended noise effects.

It seems like enhancing is an ideal feature for when you want to create new images that are similar to the original.

Users have reported getting higher quality images by not using NovelAI's upscaler, but saving the image at 1x (original size) and using a different upscaler.

Waifu2x is a commonly recommended anime image upscaler. (Many websites with the same name, but the Japanese website is the only official one. You can change the language to English:


You can generate 3 new variations if you like the base image, but want to see other versions.

Magicalgirl masterpiece
Using the Variations feature

You can repeat this process infinitely: select one of the variations you make, and create new variations based off of that one until you get something you like. Keep an eye on your Anlas though.

Variations cost 16-18 Anlas to generate.

Use as Base Image

Uses your image for image-to-image generation.

This will generate new images using your base image as a starting point. You can control the impact of the base image with a Strength slider (counterintuitively, the higher Strength, the lower the impact of the Base Image.

Compare these images that use the above Base Image that use a new prompt with "black hair":

Edit Image

I thought this feature was going to re-generate the image with whatever I drew on top of it, making a beautiful new artwork.

It is actually a standard editor with limited brush options. I was quite disappointed, until I realized the true benefit of this feature was making quick edits that you can use for image-to-image generations.

Inpaint Image

This feature lets you paint over certain parts of images and re-generate them:

Control Tool for Image-to-image

One of the most underrated features in NovelAI is Control Tool.

Control Tools use the ControlNet technology to "control" different parts of the image when you are doing image-to-image generation.

Palette Swap

Creates an outline of the subject that lets you swap colors:

Form Lock

Keep the layout and general form of the subject, change the content.


For intended use on sketches & scribbles. Turn them into art!

Building control

Create new buildings and rooms.

using Building Control


Use input image to inspire a new landscape.

using Building Control

Generating Better Images (Prompting)

Here's some tips on making the most of your generations.

We have an entire guide on better prompts.

Quality Tags

If you've spent any time in the Discord you'll see that everyone puts "masterpiece" in their prompts. This is because it works. It makes the model pull from higher quality images with better art and better compositions.

We recommend you create a string of tags that can generate a style you love consistently.

Here's an example, feel free to try it:

{{masterpiece}}, {{ultra detailed}}, {ultra quality}, {dramatic shadows}, {cinematic lighting}, intricate expression, 
Frame 180

You can see in this image, the image is nice without any additional descriptors, only the subject. But when you add the descriptors it really pops!

Curly braces such as: {masterpiece} make the tags stronger. You can add multiple curly braces, to push the strength of tags up and down relative to each other.

Square braces such as: [bad anatomy] make the tags weaker. You can add multiple square brackets.

Here are some common descriptors to add to your images to beautify them in different ways:

  • masterpiece
  • cinematic lighting
  • cinematic angle
  • dramatic lighting
  • dramatic angle
  • ultra detailed
  • intricate details
  • beautiful
  • intricate expression

NovelAI VS Midjourney: Which is Better?

Midjourney's Niji Mode is one of the best anime generators out there.

So how does it compare to NovelAI?

Compare these images that use the same (or very similar) prompts:

Midjourney is definitely "sharper" and more "illustrative".

You can see the 2 models will sometimes focus on different things. I always find NovelAI's subject matter to be less predictable than that of Midjourney.

Midjourney does not have any features that are comparable to Control Tools, which give you an unprecedented level of control over your generations.

Ultimately this comes down to personal preference.

Which style do you like better?

Comparing Plans

See: NovelAI pricing and plans comparison.

We recommend the Tablet $10/month to get started, and the Opus $25/month plan if you decide you would like to continue.

Why? The Opus plan comes with 10x the Anlas of the Tablet plan (10000 compared to 1000). For the enthusiast it's definitely worth it.


To summarize, what I loved about NovelAI:

  • Fast generation times
  • Slick, easy-to-use interface
  • Inpainting feature is well done
  • Control Tools offer very powerful fine-tuned control over image-to-image generations

What I didn't like:

  • There is no "unlimited" plan. You can see your Anlas dwindling the entire time, which makes me less inclined to experiment.
  • Lack of versatility: NovelAI creates a distinctly recognizable style, but it's more difficult to move beyond this style.

Many people are concerned about burning through their Anlas by experimenting. This is especially true if they're on the lower plans and only have ~200 generations/month.


Can you generate images on NovelAI for free?

No, the image generation feature is subscriber only. The cheapest subscription is the Tablet subscription, at $10/mo. You can however, look into alternate methods to run the NovelAI model.

Is NovelAI worth buying for the image generation feature?

For $10 a month, the image generation feature will give you 1000 Anlas. This is more than enough to learn the ropes of generation and get many high-quality images. It's easy to use and the interface is buttery smooth. Even as a test, it's definitely worth it.

How does NovelAI image generation work?

NovelAI uses a custom Stable Diffusion model under the hood. It works by starting with an image of random noise, then gradually "pushing" that image towards your prompt until there is no noise left. All of this happens within seconds.

What is the most realistic AI image generator?

Depending on the latest update, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion are neck-to-neck in terms of having the highest levels of realism for image generation.

What model does the NovelAI image generator use?

The NovelAI image generator uses a proprietary model called NAI Diffusion. It's a re-architected version of the Stable Diffusion V1.4 model.

How many images is NovelAI's NAI Diffusion trained on?

NAI Diffusion is trained on about two billion images from the LAION dataset (~150TB).

Awesome free stuff? Why yes, we do have that...

Midjourney V5 Prompt Book: Fantasy & Worldbuilding

94-pages, 200+ prompts and techniques for creating the heroes and lost worlds of your imagination.

2 thoughts on “NovelAI Image Generation Review & Guide (2023) Best Anime Generator?”

  1. how do I use the “NovelAI Diffusion”? I keep hearing it’s out but I can’t actually DO anything so it’s just a useless ad! if I can’t find the image generator than its existence doesn’t matter. I’ve seen people us it online, why can I not FIND IT!!!!


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