Saturday, November 26, 2022

Illustrating Stories with Canva's AI Text to Image Tool

Artificial Intelligence continues to develop at an astonishing pace. What seemed like science fiction a year ago, is science fact today.

One area in particular is text-to-image tools. What I mean by that are tools where you provide a text description, and then the AI creates a new image based off of your text. It doesn't just find an image similar to what you wrote. It makes a brand new image that never existed before!

So far we have seen this done with AI tools such as Dall-E 2 or Google's Imagen.

Now this amazing technology is available right inside of Canva. If you aren't already using Canva, it is totally free for schools, and lets you and your students create images, presentations, videos, infographics, websites, and so much more.

This sounds like a wonderful way for students to bring their writing to life with original illustrations to go along with their stories, poems, and more. So I decided to use Canva's new AI-powered "Text to Image" tool to illustrate a funny poem I wrote.

See below for a video demonstration of this, detailed directions, and of course my final illustrated poem.

▶️ Tutorial Video (9 minutes)

🔑 Getting a Canva Account

First, if you do not have a Canva account yet, it is super easy to sign up. Anyone is allowed to get a free personal Canva account by signing up at:
A free personal account does not include access to the premium features, but there are still loads of free tools and content to use.

As an educator though, you are allowed to get a free "Canva for Education" account which does include all of the premium features. You can sign up for that here:

🚪 Accessing the "Text to Image" Tool

To access Canva's new AI-powered "Text to Image" tool, you just go to:

This will open the "Text to Image" launcher. You can get started by choosing "Use in existing design" or "Use in new design".

This will take you into the normal Canva workspace, but now with the "Text to Image" tool added to your side panel of tools.

⚙️ Using the "Text to Image" Tool

With the "Text to Image" tool selected, here's how you use it to generate images:
  • At the top you will see a box labeled "Describe the image you want to see".
  • In that box type your text prompt for the image you want generated.

Some examples that are listed in the tool include:
  • A panda riding a bike through a city with depth of field
  • A light watercolor painting of a koi fish in a pond
  • Photo of a magical forest city from the future

It can be difficult to precisely anticipate how the AI will interpret your text prompt, so you may need to try several times with different versions of your description.

One suggestion is to keep the grammar as simple and straightforward as possible, while still being as creative as you want with the content.

Next in the "Choose your style" section, you can select the style you would like for your generated image. The styles can include:
  • Photo
  • Drawing
  • 3D
  • Painting
  • Pattern
  • Concept art
  • Or Surprise me

Finally, click the "Generate Image" button to see what the AI creates.
  • You will now get four AI-generated images to pick from.
  • Any picture you click on will be added to your Canva project.
  • You can use as many of the images as you like.
  • If you want more images, or to use a different prompt, click the "Start again" button to begin the process again.

This tool does use a lot of processing power from Canva's servers, so at the moment there is a limit to how many times you can use the "Text to Image" tool in one day. When you hit that limit you will get an error message that reads "You have reached your image quota for the day."

🖼️ Example Images from Canva

In Canva's informational content about their new "Text to Image" tool, they provided several examples of images created from prompts, to show off what the tool can do. Some of these include:

Photo of a magical forest city from the future:

A panda riding a bike through the city with depth of field:

Heart balloons over the Himalayas:

A firefox in a forest standing up:

🐄 My Example - "The Third Cow"

For my example I decided to use Canva's "Text to Image" tool to illustrate a children's poem I wrote

The poem is titled "The Third Cow". It has some funny and unusual content, so it would be very difficult to simply do a Google image search for clipart that would fit the content. For example, it includes a rainbow-colored cow who drinks champagne, yodels, and is giant in size. It seemed like the perfect fit to have Canva's AI create custom illustrations for my unique poem.

When using the tool I experimented with lots of different prompts and styles to find the illustrations I liked best. I saved many more images that I ended up using.

Here is the final creation as a Canva presentation:
The Third Cow by Eric Curts

And I also downloaded the AI-generated images and added them to a Google presentation:

And I was able to use the Canva integration that is built right into Book Creator to pull everything easily into an online book with Book Creator:

🏁 Conclusion

In the end I was very pleased with the images Canva was able to create for my poem. There is no way I would have been able to find pictures that matched my content so well.

I can see this being a wonderful tool for student writing

One one hand students could use this to illustrate the things they have written, allowing them to create a media-rich version of their stories, poems, or other writings, which they can then share with others.

On the other hand, students could take ideas they have, use Canva's AI to generate images, and then get inspired by the unique pictures to guide their own writing.

We are finally beginning to see practical examples of how artificial intelligence can be used for teaching, learning, creativity, and communication in the classroom. I am excited to see how this technology continues to develop.

If you or your students create anything with this new tool, I would love to see what is made and to learn from you!

Post by Eric Curts
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