Midjourney vs. Stable Diffusion: Which one is the best?

Midjourney wins by a long shot

By Matic Broz, the editor-in-chief with 10+ years of experience with design, stock media and licensing, and photography.

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Midjourney vs. Stable Diffusion

Midjourney and Stable Diffusion are two of the three most popular AI image generators currently available (with the third one being DALL E2).

Which one is better?

The main difference between Midjourney and Stable Diffusion is that Midjourney produces much higher quality and more realistic images, while Stable Diffusion is open-source and free.

Midjourney vs. Stable Diffusion: Key specs

MidjourneyStable Diffusion
Cost$8–$60 per monthFree
Free trialYes
Image quality4.5/5.03.0/5.0
Ease of use4.0/5.04.5/5.0
Model variations81,000+
Negative promptsYesYes
Image promptsYesYes

Midjourney vs. Stable Diffusion: Image quality

Midjourney 5.1 vs Stable Diffusion SDXL BETA
Stable Diffusion SDXL BETA (left) vs. Midjourney 5.1 (right) (Image credit: Matic Broz)

The most important factor to consider when exploring new AI art generators is the quality of their output. This can be further divided into several additional factors: resolution, sharpness, and how realistic the images are.

Midjourney boasts a lineup of eight models: versions 1 to 5, version 5.1, and Niji versions 4 and 5. With each new release, Midjourney delivers increasingly realistic and high-resolution images. In fact, the latest Midjourney 5.1 is often indistinguishable from real-life photographs. However, the quality of output still relies heavily on the prompts you provide.

One notable drawback of Midjourney images is their cinematic feel, which can be circumvented with carefully crafted prompts. Including terms like “photo,” “photography,” and “realistic” generally yields more true-to-life results.

On the other hand, Stable Diffusion generates lower-resolution and less realistic images compared to Midjourney. However, it’s essential to note that generalizing Stable Diffusion’s performance is challenging, given its open-source nature has led to thousands of tweaked and retrained models.

As such, our comparison is based on the most popular Stable Diffusion models tested, including versions 1.5 and 2.1, Automatic1111, and SDXL BETA. Despite the multitude of Stable Diffusion models available, none surpass Midjourney 5.1 in terms of image quality and realism.

Midjourney vs. Stable Diffusion: Cost

In short, Midjourney is not free, and Stable Diffusion is free. But there are caveats.

Midjourney offers three subscription tiers: Basic, Standard, and Pro. The Basic plan costs $10 per month with an annual subscription or $8 with a monthly subscription. Meanwhile, the Standard plan is priced at $24/$30 and the Pro plan at $48/$60. Each plan varies in the GPU time provided, ranging from 3.3 hours/month to 30 hours/month. To give you a rough idea, processing one image consumes approximately 1 minute of CPU time.

Additionally, Midjourney sometimes offers a free trial, providing 0.4 hours of CPU time, equivalent to roughly 25 images. However, the availability of the free trial fluctuates, as they aim to prevent exploitation through the creation of multiple accounts.

On the other hand, Stable Diffusion is an open-source project with thousands of forks created and shared on HuggingFace. But it’s worth noting that superior models, such as the SDXL BETA, are not available for free.

Midjourney vs. Stable Diffusion: Ease of use

The hardest part of using Stable Diffusion is finding the models online. You can look for them on HuggingFace or download them from Civit.ai, but using these needs some coding know-how. Each website with Stable Diffusion has its own look and often asks you to make a free or paid account.

Using Midjourney is easier if you know how to use Discord. First, you need to make a free Discord account and join the Midjourney Discord server.

To use Midjourney on Discord, you just type your ideas in the chat, like “/imagine a cat wearing a bow.” But if you want more control, you can add details to your idea. You can change things like negative prompts, the shape of the picture, the quality, the models, and more.

Once you learn how to do this, using Midjourney can be really fun, and feel like you’re discovering something new.


How does the cost of Midjourney compare to Stable Diffusion?

Midjourney requires a subscription, ranging from $8 to $60 per month, while Stable Diffusion is free. However, some Stable Diffusion models, like SDXL BETA, are not available for free.

How easy is it to use Midjourney and Stable Diffusion?

Using Midjourney is easier if you’re familiar with Discord, where you can submit prompts and control image generation. Stable Diffusion requires some coding knowledge, and you need to find and download the models from websites like HuggingFace or Civit.ai.

Are there any free trials for Midjourney?

Midjourney sometimes offers a free trial that provides 0.4 hours of CPU time (roughly 25 images). However, the availability of the free trial may change, as they aim to prevent exploitation by creating multiple accounts.


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