08 September

Mastering generative AI for image creation in email marketing

Oleksii Burlakov
Oleksii Burlakov Content Writer
Table of contents
  1. The fusion of AI and visual elements in email marketing
  2. Implementing generative AI in email imagery: Practical tips and real-world case studies
  3. Best practices for generative AI: Crafting, fine-tuning, and avoiding pitfalls
  4. Navigating the challenges of generative AI for email marketing
  5. Crafting the perfect prompt: The good, the bad, and the insights
  6. A/B testing: AI vs. human
  7. Wrapping up
The fusion of AI and visual elements in email marketing

Do you recall the early days of email? Emails were plain text, maybe a couple of hyperlinks, and nothing more. Consider how far we've come since then. Today, our inboxes are vibrant, dynamic spaces filled with rich visuals, animations, and interactive elements. But what if we're only scratching the surface of what's possible? Enter the fascinating world of generative artificial intelligence (AI) for image creation that is about to take email marketing by storm.

The fusion of AI and visual elements in email marketing

Picture this: instead of generic stock images or pre-designed graphics, your email campaigns can incorporate real-time, AI-generated images tailored precisely to the recipient's interests, location, or even mood. Alternatively, you could use AI to process an existing image: select a background for it, a separate element, or use it as the basis for generating a new image. Sounds futuristic, right? In the same way that artists mix colors on a palette to create the perfect shade, generative AI blends data and algorithms to paint the perfect image for each subscriber.

Ever wondered if we can bridge the gap between data-driven precision and creative visuals? Generative AI is that bridge. But how does it work? More importantly, how can you make it work for your email marketing? Dive in, and let's explore this brave new world together.

Implementing generative AI in email imagery: Practical tips and real-world case studies

For email marketers, generative AI is like having a magic wand that allows for crafting uniquely compelling visuals for individual users. But like all magic, it must be wielded with skill and understanding. So, where should you start? Let's investigate the types of AI image generators and focus on the ones that'll turbocharge your email campaigns.

Types of AI image generators

There's a rich tapestry of AI models and techniques that conjure images, but let's zero in on some of the most relevant types for email marketers:

1. Style generators: These AI models take a specific style, like a particular artistic movement (think impressionism or cubism), and apply it to images. Ever wanted your product photos to have a Van Gogh-ish swirl or a Warhol-like pop? Style generators make this happen. The results are unique images that can make your emails stand out and captivate the subscriber's eye.

2. Personalized content generators: A notch above generic visuals, these types of AI generate images based on user preferences. Picture an email showcasing a virtual living room designed using the furniture a subscriber has been browsing on your site. Generators craft imagery that isn't just eye-catching but deeply relevant and personalized content, because the same query will result in two similar yet unique images.

3. Image-to-image option: You can process an existing image or photo in the desired style. You can also choose suitable backgrounds or partial elements, objects, or things to add to your image; change the color scheme, tone, or lighting; or expand your image. AI can extend your image by drawing a continuation. It can also combine two images, drawing transitions between the first and second images.

AI generative image tools

Navigating the landscape of AI-driven image generation can be daunting, given the plethora of tools available. While the spectrum of applications is broad, a deep dive into every tool would be exhaustive. Instead, we'll spotlight a few noteworthy contenders to give you a foundational understanding. Armed with this knowledge, you can embark on your own exploratory journey, tailoring your choice to best suit your unique requirements.


As one of the most popular tools in the AI imagery space, Midjourney stands out for its intuitive interface and robust feature set, quality, and variations in image styles, from pencil drawing, logo, or landing designs to photorealistic images and isometric or other 2D&3D professional arts.

Midjourney compilation gif

(Source: Image from Midjourney)


DALL-E 2, an evolution of the renowned DALL-E, leverages advanced algorithms to breathe life into vivid and intricate visuals.

DALL-E example gif

(Source: GIF from DALL-E 2)

Adobe Firefly 

Firefly, part of the Adobe ecosystem, is a testament to Adobe's foray into the world of AI-assisted image generation. Its capabilities for integration with other Adobe products make it a favorite among many users. This tool gives you options, such as the following:

1. Text to image: Generate images from a detailed text description.

Firefly text to image

(Source: GIF from Adobe Firefly)

2. Generative fill: Use a brush to remove objects or paint in new ones.

Adobe Firefly gen fill

(Source: Image from Adobe Firefly)

3. Text effects: Apply styles or textures to words and phrases.

Firefly text effect

(Source: Image from Adobe Firefly)

4. Generative recolor: Generate color variations of your vector artwork.

Firefly recolor

(Source: Image from Adobe Firefly)

5. 3D to image: Generate images from the interactive positioning of 3D elements.

Firefly 3D to image

(Source: Image from Adobe Firefly)

6. Extend image: Change the aspect ratio of your image with a single click or expand your image with auto-generative fill.

Firefly extend

(Source: Image from Adobe Firefly)

Firefly expand

(Source: Image from Adobe Firefly)

Adobe Photoshop — Generative Fill 

While Photoshop is a household name in image editing, its “Generative Fill” feature underscores the brand's commitment to innovating within the AI domain. It's a feature that uses AI to understand the context and creatively fill spaces to produce fitting imagery.

PS Gen Fill

(Source: Image from Adobe Photoshop)

Best practices for email marketers

  1. Start small: Test generative AI on specific segments before overhauling your entire email campaign. Measure engagement metrics to understand its impact.
  2. Data is king: Ensure that the data you feed into AI is clean, relevant, and organized.

    Remember, the output is only as good as the input.

  3. Strike a balance: While it's tempting to go all out with AI-generated imagery, maintain a balance. Combining the human touch with AI magic often yields the best results.
  4. Iterate and improve: Continuously refine your approach based on feedback and metrics. The beauty of AI is that it learns and improves over time.

Best practices for generative AI: Crafting, fine-tuning, and avoiding pitfalls

Harnessing the potential of generative AI in email marketing isn't just about the start or the end; it's the mid-journey where the real magic happens. This involves tweaking prompts, setting parameters, and ensuring that AI's creative prowess aligns with your vision. Think of it as guiding a talented artist, where you set the stage and they bring it to life—with a few caveats.

Effective engineering prompts

Prompts are like whispers into AI's ear, guiding its imagination. A well-crafted prompt can be the difference between a generic image and a masterpiece. 

Picture a vast, untouched canvas stretched out before you. This is the potential of AI in image generation. But your words are the brushstrokes that transform this blank expanse into a masterpiece.

Begin by closing your eyes and conjuring the image you desire in your mind's eye. See every detail, every nuance. Now, the artistry lies in translating this vivid visualization into words. Each description, adjective, and placement instruction is pivotal.

  1. Precision is key: Be meticulous about what you wish to see on the canvas—from objects to their exact positions, leave no room for ambiguity.
  2. Embrace structure: Organize your thoughts. A well-structured prompt clarifies your vision for AI and ensures a streamlined, uncluttered result.
  3. Prioritize details: Although capturing the broader picture is crucial, the devil truly is in the details. Minute specifics can be the difference between a generic output and a unique masterpiece.
  4. Iterate and refine: As with any art form, practice makes perfect. The more you craft prompts, the more adept you become. Each attempt brings you closer to that flawless image you envisioned.
  5. Be specific: Instead of "sunset," try "a golden sunset over a calm, blue ocean with silhouettes of seagulls in the sky." Precision can create richer results.
  6. Use analogies: Analogies can guide AI in unexpected and delightful ways. "Imagine if Monet painted a modern cityscape" can provide a unique blend of old and new.
  7. Use forums: This is the best option for learning and improving the quality of prompts and gaining a general understanding of how it all works. A normal application manual will not describe all the features, just the product's basic use. The developers themselves can't always know what their creations are capable of. Communicate and exchange necessary information, improve the quality of your prompts for certain applications, and learn something new. 

A little further on, we'll look at prompts in more detail, how they can be used, and examples of bad and good ones.

Setting the desired size, style, and other parameters

Crafting the perfect AI-generated image involves more than just hitting the “Generate” button. It demands a clear understanding of various parameters to align the output with your intent:

  1. Size matters: Define the dimensions up front, especially if your emails have specific layout constraints.
  2. Style directives: If you’re using a style generator, be clear about the artistic influence you're aiming for. “Renaissance-style portrait” or “pop art product display” can give distinct results.
  3. Color and tone: While AI can produce impressive visuals, you might have branding guidelines to follow. Directing AI to "use a pastel palette" or "maintain a warm, autumnal theme" can ensure brand consistency.
  4. Emotional tone or mood: Beyond the aesthetics, the emotion a picture evokes plays a pivotal role. Do you want your image to be lighthearted and cheerful or somber and introspective? Articulating the desired mood or creating the right atmosphere for the image can distinguish an image that merely looks good from one that your audience truly connects with.

Getting the picture just right

Harnessing AI for imagery is as much an art as it is a science. Ensure that the final product aligns with your vision:

  1. Multiple attempts: Don't settle for the first output. Run the generator multiple times with the same prompt for variations.
  2. Blend human and AI: Sometimes, manually editing an AI-generated image, adding a finishing touch, can make it perfect.
  3. Feedback loop: If the AI platform allows, provide feedback. This can help to refine subsequent outputs.

Mistakes to avoid

Embracing AI in email imagery promises transformative results, but be cognizant of potential missteps:

  1. Over-relying on AI: Generative AI is powerful, but it's not infallible. Always review outputs to ensure that they align with your brand and message.
  2. Vague prompts: Ambiguity can lead to unexpected or unsatisfactory results. Precision in your prompts is your best ally.
  3. Ignoring data privacy: When crafting personalized imagery based on user data, always respect privacy regulations. Ensure that data usage is transparent and consensual.
  4. One size fits all: While AI can produce mass content, the real charm lies in personalization. Avoid using the same image for diverse segments of your audience.
  5. Overwhelming with visuals: Balance is key. While filling emails with AI-crafted images is tempting, sometimes less is more. Let your visuals enhance your message, not overshadow it.

With these best practices in hand, the journey through the intricacies of generative AI becomes less daunting and more exhilarating. While AI presents a limitless canvas, your prompts are the guiding hand steering the creation process. And with time, as you hone this skill, the symphony created by your vision and AI's rendition will become harmoniously seamless to produce email visuals that are not just eye-catching but truly resonate.

Navigating the challenges of generative AI for email marketing

While the allure of generative AI is undeniable, like every tool, it comes with its set of challenges. These aren't deterrents but rather considerations for email marketers aiming to maximize the potential of AI-generated imagery without sacrificing brand integrity or audience relevance. Let's dive deep into these challenges and how to navigate them.

Brand consistency: Maintaining your unique voice amidst AI creativity

Generative AI is a marvel, but it's not (yet) a brand guru. It can't instinctively tap into the nuances of your brand's style, logo, or visual themes. Your role is to guide, oversee, and occasionally refine its output.

While AI is a formidable tool, the human touch remains irreplaceable, ensuring that the blend of technology and human intuition delivers impeccable results.

What to do?

  • guide AI: When providing prompts or directives, infuse them with brand-related cues, such as "a serene winter landscape in line with our brand's minimalist aesthetic";
  • post-production touches: Use AI outputs as a base and then overlay them with brand-specific elements, like logos, unique color gradients, or trademark symbols;
  • maintain a visual checklist: Have a set of non-negotiable brand elements that every image—whether AI-generated or not—must adhere to.

Text over images: AI's tricky balancing act

Placing text within images is a common strategy in email marketing. However, generative AI can sometimes fumble with text placements, font choices, or readability.

What to do?

  • separate the two: Consider generating the image and text separately. Once AI crafts the image, overlay your text using design tools that give you better control;
  • specific text prompts: If you're adamant about integrated text, provide specific instructions, like "place bold white text saying 'SALE' at the bottom right";
  • review and refine: Always review text-laden images for readability, especially on various devices. What looks clear on a desktop might be unreadable on a mobile device.

Localization: Beyond language — the cultural landscape

Localization isn't just about translating text. It encompasses cultural nuances, sensitivities, and aesthetics—areas that even the most advanced AI might miss.

What to do?

  • avoid stereotypes: If you're using AI to create images for different cultural segments, guide the AI away from clichés or stereotypes. For instance, not every image for a French audience needs the Eiffel Tower;
  • cultural review: Consider having a cultural review process where localized content is vetted by someone familiar with that culture;
  • feedback loop: If possible, gather feedback from a sample of your localized audience before a major campaign launch. This can provide insights that even the most sophisticated AI would miss;
  • cultural prompts: Infuse your directives with cultural cues. For instance, for a Diwali campaign, a prompt like "a brightly lit Indian home with traditional Diwali lanterns" can guide AI's imagination in the right direction.
Effective multilingual email marketing

The marriage of generative AI and email marketing is undoubtedly exciting, but it's not without its quirks. By being aware of these challenges and proactively navigating them, marketers can harness AI's power without compromising brand integrity, readability, or cultural relevance.

Crafting the perfect prompt: The good, the bad, and the insights

In the realm of generative AI, the prompt is the rudder that steers the ship. It's the whisper, the nudge, the guiding light. But not all prompts are created equal. Let's embark on a journey to differentiate the good prompts from the bad and understand the nuances that separate them.

Examples of good prompts for generating AI images:

"A tranquil Zen garden at sunrise, with dew-kissed rocks and raked sand forming intricate patterns."

"A bustling 1920s New York street, capturing the Jazz Age's energy with flapper dresses, vintage cars, and street performers."

"A futuristic, eco-friendly cityscape with vertical gardens on skyscrapers, solar panels, and flying electric taxis."

Examples of bad prompts for image generation:

"A garden."

"Old-timey New York."

"A city in the future."

Comparison and explanation:

1. Depth of description

Good: The first good prompt paints a vivid picture of a Zen garden at a specific time of day, detailing the state of the rocks and the patterns in the sand.

Bad: The corresponding bad prompt merely mentions "a garden," offering no context, time, or particular features.

Detailed descriptions guide AI, providing a rich context that results in a nuanced and specific image output.

2. Time and era specificity

Good: The second good prompt doesn't just mention New York but a specific era—the 1920s—and then dives deeper into what that entails, from fashion to transportation.

Bad: The bad version just states "old-timey New York," which could span several eras and miss out on capturing the essence of any particular period.

When giving AI a temporal context, it's beneficial to be as specific as possible. This ensures that the resulting image aligns more closely with the marketer’s vision and resonates with the intended audience.

3. Vision of the future

Good: The third good prompt provides a clear vision of an eco-friendly future city, specifying elements that encapsulate that vision, from the skyscrapers' greenery to the mode of transportation.

Bad: Simply mentioning "a city in the future" is too vague. Which future? Dystopian? Utopian? Technologically advanced or nature-centric?

When left with ambiguous prompts, AI can venture in numerous directions. By clearly outlining the vision, you ensure that the AI's creativity aligns with your intended message.

4. Emotional tone, mood, atmosphere, lights, and colors

Good: The fourth good prompt doesn't just describe a scene but sets a mood: "A serene lakeside evening with soft, dim lights reflecting on the water, casting warm hues of purple and gold. The atmosphere feels nostalgic, as if revisiting a cherished memory."

Bad: In contrast, the bad version just states, "A lake in the evening." It does not capture any specific emotion, lighting, or color cues.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and a mood or emotion in an image can speak volumes. Incorporating emotional cues and color tones can be integral when crafting AI prompts. Such intricacies ensure that AI generates a picture and evokes a sentiment, making the visuals far more engaging and resonant with viewers.

To sum up, the magic lies in the details. The more specific, vivid, and contextual your prompts are, the better AI can translate them into compelling visuals. It's a dance between human creativity and AI capability, and the prompt is the song to which they dance.

A/B testing: AI vs. human

To delve deeper into the AI versus human design debate, we performed an intriguing experiment: A/B testing with our email campaigns. One set featured visuals crafted meticulously by our in-house designers. In contrast, the other showcased images birthed from AI algorithms.

AI Stripo image

Our objectives were multifold:

  1. Discernibility: Could recipients tell the difference between human-made and machine-generated visuals?
  2. Preference: Which imagery resonated more with our audience—the human touch or the precision of AI?
  3. Efficiency and cost-effectiveness: Weighing the speed and resources required for each approach, which emerged as the optimal choice?
  4. Quality: Beyond preference, which technique delivered superior quality in terms of aesthetics and relevance?

Through this experiment, we aimed to gauge not just AI's capabilities but also its practicality and appeal in the realm of email marketing. The insights drawn would help us and the larger community make informed decisions about integrating AI into creative processes. You can read more about it in the article on this case study on A/B testing, which will be released next week.

Wrapping up

The digital age has turned the spotlight to email marketing as a core conduit for brand–consumer interaction. In this realm, visuals aren't just decorative elements but potent storytellers, conversation starters, and connection builders. As we've journeyed through the expansive landscape of AI-driven visual enhancements in email marketing, one truth has become clear: AI isn't just an asset but a transformative force.

Imagine a world where every email feels like a personal message, tailored in text and imagery, reflecting the individual's preferences, moods, and real-time contexts. This isn't a page from a sci-fi novel; it's the present and future that AI bring to the table. AI's value goes beyond aesthetics; it's about relevance, resonance, and real-time engagement.

Moreover, by leveraging AI's prowess, brands can eliminate the guesswork. Instead of wondering if a visual will resonate, AI-driven insights will ensure optimal engagement, iteratively and dynamically adapting to user behaviors. It's like having a seasoned artist and a data scientist collaborate on every image, ensuring beauty, relevance, and impact.

However, like all powerful tools, the onus is on us—brands, marketers, and storytellers—to wield AI responsibly. Remember that while AI can craft, suggest, and optimize, the essence of brand storytelling lies in authentic human experiences. AI is the brush, but the artistry lies in understanding our audience, nurturing genuine connections, and crafting stories that resonate.

In the end, as the line between technology and the human touch blurs, our emails will become more than just messages in an inbox. They'll be experiences, journeys, and memories. And in this vibrant tapestry of digital interactions, AI-driven visuals will be the threads that bind, captivate, and inspire.

So, as you stand on this precipice of change, remember, AI offers a canvas of limitless potential. It's up to you to paint the masterpiece. Will you seize the brush?

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