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How to do the AI image trend on Instagram

You may have to be flexible in your taste to make use of AI content.

Published onApril 14, 2024

If you’re a regular Instagram user, you may have seen people with unusually artistic profile images, looking as if they’ve been painted or drawn. Most of these people aren’t commissioning art  — we’ll explain what’s really going on in this guide, and how you can get in on the action if reality isn’t enough.


You can use tools like Lensa, NightCafe, or TikTok filters to generate AI images and then upload one as your profile picture. Some tools, including Lensa, cost a fee.


What is the AI image trend on Instagram?

To cut to the chase, it’s people taking advantage of generative AI apps to enhance or stylize their profile pictures. Whereas most AI image generators create purely synthetic content based on prompts, some of the images you see on Instagram use real selfie photos as their source material, so they should at least partly resemble the people who use them.

It’s worth mentioning here that selfie-based generators depend on well-lit, close-up photos with uncovered faces, and the better the source material, the better the output will be. You may end up taking new photos to make them work, in which case there might not be much reason to turn to AI. There’s also a chance that you won’t like the way AI stylizes you, even if the output is visually acceptable.

On a psychological level, there’s a risk that AI images can lead to a distorted body image. These depict an idealized or exaggerated version of ourselves that we can never achieve, so bear that in mind with your own avatar, or the ones you see online.

How to do the AI image trend on Instagram

The app of choice for AI images on Instagram seems to be Lensa, and it’ll cost you to generate profile pictures, even if you sign up for a trial subscription —they’ll just cost less than the normal price. We mention the app here because of its popularity and convenience. If you want to save cash, it’s absolutely worth hunting down free options (such as the few listed below).

Here’s how to use Lensa to make images for Instagram:

  1. Download Lensa from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store and launch it.
  2. Agree to any terms and conditions, and choose to continue through prompts until you reach the subscription promo screen.
  3. You should see a 7-Day Free Trial toggle appear. Flip this on, but remember to cancel your subscription before those seven days are over. Of course, unless you find value in this app and want to actually continue using it. Having a subscription lowers the price of AI profile pictures, which Lensa developer Prisma refers to as “Magic Avatars.”
  4. Pick between Female, Male, Person, or Dog or cat.
  5. Select the styles you want. You can pick up to 10. When done, select Continue.
  6. Tap on the option that reads I have reached to the age of majority (18/21+ y.o.). Then tap on Continue.
  7. Hit Select 10-20 selfies. Select your selfies, and hit Import.
  8. As mentioned earlier, you will still have to pay for these AI images. It will just cost less. Pick how many photos you want, then select Purchase.
  9. Once you’ve paid, tap Notify me when it’s done. Magic Avatars are processed on cloud servers, and the task can take upwards of 20 minutes, so this will tell you when you can come back to the app to get your results.
  10. When you return to the app, tap Magic Avatars to see your image packs. Since this is your first time using Lensa, there should only be one.
  11. Within a pack, you’ll get a Save all avatars option, as well as the ability to save individual images. We recommend the latter to control storage. Either way, saved files should be dumped into your phone’s photo library. You may want to organize them into an album for later use.
  12. Switch to Instagram, and upload a new profile image as you usually would.

The best AI image generators for Instagram

If you want images based on selfie photos, your options are relatively limited, but alternatives to Lensa exist.

  • Meitu: This one is free, although its developer tries to upsell you on purchases for things like filters, makeup, and correction tools. Its AI images can be hit-or-miss, so you get what you pay for.
  • NightCafe: NightCafe requires you to sign up to its community, and it guards more advanced features behind daily credits, but remains free to use. You can even choose between different algorithms (say, DALL-E or Stable Diffusion).
  • MyHeritage: This one is paid, but offers the twist of depicting you in different eras — say, Victorian England, the Space Age, or ancient Egypt. Some images can be surprisingly realistic if they’re linked to an era when photography existed.
  • TikTok filters: TikTok filters like AI Manga, AI Portrait, and AI Face offer limited ways of transforming yourself, but the zero-dollar price is right.


You need a third-party app or service to create AI images to upload to Instagram. Some services are free and some are paid. The most popular ones, like Lensa, usually cost money.

There is a wide variety of AI image-generating apps. Our favorites are Lensa, Meitu, and NightCafe.

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