Stable Diffusion

ControlNet Guide: Control Diffusion Models for Stable Diffusion

In the vast realm of artificial intelligence, image generation technology is rapidly evolving, becoming a hotbed for innovation and creativity. Stable Diffusion, a shining star in this field, has garnered attention for its ability to transform text into images.

However, with the advent of ControlNet, the art and science of image generation have taken a giant leap forward. This guide will delve into the essence of ControlNet, exploring how it expands the capabilities of Stable Diffusion, overcomes the limitations of traditional methods, and opens up new horizons for image creation.

What's ControlNet?

ControlNet is an innovative neural network that fine-tunes the image generation process of Stable Diffusion models by introducing additional conditions. This groundbreaking technology, first proposed by Lvmin Zhang and his team in their research paper "Adding Conditional Control to Text-to-Image Diffusion Models" not only enhances the functionality of Stable Diffusion but also achieves a qualitative leap in the precision and diversity of image generation.

Features of ControlNet

At the heart of ControlNet is its ability to control the details of image generation through a series of advanced conditions. These conditions include:

  1. Human Pose Control: Using keypoint detection technologies like OpenPose, ControlNet can precisely generate images of people in specific poses.
  2. Image Composition Duplication: Through edge detection technologies, ControlNet can mimic and replicate the composition of any image, creating visual effects.
  3. Style Transfer: ControlNet can capture and apply the style of a reference image to generate a new image with a consistent style.
  4. Professional-Level Image Transformation: Turning simple sketches or doodles into detailed, professional-quality finished pieces.

Challenges Solved by ControlNet

Before ControlNet, Stable Diffusion primarily relied on text prompts to generate images, which to some extent limited the creator's control over the final image. ControlNet addresses the following challenges by introducing additional visual conditions:

  1. Precise Control of Image Content: ControlNet allows users to specify image details such as human poses and object shapes with precision, achieving finer creative control.
  2. Diverse Image Styles: With different preprocessors and models, ControlNet supports a wide range of image styles, providing artists and designers with more options.
  3. Enhanced Image Quality: Through more refined control, ControlNet can generate higher-quality images that meet professional-level requirements.

Installation and Configuration of ControlNet

The installation process of ControlNet is optimized for different platforms:

  1. Google Colab: Users can quickly enable ControlNet through Colab's one-click installation feature.
  2. Windows PC or Mac: Through AUTOMATIC1111, a comprehensive Stable Diffusion GUI, users can easily install and use ControlNet on their local computers.

The installation steps are concise and straightforward:

  1. Visit the Extensions page of AUTOMATIC1111.
  2. Select the Install from URL tab and enter the GitHub address of the ControlNet extension.
  3. After installation is complete, restart AUTOMATIC1111.
  4. Download the model files and place them in the designated directory.

Using ControlNet for Image Generation

Using ControlNet to generate images is an intuitive and creative process:

  1. Enable ControlNet: Activate the extension in the ControlNet panel of AUTOMATIC1111.
  2. Upload Reference Images: Upload reference images to the image canvas and select the appropriate preprocessor and model.
  3. Set Text Prompts: Enter text prompts describing the desired image in the txt2image tab.
  4. Adjust ControlNet Settings: Adjust control weights and other relevant settings according to creative needs.
  5. Generate Images: Click the generate button, and Stable Diffusion will generate images based on text prompts and control maps.

Preprocessors and Models of ControlNet

ControlNet offers a rich selection of preprocessors and models, including:

  1. OpenPose: For precisely detecting and replicating human keypoints.
  2. Canny: For edge detection, preserving the composition and contours of the original image.
  3. Depth Estimation: Inferring depth information from reference images to enhance a sense of three-dimensionality.
  4. Line Art: Converting images into line drawings, suitable for various illustration styles.
  5. M-LSD: For extracting straight-line edges, applicable to scenes like architecture and interior design.

Each preprocessor targets specific creative needs, allowing users to choose the most suitable tool based on the project's requirements.

Practical Applications of ControlNet

The application range of ControlNet is extremely broad, covering numerous fields:

  1. Human Pose Duplication: Precisely replicating specific poses using the OpenPose preprocessor, suitable for character design and animation production.
  2. Movie Scene Remix: Creatively replacing the poses of characters in classic movie scenes, infusing new vitality into old works.
  3. Interior Design Inspiration: Using the MLSD preprocessor to generate concept drawings for interior design, providing designers with endless inspiration.
  4. Facial Consistency: Maintaining consistent facial features across multiple images using the IP-adapter facial model, suitable for brand building and personal image shaping.

Here are detailed descriptions of some successful ControlNet cases, showcasing how ControlNet works in different fields:

1. Fashion Design: Personalized Clothing Creation

Background: A fashion designer wishes to create a series of unique fashion design sketches for their upcoming fashion show.

Application: The designer uses ControlNet with the OpenPose preprocessor, uploading a series of runway photos of models. This allows the designer to retain the original poses of the models while "trying on" different fashion designs on them. By adjusting the settings of ControlNet, the designer can quickly generate a variety of clothing styles and color schemes, thus accelerating the design process and providing a wide range of design options.

2. Game Development: Character and Scene Design

Background: A game development company is working on a new role-playing game and needs to design a diverse range of characters and scenes for the game.

Application: Artists use ControlNet's Canny edge detection feature to upload sketches of scenes drawn by concept artists. ControlNet generates high-fidelity scene images based on the edge information of these sketches. Additionally, artists use the style transfer function to apply the game's specific artistic style to new scenes, ensuring visual style consistency.

3. Movie Poster Production

Background: A graphic designer is responsible for creating promotional posters for an upcoming movie.

Application: The designer uses ControlNet's style transfer function, uploading key frames from the movie and reference artworks. ControlNet analyzes the style of these images and generates a series of poster sketches with similar visual elements and color tones. The designer then selects the design that best fits the movie's atmosphere and refines it further.

4. Interior Design: Concept Drawing Generation

Background: An interior designer needs to present their design concept to clients but has not yet completed detailed design drawings.

Application: The designer uses ControlNet's depth estimation function, uploading interior photos of similar styles. ControlNet generates concept drawings of three-dimensional spaces based on depth information, allowing clients to better understand the designer's ideas. Moreover, by adjusting the settings of ControlNet, the designer can explore different furniture layouts and decorative styles, offering clients multiple choices.

5. Comic Creation: Character and Scene Development

Background: A comic artist is working on a new comic series and needs to design a series of characters with unique features and captivating scenes.

Application: The comic artist uses ControlNet's line art preprocessor, uploading some hand-drawn sketches of characters and scenes. ControlNet converts these sketches into clear line drawings, which the comic artist then refines with details and colors. This allows the comic artist to quickly iterate designs and create a rich and colorful comic world.

These cases demonstrate how ControlNet provides strong visual creation support in different fields, helping artists, designers, and other creative professionals to realize their imagination. With ControlNet, creators can generate high-quality images more efficiently, continually pushing the boundaries of creativity.

Combining ControlNet with Stable Diffusion

The combination of ControlNet and Stable Diffusion is simple yet powerful. Users only need to install the ControlNet extension on the basis of Stable Diffusion to start generating images using text prompts and visual conditions, greatly expanding the creative space for image generation.

How Does ControlNet Works?

The working principle of ControlNet lies in its attachment of trainable network modules to different parts of the U-Net (noise predictor) of the Stable Diffusion model. During training, ControlNet receives text prompts and control maps as inputs, learning how to generate images based on these conditions. Each control method is independently trained to ensure the best generation results.


ControlNet brings unprecedented possibilities to Stable Diffusion image generation, enabling users to generate images with greater precision and creativity. This guide aims to help users better understand the powerful features of ControlNet and apply them to their own image generation projects. Whether you are a professional artist or an amateur enthusiast, ControlNet provides you with a powerful tool to make your image generation journey more exciting.


Research paper: Adding Conditional Control to Text-to-Image Diffusion Models

By Lvmin Zhang, Anyi Rao, and Maneesh Agrawala from Stanford University

GitHub: Nightly release of ControlNet 1.1

GitHub: Let us control diffusion models of ControlNet 1.0