Reference Example

The References feature lets you guide the composition of new images, by leveraging existing images as a compositional template. You can use references with the Imagine tool to create brand new images with your desired composition, or with the Transfer tool to maintain your composition at higher transfer strengths.

Getting Started

  1. Select Your Reference Image: Begin by choosing an image that contains the compositional elements you want to use in your new generation. Add this image to your document in Adobe Photoshop.

  2. Enable References: Navigate to either the Imagine or the Transfer tool within Alpaca. Look for the ‘Reference’ toggle and enable it.

  3. Choose Your Reference Type: Based on the compositional elements you want to use from your reference image, select the appropriate reference type. Your options are ‘Depth’, ‘Pose’, ‘Hard Edges’, and ‘Soft Edges’. See below for more details on the different types.

  4. Include the Reference in Your Selection: Ensure that your reference image is included in your active selection. The plugin uses this selection to understand which content to use as the reference. You may also choose a specific layer to take the reference content from, see the Advanced Settings section below for more details.

  5. Enter Your Prompt and Generate: Once your reference is set, input your desired text prompt as normal and click the ‘Generate’ button to start the image generation process.

Reference Types


The Depth reference type is a good choice for when your reference image displays a sense of space and depth, like a serene landscape stretching out to distant mountains, a quiet street vanishing into a horizon, or a bustling room filled with objects near and far. Use this reference type when you want your new image to match the depth in your reference image, reflecting the sense of three-dimensionality and perspective.

Foggy Dark Fantasy City
temple city, city of fogs, middle ages, fantasy rpg style, dark fantasy, 8k illustrations

Depth Reference Example Reference image by Nati Melnychuk


The Pose type is for when your reference image includes characters or figures. It focuses on their positioning, serving as a guide for the creation of character-based imagery in your own work. If you’re aiming to generate images of a character in a specific stance or action, this is the ideal reference to use.

Sketch of a Woman in Tokyo
a sketch illustration of young woman, in Tokyo city, with a oversized hoodie, long hair, full body, character design, light pencil and soft ink, colors neon, brushstrokes, illustrations concept art book-style

Pose Reference Example Reference image by Ravi Sharma

Hard Edges

The Hard Edges reference type is your go-to for extracting strong, clear lines and distinct shapes from your reference image. This type is perfect for images featuring bold, detailed structures, such as city skylines or intricate geometric designs. Use this reference when you want your generated image to reflect the detailed composition of your reference.

Sunset Anime High Rise
an illustration of a high rise building, 90s anime, manga, sunset colors, golden lighting, calm, serene

Hero Edges Reference Example Reference image by Joel Filipe

Soft Edges

The Soft Edges reference type is for when your inspiration comes from an image with a more fluid, gentle composition. It’s excellent for instances where the elements in your reference image gracefully meld into one another, like an image capturing the motion of fabric in the wind, the delicate play of hair, the lively nature of a puppy, or the diffuse boundaries in a watercolor painting. Use this reference when you wish your new creation to embody the broad strokes of your reference’s composition, without being confined by rigid lines or precise forms.

Space Meerkat
meerkat looking off into the distance, nighttime, stars in the sky behind him, photorealistic, bokeh

Soft Edges Reference Example Reference image by Janis Ringli

Advanced Settings

Reference Strength

This settings controls the influence your reference image has on the final artwork. A lower value (down to 0.1) means your reference will have less impact, while a higher value (up to 2.0) gives your reference image significant influence on the composition. The default setting is balanced at 1.0.

Extract Reference

This advanced setting lets experienced users provide their own prepared reference type, skipping the extraction process from the chosen reference image. For instance, you could input a depth map generated by a separate 3D modeling tool and use it as a reference. By default, this setting is set to ‘Yes’, extracting the reference type from the given image. Selecting ‘No’ bypasses this extraction, using the provided image content directly instead.

Reference Layer

This setting determines the source of your reference content within Adobe Photoshop. When set to ‘Active’, the reference is derived from the currently selected content within the active layer. If set to ‘Visible’, it uses all visible content within the selected area, spanning across layers.