Boundary Guided Learning-Free Semantic Control with Diffusion Models

Ye Zhu, Yu Wu, Zhiwei Deng, Olga Russakovsky, Yan Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Applying pre-trained generative denoising diffusion models (DDMs) for downstream tasks such as image semantic editing usually requires either fine-tuning DDMs or learning auxiliary editing networks in the existing literature. In this work, we present our BoundaryDiffusion method for efficient, effective and lightweight semantic control with frozen pre-trained DDMs, without learning any extra networks. As one of the first learning-free diffusion editing works, we start by seeking a comprehensive understanding of the intermediate high-dimensional latent spaces by theoretically and empirically analyzing their probabilistic and geometric behaviors in the Markov chain. We then propose to further explore the critical step for editing in the denoising trajectory that characterizes the convergence of a pre-trained DDM and introduce an automatic search method. Last but not least, in contrast to the conventional understanding that DDMs have relatively poor semantic behaviors, we prove that the critical latent space we found already exhibits semantic subspace boundaries at the generic level in unconditional DDMs, which allows us to do controllable manipulation by guiding the denoising trajectory towards the targeted boundary via a single-step operation. We conduct extensive experiments on multiple DPMs architectures (DDPM, iDDPM) and datasets (CelebA, CelebA-HQ, LSUN-church, LSUN-bedroom, AFHQ-dog) with different resolutions (64, 256), achieving superior or state-of-the-art performance in various task scenarios (image semantic editing, text-based editing, unconditional semantic control) to demonstrate the effectiveness. Project page at

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes
Event37th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2023 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Dec 10 2023Dec 16 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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