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Harnessing the Power of AI Art

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AI art is a mind-blowing development, but how can animators and designers take advantage of this revolution?

Does the digital revolution in AI-generated art have you worried? Well fret no longer. We’re deep in the weeds with Dall-E, Midjourney, and Fotor, and we’re here to help you harness the power of artificial intelligence for your own purposes. It’s time to turn the tables on the robots…and we didn’t even have to travel through time to help you do it. Let’s learn how to hire an AI artist for your freelance business.

As someone who specializes in designing fictional (and real) futures, John LePore has done a serious amount of research into the growing AI-drive art world. While he was admittedly uncertain at first, he has learned that this is a tool that can be a huge boon for artists. 

In this video, we’ll discuss:

  • What is AI Art?
  • How do you use AI Art Tools?
  • What does AI Art mean for digital artists, designers, and animators?

Want to learn even more about AI Art? Check out John’s previous article!

What is AI Art?

There are a number of emerging systems for AI art, and they mostly work the same way. While we’ve based a lot of this discussion on Midjourney, the same points apply. A human provides some form of guidance (a prompt), and the AI interprets this and creates some new image.

You can say “A sunrise over a futuristic city,” and within seconds you’ll receive something that follows that description. 

Some AI art tools provide several options so you can hone in your prompt with the AI’s interpretation until you reach a final image. The first time you see this in action, it can be mind blowing. You’ll sit back in your chair only to find your socks have somehow been launched clear across the room. Even if you don’t wear glasses, you’ll likely remove a pair with shaking hands and remark, “By gawd.”

So how does this work?

How does AI Art Work?

If you wanted to learn Italian, but didn’t want to go the traditional route, you could watch thousands and thousands of hours of Italian cinema and television. Over that time, you’d pick up words and phrases. Eventually, you’d be able to understand whole sentences. It’s immersion therapy, and it works in a similar way to how AI learns new skills.

AI Art systems are fed hundreds of millions of images covering every variety of topic. They are showing the difference between impressionism and cubism, between comic-style and photorealistic. They learn shapes and faces and terminology. That way, when you submit a prompt, they have a fairly good idea of what to deliver. 

AI is not making any kind of judgment, but rather using the rules it has developed through training to interpret the prompt and deliver a reasonable result. 

How do You Use AI Art Tools?

It’s important to note that these tools are changing rapidly, sometimes week-to-week. We’ll focus today on Midjourney and Dall-E. 

Midjourney feels like it has the soul of an old-school painter, while Dall-E feels like a team of artists working behind the scenes. Midjourney often has more sophisticated compositions, but can go in wildly different directions than the prompt. Dall-E might be more accurate, but can also feel less experimental and artistic. 

The first thing you’ll do is sign up for a Discord account. It’s free to create, and many companies are leaning into the service for chats, forums, and even recording sessions for podcasts and Twitch. Once you have the account, you’ll need to sign up for Midjourney and Dall-E. Depending on when you’re reading this, there may be a short wait to be allowed in. 

Once you’re in the server, you can start a conversation with the AI (now THAT’s a weird sentence to read) and deliver your prompt. However, we’d recommend to start by entering a crowded chatroom and watching others deliver their prompts. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Figure out the terminology that produces the best results. When you’re ready, try throwing out a prompt (be sure to read the rules of the server too). 

Once you have a handle on the methodology, start a DM with the AI and try some more complex prompts. The AI will generate the art in seconds, often allowing you to check a few boxes to dial in your intention and find a more accurate version of the image. 

Using AI Art Prompts

There are some mechanical aspects of prompts that can affect how your final image appears, but we want to start with some broader theory around creating well designed and focused prompts. 

The Prompt is your new creative tool, and using it proficiently will achieve better results. You are effectively providing creation direction, and it’s no surprise that some of the best art coming out of these systems stems from actual artists with vision and experience. You need to have a clear picture of what you want to create before you even start. 

Midjourney’s strongest bias is toward painting. Although it can handle digital art and rendering, it seems to have more luck hitting the mark with painting prompts. When you’re working with Midjourney, speak to it as you would an experienced painter. 

In your prompts, use clear lighting direction, discuss focal points, and include specific types of styles that you want to imitate. It’s also helpful to reference things from the zeitgeist upon which the AI has been trained. We were surprised to see how many prompts included the phrase “Octane Render.” Now this didn’t mean that Midjourney (or any other AI system) was using Octane and Cinema 4D to create the artwork. Instead, it told the AI to create something that included similar styles and effects commonly seen in Octane renders around the Internet. 

As with pretty much any software you use as an artist, it comes down to understanding your tools and how to get the most from them.  

Another technique is to use a mashup. Similar to how in Hollywood a writer could pitch “This is Batman meets Love Actually,” you can use mashup terminology to inform the AI on how you’d like it to approach an image. “A UFO invasion in the style of Van Gogh,” for example. Or combine objects, such as a rainbow and a tree, and see how the AI interprets that description.

Most of all, just experiment. Play “stump the computer” and throw whatever you can think of. As you learn more and more about the limitations of the system, you’ll also see how it can be best used to create some truly impressive artwork. 

Finally, check out the documentation on any AI system forum. They’ll usually have information about how to add particular phrases or coding to your prompts in order to dial them in even more. 

What does AI Art mean for Motion Designers?

With all this power at your fingertips, what can you actually do as an artist, animator, or designer with AI tools? We’ve seen all manner of cool tricks pulled off by artists around the world. 

Some designers use AI to create unique patterns and textures. 

Some artists use AI to create contextual backgrounds for their projects instead of using stock images. 

In particular, Midjourney is particularly talented at creating background matte paintings. 

Or Jellyfish buildings.

It honestly blows our minds to think about where this technology will eventually lead. Imagine working on a 3D loop where your background is procedurally generated by AI? How about using photorealistic actors in your scene that don’t exist at all? What about an entire film created on demand when you decide to watch…or that changes based on your choices along the way?

And that’s just what we’re thinking now. As this technology improves, we might see a new artform develop in which the human is more a creative director, moving the AI toward their vision rather than using it as a supplementary tool. 

No matter how you feel about AI now, this is certainly something to keep your eye on for the near future. 


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