What is AI Art? How Art Generators Work (2024)

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Leave a Comment

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What is AI Art? How Art Generators Work (2024)
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If you’ve been paying attention to tech trends over the last few years, you’ve noticed an increase in artificial intelligence (AI) programs. One of the hottest new forms is AI art. In this post, we’ll break down what AI art is, how it works, and how you can use it to enhance your creativity and speed up your workflow.

Let’s dive in.

What is AI?

what is AI

image created with Midjourney

Artificial intelligence, or AI, refers to developing and deploying computer systems and algorithms that can perform tasks that humans would normally do. These computers are trained on large amounts of data that help them learn, reason, solve problems, and make decisions that can surpass human abilities. AI involves various technologies, such as machine learning, natural language processing, image generation, etc. They can adapt, learn, and automate tasks through data analysis, pattern recognition, and repetitive learning processes, allowing humans to pass tasks off to computers. AI will likely lead to advancements in many areas, including health care, finance, transportation, and creative areas such as web and graphic design.

What is AI Art

what is AI art

image created with Midjourney

AI art, or generative AI, refers to creating art using artificial intelligence to automate image creation, aid with creative writing, create music, build websites, and more. AI art is different from digital art, which people with creative skills create. Instead, AI art allows those with little to no creative ability to create unlimited art forms with a text prompt.

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History of AI Art

history of AI art

image created with Midjourney

The history of AI art can be traced back to 1973 when a computer scientist and artist named Harold Cohen created the first known AI art creation program, AARON. 41 years later, in 2014, generative adversarial networks (GANs) were developed. While not developed solely for creating artwork, GANs play a huge role in its creation today.

In 2015, researchers began training a computer to use a text prompt to generate images. They did this by reversing the process of image to text, which you might be familiar with. Have you ever noticed how your iPhone can identify objects in your pictures, then categorize them? That’s a good example of image-to-text.

Flash forward to 2021, when the first major text-to-image software, DALL-E, was released. Created by Open AI (makers of ChatGPT) and named after the painter Salvador Dali and Pixar’s WALL-E, it was the first program to be trained on millions of images and concepts. Thanks to the release of DALL-E, the AI text-to-image boom was born.

In 2022, a community of open-source developers began building AI art generators, grabbing whatever technology they could get their hands on. Some of those developers eventually went on to work on developing Midjourey, which we’ll feature a bit later in this post.

What is a GAN?

what is a GAN

image created with Midjourney

A GAN consists of two main parts: a generator and a discriminator. The generator’s job is to create new data, such as images, music, or text, while the discriminator’s role is to determine if the generated data is real or fake. The generator creates random data, such as an image. Then it presents the image to the discriminator, which tries to guess whether it’s real or fake. Initially, the generator isn’t very good, so the discriminator can easily spot the fakes. However, both parts learn from their mistakes and get better over time.

The generator tries different variations of its output, and the discriminator becomes more skilled at discerning real from fake. They continue to play this game of trying to outsmart one another. Eventually, the generator gets so good that it produces data that the discriminator can’t tell apart from the fake.

How Do AI Art Generators Work?

For an AI program to understand a wide range of prompts, it needs a large dataset of images (neural network) to work from. We’re talking hundreds of millions of images and their text descriptions. Training models scrape alt tags, captions, titles, and text descriptions from images on the internet. It’s important to note that the generated image doesn’t come from the training data. Rather, it comes from the latent space (more on that later) of the deep learning model. Deep learning models don’t see images the way we do. They see millions of pixel values for red, green, and blue (RGB).

Once the program determines how to decipher the prompt, you’ll see the result like this:

AI end result

Generative AI uses deep machine learning to produce text from images. At first, the computer takes a guess at what your text prompt is looking for, then continues to run it repeatedly until it gets it right. The program is given variables to consider to look for metrics to match the text prompt to generate an image. For example, use the prompt a pink garden gnome. The AI will begin processing the information considering different variables such as examples of gnomes, shapes, pink images, gardens, and other variables. It makes its best guess what it thinks a pink garden gnome is.

How Output is Generated

As algorithms go through the training data, they search for variables to improve their results and, during that process, build a multi-dimensional space that houses all of these data points. Let’s take the pink garden gnome prompt and use it as an example. Within that space, the AI will place the gnome in one dimension, the color pink in another, and a dimension for gardens. It will evaluate all the dimensions and save space amongst hundreds of dimensions for the output. This is called latent space. The more descriptive words within the prompt, the more dimensions are required.

latent space

Before the output is complete, there is a generation step called diffusion. Using words in the text prompt and the dimensions containing images of pink, garden, and gnome, the AI produces a random image and then makes little improvements. Each adjustment makes the output image more refined and closer to the intended output.

Generative AI explained

What is Diffusion?

Using the garden gnome prompt example, imagine millions of pictures of gnomes, gardens, and images containing the color pink. During the process, all data points are analyzed, then an image of a gnome is produced. Diffusion begins by adding a series of transformations to the image, gradually increasing the noise. This includes transforming the photo into a pink gnome or placing it in a garden. During a series of transformational steps, the image becomes more different from the original, resulting in a unique, generated image of a pink garden gnome.

pink garden gnome

Image created by Leonardo

Types of AI Art Programs

Generative AI art encompasses more than just images. It includes art forms such as avatars, videos, logos, and photo editing programs. Let’s explore each of these forms of AI art so you’ll better understand what’s possible with generative AI.

AI Avatars

AI avatars

An AI avatar generator creates unique avatars for social media, gaming, live-streaming, and more. Some use text-to-image, while others, like Lensa AI, let you take selfies and turn them into avatars. They can be chatbots or virtual assistants that can understand what we say or type and respond in a helpful way. They can be designed to look and act like real people, with emotions and expressions, like Synthesia. Others create 3D avatars to use as profile pictures or gamer avatars. For example, Picsart allows you to upload 10-30 images of yourself, then create a custom avatar at the click of a button.

AI Videos

Picture blog post to video

Anyone who’s ever created a video for a presentation or website knows what a long process it is. That’s where AI video generators can help. With a company like Pictory, you can create awesome marketing videos in a few minutes rather than days or weeks. If you want to automate the process fully, add a URL to Pictory, and it will turn your post into a functional, engaging video in a matter of minutes.

AI Art Generators

As previously mentioned, AI art generators, or text-to-image, allow you to enter a text prompt, sit back, and watch as your image is generated before your eyes. There are dozens of text-to-image generators available, but a few more popular ones stand out. These include DALL-E 2, Midjourney, Leonardo, and Stable Diffusion.

Each one has its strengths, but some are better than others. We’ll use the same prompt to showcase the difference between platforms: a photograph of a dirt rally race car covered in dirt, moving at a fast speed, dirt flying, mountain scene, award-winning photography, soft shadows, and cinematic lighting.


DALL-E example


Midjourney example

Leonardo AI

Leonardo example

Stable Diffusion

Stable Diffusion example

AI Art Side-by-Side Comparison

For this example, we entered the same prompt, left all settings at default, and didn’t use any other enhancements. DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Leonardo AI are the AI art generators used.

Prompt: high-quality photograph of a dog astronaut, star and planet backdrop, cinematic lighting, helmet with face glass, wide angle.

AI art comparison

images created with DALL-E2, Midjourney, and Leonardo

We’ll let you judge for yourself which one did the best job.

Other AI Use Cases

Other AI

image created with Midjourney

Aside from videos and images, other AI use cases can help increase your creativity and productivity, allowing you to save that time for doing other things.

AI Logos

AI logo generators can do the job if you’re a small business owner or a creative that needs some inspiration. There are many choices, with some standouts being the Wix Logo Generator, which works inside the Wix website builder. It will create an entire logo for you, or you can start the process with AI and finish making revisions yourself. You might be asking why do I need an AI logo maker if I use an AI art generator. The answer is that it sits squarely in the middle of the struggle bus regarding creating text. It just can’t make the type legible. So, if you need a new logo for yourself or a client, check out one of the programs on our list.

AI Music Generators

Another big move for AI has come in the form of AI music generators. Content creators looking for an easier and faster way to create soundtracks for their projects will benefit (literally) by incorporating one of these tools. For example, Mubert is a generative AI model that allows you to create music and make money. You can create a track with a text prompt, then list it on the Mubert Studio marketplace.

AI Photo Editing

MJ Ansel Adams

image created with Midjourney | Photoshop AI

This next AI art use case allows you to enhance, modify, or manipulate images. This can include AI photo enhancers, image upscalers, or generative text-to-image add-ons like generative fill in Photoshop.

Using Photoshop AI’s text-to-image generative fill, you can add or remove elements from photos, extend the canvas, or generate entire composite images with nothing but text prompts.

AI Website Builders

People needing a new website who don’t have the time or expertise to build it themselves can benefit from an AI website builder. Different tools can assist you with a few lines of text or creating images. If you need an entire website created from text prompts, AI models like Framer AI can handle that job.

Using AI Art Ethically

When creating art with artificial intelligence, some ethical considerations must be made. Legal questions are being presented regarding copyright infringement. There is no precedent, so there are no clear answers on how to proceed. Some platforms, such as Adobe Firefly, have taken this into consideration. Their models were trained on royalty-free images, which should keep them out of legal hot water. Additionally, any image generated through Firefly is for entertainment purposes only. However, we anticipate that changing soon.

Before committing to a platform, research how the models were trained and gather as much information as possible. If you plan to use the art you create commercially, make sure your chosen platform supports that. Most platforms allow images to be used commercially as long as you sign up for a paid plan, but it’s always best to double-check.

Final Thoughts on AI Art

AI art holds incredible potential. It’s poised to transform the creative industry with innovative new technologies that assist creatives in making inspiring art and pushing the boundaries of human imagination. There are incredible tools like Synthesia for creating custom interactive AI avatars to incredible images through Midjourney to explore and utilize. As long as AI is used ethically and responsibly, it is an excellent creative companion to increase productivity.

Eager to learn more about AI? Check out our detailed tutorial on how to make AI art.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Before we wrap up, let’s answer some of your most common questions regarding AI art. Did we miss one? Leave a question below and we will respond!

What is AI art?
AI art, or generative AI, involves using artificial intelligence to automate creative processes, producing images, music, websites, and more. It differs from digital art created by skilled artists. AI art empowers even non-creative individuals to generate diverse art forms using text prompts. Pioneered in 2015, AI-driven image generation, like DALL-E, reversed image-to-text processes. DALL-E, released in 2021 by OpenAI, ignited the text-to-image trend. A 2022 surge in open-source AI art generators marked a collaborative expansion in the field.
What is the best AI art creator?
Jasper Art, an extension of Jasper AI, is a top AI art creator. Tailored for marketers and professionals, it simplifies blog image creation using straightforward text inputs. Offering a variety of styles inspired by your choices, Jasper Art generates original, high-resolution, copyright-free images in moments. It provides templates for efficient AI imagery creation, supporting diverse project needs. Its user-friendly interface, extensive language support, royalty-free commercial use, and unlimited image generation make Jasper Art an exceptional tool for both written and visual content needs.
How do I use AI for art?
Shutterstock's popular royalty-free AI tool offers a straightforward method for generating images for personal and commercial use. With predefined styles that can be customized, the tool refines image creation. While backed by a vast library, generating images may be slower than other tools. The tool supports various art forms, including photos, digital, and 3D art. It emphasizes ethical AI use and accommodates input in multiple languages. Despite fewer templates, the tool aids clarity through tags, helping users approach desired AI art creations.
What is the most popular AI art tool?
DALL·E 2 is a pioneering and widely used AI art generator, igniting the trend. Though its free trial is no longer available, it remains impressive and influential. Powered by ChatGPT's technology, DALL·E 2 converts text into lifelike images, allowing creative blending of concepts and styles. Its user-friendly interface, integration with other apps, and ability to edit uploaded images enhance its appeal. Released in 2021, DALL·E 2 surpasses its predecessor with higher-resolution, realistic art. While still in beta, it offers advanced editing features, allowing section erasure, image expansion, and resizing. Its impact and capabilities establish it as a prominent AI art tool.
How does AI art work?
AI art generators leverage computer technology, machine learning, robust graphics cards, and extensive data. They interpret text prompts through algorithms trained on vast image-text pairs, enabling comprehension of various requests. Two predominant model types are diffusion models, like Stable Diffusion and DALL·E 2, and Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), such as VQGAN-CLIP and BigGAN. These models either refine noise fields progressively or engage in adversarial learning. AI art apps often use these models as core algorithms, some openly disclosing their usage, while others customize open-source models. Different interfaces can thus represent similar underlying art-generating mechanisms.
What is the purpose of AI art?
AI art creatively explores machine learning and neural networks, expanding their potential and fostering innovation. It introduces novel forms of artistic expression through intricate imagery and unconventional combinations. AI art makes it possible for anyone to create art using natural language.
How can you create AI art with Midjourney?
MidJourney, a Discord bot, simplifies AI art creation through concise prompts. It collaborates well with ChatGPT for tasks like building web pages. With a lively Discord community, it encourages idea-sharing and feedback. Free trial credits, accessible with a Discord account, enable artwork generation. Using Discord commands, users describe desired outcomes rather than relying on presets. After initial image creation, downloads, upscaling, and variations are possible. Commands like /imagine and /blend aid creation and learning. While less flashy, MidJourney remains valuable for straightforward and fruitful AI art interactions.
What is the AI art trend?
The AI art trend employs AI algorithms, especially generative models, to create novel visual and multimedia artworks by analyzing existing data. Advancements in machine learning, notably OpenAI's DALL-E in 2021, have fueled this trend. Developers embraced AI art generation, leading to creations like Midjourey. An essential technique is GAN, comprising a generator and a discriminator. The generator produces content like images, and the discriminator evaluates real versus fake. Both improve through iterative learning. The AI art trend is marked by AI's ability to replicate artistic styles and collaborate with humans, expanding creative possibilities.
Can you create AI art with Lensa AI?
Lensa AI transforms selfies into artistic masterpieces through AI-generated Magic Avatars. Leveraging powerful AI photo editing tools, including Stable Diffusion deep learning model, it easily creates stunning content. Lensa AI has garnered a vast user base on both Apple and Android platforms, including celebrities, influencers, and renowned creators. It is popular for enhancing and sharing artistic photos on social media and the web.
What are the disadvantages of AI art?
AI-generated art can lack emotional depth and the personal touch of traditional art, potentially diminishing nuanced expression. The ethical concern arises from devaluing human creativity and automating creative fields. AI's emotional limitations stem from its algorithmic basis rather than personal experience. Authorship attribution for AI art is disputed, whether crediting the algorithm creator or the machine itself. Biases in AI training data can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and discrimination in AI art. While AI art presents new creative avenues, it poses significant ethical and artistic dilemmas, challenging conventional perceptions of art's essence.

Featured Image via Leonardo AI / Leonardo.ai


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