So You Love (or Hate) AI Art… Here’s the Same Recommendation

Roughly five months ago, I held an AI art competition related to the fantasy world I’ve been building. I was trying to peek around corners, as I often do with new technologies.

Once it wrapped up, I felt a strange combination of things. It was something like one part falling in love; one part kid in a candy store; and two parts watching metaphorical birds flying overhead, harbingers of a massive forest fire on its way.

This post will share some learnings, art winners with highlights, and more.

There were a handful of rules for submissions, but the bolded portions below are the most important to me:

You can use any AI tools or combination of tools that you like, including DALL·E 2 (@OpenAI), Midjourney (@midjourney), Stable Diffusion (@StableDiffusion), Lexica (@LexicaArt,) NightCafe Studio (@NightcafeStudio), etc. You are also allowed to do manual touch-ups and fine-tuning. IMPORTANTYou *must* use Loom (@loom) or other tech to capture your full process.

Selections will be based on quality, creativity, presentation of process, and more. Process is important. People should at least be able to attempt to replicate what you did.

The entire point of the competition was to create this blog post, a simple collection of how-to tutorials that can get anyone up-skilled in a short period of time. Even if you hate everything about AI, here’s why I think it’s worth spending time on this…

The AI genie is out of the bottle. The more true experts I speak with, the clearer this is.

No matter how one feels about AI—and I have plenty of misgivings—the genie cannot be put back in the bottle. This is true for hundreds of sectors and millions of people, including artists. I’ve watched family members work their asses off as artists, I wanted to be a comic book penciler for 10+ years, and I’ve paid traditional artists hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. It’s a world that is near and dear to my heart.

But… there is no going back to the way things used to be. In fact, there is no compelling way to stall things for long. So the question for me isn’t “How can we stop AI art?,” as I don’t think it’s possible, but rather something like:

“What can artists do to get ahead of the curve?” or “How might proactive artists position themselves to benefit from this?” or “How can artists limit the damage of AI and carve out, or preserve, good niches for themselves?”

There are dozens of other similar questions we could ask, but I think the initial answer is the same for all of them: Learn to use AI tools.

To kickstart your art career, and even if you plan on using more traditional methods… learn to use AI tools.

To turbocharge your own art by streamlining mundane tasks… learn to use AI tools.

To learn the current weaknesses and blindspots of AI tools so you can plan around them… learn to use AI tools.

Most high-calibre artists have nothing to fear, many would-be artists have a lot to look forward to, and all artists have something to learn. If you would spend 10 hours at a weekend course that promised to improve the odds of a good living for the next decade, I think you should commit to spending 10 hours seriously using and scrutinizing the better AI tools. Even if you hate everything this represents, even if it’s an opponent you want to defeat, this is akin to watching tape of an opponent before a boxing match. Whether you want to surf the tsunami, dive through it, or get the hell out of the way, you need to understand the wave. To do that, you need to study it, and the sooner the better. The best defense is sometimes an early offense.

I hope you find this post helpful, and please leave comments with other recommendations. I’m sure I’ll get a few gems and a boatload of screeds, but such is the spice of the Internet.

This blog post is a rough draft and merely a starting point. And if you think the pace of AI development has been fast in the last six months, the next 12 months are going to make your head spin. I think the key is always returning your eyes to the road ahead of you instead of the rear-view mirror.

Just a few notes on structure before we dive in:

We included both “Winners” and “Honorable Mentions,” but all are included because they offered unique value or a unique approach.

I heavily weighed the incorporation of character traits. As I mention again below, it’s easy to make *something* pretty with AI, but to make a very *specific thing* with parameters and characteristics is much harder. For that reason, I tended to reward rougher art with better trait matching vs. polished art that used fewer traits.

Some tweets are no longer live, and we’ve indicated that with a comment.

Special Honorable Mention

I am putting the below Twitter thread by @JPEGHODL first, as the thread itself represents an excellent Midjourney 101 tutorial for people who haven’t used Discord much. This is placed here upfront, as many of the submissions use Midjourney:


Tim’s comments on the below: This fella’s how-to blog post is fantastic. Highly recommend.
Original tweet by @ironclawai:
Blog post with all process videos:

Tim’s comments on the below: Love this one. If you expand the Loom and watch and pause carefully, you can see the iterative process and also how disobedient AI is with some descriptors/prompts.
Original tweet by @Roof_boy_6ix:
Process video:

Tim’s comments on the below: Matches the below character well. Good touch-ups at the end, plus use of
Original tweet by @FPOkenny:
Process video:

Tim’s comments on the below: Great showcase of Midjourney + DALL·E for removing features vs. inpainting, plus shows some common limitations (e.g., hands), though those limitations have been improved recently. Good matching.
Original tweet by @nat_sharpe_:
Video process:

Tim’s comments on the below: This process video is amazing. I love the AI + physical art chops, especially starting with absolutely no experience with AI.
Original tweet by @shizudelphia:
Process video:

Tim’s comments on the below: Excellent at incorporating the actual character elements! His faithful inclusion of traits is quite likely the best of the bunch. That was one of the biggest challenges for everyone who competed. Making something pretty with AI is easy, but getting it to make something with well-defined characteristics is much harder.
Original tweet by @PSHoudini:
Process video:

Tim’s comments on the below: Great explanation of Midjourney and fine tuning with Photoshop. I suspect that, more and more, both artists and writers will use AI to brainstorm rough drafts or starting points for heavy manual polishing.
Original tweet by @blockheim:
Video process:

Tim’s comments on the below: Fun use of traits and incorporated lore (e.g., Dakus), and the process video is also well done.
Original tweet by @WriterInVerse:
Process video:

Tim’s comments on the below: Thematically strong, rapid iteration, great narration.
Original tweet by @FLitz:
Process video:

Honorable Mentions

Tim’s notes on the below: This is a good demo of quick Midjourney use, as well as use of variations and upscaling options. Most honorable mentions are honorable mentions because fewer traits were incorporated. Nonetheless, this end product really ended up eye-catching.
Original tweet by @Shakkas_Art:
Process video:

Tim’s notes: Good process post, which I appreciate, as I sometimes digest things better via text. This is sometimes easier than freeze-framing the videos.
Original tweet by @BMAotC:
Process blog post:

Original tweet by @gojeanyn:
Process video:

Tim’s notes on the below: The manual addition of the nose/earring is great.
Original tweet by @moonordust007:

Tim’s notes: Excellent process video and shows the refinement of prompts, batching variations, then the finishing in Photoshop. I’m a sucker for Japanophilia.
Original tweet by @FLitz:
Process video:

Going Off-Menu

Tim’s comments on the below: This one simply made me and Kevin Rose laugh, so I’m including it for fun.
Original tweet by @PiratePorter_:
Process video:

Tim notes on the below: This is clever. If you make it hard to see the attributes, you can dodge one challenge. I’ve seen some comic book artists do this with very dark styles that use a lot of black fills (e.g., shadows).
Original tweet by @Whisky_McTavish: [Note: This tweet is no longer available.]

Original tweet by @marluco:
Process video:

Original tweet by @Shakkas_Art:
Process video:

Tim’s comments on the below: Everyone loves a good steampunk samurai…
Original tweet by @flamesbria02:
Process video:

Tim’s comments on the below: This one is very good for including detailed gauntlets, which seemed to be one of the hardest parts of the assignment.
Original tweet by @FromInfinityTV:
Process video:

Tim’s comments on the below: Great combo of AI and manual tweaking. Too fast to replicate, but it was still worth including.
Original tweet by @Singularifica: [Editor note: This tweet is no longer available.]
Process video:

Tim’s comments on the below: Funny “boomerang” story; great “let me go off menu” experiments. Cityscapes, coliseums, etc.
Original tweet by @DanSchoonmaker:
Process blog post:

Screenshot of prompts by @shmichael_eth:

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8 Replies to “So You Love (or Hate) AI Art… Here’s the Same Recommendation”

    1. But still facinating! Thank you for a glimpse into a world I am happy to admire with my mouth agape!

  1. Dear Tim — in your latest 5-Bullet Friday, you had the following quote: “If you can’t read and write, you can’t think. Your thoughts are dispersed if you don’t know how to read and write. You’ve got to be able to look at your thoughts on paper and discover what a fool you were.”

    This quote burnt a hole in my heart. I am an avid reader and listener of all your material, and try to never miss a beat! so i’m writing to you with all love and compassion here… not everyone has the gift of reading and writing, despite all efforts. My 13 year old child will likely never be able to write her thoughts on paper, let alone read them back to herself to discover what a fool she is/was.

    i understand the quote very much, as I have recently re-read my own journal entries (fool or no fool!!!!).

    I hope you will consider more closely the varying degrees of human development and abilities in your newsletters…

    with love,

    Nisreen, DC

  2. AI in general is a tempting field but also a dangerous one. Nowadays it’s nice to play around and it’s fun but if it once develops consciousness it could be not so funny anymore. Let’s see how it develops. I hope the best.

    1. The linked blog post discusses the author’s perspective on AI-generated art and provides recommendations for those who love or hate it. It explores the potential of AI in creative fields and encourages embracing technology while also recognizing the importance of human creativity and expression.