What Is AI Art? Everything You Need To Know


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Key Takeaways

  • AI art was invented roughly in the 1960s.
  • Made leaps and bounds in development in 2021 and 2022.
  • AI uses models and datasets to create art.
  • Midjourney, DALL-E, and Stable Diffusion are some of the most popular AI art generators you can use to create AI art.
  • LAION 5B is one of the biggest datasets available for AI art generation.
  • AI art does not have copyright protection automatically, the same way human-made digital art does.

What Is AI Art?

AI art, or artificial intelligence art, refers to any form of digital art that is generated using AI tools. Although most commonly associated with visual art, such as images and videos, AI art also extends to audio compositions, including music.

AI art is mostly created with text prompts (text-to-image) or using an input image, which is then transformed into something new. AI art is created with models that are trained with datasets, such as LAION 5B.

A Brief History Of AI Art

Artificial intelligence (AI) and art have a long history together, with the first examples of AI-generated art dating back to the 1960s. Early forms of AI art were created using simple rule-based systems or decision tree algorithms, which were used to generate basic visual patterns or designs. One of these systems was called AARON, created by Harold Cohen.

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In the 1960s and 1970s, as computers became more powerful and sophisticated, AI artists began experimenting with more complex forms, such as using random number generators or self-modifying code. These early AI artworks were often created as demonstrations of the capabilities of the new technology and were mostly seen in academic research communities.

In the 1980s and 1990s, AI art entered the mainstream with the emergence of computer graphics and the widespread use of PCs. This period saw the development of more advanced AI algorithms, such as artificial neural networks, which were used to create more realistic and lifelike images and animations.

Théâtre D’opéra Spatial by Jason M Allen

In 2022 the AI art scene took another turn as the latest AI models (Stable Diffusion, DALL-E 2) used current artists’ works as the training dataset. The issue arises from using copyrighted images as the dataset to train the AI models. Some artists are left with unease feeling as AI art can already win competitions, as happened at Colorado State Art Fair. Jason M Allen made an AI art piece called “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” using Midjourney and won himself first place as an emerging digital artist.

Definition of AI Art

AI art is defined as any artwork created with the help of artificial intelligence algorithms. This includes generative design tools such as generative adversarial networks (CNNs) and machine learning techniques which can be used to produce abstract images or even replicate styles from famous artists like Van Gogh or Monet, all with a click of a button.

Types of AI Art

There are many different types of AI art, including:

  • GAN (Generative Adversarial Network), which creates realistic imagery by pitting two competing AIs against each other.
  • NST (Neural Style Transfer), which uses an algorithm to apply one artist’s style to another image.
  • Deep Dream, which produces psychedelic visuals.
  • Evolutionary algorithms that evolve based on user feedback.
  • Facial recognition software for creating portraits based on photos.
  • Natural language processing for generating poetry and stories.

What Is Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) And How It Works

The main focus of GAN is to generate data from scratch, mainly images, but it can be used to create music too.

Unpaired image-to-image translation using cycle-consistent adversarial networks (image source)

GAN is composed of two deep networks, the generator, and the discriminator. Conceptually the discriminator guides the generator on what images to create. It’s kind of like a filter of sorts. When GAN is trained with real images and generated images, GAN builds a discriminator to learn what makes an image look real.

Visualization of how generator and discriminator work in combination with GAN (image source)

Eventually, when the GAN is trained with enough images, it can start to produce real-looking images and images that look like Monet himself painted.

What Are Datasets And How Are They Used To Train AI Models

Datasets are a structured collection of data usually associated with a unique body of work. Datasets are crucial in machine learning. Without datasets, AI can’t learn. A dataset contains information and patterns that can be used to train a machine. All of this is done with models and algorithms.

The higher quality of your dataset, the better it is for the model to train on. The dataset gives the algorithm the best possible inputs to work with. The key with AI art and the dataset is that the dataset is as relevant as possible. LAION5B and CLIP are specifically created to give the AI art model the best possible dataset to work with.

If you gave the AI model a dataset that has nothing to do with pictures, digital art, anime art, or anything related to art, the output would be something totally unrelated to art.

You can use the CLIP front site to search what images are used in the 400M or the LAION5B dataset (use the Index tab to select dataset). You can also use filters to bring up different images.

LAION 5B test search


One of the largest dataset providers and or collectors is LAION. LAION5B and LAION5B High-Res (a subset of LAION5B consisting of 170M images over 1024px x 1024px in size) are datasets that contain 5.85 billion CLIP-filtered image text pairs. CLIP (Contrastive Language-Image Pre-Training) is a neural network trained on various (image, text) pairs.

LAION 5B, as mentioned before, consists of 5.85 billion images, and by exploring Hugging Face and the laion2b-en dataset, you can see where exactly those images have been taken from. It includes sites like Amazon, Shopify, Gamersnine, Dreamstime, Pinterest (which has many Artstation art pinned), Fine Art America, YouTube, Big Stock Photo, Google, etc.

LAION 5B datasets:

  • Laion2b-en
  • Laion2b-multi
  • Laion1b-nolang

Dreamstime’s terms of use are very clear on the use of their material: “All Media, audio, and video material and related informational materials in any medium provided by Dreamstime hereunder, including related text, captions, or information (collectively referred to as Media) are owned by Dreamstime and by our Media providers (Contributors), members of our community. All Media is protected by US and international copyright laws.

Midjourney and LAION dataset


Midjourney AI art generator, for example, is said to use the LAION dataset (it’s assumed to use the 400M dataset) as the base dataset to train the Midjourney AI art model. What should be remembered is that Midjourney must reconstruct the data by downloading the subset of the dataset they are interested in.

LAION and the copyright perspective

The following paragraph is straight from LAIONs FAQ: “LAION datasets are simply indexes to the internet, i.e., lists of URLs to the original images together with the ALT texts found linked to those images. While we downloaded and calculated CLIP embeddings of the pictures to compute similarity scores between pictures and texts, we subsequently discarded all the photos. Any researcher using the datasets must reconstruct the image data by downloading the subset they are interested in. For this purpose, we suggest the img2dataset tool.”

LAION also provides a takedown form on their site if a person sees their personal data has been used in the dataset. Thanks to GDPR, artists can, to some extent, remove their works from the dataset. LAION will investigate the request and, upon verification, will remove the entry from the data repositories they control. This might help in some cases, but if there are other repositories, then it could be that you can’t get your artwork completely out from the datasets.

LAION, however, is only one player in the dataset market. Anyone in the world can create a dataset from pictures found online and train an AI machine to create images of any kind based on any art style found online. This kind of behavior is already visible in the Stable Diffusion Discord community. People can train AI to do whatever style, and all they need to do is collect sample images online and create a dataset from them.

How To Create AI Art?

Creating AI art is as simple as going to a site offering AI art generator services like Open AI’s DALL-E, Midjourney, or NightCafe. All of the mentioned sites offer free credits to try and use their AI art generator. If you want to experiment more with the generators, you can always buy more credits.

DALL-E 2, for example, offers 50 free credits when you sign up and 15 free credits for every new month.

DALL-E credits
You can use a feature like “Surprise me” to start with DALL-E.

You can create AI art by just typing text prompts to DALL-E and clicking the Generate button. Based on your text prompt, it will create an image for you.

Example prompt and image created with DALL-E

Tips For Creating Quality AI Art

  • Use detailed text prompts
  • Add digital art into the text prompt to get digital art-looking images
  • You can also use words like photograph if you want to create life-like results
  • You can type an artist’s name to get results that look like the artist her/himself had drawn the image
  • Different AI art generators produce a different kinds of looking images, so try using different services to find your favorite

How To Use AI Art?

There are plenty of different use cases of how you can use AI art. You can use AI art to:

  • Sell digital products with AI art on it
  • Sell printable AI wall art
  • Sell AI TV frame art
  • Create a book cover for your novel
  • To create marketing campaigns that need digital art
  • Brainstorm visual ideas for movie production, video games, etc.
  • Use it as a reference for your next drawing
  • Create wallpapers for your computer screen
  • Create visuals for print-on-demand products, such as t-shirt designs or prints

While the list is long and can only be expanded, you should remember that AI art does not have the same benefits as original digital art. Usually, AI art generators can only create rather small images, something like 1024 x 1024 px. When you think about printing and print-on-demand, you need roughly 4000 px x 4000px resolution images.

Thankfully there are image upscalers, and if you use Stable Diffusion, it has built-in functions that you can use to enlarge your image to a bigger size.

What also should be remembered is that AI art does not enjoy the same copyright privileges as original human-created digital art does. This means that your creations can be freely used by anyone in any way possible.

AI Art And Copyright

The simple answer to AI art and copyright is that AI art is not protected by copyright automatically. The U.S. Copyright law states that the work has to be created by a human being. The U.S. copyright law states that copyright law only protects “the fruits of intellectual labor” that “are founded in the creative powers of the mind.”

What this means for AI artists is that whatever they create is not protected, and anyone can use their creations in whichever way they see fit. This gives a huge advantage to digital artists over AI artists as their works are protected by copyright laws automatically.

The key aspect is that the artwork is created by a human being. While human intervention is required to input the text prompts, the actual creative work is done by AI, and there lies the key to why at least in the U.S., AI art won’t enjoy the automatic copyright protection compared to handmade digital art.

Currently, people are more or less able to identify whether an artwork was created with AI or not. In the future, the situation might not be the same, and this can create problems with copyright laws as it’s hard to tell whether an artwork was created by a human being or not.

FAQs About AI Art

Can I use AI-generated art?

Yes, you can use AI-generated art. You can use it to sell digital products, create wall art, etc. The use cases are almost unlimited, and in a way, AI art does not differ from digital art, except that AI art is not automatically protected by copyright law, which means that someone can use your designs and images freely.

What are people using to make AI art?

People use Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, DALL-E, NightCafe, etc., services and sites to create AI art. Each AI art generator has its features and style, and some are free, while others work with paid credits. You can read more about AI art generators in our article on the best AI art generators.



Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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