AI Art Generators — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | October 2022

A robot painting a picture.

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has quickly advanced and transformed many industries. One new and controversial application of AI is in the realm of art. AI art generators make it possible for anyone, without any artistic or technical skill, to generate a work of art.

What Are AI Art Generators?

There are many ways to create, download, and edit images online. But, AI art generators are different from traditional image creating or editing software. They allow you to create a brand new image from scratch by only inputting text. These autonomous robots can create original art based on simple cues. For example, you could type in "cat climbing a tree" or "crowded city street" and it will generate an image.
Although AI art is an emerging technology, it isn't brand new. Google released a project in 2015 called DeepDream, which is still available today. As AI technology advances, tools are getting more sophisticated.

The Debate Over AI Art

Depending on who you ask, AI art is either an exciting new development or a threat to genuine creativity. This technology is controversial and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. There are a few concerns, both aesthetic and legal, that AI artists and anyone who uses AI art have to contend with. 
Artists and critics disagree on whether AI-generated work can be great or even original. Art Basel asks, "Is AI Art Any Good?" without coming to a definitive conclusion. They point out that AI art is now sold by major auction houses such as Christie's, which sold an AI piece for over $400,000 in 2018.

AI Art And Copyright

An article in Kotaku calls AI art an "ethical and copyright nightmare" due to the myriad of issues it brings up. Copyrights are a major concern with all online content. The digital age has made it much easier for anyone to copy and repost material. With AI, copyright issues have gotten even murkier.
For example, an AI generator can create a copy of a famous painting, raising questions of whether this violates the intellectual property rights of the original creator. A court in the US recently ruled that art created by AI can't be copyrighted. This, of course, could always change in the future. 

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Top AI Art Generators

There are already several platforms where you can create AI art either for free or at a reasonable cost. The following are our picks for the top 4.

1. DALL·E2

DALL·E2 is an AI system running on OpenAI that was recently released in Beta. Over the summer of 2022, they announced they'd allow one million users to test the system for free. Users get a certain number of credits each month to create their own projects.

DALL·E2 uses natural text description to create images that match specific criteria. For example, you can ask it to create an image of a sunset in the style of Van Gogh. It can also make edits to existing images. 

2. MidJourney

MidJourney is another AI-powered art generator tool that's currently in Beta. To gain access, you must first join Discord and request a code. You can also request a code by joining a Facebook group. There's a free trial period where you can create around 20 images.

There are two paid membership plans. Basic membership is $10/month and provides up to 200 jobs per month or 200 GPU minutes. Standard membership at $30/month includes 900 GPU minutes. You can also access Relax mode, which gives you unlimited access in exchange for longer wait times. There's also a Commercial membership at $600/year. This is only available to companies with at least $1 million in annual revenue.

Users can choose whether to make their projects public or to use Private Visibility.

3. NightCafe

NightCafe is another simple tool that allows anyone to create AI art. NightCafe gives you a choice of several formats to create art.
  • Artistic or VQGAN+CLIP: The original NightCafe algorithm often produces surrealistic effects.
  • Coherent: Made for creating more literal and realistic interpretations of the text.
  • Style Transfer: Users can start with an existing photo and transform it. 
  • Stable: The most advanced algorithm, giving artists the most control over their creations.

You can rework the same image using different algorithms. For example, you can create something using Artistic and then use the Stable or Coherent algorithm.

NightCafe works on a credit system, giving users a certain number of free credits daily. Those who want more credits can join the paid plans, which range from $9.99/month for 100 credits to $79.99/month for 1500 credits.

You can learn more about NightCafe by joining their Discord group.

4. Deep Dream Generator

Google engineer Alexander Mordvintsev created Deep Dream in collaboration with Mannheim University. It's now a free online app that anyone can use to create original AI art. Deep Dream offers three style choices.
  • Deep Dream: The original algorithm.
  • Deep Style: A more advanced version that allows for more detail and control. 
  • Thin Style: A simplified and faster version of Deep Style.
You can browse the Deep Dream gallery to see examples of work created with each style.
Deep Dream Generator is free, but there are also paid plans for people who want to create more projects. Pricing depends on energy used and the amount of storage. There are three plans: Advanced at $19/month provides 120 energy points and 20 GB of Storage. Professional, at $39/month, provides 250 energy points and 50GB of storage. Ultra, at $99/month, provides 750 energy points and 200GB of storage.
You must sign up to use any Deep Dream Generator tools. 

AI Art is Just Getting Started

The AI art tools above and others are all new and evolving. In the coming years, we can expect more platforms to emerge. Features may also soon integrate with social media sites, simplifying AI art distribution. Along with these advances, many lawsuits will likely exist involving copyright issues. Whatever one's opinion, there's little doubt that AI-generated art will be a major influence on culture and technology.

Topics: Design and Technology