AI Stock in Book Cover Design

Note: this was originally part of my gallery page for predesigned work with some AI elements.

I thought a lot about how to use AI in my artwork, and if that was something that I really wanted to do.

AI in general is a hotbutton topic for most people, and it is especially difficult for artists. Most book cover artists (who aren’t illustrators working for the large traditional publishing houses) have seen a drop in revenue. I personally have, although I am very thankful to the writers that I have worked with for years. Times are tough for everyone though, and I completely understand that authors need to cut costs as much as the rest of us – these are pretty much universal hard times for us all.

I tend to approach things from a viewpoint of logic; it’s just how I’m made. And the absolute truth is that if you are a book cover artist who uses commercial stock, renders, etc., AI can be just another part of that toolset. We shouldn’t be slapping text on an AI image and calling it a cover, but when integrated into the usual workflow of composition and overpainting it has a place.

This brings us to the issue of AI for evil. Like the famous issue of pornography, we know it when we see it. Sure, someone can try to directly copy an existing artist’s work and that is a violation. Sure, you can generate an image of Jason Momoa as Aquaman and try to sell it as a lord of the sea cover, but you’re going to get slapped down for that (and rightly so). Style is where the issue gets tricky – according to current law you can’t copyright a style. That is just common sense, as one artist can’t lay claim to Impressionism or Art Nouveau or whatever. Try to re-create a beautiful Afghan girl with light eyes in a headscarf though, and you’ve crossed a line.

I don’t want this to get too wordy, but I just wanted to write down some of my reasoning behind the decision to play with AI a bit. Basically, I am creating these as a side project using the following guidelines:

  1. I use the paid version of Midjourney, which gives me the right to use the images commercially.
  2. These will always be composited with other images and fully overpainted.
  3. I will never use an artist’s name in the prompt to attempt to copy a style. If I ever do reference artists to get the type of art style that I want, I’ll always use multiple names so it doesn’t reference a single style too closely. I haven’t used any of those in covers, but if I did I try to make it as non-specific as possible.

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