Opinion on Use of AI Art

Would like to hear your thoughts on the use of AI art in the creation of Custom Magic cards. It's a hot topic in the art community, and since the art community and the Custom MTG community are hand-in-hand, I'm curious to see what people think. 


  • I think its good for people who arent good at drawing/photoshopping things or who dont have the time to work for hours on a picture. It gives a lot of people access to the ability to create something who in the past wouldve just copypasted/stolen a picture they found on the internet or who just wouldnt have created custom cards at all.
    The AI is only a tool making life easier for some, while it will never be as good and creative as a person/artist because the AI is not able to create something really new. All it does is take existing Art and create something similar to it while an artist can create things that didnt exist before.
  • @LvB I agree completely with that. AI should and always be an assistant to aid in the creative process. I myself, when I draw, say a new character or maybe a structure/scene, I use AI to assist me with design ideas, usually generating multiple images at once and mixing elements of them together as I put my own signature touch on it. AI itself isn't the issue as most people say it is, people are just using it in ways it wasn't intended to be. AI is a tool, its not the wielder as well.
  • As someone boldly against AI Art being considered art, a thorough exception applies to AI art used for purposes such as representation. You won't always be able to find that perfect piece of art that really shows what a card is, and a piece of art generated on WOMBO, MidJourney, etc. will always be better than no art at all. It's not like we're able to cough up and pay artists after all, so it also works as a moral high ground.
  • edited May 2
    Personally, its quicker and easier to generate ai artwork. I think if you learn the tricks of the program you're using, you can become the artist in a small way. Also - we wouldn't have to worry about some random copyright claim or whatever.

    Just be careful of accidental appendages... I didn't catch this one right away but it's not so bad now is it?  :D  >:)

    The art depicts a mischievous imp-like creature standing atop a pile of broken magical rules and holding a spellbook in one hand with the other hand pointing towards the viewer as if issuing a challenge In the background various magical symbols and glyphs are breaking apart and rearranging in chaotic patterns as if being manipulated by the imps magic The color scheme should be predominantly red and purple with hints of blue and green
  • I've recently started playing with stable diffusion and some of my gens can definitely be serviceable for card art. Often times I have a great card idea write all up and then it comes down to finding art to represent my concept and it's a complete dud. I either spend more time that I'd like digging for just the right thing but I'll never find it, like the closest thing is a game screen shot or some real life image. Sometimes I might even have to change the card concept to line up with something I did end up finding that can pass off as what I want.
    When I make a custom card first and foremost my expression is from the card text the art is secondary, I might even say it's a bit of a chore to find art representing my idea, so if AI art can handle that I'm all for it.
  • @jpastor Damn, I had no idea that image was AI generated when I first saw it. AI has come a long way and it is able to make adequate artwork for a card. I personally wont use AI art for my cards, because I believe custom cards are not only to admire the effort put into the design and the mechanic of the card, but to also the admire and give recognition to the hard work and beauty that was put into the artwork itself. Although that is all only personal preference, as artwork is a special thing to me. 
  • LvBLvB
    edited May 4
    @jpastor which ai did you use to create this?

    I've tried

    But they have problems with faces/persons. Nature or Objects is not such a problem, but creating a creature/person that looks not weird is a real problem for them.

    Or maybe im just bad at telling the ai what exactly to create.
  • @LvB
    Most ai programs have problems with faces/eyes and fingers.
  • I think that the issues with AI art are more about whether they can compete with or even replace human generated artwork, as well as designating ownership of such art, since both the AI programmer and the user of the program both can claim it's their product.  Neither of these debates really applies to custom magic cards.
    In most cases, people aren't paying for art, getting paid for the use of someone's art, or really making any significant impact on the art world.  Yes, there may be some times when a person may see some neat art on a custom magic card and say, "I want a poster of that image" and then go purchase from the artist, but custom magic cards are neither intended for art promotion nor expected forms of art promotion by the artists.
    In the case of ownership, if you're using a program that allows you to create AI art for personal use, this definitely qualifies.  Once again, unless you're actually trying to make a profit or market your custom cards, the question of ownership is relatively meaningless.  No AI art company is going to say that making some pretend cards just for you and your friends isn't a reasonable, personal use of their software.
    Of all the uses of AI generated art, this one seems the most in line with what it's actually good for.  It allows for niche and unique art to be generated for a specific card without replacing any sales or purchase that would have gone to a real artist and, above all, it's being used as a supplement to the actual card design.  The art (except in the case of alters of real cards) is rarely the actual focus of a custom card, just a nice touch that can look cool or add a little clarity on what's actually going on in the story of the card, but if any of my cards were just blank art, the cards would still be basically just as interesting to me, and I assume to most of us.
  • As a person involved in the art community, I am very strongly opposed to AI generated images. It's essentially theft, and not even art at all.

    I understand that it's hard to find the perfect image, but you don't need to. For the majority of the cards I make, I can never find art that fits my original idea. Instead, I go down an Artstation rabbithole until I find a few interesting pieces. These give me new ideas for my card and can add richness in design and flavor.

    There are millions of talented artists out there sharing their work for free online, and all it takes is a few minutes to find some gorgeous pieces of artwork that can not only accurately represent your card, but maybe give you new ideas along the way. I encourage all of you to just take those few extra minutes to create better cards and give these incredibly skilled artists the recognition they deserve.

    My other point is that AI is a soulless machine. It's not really creating, and it shows. AI image generators don't produce the same quality of art as human artists do; their composition is muddy or chaotic; they overuse bright or saturated colors, and they can't even draw hands.

    I apologize for the lengthiness of this comment, but the gist of it is:

    1) AI art is worse than human art.

    2) Finding imperfect artworks can open you up to new design spaces.

    3) Artists put tons of effort and time into their work and deserve some recognition.
  • @theirintheattic I 100% agree that there is a lot of value to using real art, and you pointed out some reasons that's worth your while.  I'm really concerned about your initial argument, which both seems unsupported and almost immediately contradictory.  You accused those using AI generated art of committing theft.  I don't think I can find anything in your comment that suggests that there's any theft going on.  I guess I'm just trying to understand, because if you can make a good case for the use of AI generated art constituting theft, then I would never use it again.  I, however, just can't seem to figure out who is being robbed and what is being taken.  In the slimmest stretch of the imagination, I guess I could say that you're stealing an artist's opportunity to get some minor, incidental exposure through a medium they are, almost certainly, not even aware of, and, absolutely, not relying on.  That's a pretty big stretch, though, especially when considering that we (the custom card community) provides a vast amount of free exposure for artists all the time with no compensation or even acknowledgement.  It's hardly stealing to reduce the amount you're providing a free service that the other party never even requested.

    I know, as an artist, it is really hard to deal with technology competing with an already dense market that doesn't seem to even be able to support many of the talented people that should, ideally, be successful in it.  I would know, I'm a professional musician, and let me tell you, if you think AI generated art is hurting artists, just think about how much electronically rendered and produced music has taken place of live studio musicians in the past few decades.  It's a scary time for artists, but I've come to accept that for some music, mixing some samples is sufficient, but, after decades since you could just make a trombone sample play whatever you want with a few lines of code, I can still get a regular invite to play a set at my local jazz club every Thursday night.  Not all technology replacing true art is bad.  Sometimes, it's just different, and different isn't always fun, but it's usually okay.

    ...aaaand you were apologizing for the length of your comment.  Oops.  I rambled a bit, sorry.
  • @StuffnSuch Sorry for not clarifying my point. AI image generators generate images by trawling the internet for any mildly relevant images to frankenstein together. The source material they harvest includes not just art posted by artists, but pictures of real people. These images are collected without telling the original artist or subject of the photograph, without asking permission to use the image, and without paying royalties, yet they are used in for-profit products. Furthermore, certain softwares can literally use pictures of children to generate pornographic images. Basically, it is highly immoral.

    I hear a lot of people arguing that AI image generators using, as I call it, stolen artworks is the same as human artists using those artworks as reference images. This is of course a false equivalence, as AI is incapable of creativity. This means they are, pixel for pixel, stitching together millions or billions of images collected without consent and without payment. In some cases, you can even see the AI's failed attempts to erase artists' signatures and even stock photo watermarks, which I believe resulted in a lawsuit from a stock images company.

    Hopefully that clarifies my argument. It was not my intention to make a point and not support it, but this has been much debated by people more intelligent and qualified than I am. Again, sorry for writing so much.
  • That makes a tremendous amount of sense.  I hadn't considered the sourcing of the image generator to be considered theft, largely due to the fact that, if done by a human, certainly would be considered transformative enough to fall easily under the umbrella of fair use.  I guess it does make a significant difference whether a discerning artists copies ideas and techniques and such from another work to create something decidedly original or a machine utilizes a resource to create a product.  The dilution of the use is so significant, at first glance it seems like it shouldn't matter, but then you can ask, "if it's stealing to just mix together 3 or 4 images without permission, how come it's not stealing to  do the exact same thing with even more victims?"  Diluting your crime so you don't have any one stand out victim doesn't make it less wrong.

    I do wonder if it really does copy pixel for pixel.  My understanding of machine learning is that it does not actually directly copy anything.  Instead it seems to be about breaking source images down to identify patterns, looking for patterns that are consistent across multiple sources, and then creating an image that isn't a copy of any original work directly, but that does follow similar patterns.  I could be wrong, or it could depend on the program, but if that's the case, it may be harder to make the argument that it's copying rather than just creating work "inspired by" other works.

    This'll be an interesting concept to follow as it goes through what I'm sure will be many years of legal unwinding before there's a real consensus.  I hope, whatever happens, corporations don't loose sight of the fact that without real artists, even the best AI can't really create anything truly original.
  • @theirintheattic AI can be trained to mimic an artist's style, quite convincingly too.  I can see you can have an argument where now if you have the right models you don't need to commission art from that artist anymore, you can generate them yourself. The model was trained using art by that artist without their permission or compensation, and then that trained model is distributed on the internet for anyone to use for free. The person who made that model might have done it for free or was paid to do it.
    There is an argument that if a specific model was trained to mimic that artist's style that it should be removed from the internet (good luck) or somehow the artist gets monetized. There certainly a moral grounds that they should be compensated even more so if their style is very distinctive. But the real question is can it be done and enforced, how can you claim a certain piece of AI art is in your style if your style is not very distinct where will the line be drawn? That I don't think it is possible, if your artwork is out there it can be downloaded and use to train a model I think you only need a handful of it and it can be done. Wagging your finger and telling people AI art is bad isn't going to stop them, you need to think of a better way or the artist needs to shift into a better niche where current AI art can't get it right yet.
    From what I can do with it there are glaring limitations, what it can do really well right now are pin-ups, single character posing in pretty much any costume. Even then, if the AI did not train for that character you can't just make that character with prompts you'll be making a knock off and it's obvious. You need someone who knows how to train a model to dig through the internet to find like 50 pictures of the character, tag it and build a model, not everyone knows how to do this (I don't) and you need a powerful machine or else you'll run out of memory. Anyway AI can't make character if it was not trained. So that mean really popular characters will have a model with them in it baked in, obscure or original characters are safe (until someone trains a model and people download it).
    Another thing AI is still really bad at are hands, its almost a meme so pretty much any time you need a character to interact with anything, AI will struggle. Even common things like holding objects it's going to be hit or miss, either the hand is messed up or the object being held is wrong. Interacting with people will also make it struggle. If people want something interacting with something, with AI, that be a gamble and whatever gets posted is highly curated stuff where everything aligned (good faces, good hands, correct characters, good clothes, etc..), maybe 1/100 gens that might have taken hours (of waiting) and then in photoshop fixing. Faces are actually something it's good at, it's only when the character is a bit far away you need to go in and touch it all up.
    Anyway for now what I'm saying is the threshold has risen, you can't just do pin-ups of popular characters being cute or sexy, AI art can make those by the literal millions.
    You can argue that people can do immoral things driven by greed and bad faith with the new tech, I will agree people are bad but what's new? The tech is not at fault. For me it's avenue for creativity, no longer are the images in my head locked in there for only me to see, if I'm good enough I can craft a prompt and the AI model, if trained well enough will spit out an image. If it's not quite right I adjust my keywords, put more weights on certain words, tell it at what angle, I craft a composition and try again. Repeat until I craft a prompt to put my imagination into reality (or fail because AI has it's limits). Is this not unlike being a cardsmith? You have a vision or someone makes a request of their vision and then you write something, you refine it until you think it's good enough for the world to see.
    Obligatory sorry for the long write up, I've been playing with AI art for the past few months and I'm having a blast, there are good and bad arguments about it but for the most part it's not going away and people are going to use it.
  • @Sweda I can't quite tell if you're agreeing or disagreeing with me. I agree that AI image generators have gotten quite good, and that they still can't do hands. As to mimicking a style, it's not so much the style of the artist AI copies as the actual pieces of art. There is documented proof of AI blatantly copying a piece of art that is copyrighted intellectual property, which is illegal. It also uncannily resembled the original piece, making it clear that it was just poorly copied.

    Of course I'm not blaming the tech. I'm not even blaming people for using it, especially people like dungeon masters with no money and such. Obviously I'd first encourage you to learn to draw or use photoshop, or as I said before, take a little longer to find a good picture. The people I blame are those who make and profit off of these art theft machines. I strongly encourage people to avoid using AI image generators, but I can't really fault people for wanting cheap, on demand images.

    What I do take issue with is the use of the word 'craft' when referencing writing prompts. Perhaps I misunderstand your meaning, and if I am I apologize in advance, but to elevate writing a dozen words in a text box to the same level that artists spend literal decades working to achieve is both inaccurate and highly disrespectful. One aspect of AI image generators is that should not be a debate is that they do not 'create' art, and the people that use them are not artists. 

    Just say it as it is: you're writing a couple or a dozen prompt words in a text box, and slightly changing them if the result is not satisfactory. It's not crafting; writing prompts requires none of the finesse, technical understanding, experience, or raw talent that real artists must possess to create works of art that AI crudely imitates.

    I would also argue that writing prompts is not at all comparable to cardsmithing. Creating cards (or at least doing it well) demands not just creativity but a good knowledge of the rules, lore and flavor of the game, as well as knowledge of general concepts such as probability, simple mathematics, and game design and balance. If you need proof of this, look as some terrible cards on the site. We don't just write a few words in the text box and then fiddle with it until it's right, many of us go through long processes involving peer critiques, referencing real cards, playtesting, and much more.

    Finally, I have never actually heard a good argument for AI image generators. Sure, I've heard the obligatory "don't be such a luddite, this is progress", and "this is just a tool, like digital art or the camera". For both these arguments, I'd say that

    1) Progress is not inherently good. It's only good and worth pursuing if it benefits people. I strongly believe, and I've provided evidence already, that this has a net negative effect on the world of art.

    2) This is not a tool, it's a replacement. Digital art and photography are tools. This is more akin to the roboticization and mechanization of factories that removed millions of jobs.
  • edited May 7
    @theirintheattic Sorry if my stance was a tad confusing, I do agree that AI can, is and will be stealing avenue from artists but I also understand that it is inevitable and no matter how much people say it's the devil, the writing is on the wall.  If there are valid claims to intellectual property theft it'll have to go through the courts, laws need to be made and you know how long that's gonna take. Unless there is a government body or large influential company will to bat for the artists you need to prepare for the shift. For the folks copying styles and generating them to sell, yes they are the bad guys and you should go after them but again you need laws.
    As for my use of the word craft, I think there is a difference between craftsman and artist this is why I say craft. I use tools to make something that is objective. I craft the prompt to make the AI make something for me and if it's not to the specification I got back and refine it. I purposely avoid saying I'm an artist, I know I'm not, I know the AI is doing the heavy lifting, but I know I'm making something to meet an objective, that to me is what a craftsman does. Weather I've spent 3 months or 3 years learning the skill I'm still making something, I'm making the prompt, it still requires time, decision making, knowledge of extensions, the limits of the AI, "wrangling" the AI to get it to do what you want it to do.
    It's hard to explain what AI art is to me, to me it like a game to create a prompt that will generate that requested picture consistently. On top of that I use dynamic prompts so each generated image can have a slight variation, like a different hand position, a different facial expression, and I can even do nested dynamic prompts. At the same time I need to ensure none of the tags clash, ensure I put the right weights for the tags so that makes it in the end image. If I need supplementary models I need to ensure the weight isn't too much least I "fry' the image.  I need to take these into consideration and shape the prompt so each image I make with the prompt meets the description. Now, I'm probably the weird one but for me it's not the image that I'm proud of but it's the prompt, a prompt that can give me the requested composition a consistent yield each time I hit the generate button. That is why I say it's a craft.
    I say for me cardsmithing is similar to prompt making, well because I get the same joy in trying to make a vision a reality. Both have rules, in MtG I'm bound by the available abilities and keywords, for the prompt I bound by the tags the AI model is trained on. In MtG to make an interesting card it needs interactions or triggers, for prompts if I do dynamic prompts I can add variety but also need to ensure they don't clash ruining the image. MtG has card interaction, with prompts you can combo different supplementary models to make something new, like a glowing runes model+realistic tank model to make tanks have glowing runes. And ultimately both demand an open imagination, a vision and the drive to make it "work". I take great pleasure in crafting both cards and prompts because when it works it works.
    Would you say one good thing AI art does it that is allows people with a creative mind have an outlet for that creativity such as myself? Should ability to create visual art be gated behind to those that took the time to learn to draw?
    I don't consider myself and artist but I can say I'm a crafter I hope this write-up helped you understand my take on how I use the AI, I don't speak for everyone just for myself.
  • @Sweda I totally get your point. As an artist myself, I have to apologize. I, like many artists, can be a bit of an elitist when it comes to art. Yes, one benefit of AI is that it allows people to get ideas out of their heads. However, I cannot condone the ethical issues associated with it and I believe in the case of these softwares, the bad outweighs the good.

    I understand your use of the word 'craft', it is justified here, but be careful with it. Often, 'crafting' is another form of art, used to refer to disciplines such as carving, sculpting, and metalworking. It's basically an umbrella term for any 3D art. All of THese art forms, of course, require lots of skill and experience to be good at.

    This brings me to a point about gatekeeping art. Especially for drawing, you don't "learn" per say. You just draw, like I did and still do, and you get better over time. I have been drawing for over 16 years, and I've never taken lessons. The extent of my art education is youtube videos. I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have improved significantly since I started (thank god lol) and am proud of my work. Drawing, painting, sculpting, and any other for of art are all so fulfilling and have a very low or non-existent barrier of entry. This is why I suggest people just pick up a pencil and draw. Sure, go ahead and use AI generated images as references or for ideas. Just, for the sake of artists and all of art, please don't pass off the results of only AI work as art.

    I must admit I've only used an AI image generator once, before I knew how they worked, so I have no experience with prompt writing. If it really is that difficult and complex, I'm sorry for being harsh. But from what others tell me and from what I've seen online, it's still very low effort. I mean, when I see screenshots of other people's AI prompts, it's just a list of words going "rule of thirds, high contrast, woman, elf, bow, dragon, red, sunset, landscape, forest, dynamic composition, triangular composition, etc..." To me, that's not art, not even knowledge of the concepts of art. It's basically a list of all the stuff you either want to see or heard an artist say once and figured you might as well give it a shot. I'm not trying to invalidate what you do, I'm in no position to do so, but please be respectful of real artists.

    Again, don't take this as a bash. Artists can get a little preachy and gatekeepy, but the price of entry is literally the cost of a pencil and a sheet of paper, and I highly recommend you come join us.
  • I consider myself a talented musician, and a mediocre artist.  It didn't take much to become good enough to recognize what it is I'm drawing, but I know for a fact that even if I were to devote tremendous amounts of time to improving my artistic skills, I'd never be as good an artist as I am a musician.  It's just not something that will ever be my strength.  I wish there were an AI generator that you could sketch out an idea, and it would do all the fancy technical work to turn your rough sketch into a work of art in the style you desire.  Anyone know of something like that?  More importantly, if we're using artists works as a reference to take an amature sketch to a professional level, does that skirt around the direct copying issue enough to be reasonable and acceptable?
  • @StuffnSuch Yes, artists using other artists' work as reference is not a copyright infringement so long as the references are not copyrighted intellectual property and the art produced is not a for-profit product.

    I understand that even with practice some people can never achieve the desired skill level in a certain discipline. Hell, I'd love to be able to do all kinds of things, but I will never be able to. However, that's what makes art and so many other wonderful hobbies so special. If everyone can create michelin star winning dishes at the press of a button, it wouldn't be special anymore. All food would taste average. The same goes for art. If the use of AI continues like this, AI users will inevitably outpace real artists and both online communities and the market will be flooded with AI generated images that, while technically impressive, all look the same. Art will stop being special.

    It's ok to not be great at something and be able to appreciate people that are. I enjoy listening to Jimi Hendrix play the guitar knowing damn well I'll never be able to play like that even if I tried really hard. But if everyone could play like Hendrix, he wouldn't be special. None of them would be special.
  • I see both sides of this topic. I like the random images it creates, but sometimes the images come out creepy too, so idk. I guess we will have to see how well the AI becomes accepted or not over time.
  • AI image generators have been out for quite a while, and people are pretty divided on it. I feel like many people like or don't mind it, but pretty much every visual artist is against it, so take that how you will.
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