How To Use AI In Your Photobashing Process
By Neil Blevins
Created On: June 2nd 2022

AI (Artificial Intelligence) artwork has been a huge subject of experimentation and debate these last few months. Whether this is a fad or the future, who knows. But if we are going to use AI, my goal is have the AI assist me rather than replace me, I want to find that balance between my own artistic ideas / style and that of the algorithm. And while AI continues to evolve, and so workflows will as well, I wanted to share with you my current attempts at finding that balance.

As a visual artist, I've been looking at AI tools, and trying to decide how I could use their strengths without reducing my contribution to a few well chosen keywords. So this tutorial will discuss the methods I've been using to incorporate AI artwork into some of my paintings.

Note: This isn't a tutorial showing you how to use any specific piece of software, this is speaking about the process at a higher level, and can be applied to pretty much any software you'd like.

You have two choices with this lesson, watch me discuss the issue in the video below, or read the full text.



Creating Photobash Elements

Many modern day concept artists rarely paint anything from scratch, at least for professional work. In fact, I personally feel using the term "painting" isn't really accurate, a lot of us do what I like referring to as a "Digital Collage", we take elements of 3d and photographic elements, and then merge them using digital painting in a package such as photoshop.

So one obvious way to try and integrate AI artwork into your workflow is to use the AI to produce your own photobash elements, and use that in your own compositions. So instead of taking a photograph of a tree, extracting it from the background of your photo, and placing it in the background of your image, have the AI paint a tree, and then use the resulting image in the same way. In fact, it may be even better to use than a photo, because rather than going through the tedious process of removing the tree from the rest of the photo, you can have the AI paint the tree on a blank background, making it simple to produce an alpha channel.

Here's an example of this technique. First, I started with this super quick painting that took me about 2 minutes to paint in photoshop.



It isn't meant to look good, its just meant to give the AI algorithm some basics to start from. Then I used the AI program Midjourney, provided this image as a seed image, and provided it a text phrase such as "Photoreal Alien Flower With Tentacles". So what the AI algorithm does is looks at the painting I provide it, looks at the text prompt I provided, and tries to produce work that satisfies these two criteria.

Here's just some of the images it created...



Since the image I provided it was so loose, the only parts of the image that seemed to really influence the algorithm was the color palette (Green and Purple). In this case I think the text prompt had a lot more weight to the look of the final image.

So now I took a bunch of these images and cut out a bunch of separate elements. I then painted on top of them to add details and give them consistent lighting.



Then placed them together in a whole new configuration to create this crazy evil looking alien plant.



So in this case, I used the AI to generate photobash elements, but the composition and final design is very much my own thing.

Creating Compositions In The Style Of My Own Work

Now here's a similar process, but a few key differences. I decided to test out making some mechs. So first I started with an old painting I made 5 years ago of a mech. This image was created using a combination of 3d, photos and digital painting.



I provided this painting to the Midjourney's AI algorithm along with the simple text prompt "Battle Droid". I then increased the weight of the image. This means the AI will make something a lot closer to my original painting, and use the text description less.

Here's a bunch of results...



Notice that the resulting images the AI produced are a lot closer to my original painting than the flower example. In fact, it's kind of fun looking at areas in these paintings that were inspired by my original painting.

Beyond just the greenish color and general lack of background, a lot of details were brought through to the AI's painting.


  1. The discs on my original painting end up reappearing on the chest
  2. The little cut out bits from the metal
  3. The black elongated gap for the eyes
  4. My original painting has a large central head, and the two large appendages sticking out from the sides. Even though the AI gave its painting arms, it also gave it two appendages attached to the side of the head.
So now, rather than creating my own composition like I did with the flower, I took one of the resulting AI paintings whose general shape I liked...



and I added a bunch of details (some of which are photobashed from actual photos), better lighting, & gave him feet and a background in photoshop. Here's the result.



And here's another 2 Battle Droids made using a similar technique.





Different Ways To Collaborate

So in my first test (flower), the AI algorithm started with my very loose painting, then was tasked with creating elements. And then I photobashed those elements together. So the AI handled the details, and I handled more of the design and composition.

In my second test (battle droid), I gave the AI less control over its paintings, it had to adhere much closer to my original painting of a robot. But then the AI provided more of the shape and composition, and I finished it off with some extra design and details.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, this AI stuff is only in its infancy, and I'm sure there will be many other ways to have the AI to assist the artist. But these are the two methods I've been using with the tech as it currently stands.

AI is certainly a polarizing subject. Some people say that AI will never replace the artist. Some say is absolutely will, and it'll happen soon. I am not going to try and predict the future, but I'm working to find ways for the AI to assist me. There are elements of making art that I find tedious, so my focus of these experiments is can I truly collaborate with these tools and still provide substantial artistic input. Whether later versions of AI replace me, I have no control over, and worrying about something you can't control never leads anywhere good, so I'm going to focus on what I can control.

So hopefully you'll get a chance to experiment, and give these workflows a try with your favorite AI and paint program. Let's help shape the AIs to work with us!


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