In the world of professional illustration, staying inspired and creative is key. Gone are the days of flipping through magazines or sticking swatches on physical mood boards. Nowadays, digital platforms like Pinterest are a staple for illustrators looking to gather ideas. But there’s an exciting new player in town: artificial intelligence (AI). AI is opening up incredible possibilities for generating design inspiration, making it easier than ever to create mood boards full of fresh ideas. However, it’s my opinion that AI should be used as a reference tool only, not for final artwork, due to potential copyright issues (more later..)

Sparking creativity with AI
AI-powered tools sift through massive amounts of data at lightning speeds, and can return design ideas that might not have initially crossed your mind. These tools can pull from a variety of sources, trending styles, and historical design data—to create unique and diverse concepts. By playing around with different scenarios and elements, AI can provide a treasure trove of ideas.

Why AI is great for artistic inspiration
Fresh perspectives: AI brings together ideas from countless sources, helping to think outside the box.
Speed: AI can whip up multiple design options in no time, speeding up the brainstorming process.
Customisation: These tools can be instructed to match specific design tastes and project needs. An example of this would be to specify a particular colour theme such as triadic, monochrome, complementary etc…
Trend savvy: AI keeps an eye on the latest trends, helping you stay current and incorporate new styles into your work.

AI as a design assistant, not the final artist
While AI is amazing for generating ideas, it’s crucial to see it as a design helper rather than the final artist. AI-generated designs should inspire you, much like a Pinterest mood board, but they shouldn’t be the final product. Here’s why:

Copyright issues
AI learns from vast amounts of data, including materials that are copyrighted ( I have first hand knowledge that many of my own images are included in datasets without permission). Sometimes, the designs it produces can closely resemble or even copy these sources. Using AI-generated designs as final products can unintentionally violate copyright laws. Personally I choose to respect the copyright of others. I believe at the time of writing, there are lawsuits underway, who knows where these will lead and shape the future use of AI images.

Human touch
AI is great for generating ideas, but the precision and quality needed for final visuals require a human touch. CGI artists have the expertise to understand materials, structure, and functionality in ways AI can’t fully replicate. This human oversight is essential to ensure the final design is both beautiful and practical.

How to use AI in the artistic process
To get the best of both worlds, incorporate AI into your workflow like this:

Idea generation: Use AI to brainstorm a wide range of initial design concepts based on your criteria and preferences.
Inspiration boards: Gather AI-generated designs into inspiration boards, similar to Pinterest mood boards, to visualize different styles and themes.
Refinement: Use these ideas and refine them with your own creative skills and expertise, making sure the final design meets all your aesthetic and functional needs.
Collaboration: Treat AI as a collaborative tool that enhances your creativity rather than replacing it. Combining AI’s strengths with human creativity results in innovative and high-quality designs.

Wrapping up
AI is revolutionising professional visualisation, providing a fresh and efficient way to gather design inspiration. By offering a wealth of diverse, customisable ideas, AI is a powerful tool for artists. However, it’s important to use AI-generated designs as a source of inspiration, letting human creativity and expertise shape the final outcome. This approach not only respects copyright laws but also ensures the design’s quality and functionality. As we move forward, the collaboration between AI and human designers promises exciting new possibilities, making the process more dynamic and inspiring than ever before.