What is AI Art? Explain It Like I’m Five

by Chris Von Wilpert, BBusMan • Last updated January 13, 2024

Expert Verified by Leandro Langeani, BBA

What is AI art?

AI art is art that is created by artificial intelligence instead of human beings. There are many AI art tools for a wide range of applications. These don’t require technical or design skills and they can turn anyone into an AI artist.

AI art fast facts

  • The market for AI art is booming and creates new opportunities for artists and buyers.

  • Selling AI art is legal and you can monetize it in different ways.

  • Some sites ban AI art to protect artists or themselves from copyright infringement.

  • AI art has many applications for individuals and businesses.

  • AI art cannot be copyrighted in the US as it is not made by humans.

Some AI art tools allow users to create custom images like this from a text prompt. Photograph: NightCafe

Why is AI art so popular now?

AI art has become immensely popular for several reasons.

  • AI has gained a lot of popularity since the launch of ChatGPT and its image generator DALL·E.
  • AI art tools are easy to get a hang of and they generate impressive artwork in no time. Even someone who can barely draw a stickman can use these tools to create impressive art.
  • People post images of their AI art on social media which often evokes curiosity and awareness. 
  • The ongoing discussions on social media about AI art attract a lot of attention to the topic. 
  • AI can generate a wide range of artistic styles and merge them into new creative pieces of art.
  • The market for AI art is rapidly growing and new tools are being developed at high speeds, which attracts new people into loving AI art.

What are some popular uses of AI art?

Although we often think of art as something that belongs in a museum, AI art is used for many purposes.

  • Social media profiles can get more visibility with pictures spiced up with AI tools.
  • Marketers and graphic designers use it to generate images for sites, ads,  products…
  • Individuals turn pictures into artwork to decorate their homes, or give it as a gift to their beloved ones.
  • Traditional artists use AI art to get inspiration, explore new creative possibilities and styles, or to generate new artwork they can sell.
  • Photographers can use AI tools to enhance their professional pictures without spending hours in photo editing software.

Businesses that want to stand out generate AI art for their marketing campaigns. Photograph: Jasper

Can I sell AI-generated art?

Yes, you can. The market for AI art is booming. The amount of artists that use AI tools is growing, and many people and businesses are interested in buying AI-generated artwork.

There are online AI marketplaces where artists can sell creative work directly. Web shops and social media also allow creators to promote their AI art and build an audience that can turn into buyers. 

But, as with real art, not every AI artist will become successful and famous. Creative people who stand out from the crowd have a higher chance to be perceived as innovative by the public, which can result in more sales.

Are AI artists really artists?

Some people consider AI artists as artists while others don’t. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, because art has always been a topic of debate.

Like real art, AI art is a creative form of expression, and it provokes powerful emotions. People can feel shocked, horrified, touched, disgusted, pleased or any other typical emotion artists and their creations evoke.

Others argue AI is programmed, and it doesn’t have emotions itself. For them, AI-generated creations are never self-expressions, but based on what humans have done before.

Why have certain websites banned AI art?

Although AI art is widely-used, some websites ban AI art. There are mainly two reasons to do so. 

Some sites argue AI is a threat to human artists as it will steal jobs and cause economic and social drama. Their motivation to ban AI art is driven by sympathy for humans and their creativity.

Other sites ban AI-generated content to protect themselves from copyright infringement lawsuits, because sometimes AI may copy artistic styles or partly use original creations without permission of artists or copyright owners.

Where does AI art get its images?

AI art generators use images from different sources, including: 

  • Online public available libraries that are downloaded, with or without permission, and used to train the AI model. 
  • Users upload images to AI tools. Depending on the terms and conditions of an app, these could be used as training material for the AI.
  • Museums, art galleries, and sites like Wikipedia contain tons of artistic images. These can be used to train AI to generate new art in the style of famous artists.
  • Some AI app developers compose a custom collection of pictures to train their AI model.

Advanced AI art tools give users a myriad of options to turn images into pieces of art with a few clicks. Photograph: Picsart

Why is AI art not copyrightable?

In August 2023, a U.S. court in Washington, D.C. ruled that AI art cannot be copyrighted. The main argument was that copyright only applies to creations made by humans. 

However, that doesn’t mean AI art will never be copyrightable. The technology is new and the copyright law was installed in a period this technology didn’t exist.

It is also likely that AI artists will claim changes in the copyright law to protect their creations and protect their assets.

Can I protect my art from AI?

It is difficult to protect art from being used by AI. However, some measures can reduce the chances of AI using your original work.

Register your artwork with copyright authorities, or use Creative Commons Licenses. That gives you some control over how others can use your work. You can, for example, forbid buyers from using AI tools to change your creations. Invisible watermarks and fingerprints can prove that you are the original creator. 

Create an artistic style that is clearly yours. This can ensure the public will recognize it as typically yours. This strategy is more likely to work for famous artists who want to protect their work from AI.

AI art generators can mimic the style of famous artists, like Picasso, in this custom AI-generated image. Photograph: Fotor

Is AI art a threat to artists?

It is hard to predict if AI will replace artists. But it is clear the new technology impacts the very definition of art itself. It is up to human artists to respond properly to these changes. 

Artists can, for example, use the technology to further explore their creative boundaries. The same happened when computers became mainstream and allowed people to generate digital artwork.

But even artists who refuse to embrace AI have a chance to continue working as they used to be. As long as there are people who prefer buying human over AI-generated art, some artists don’t have to fear losing their jobs.

Is AI art legal?

In the US, generating and selling AI art is legal, but it cannot be copyrighted. There are, however, some potential legal issues that could arise. 

If an AI art model is patented, it is possible that any art that is created with it can lead to patent infringement. 

People can also claim they created art without AI tools and sell it as original artwork. Deliberately misleading people and deceiving buyers can lead to lawsuits.


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