I love combining visual art with my music. Storytelling plays a big part in my creative process and having some sort of picture makes the story deeper. When the fractalic floodgates opened and AI generated art started infesting every corner of the Interwebs, it didn’t take long for me to hop on the bandwagon. At first it was pure curiosity and fun, but I soon realized the huge potential of being able to generate original and unique images to spice things up in the music domain.
Let’s take a look at some of the tools and approaches I used to create visual assets for the release of my Eye of the Wild EP.
I’ve dabbled briefly with Disco Diffusion and Nightcafe, before choosing Midjourney as my primary tool for generating AI art.
There’s definitely merit to sticking with a single platform. All of these tools have a learning curve, and the more you use them the better you get at producing usable images.
Shortly before slashing through my free credits I went for the Basic $10 tier. This is plenty to create a bunch of images each month, as long as you plan for some rationing and not let curiosity lead you astray.
AI Generated Cover Art
Obviously, cover art was the first and most important asset to develop for an EP release.
I used the Nedogled logo as an inspiration and tried to see what Midjourney would come up with if I described it it promptish.
Here’s the full image profile on Midjourney and here’s the prompt I used:
enormous spiral in the sky above a forest, lovecraft, chaos, crunch, linework, dark magic, ethereal, mysterious --no people, humans, animals --s 10000 --uplight
Please note that Midjourney is being updated regularly and future updates might not give the same results if you use this prompt. I’ll try and keep this article updated, but if that’s not the case, don’t hesitate to leave a comment if the prompt is not working as expected.
Without further ado, here’s the result:
Making Improvements in GIMP
The image above is a decent first step, but clearly not good enough for release. While I could have thrown a lot more prompts at Midjourney hoping for a better result, I would still have to deal with the following limitations:
- At 1536px maximum upscale, the image is well below the 3000px some platforms require for cover art
- Cover art needs to POP OUT, while images coming straight out of MJ tend to be bland unless processed further
- I always like adding my artistic stamp to almost any creative endeavor
The next step involved spicing things up in GIMP. Note that I am by no means proficient in photo manipulation, so this was an opportunity to beef up those skills.
I used recent album covers of artists I liked as a reference point for brightness, contrast and saturation.
The first couple of edits I made involved the following:
- Scale – noHalo (here’s a good video explaining interpolation)
- Curves – applied to the whole image to increase overall brightness
- Levels – applied to different selections for increasing saturation and contrast
And the result:
Not bad. Much closer to a usable starting state, but it still required more work to really grab some attention in a sea of cover art.
The next step involved selecting different elements (forest, clouds, vortex) and applying unique changes in color and brightness to each. This is important, since the same results cannot be achieved by applying filters to the entire image, as is generally the case when using apps such as Google Photos, Instagram and the like.
Pretty good, if I do say so myself. Of course, on its own the image is quite overbearing, but as a teeny album thumbnail, it definitely captures attention.
The final step was all about adding final artistic touches. My goal was to help the artwork really speak my music’s story and push that whole feeling of wild sentience even deeper.
I can honestly say that I’m very happy with the end result. It’s much better that anything I could’ve come up with by editing photos I took of the surrounding woods. A professional artist would have likely done a better job, but paying for cover art design was outside the budget for this release. What it cost me to run the prompt on Midjourney doesn’t even qualify as an expense.
Making Short Video Clips
Since it’s possible to specify the aspect ratio for images generated in Midjourney, I decided to see what else I can do with it.
Long story short, I’ve entered the dreaded Reel game on my Instagram profile. While I have yet to reap any benefits from it in terms of engagement, followers, or really… anything at all – I’m having a lot of fun!
I would take 1-2 images and play around with them using fairly simple filters and transitions in Shotcut (another excellent open source program). Again, my video manipulation skills are pretty minimal, so this was another opportunity to further train my artistic muscles.
Bonus: Bandcamp Background Pattern
I find that one aspect Midjourney particularly excels at is creating incredible textures and patterns. This can usually be called up by adding seamless repeating pattern to a prompt. Although as of time of writing the pattern will rarely be seamless, but it will be good enough for most applications.
While I haven’t found much use for these patterns elsewhere, the cold emptiness of my Bandcamp profile was staring right at me. So I threw this prompt at MJ for the hell of it:
roots, lovecraft, green, seamless repeating pattern --v 3 --uplight --s 5000
It came up with a couple of decent options, and this is the one I settled for.
Of course I had to first decrease the brightness and blur it up a little before uploading, so it wouldn’t steal thunder from everything else that’s happening on the page.
As is often the case when a new bit of technology shows up and changes all the game rules, the ethics of its use are being put to question. Some concerns that are getting raised include the following:
- Should we pay for AI art instead of hiring real artists?
- Should we present AI-generated art as human made?
- Who’s the author of said artwork? The person entering the prompt or the AI?
Ah, so many questions with plenty more to come as the advancement of technology continues its steamroll over our ethical qualms before we can even decide what to think of it all, let alone how to regulate it.