What Is AI Art? How It Works and How to Create It

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Dive into the world of art made with the help of artificial intelligence. Learn how it works and how to create your own AI art.

[Featured image] An artist produces AI art on a desktop computer.

Artists create art that may inspire, educate, or incite emotions in others. What happens when that art is created with the help of artificial intelligence (AI)? Generative AI is a phenomenon that has taken the creative and business industries by storm.

AI art utilizes AI and software as tools for creation, rather than the paintbrush, clay, and pencils used in traditional art mediums. The advent of digital tools to create art (like Photoshop) started this evolution, and AI art is just the latest innovation.

In this article, we’ll define what AI art is, how it works, examples of AI art generators, and how to create your own AI art.

What is AI art?

AI art is digital art created, edited, or enhanced with AI tools and technology. Most people consider AI art to be images and video, but it can also include music, writing, and more. AI art uses generative AI, which are tools that are created using algorithms and mathematical formulas. 

A brief history of AI art 

According to the auction company Christie’s, similar processes of using chance and automation to generate art trace back to avant-garde movements in the 1920s and ‘30s. Dadaism and Surrealism embody the intersection of unpredictability, technology, and reality. [1]. When the ‘60s rolled around, cultural movements collided with engineering technology to produce new art forms. 


Read more: What Is Generative AI? Definition, Applications, and Impact

How does AI art work?

AI art is created when an artist or creator inputs prompts into AI art generators. Trained on large amounts of data and coded by algorithms (large language models), these generators process the request and produce an image or video.

For example, say you want to create an image of dogs painted in a Renaissance style. The AI art generator will scour the data for other dogs that may be painted in this style, gleaning examples of how a Renaissance-style dog should look. Then, it produces an image that can be edited and enhanced with further prompts.

Examples of AI art generators

As you begin your journey into AI art, you may be interested in experimenting with an AI art generator to explore the depths of your creativity. There are plenty of AI art generators out there to suit your needs, whether you are interested in creating images, videos, or text. Here are a few of the most popular: 


Midjourney is one of the more popular AI art generators. It uses an uploaded image to work from and is known for more artistic styles of output. You’ll need to input your prompts into a Discord channel, including details such as medium and color palette.


DALL-E is another popular AI art generator, created by OpenAI, a collective and non-profit that produces AI technology and attempts to protect AI ethics. This generator functions similarly to ChatGPT, with text prompts that it interprets and produces images. The style tends to be more like real photography than painterly. 

Jasper Art

Jasper Art is a more advanced AI art generator that creators can use to generate images and even 3-D-like photos for commercial use. It is aimed more at marketing teams and professionals, because it also offers a writing generator–so you can create visual outputs and copy all in one place.

Generate a wide variety of art with Midjourney with this guided project, using advanced features like remix mode, permutation prompts, and zoom out:

How to create AI art

Now that you’ve gotten a taste of what AI art is and the AI generators out there, you might want to explore the world of digitally created art. Here are a few steps to get started.

1. Choose an AI art generator.

Identify the functionality you need and the type of art you’d like to create in order to choose an AI art generator. From Deep Dream to Adobe Firefly to Canva’s free AI Art Generator, to any of the options listed above, there are many good options. Consider playing with a couple of generators to figure out which one you prefer–and start with the free versions first.

2. Develop a visual idea or concept.

Once you have decided which AI art generators to use, brainstorm ideas for what your dream image or video will look like. Determine whether you are creating art from scratch or building off of an existing image. Your ideation process may look different if you create for personal or professional use.

3. Write a prompt.

Next, write a sample prompt that you’ll input into your AI generator. Some generators will allow you to go back and edit your prompts, while others don’t. Explore sample prompts that the generator may provide for you. Then, go ahead and generate your prompt.

4. Refine your output and continue experimenting.

You may have the opportunity to explore ways to improve or enhance your prompt after you’ve generated your first draft. The beauty of AI art is that “mistakes” you might make in your prompt can be fixed with little time wasted, whereas using real paint, pencil, or cameras can require time, effort, and materials. 

5. Publish your AI art.

After you’re satisfied with your art output, you can hit publish on your AI art generator and use it as a JPEG or PDF file right away. You might also upload it into an app like Adobe Creative Suite to continue editing your creation. 

Read more: What Is Prompt Engineering? Definition and Examples

Who’s generating AI art?

Anyone can create new images, videos, and stories using an AI art generator. Those most likely to generate AI art are creatives who may use it as a basis for ideas and inspiration, and brand marketers who might use it to create visual mockups or brainstorm conceptual designs. Graphic designers, web designers, digital designers, and video game designers might create AI art or use AI art generators to develop sample visuals before moving forward with software.


Ethics and the future of AI art

There are ethical and creative limitations to AI art that should be considered before supporting AI art. Due to the way generative AI utilizes data that may belong to companies, brands, and artists, copyright issues exist, especially when publishing or selling AI art. Is it ethical to make money from art generated by a computer and gleaned from other sources? The creative industry is grappling with this question, and some court cases have already begun. 

Then, artists must consider the limits of creativity and originality when using generative AI. Did you, or the people who created the original art that the AI pulls from, create this work? Or is it the AI that deserves credit? Is the “art” that was generated actually considered art? 

Finally, artists may be frustrated with the lack of resources in Midjourney or DALL-E if creating a specific visual. Sure, it may be able to generate an image of Renaissance-style dogs, but can it create an accurate 3-D image of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper to scale? Hard to say.

While there is a bright future ahead for AI and its role in art, there are still some ethical issues to iron out.

Read more: AI Ethics: What It Is and Why It Matters

Generative AI with DeepLearning.AI

Take the Generative AI for Everyone course from DeepLearning.AI for an in-depth intro to generative AI, including how it works, common use cases, opportunities and risks, and how to incorporate generative AI into your projects. For a quick overview, check out Google’s Introduction to Generative AI course, which can be completed in an hour or less.

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