Connect with us

Point/Counterpoint: AI Image Generation Pros

The Marshall plan: The creation paradox of this new technology in the graphics arena.



Editor’s Note: To get both sides of the discussion, read Andy MacDougall’s Art, Ad, or Alchemy column and listen to the accompanying podcast for the “cons” of working with AI.

THE ONGOING DEBATE within the creator community about artificial intelligence is not just intense; it’s ego-bruising. The introduction of new AI technology has sparked a profound discussion about the very essence of artistry. Central to this debate is the controversial notion that anything created by AI is inherently inferior simply because it lacks the touch of a human creator.

Is This a Flawed Premise?

After all, if you have tried to achieve a result with a tool like Midjourney, you know how difficult it can be to find the right prompt combination or sequence to drive the exact result you have in mind.

Often, it is not as easy as it seems. A larger vocabulary or creative background can help produce better results, as curating and remixing the results will always lead to a better outcome.

A human element definitely is involved in getting better outcomes with AI, especially in a professional setting. A person’s sense of design, taste, knowledge, vocabulary, and style are necessary to create an image that works for a project.

A New Beginning

With AI tools like Midjourney, people shift from awe and wonder to fear and concern to ethical unease. That is understandable. There isn’t solid footing yet.

We are in the infancy of technology like Midjourney, and few people have a solid foundation on use cases or direction for the application.  In the United States, anything AI produces isn’t even copyrightable and probably won’t be for years.  What is around the corner for a creation tool like Midjourney?  Nobody knows the future about anything, so it is hard to say.  But, if you are looking for a place to bet, I’d follow the money.

If you are familiar with Lumiere’s Law, you know that people tend to use new innovations the same way we use old technology. That is, of course, until a new pathway or invention is discovered for the idea. Personally, I don’t think we know how to use Midjourney yet.  The exciting part for me is understanding what might be around the corner.

Johannes Gutenberg was the first to commercially use movable type with a printing press around 1450. This made printing much faster and cheaper.

But the important part of this invention wasn’t solely that moveable type helped produce more bibles and other books, but that ideas were able to spread quickly. This is the aspect that made the innovation important.

Because of this innovation, Martin Luther, in the early 1500s, was able to disseminate information much faster, which helped make him one of the most influential figures in Western and religious history.

I know this tool has a unique capability that will unlock something in the future that will fundamentally transform how we create and work as professional designers. And I want to be smack dab in the middle of it.

Can you imagine a future where the tool for creating was simply language? You wouldn’t need a pen, a mouse, a paintbrush, or other device.  I think the appeal of AI-image generators such as Midjourney is enticing because they can empower anyone to build an image by using words and ideas. The transition now places tremendous weight on your vocabulary and the connection to your imagination. This is why so many “non-artists” are beginning to use these tools to create images, even if they are only for amusement.

If you can see it and speak it, you can create it. That promise is already delivering results.  What will design work be like ten or fifteen years from now if you read this same article? (Hello, future Me, did I get this right?)


Questions for You:

This is why I believe we are in a creation paradox. Many people uncomfortable with AI may need to do some soul-searching.

  • Where are you on embracing new ideas and technologies? Are you even trying these out, or are you like the kid who refuses to eat certain foods but doesn’t ever taste them? “It’s yucky and smells funny!”
  • Do you feel threatened by AI? What’s behind that? Is it an ego thing? Why do you care how other people think and create?
  • If someone creates something using AI, and it is a positive experience for them, why do you feel it is a negative outcome for you? This is not a mutually exclusive circumstance. After all, you weren’t even involved, nor would you be.

I see and hear many artists lament the use of AI tools like Midjourney. They say that AI art is stealing from them, and some are worried about being replaced by AI. These are valid concerns. There is an interesting argument on how AI tools are trained. And there can be some fallout in the job market that could affect people’s employment. Probably because folks aren’t on the AI side of things.

But Here Is My Take.

Other artists who came before me have inspired me my entire life. Nobody grows up in a vacuum. Creatives have pulled things from other artists since we were painting on cave walls. Artists have been influenced by how others used color, line, shape, or composition to form an image.

There is an angry mob of artists with pitchforks and torches, gunning for AI tools. The ironic part is that when you check out their portfolios and work, you often see examples of these same artists appropriating other artists’ techniques or ideas into their work. This happens all the time. Sometimes, they don’t even hide it. What used to be called training, homage, or inspiration by a human artist is now off-limits in their minds to training an AI tool.

Does that even make sense?

How AI Tools Like Midjourney Work

AI tools such as Midjourney work based on the diffusion model.  Large Language Models (LLM) are trained on trillions of images and image-to-text pairs found online. An algorithm controls the result by turning random noise into an image by converting words used as a “prompt” into math. The more words used in the prompt sequence, the more complicated the math in the algorithm.

Because these tools’ starting point is random noise, achieving the same result twice is impossible, even if the same prompt sequence is used. AI-image creation tools do not “copy and paste” any image in its training database. Users can achieve fantastic results without using any artist’s name, work, or image. But, as in the time before AI tools, if someone wants to use other people’s creative portfolio, name, or uploaded image, there is little to stop them. That’s probably the stickiest point.

Tools like Midjourney can create results almost instantly. You can create four to six dozen completely different images in under one minute if you are a skilled practitioner. Many of these will be unusable, but with a curation process, a few better returns can be selected. These can be used to create improved images with in-app tools or edited in other software platforms like Photoshop or Affinity Photo.

While Midjourney will always provide you with a result, regardless of your prompts, superior results will be produced if the user has an outcome in mind and a great set of prompts to complete it.

As you can tell, I have a favorable opinion (uh, “bromance”) regarding Midjourney. But to give context to this side of the argument, let’s hear from a few people using it in a professional setting. After all, I’m just one person.

Adam Cressley

“We have a client that is part of a distribution warehouse, and he wanted to get T-shirts made to commemorate a job well done during a very busy schedule. They also have a great sense of humor and wanted their shirts to read, “Welcome to the Ship Show.” Get it? Because they SHIP packages! They did give me a little bit of direction, but only basic information like “Maybe a ship or a compass,” but left it up to me as long as it’s nautical related with that wording.

My thought was to have a pirate ship within a warehouse setting, so straight to Midjourney, I went! My prompt actually was pretty basic, ‘Illustration of a pirate ship on rough seas, in the center of a warehouse with boxes stacked on each side.’

I wanted to get a general concept of what Midjourney could come up with and go from there. The results were very impressive, and I only needed to make one set of remixes to get to the image I wanted to use. I took it into Photoshop and cleaned up a few small areas. Next. I laid my text over top (I know… it’s the go-to pirate font!) and added an oil painting filter to the image. Our customer only needed a small number of shirts, which meant we had to go with a black-and-white theme, but I really like how it turned out, and our customer LOVED it!

Using Midjourney to produce this type of design has broadened our graphical capabilities immensely. Sure, there are many different pirate ships you could find online from other graphic provider websites, but to have the ability to quickly integrate a pirate ship on rough seas with waves splashing into an environment such as a warehouse with boxes stacked on each side…there’s no way to beat Midjourney there.

I definitely could not have pieced something like this together with such accuracy in the context of the idea. I’m sure some illustrators could have taken hours to draw this up, but in our industry, we don’t have hours to spend on a single job when 10 more jobs need to be done that day.

Ever since we started using Midjourney, we’ve been able to make awesome impressions on our clients, and as Midjourney and AI in general evolve, we will continue to grow with it.”

Here’s a perfect example of the modern use of an AI tool like Midjourney. Adam knew what he wanted and could use the tool to quickly create a working file to be the foundation for the project.

Sarah Barrette

“We used AI to help create a design for an event tee.  We design and sell merch to drivers and spectators at a yearly national rally car event. Each year, we create artwork using a different race car and imagery, always trying to make it new, interesting, and different. This usually is a very time-consuming process. Last year, as AI was becoming more accessible and relevant, we decided to try it for the car portion of the design since it is the cornerstone of the design and is typically what takes the longest time to get right.

I used this prompt sequence: Brandon Semenuk’s Red Bull Subaru rally race car, line drawing, black and white, thick outlines, no background, mid-air jump with dirt kicking up behind.

We then vectorized and colored the car to align with the Subaru race car we emulated and added text and background imagery. I am including the AI result, the steps from taking that to the final car image, and the final design we used on the shirts and stickers.  Our creation time was cut by at least half by using AI. It’s not always exactly what you want, and you must try a few different takes before you get something usable. Still, it was a rewarding experience and definitely is something we have incorporated into our art department, using it frequently in marketing campaigns”

For a busy business, using an AI-image generation tool helps reduce the later and get to the finish line quickly. For Sarah, this was a 50%-time savings for the project.

Dan “Dot-Tone” Campbell

“I was approached by a long-time separation customer who was in a pinch for art. The artist they used every year for this event couldn’t do it this year. I’ve only been focusing on separations for a long time now due to the time involved with designing illustrations and I didn’t want to invest much time creating it.

The event was for a winter Harley motorcycle ride. I was shown about five years of previous event art for this and felt I could provide a much better shirt for about the same cost as the previous designs using AI.

I discussed the options with the customer and explained that with AI, I could produce a fairly high-end illustration and seps much faster. Once I received approval to do this using AI art, it was pretty painless and quick (for an illustration). As a newbie running through various options, this took roughly four hours, including the separation time. This only took this long because this was my third or fourth time testing AI.

My biggest challenge is describing what you need in the most effective method. Some needs may require a more precise and unique prompt description to help you find what you seek. The hardest part of this project for me at my experience level was having it create four numbers together with the same ice effect and then combine this with the rest of the image.

After a few failures on the numbers as a whole, I received some prompt assistance from Marshall, who was able to point me in the right direction.

Overall, the customer and end customer were ecstatic about the outcome and had plenty of time for production. I didn’t have to spend 10 to 20 hours on approvals, revisions, the final illustration, and the seps.

I’m very much for artist rights and original illustration produced by a human artist. There is still much to be said about an artist creating exactly what you need in the right colors and using the exact year, model, brand, and style you need.

I was able to get AI to fit an immediate need, one that I could use to assist my customer with a fast turnaround without requiring many late-night hours.”

For Dan, using Midjourney was a positive experience even though he wasn’t at an expert level. He saved 60%-75% of the time it would normally take for this type of activity. When you can increase your speed to complete a project and make your customer happy, that creates a compelling use case.

Heather Streible

“I was under the gun to create a design for a Jeep event; it was a last-minute decision to print shirts. In wanting to produce a high-quality design that was not your basic cookie-cutter artwork, I knew that AI would make quick work of this.

My prompt was specific: green Jeep Wrangler Rubicon JKU with aggressive big tires, suspension lift, driving up rocks and mud in a cave isolated, cinematic lighting, linocut illustration, black background, splatter.

What AI generated was a fantastic starting point to work from. I had to make minor adjustments to the front grill for accuracy; still, there’s no way, given the shoestring budget and time constraints, creating such intricate art on my own would have been possible. After tweaking the jeep and adding some typography and a few additional rocks for depth, I completed the design in about 45 minutes.

At Replica Screenprinting, I handle approximately 98% of the graphic work myself. Sometimes, it’s challenging to complete all the designs quickly while maintaining the high quality I aim to deliver to my customers. AI provides a solution by enabling me to generate multiple design variations, offering me a solid foundation or elements to incorporate into my designs. This is a huge timesaver for me and ultimately reduces design costs for my customers.”

Here’s something that consistent users with Midjourney already know. It’s not perfect and often requires editing and incorporating additional graphics or objects in the image.  For Heather, using a tool like Midjourney allows her to create excellent art that makes her customers happy.

Isn’t that what we all want?

Jon Anderson

“I have been making money as an artist since the age of 10. I began my professional career as a paid artist supporting myself at age 19. I was part of the evolution of creating art and graphics from traditional means to digital in 1991-1993.

Our present-day evolution is digital art moving from manual digital production to utilizing AI (Artificial Intelligence) to assist in creating visual content. The AI-generated content is used with everything from images for social media content to graphics and illustration for print, from pre-press to screen printing, and other digital mediums for print.

As a paid artist for 40 years, I use Midjourney several times weekly in my creative production workflow. I can generate full images and separate components to composite into final images for screenprint production, advertising and promotional collateral, and PowerPoint presentations.
The biggest issues I’ve encountered were offshore talent and novice up-and-coming talent offering very low prices (aka “undercutting” for graphics).

Deadline times have also been compressed, requiring faster turnaround times. In today’s marketplace, I need to be faster, better, and more cost-efficient if I want to be competitive, continue to earn revenue in my career as a digital artist and provide for myself and my family.

AI image generation has been a boost to my career, allowing me to create faster by handling the “heavy lifting” that often comes at the beginning stages of a project. I also have used Midjourney to generate stronger brainstorming sessions with various options to explore creating visual content. AI allows me to create the visual media quickly my clients need within tight budget restraints. I believe AI will continue to evolve and that savvy digital artists will learn to write descriptive prompts in a manner that helps them achieve the results necessary to satisfy their clients.

We currently are at another evolutionary time like the beginning of software development and computers created for all graphics productions. Those who pivot during this evolution will profit and remain relevant in the industry.

Those that do not evolve their skills and knowledge with the technical advancement of image generation powered by Artificial Intelligence will struggle and may become obsolete in their careers like those that did not adapt and develop their computer and graphics software skills in the early 1990s.”

Jon makes a great point. Over the years, he’s evolved his technical skills to match his customers’ demands and workflow constraints. Those who argue that AI doesn’t have a role will be quickly out of touch.

The Midjourney Journey

As you can see from these five examples, professional designers use these tools to create daily. They still add their personal flavor and ideas to each project, but they can use the AI tool to save time.

At the end of the day, their clients are happy. Great graphics are created, and each designer can move on to the next art challenge. While it is easy to argue that anything created with AI doesn’t have value, the facts on usage counter that claim.

If “Beauty can be in the eye of the beholder,” why can’t “Value be in the eye of the creator?”

AI image generation tools such as Midjourney virtually are limitless regarding what you can create. All you need is a prompt sequence that aligns with your creative vision. Even if the idea is a little fuzzy, you can still progress. Sometimes, working out an idea can cultivate something even better.

Remixing, rerolling, combining images, and using other commands can deliver fantastic results. All you have to do is be willing to start. Can you get past your own biases and hang-ups to try?

That’s the trick.

Marshall Atkinson is the owner of Atkinson Consulting, Mesa, AZ. He coaches apparel decoration companies on operational efficiency, continuous improvement, workflow strategy, business planning, employee motivation, management, and sustainability. He is a frequent trade show speaker, author, and host of two podcasts, as well as co-founder of Shirt Lab educational company. He can be reached at [email protected]; or here.




Printvinyl Scored Print Media

New Printvinyl Scored wide-format print media features an easy-to-remove scored liner for creating decals, product stickers, packaging labels, and more. The precision-scored liner, with a 1.25” spacing on a 60” roll, guarantees a seamless and hassle-free removal process.

Promoted Headlines





Most Popular