When my good friend, Bristol-based musician Alfie Treloar, got in touch asking if I wanted to design the cover art for his new EP, I was overjoyed. I was looking for a real-world application of AI art tools Dall-E and Midjourney and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
The Beer Trilogy
Alfie's EP is called The Beer Trilogy and the three songs take the listener on a journey through alcohol: the first song is positive and fun, the party is definitely in full swing during the second song, and the third describes the inevitable hangover the next day.
He gave me completely free reign over the visual creative process, so I started playing with some different text prompts to see what the AI came up with. In this situation, I'll usually come up with three or four concept images and then let the client choose their favourite. They'll often come back with great feedback and suggestions, and we'll refine one of the designs into the finished piece. In this case, I was enjoying myself so much that I sent over eight concepts, but to keep it short I'll just illustrate three of them.
First concepts using Dall-E
My first few text prompts with Dall-E were along the lines of:
- a man with a glass of beer 3d render
- detailed illustration of a man with a glass of beer dancing in the street at night with neon lights, digital art
- a man with a glass of beer for a head digital art
I generated about fifty concept images in a wide variety of styles:
I really enjoyed the man with a glass of beer instead of a head, so I made a few variations of those. It wasn't how I imagined the picture to look, and it's certainly not how I would have drawn it, and this is part of why I enjoy working with AI art tools - they come up with ideas and styles that wouldn't occur to me.
I combined three beer-heads into one image in Photoshop, recoloured the beer and saved the first finished concept:
Refining concepts with Midjourney
The images that Dall-E was creating were ok but didn't really grab me, so I turned to Midjourney to see if it had any bright ideas. I quite enjoyed the Dall-E concept in the bottom right corner of the image above, of a guy in a green polo shirt with a glass of beer instead of a head, but I thought it would be better with three glasses (it's a trilogy, after all), so I ran through a bunch of variations on the theme of:
- a man wearing a green polo shirt with a glass of beer instead of a head, digital art
- a man wearing a green polo shirt, a glass of beer coming from the top of his shirt where his head would be, holding a glass of beer in each hand, dark background, HDR digital art
- a man with a glass of beer coming from the top of his shirt instead of a head, a glass of beer in both hands, a green polo shirt, glowing background
And it came up with these:
I really loved the messy image in the top right which looks like his head is an exploding beer, so after a bit of tweaking I found my second concept image:
Creating the final piece
Finally, I wanted to create a concept that included three interesting beer bottles. I started off with some prompts:
- bottle of beer on dark neon background, beautiful digital art
- bottle of beer with a psychedelic hipster label on dark neon background, symmetrical beautiful digital art, highly detailed illustration
- hipster bottle of beer, detailed label artwork, beautiful smooth realistic digital art
And it drew me these beauties:
I loved all of these styles and they all made it into concepts to show Alfie, but my favourite - and his - were the ones on the right-hand side. After some variations on the theme, merging the images into one picture, adjusting the colours and adding text over the top, we had the finished artwork!
AI art generation tools like Midjourney and Dall-E are fast becoming invaluable tools for rapid prototyping and creating concepts. I don't think there's any risk of visual artists becoming obsolete any time soon.
Part of what I love about the process of creating art in this way is the feeling that I'm working with the AI, guiding it towards the kind of images that I like, and constantly being surprised at the range and beauty of the images it produces.
Alfie's first single, Baggy Blue Jeans, has just been released today - it also features (non-AI) cover art by me! Check it out on Spotify by clicking the artwork below: