I had first heard about this particular AI art tool a few weeks ago, but I’ve been aware of the useful things AI can do for an artist for some time. I’ve dabbled in a few programs, looked closely at one in particular (which needs a much more powerful graphics card than even my gaming-level computer has onboard. No budget right now, but this would not be the first nor even the second time I upgraded computers in order to run an art program), and even with this one, I’d jumped into the Discord community and jumped right back out, overwhelmed. I knew, though, that I needed to get on that wave. What I didn’t realize was just how big this monster surf was going to get.
Imagine you could type a text prompt into a Discord server, and get back the above image in a matter of moments. The first time I did this, after learning I could use the MidJourney bot in a private server and didn’t have to deal with the madness that is their community server, I made noises no human should emit, and spent the rest of the day in serious existential crisis. As an artist, this thing is a game changer. I spent some time feeling like a buggy-whip maker when Ford rolled the first cars past my shop. As a cover designer, this is immediately apparent as a powerful tool in my hands. I simply could not ignore it. It will be used by everyone and it will change the art world in a matter of weeks, arguably this has already happened. I can’t not use it as a cover designer, everyone else will be. As a writer, the stories…. oh, the stories!
Today, though, I wanted to explore what this can do for you as a cover artist and designer.
First, let me tell you what you cannot do with the images you generate from MidJourney. You can’t just slap them on a book cover and call it done. For an ebook, maybe. You might be able to get away with it for web resolution. For a print cover, no. MidJourney generates through Discord, and the image limitations will only allow a max upscale of 1664 px square (there are ways to constrain the image output to other shapes, still, they are too low-res for a full cover). So in order to use a MidJourney image, you will need to combine it as an element with other images.
The other thing you’ll find MidJourney struggles with are faces and human figures. But… I did the above images. Yes, it can be done, just it takes a little effort to get them, and even when you do, there’s often subtly wrong features. Don’t look too closely at their eyes. MidJourney also does not grok animals, leading to some very surreal results. In time, this is likely to improve, as the machine learning behind the scenes is feeding off the nearly a million users of the AI to date.
Where the AI excels is in generating backgrounds. It’s learning from all the myriad images available on the internet, but it is not pulling from those images. It’s using the styles, and this is important when it comes to copyright. It means that the images you generate through use of the MidJourney tool are yours to use as you please, even in commercial applications.
This is a game-changer for the Indie Author trying to create covers on a budget. Short stories? Buying covers for those makes no sense, you’ll never make your money back. A little work with MidJourney, font selections, and knowing your genre (sorry, you still have to do your homework when it comes to cover art and design! No getting out of that!) and you can have an absolutely amazing cover for very little investment.
As an artist, coming back to that moment of angst when I saw the first MidJourney prompt generate a jaw-dropping gorgeous oil painting style of work that I couldn’t possibly create with my two hands and some tubes of paint… time and playing with the thing for more hours than I care to admit this last week has assuaged much of that feeling of total redundancy. Midjourney isn’t even close to replacing the human element in art. It’s a fantastic tool, and a wonderful game.
Ways to use it? Beyond book covers, I intend to use it for blog header art (like, a lot of the time). I’ll be using it for story ideas. I plan to use it as a weekly prompt over at MOTE. For that matter I can use it in my own art as a prompt. Color palettes, composition, design ideas… the possibilities are endless. A friend and costume designer was telling me she follows another costumer who is using it to generate costumes that you could never build with real materials but the inspiration from it is simply amazing. Another artist I know is using lines of poems to generate his art, and splicing them together in sort of visual storylines.
Follow me on MidJourney if you start playing with it, and I’ll follow you back. There is so much potential here. The first 25 images are free. After that it’s $10 monthly for roughly 200, or $30 monthly for Unlimited image generations. Very reasonable if you, like me, buy stock art on the regular. Plus, it’s so much fun to play with this! I highly recommend taking time to study the community feed, looking at the prompts, for ideas on how to format your prompts for best results.