Adobe Firefly: everything you need to know about this ethical AI generator

Adobe Firefly is an exciting new AI software developed by Adobe, the makers of Photoshop, that has revolutionised the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Many of the best AI art generators such as Midjourney, Stable Diffusion and DALL-E2 have been scorned because they 'scraped' the internet for reference images regardless of ownership or copyright, but Firefly was trained on open source image and content from Adobe Stock. 

Adobe says this will make Firefly commercially safe. In the future, Adobe plans to keep improving Adobe Firefly by adding more features and more resources from Adobe and other sources (see our pick of the best AI art tutorials to learn more about how the tool works).

Adobe Firefly explained

What is Adobe Firefly?

Adobe Firefly has an easy prompt system where you simply type the words or description and the system will generate images based on your input. Remember that Adobe Firefly is currently in a beta test so the images can only be used for personal use at this time.

Unlike previous AI models you don’t need Discord or any knowledge of community or social messenger platforms. You simply need to log-in or sign-up for Adobe in order to use the beta of Adobe Firefly.

Crucially, Adobe Firefly is not one tool but a set of generative AI models created to work with Adobe's Creative Cloud suite of apps (read our Photoshop review, Illustrator review and Premier Pro review for the latest on the key software). In its beta I've used Adobe Firefly to create images, textures and text effects but the aim is to develop tools to use in 3D and video apps – image altering the weather in a video with a text prompt, for example.

Is Firefly Adobe's first AI?

No, if you've already been using Adobe products for a while you may have heard of Sensei; this is Adobe's AI model and in recent years it has been incorporated into Photoshop and other Adobe software to improve the productivity and remove some of the more complicated or repetitive tasks associated with digital art as well as video and photo editing. 

For instance, the Select Subject tool in Photoshop has made photo compositing much easier and more fun in recent years (see our pick of the best Photoshop tutorials). At this time it acts separately to Firefly and shows that AI has been there making creative processes easier for a while now. Adobe has now added Firefly-powered Generative Fill in Photoshop in the beta version).

Adobe Firefly's surprising features

While we've all come to view text-to-image AI generators as simple ways to create polished art or, as in the case of image editor DragGAN, affect photos, Adobe Firefly has some features everyone will like once they're added to apps like Photoshop. 

One, for example, is collaboration. The best art collaboration tools for designers include apps such as Figma, but Photoshop only enables people to work work on the same image or doc one at a time. Adobe Firefly's integration into Photoshop will enable multiple artists to work on the same image at once, a little like the excellent Magma

So, using Adobe Firefly you will be able to make real-time edits, offer feedback and share sketches all at once. This could become more important as you learn to create everything - from images, photos, video and even web design - all in one Creative Cloud app with Firefly connecting everything.

Adobe Firefly generative fill explained

As Adobe Firefly is added to Photoshop more of its key features designed to speed up workflow and make life a little easier are revealed, one is Generative Fill (see video above). 

This basically enables you to remove areas of an image's background using a standard brush and then paint in, or render in, a new background using text prompts. Photoshop already has this kind of feature in Content Aware, but this is next level stuff. 

You're able to not simply replace entire or areas of a background but also layer in and add in small details, from new characters to adjusting shadows and lighting. For many artists this could simply be used as a tool to set lighting in a scene and alter the mood of a painting, which is then completed by hand.

Other features coming to Photoshop that are enabled by Firefly include the 'expand' tool that enables you to turn a portrait or aspect of a painting or photo into a full landscape. At 35 seconds in the video above you can see how a lake is added to a scene, and extends it, simply by typing 'frozen lake with reflections' into the prompt box.

Is Adobe Firefly ethical?

This is the idea. What makes Adobe Firefly different to other AI art generators like Midjourney is you can opt out of having your art used as part of the data set to train the AI. A 'Do Not Train' tag can be selected and added to any art you use with Adobe Firefly. Of course you have to opt out and not opt in, which some would consider an issue.

The Adobe Firefly model I've been using has been trained on Adobe Stock images, these are openly licensed and public domain content images that are out of copyright.

There's still a debate on whether AI generators should be trained on any art and images without the explicit permission from the artists. But for now at least I know the beta version of Adobe Firefly I've been using hasn't co-opted any Creative Cloud user's art and photography.

It's also worth knowing Adobe has partnered with the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI) to create Firefly, with the aim of ensuring there's an ethical base to the AI and its uses. A partnership with Google's AI, Bard, will connect things up and verify the origins of images being used in Firefly; in theory this means Bard and Firefly will determine if images have been created by a human, AI-generated or AI-edited. 

The Content Authenticity Initiative is a group working together to fight misinformation and misuse, theft and authenticity of digital content. They're also the leaders in the conversation about giving credit to digital content. The CAI provides free tools for everyone and teams up with other big tech groups through C2PA to make a shared set of rules.

Is Adobe Firefly free?

At the moment Adobe Firefly is free to use but it's also still in beta testing, you can apply to join the beta and use this AI at the Adobe website. There are plans to include Adobe Firefly into all of Adobe's apps; Adobe Firefly's Photoshop integration is already happening and is proving to really aid image editing.

Will you eventually have to pay for Firefly and AI tools in apps you use? Maybe, or at least buy credits to use in certain features. As usual with Adobe, I would eventually expect a tiered payment model, but given Firefly can unify how we use all Creative Cloud apps a subscription could pay off.

All you need to know about Adobe Firefly; text rendered in 3D using AI

(Image credit: Ken Coleman)

You can create 3D text with ease

As well as being powerful at creating realistic and unique imagery to inspire or use in your projects, Adobe Firefly has some interesting text and font creation uses. It's well worth trying out the text effects options in Adobe Firefly as you can get some excellent results with ease.

I have seen graphic designers with a love of type being very excited by this feature and where it’s going. For some designers it could mean not needing knowledge of additional 3D software in order to create 3D text effects for print or animations.

Create vector images, brushes and text

At this time the main features in Adobe Firefly are image generation, creative text generation and vector-based manipulation by uploading your own SVG files (again, you can select the 'opt out' tag to protect your art). 

Customised vectors, brushes and textures from just a few words or even a sketch are features in development. The plan is to build this into Adobe Firefly in later editions, along with the ability to edit what you create using the tools you already know and love. 

As Adobe Firefly evolves, new features and improvements will be introduced. Some capabilities, such as introducing your own images that you'll find on other AI art generators are not yet live. (Read our AI generator comparison feature for more details.) For me this will be a big part of the exploration of the engine in creating unique and fresh imagery to explore within digital art. 

Output images and textures to other Adobe apps

With its seamless integration with other Adobe Creative Cloud applications, such as Photoshop, artists can easily incorporate AI-generated images into their existing workflows, enhancing their creative output and efficiency. 

For example, I have tried creating textures and fractals using Adobe Firefly, which are fun to bring to Adobe Capture to create 3D texture maps for my models. (Discover more on how to use Adobe Capture.)

It will revolutionise 3D art

Adobe Firefly is set to do amazing work with 3D, such as turning simple 3D compositions into photo realistic images and quickly creating new styles and variations of 3D objects. 

Currently this feature, aside from being able to create 3D-like text, is not a working tool. From my experience, for 2D artists and fellow colleagues not yet skilled in 3D, it can be quite daunting to create these kinds of images unless you're well versed in illustration or photo-manipulation. 

Adobe Firefly will offer the opportunity for creatives to make new imagery without a steep learning curve in 3D modelling. (Read our guide to the best 3D modelling software.) Many digital illustrators already use basic 3D models to decide perspective, for example, but using Adobe Firefly you will eventually be able to devise lighting and bounce lights to reference and improve the detail of an artwork. 

Text-based video editing is coming

Adobe Firefly is set to take on and generate video editing. Adobe plans to  create functions that enable you to change the mood, atmosphere or colours in your video clips. You will even be able to alter the weather and tone, adjust the density of rain, fog and snow.

The potential of text-based video editing with Adobe Firefly so you can describe what you want and instantly change the settings to match will be revolutionary. In a demo you can watch a woman's face change emotion and in one scene a caravan in a field on a sunny day becomes a snowy scene with one text prompt.

Of course Adobe has already refined and simplified video editing features with the mobile version of Adobe Premiere Rush (read our Adobe Premiere Rush review for more on this app), so it will be exciting to see how these tools can be explored in Adobe Firefly.

Adobe Firefly is a new kind of generative AI, one aimed at professionals and creatives who need to speed up workflows but not replace the artistic process. The days of weird AI beer commercials could finally be over. It also means you'll still need one of the best drawing tablets or the best drawing tablets with a stylus to create your art and edit video.

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Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman lectures in game art and design at Clonmel Digital Campus in Ireland. He also designs for clients such as Catalyst Games and Morbid Angel.

With contributions from