AI art generators have exploded in the last couple of years. Known for their uncanny, and sometimes terrifying results, they're increasingly drawing the attention of artists and non-artists alike for inspiration and to create explorative work. Now the team behind one such platform – Artbreeder – has a new experiment: Artbreeder-Collages. And while the results are often bizarre, it's totally addictive.
The original Artbreeder tool allows you to "edit the genes" of either your own images or those already uploaded to the site, or to "cross-breed" images together. The new Artbreeder-Collages, on the other hand, is a generative tool. Currently in beta, it allows you to create images from scratch using, yes, a collage approach – with a little help from text prompts. Read on to learn more, or if you prefer to continue working in the traditional way, see our guide to the best graphic design software.
There are different ways to use Artbreeder-Collages. You can start with a collage that someone else has already created and make your own tweaks by moving, resizing and changing the colours of elements or by adding new ones. Or you can start out from scratch, either using a text prompt generated by the platform or by writing your own. You then draw or place cutout shapes and images onto the digital canvas as if you were making a collage. You can also upload your own images to include. Click 'render' and the tool will transform your collage into a piece of art, if you will.
There's a slider that lets you choose how much weight you want the tool's algorithm to give to your collage design and how much to give to the prompt. Move to the slider to the left and you'll get something that looks more like your collage but smoothed over. Move it to the right, and you get something more literally connected to the written prompt. If you're not convinced by the results, you can click the dice icon to ask the AI tool to try again.
We perhaps got a little ambitious with our prompts when we tried it out – the tool works best when you keep it simple – for example "apple on a table," but we wanted to put it to the test. Artists and designers will be happy to know that, like Artbreeder itself, this shouldn't be putting anyone out of a job anytime soon. The results are haphazard and sometimes downright sinister – but this makes the tool all the more addictive – you wonder what on Earth it will come up with next.
It's also interesting that this is a tool that requires artistic input if you're creating your own collage from scratch. If you have better collage-making skills than me, you may well get better results.
As with tools such as DALL-E, our take is that artists may be able to make the tool work for them and find the potential to incorporate it into their workflows (see our piece on how to use DALL·E 2). It will have uses for other people too, not least for hours of entertainment. But, for now at least, good results will still require someone with design awareness, knowledge and skills to get the most out of the tech.