Mental health is of utmost importance in America right now, and AI art tools are an easy way to boost yours. Have you always wanted to draw or paint, but lack the skill? Has it been too long since art class? Don’t fret–a new wave of AI art generators has hit the field full steam, and it’s easy to climb on board.
We all live in a stressful world, but AI art can be a great way to relax. It’s easy to do, and it’s great for your mental health! By typing in a few words and clicking a button, you can get immediate stress relief, laughter from humorous results, and even art therapy. Making art has never been so easy, and many of the sites listed below are FREE!
This article is AI-free–it is 100% human-produced (except for the picture). Ironic, huh? 🙂
AI Art Tools Are Everywhere!
How It Works
Creating art with an “AI art tool,” a.k.a. “AI art generator,” is ridiculously easy, and the better these tools get, the easier it will becomes. The process is just like interacting with a chatbot, except the bot answers with pictures instead of words. On the AI’s website, you type some words into a form to describe the picture you want to make. These words are called the “prompt.”
The prompt can be very simple, for example: “a brown dog.” Or you could make it more complex, like: “a furry dog sitting in a lawn chair in the sun.”
Advanced users can put in codes that only the AI tool can interpret, which will help it shape the image. For example, some AI art tools use specific prompts like “view from above,” so the picture would be looking down on the dog. These prompts can get complicated, but for beginners, that’s not necessary. Nearly all AI tools are perfectly happy if you type in simple prompts, and they will give you respectable pictures. 🙂
Mental Health and AI Art Tools
Creating any kind of art can improve your wellness, but I have discovered that AI art tools in particular offer unique opportunities to improve mental health. The reasons are stress relief, humor, and art therapy.
Stress Relief with AI Art
The act of creating art–any art, or even silly things you think might barely qualify–is an act of stress relief. I will not debate that concept here, nor give lengthy quotations from academic websites. If you don’t believe me, just take a moment to squish some mud or Play-Doh(R) into a ball, then play with it aimlessly for about five or ten minutes. I guarantee you will feel less stressed when you’re done. Why? In most human beings, a creative activity in a goal-free, logic-free manner will give natural release from tension. In other words, “playing with stuff creatively helps us de-stress.”
AI tools allow us to do this quickly, almost effortlessly. By typing a few words into a blank, then clicking a button, we can create any sort of picture we can imagine. It is an “immediate gratification” to match our fast-paced society. No oil or canvas needed! Poof–there’s art. 🙂
AI Art is Funny
Another benefit of AI-generated art is humor. From time to time, most AI art generators will produce something simply hilarious. This outcome happens more often with outdated models, or with ones hacked to death for purposes of censorship. You might get people with too many legs, or something completely opposite what you were expecting. Hopefully it will give you a good laugh. And laughter relieves stress!
For an example of humorous results, see my previous entry. Just to see what it would produce, I made a series using the traditional American “Yo Momma Too Fat” jokes. Yes, those old cliche one-liners! It was fascinating to see what the AI engine made. The results were extremely silly. I encourage everyone to type in jokes, cliches, sayings, slogans, etc., to see how the AI engines interpret them. The results can truly be hilarious!
Remember, AI tools have to interpret literally and exactly the words they receive. So if you type in, “a boy with ants in his pants,” they are literally going to attempt drawing a child with insects in his underwear. That’s what I mean by humorous results! Give yourself a good laugh, it’s good for your mental health. 🙂
Art Therapy using AI Art
There’s another way AI art tools can benefit your mental health: art therapy. Now, the benefit of art therapy on mental health is well-documented. Again, I will not bore you with long quotes and links; that’s not the purpose of this article. Suffice to say that many studies have shown how taking several minutes, even once a week, can help lift the spirits of many people suffering from mental health and mood disorders. That includes anxiety and depression . . . which covers about 20% of America right now!*
AI art generators make art therapy super-easy. You can use them for super-simple tasks, something as easy as typing in your current mood. For example, if you’re feeling down, you can just type in: “Depressing Darkness Full of Tears” and see what results. Maybe do it a few times. Stare at the results. What do they look like to you? Do they make you feel anything in particular? Do they help you feel any better? If not . . . maybe make a few more. 🙂 Or change the words and try again. The worst that can result is nothing. The best that can happen is that it relieves your pain. There are other ways to approach art therapy, but that is one way in which I used AI art, for myself.
So we can see that AI art gives us quick, almost effortless access to a creative outlet. That may in turn relieve our stress, help us laugh, and even perhaps provide a form of therapy. What a great concept! Free, accessible stress relief for everyone! Bring it on.
Professional Therapists Are Important!
At this point I do want say something important: if you are using any tools for therapy (including AI or art therapy), I strongly suggest you use them in conjunction with a professional therapist. While self-guided therapy can be helpful, a professional will understand how best to guide you down your path to healing. Okay? Also, I need to make Ye Olde Standard Disclaimer that I am not a licensed therapist, so therefore please do not make decisions assuming that I am one. No, I am a FloxMonster™, remember? Rawr.♥
As I always say, “please consult a professional in case of serious illness!”
So okay, we have established that AI art is great for mental health and mental wellness. Where can we go to make it? Well, there are now many websites providing good-quality AI art tools. Here are just a few which I have checked out personally. (The last update of this article is 17 May 2023, and these are in order of preference from great, to good, to don’t-go-there, to I literally take a whizz on one of them. So read on!)
Rating: 3.5 paws out of 4
Price Range: FREE. I can’t even find anywhere to buy the credits. Show up and get 10,000 free daily.
NSFW: Ohhhh yes.
This site seems to specialize in anime-style art, which is not especially my “thing,” however there is a “Pixai Real V.3.0” AI model you can select that gives fairly decent photorealism. The pictures are all very good quality: realistic shadows, no mutations or deformed limbs, beautiful skin, and pretty faces. This is a very well-trained ai model! However, there is one BIG caveat with this site: It is ssssssllllllooooooowwwwwwww. So set up your prompt, click the button, and go make a sandwich. No, really. It takes 10 minutes, give or take, to generate a picture. (I am a cheapskate, though, and I un-check the “High Priority” box because that way it costs fewer credits . . . so if that box were checked, the process might be a lot faster. I don’t know.) But anyway, what do you want, it’s free! And the pictures are very, very good quality. Note: if Firefox glitches, use a different browser; several times mine never loaded the final image, but Edge and Chrome gave good results. Also, I strongly suggest only grownups visit this site!
Adobe Firefly (Beta)
Rating: 3 paws out of 4.
Price Range: (TBD)
NSFW Allowed? Not right now! Not sure about the final version, was not able to locate that info.
Okay don’t get super-excited, because this one’s still in Beta, and knowing Adobe it’s going to be hellaspensive when they do release it. But I’ve been using it for a few weeks and I really, really like it. It’s clunky right now–the images need polish–but it responds beautifully to prompts. What I mean is, you can tell the AI is still being trained, but it has a great foundation. This one shows genuine promise. In a year, it’s going to be the front-runner, mark my words. But it won’t be free.
Apply for Beta -> https://firefly.adobe.com
(click “Apply for Beta” on upper-right, fill out form to apply, you’ll hear back in a couple weeks if they approve you)
Rating: 3 paws out of 4. <– AWARD: BEST ART QUALITY 🙂
Price Range: FREE or $
NSFW Allowed? Yes, with any paid plan.
I’ve been using this site for several days, and I really like it. This may soon be my primary tool. The images are about 250% better quality than the one on which I was previously wasting money, and I’m just using Mage’s free 512×512 resolution so far. Plus, the system responds beautifully to prompts. No floundering around with nonsense–I get images that actually resemble what I want, right away. Even better, the “FREE” plan allows for unlimited (!!) images at small size. Now, if you want larger (or NSFW) content, you need to upgrade ($4/mo), and if you want access to their specialized AI models that’s $15/mo. Those are really decent prices, by comparison.
Bing Image Creator
Rating: 2 paws out of 4. <– AWARD: CHEAPEST (always free!)
Price Range: FREE
NSFW Allowed? A big ol’ heck NO!
The best thing this has going for it is, it’s 100% free. It works off the Dall-E AI Model, which is not my favorite. The images don’t seem photorealistic (at present) although if you work at it, you can get some very good-quality ones. I personally was turned off by the high level of censorship. (It rejected the words “Trump” and “butt,” in separate prompts, during my test run. If you do a quick search, you can find dozens of posted complaints from people experiencing similar issues–one popular blogger called it a “hair-trigger censor,” lol.) So if you’re making nice-nice pictures for Granny, this is your site. Otherwise, find another place.
Rating: 2 paws out 4.
Price Range: FREE or $$
NSFW Allowed? Can’t tell. It didn’t reject the word “nude” in the prompt, but didn’t produce nudity, either.
This site should have rated higher, because the art it generates is not bad. The AI model I used (Kandinsky) does show classic signs of deformation and mutation, meaning that it needs further training–but that’s not a dealbreaker, because nearly every does AI improve, the longer you use it. That’s exactly what they’re made to do. (Also, playing with negative prompts smoothed some of that out.) No, here is the dealbeaker: Part 1, The free plan gets 100 credits, and you can use those free images only for personal (not commercial) purposes; and Part 2, if you subscribe to their paid plans (which are expensive compared to their competition at $10, $25, and $50/mo) the credits those plans give do not roll over each month. It’s use ’em or lose ’em. Sorry, Stablecog, no sale! If they changed this policy, though, I would consider buying a plan here. I like the “smooth” and polished appearance produced by the Kandinsky model. It’s nice stuff, if you can overlook the other issues.
Rating: 2 paws out of 4.
Price Range: Not really free, maybe 10 free credits total? or $$
NSFW: Yes, even with free.
I’ve been using this site for a few months. They have several features that work somewhat well, none of them amazingly-great. There’s your standard text-to-image (a.k.a. “prompts”), along with some photo enhancer tools and a background remover tool (which failed completely for me, the two times I tried it). The text-to-image tool really isn’t bad. The images are lifelike, and I appreciate very much that they allow NSFW / adult images. As for price, this is another place that makes you buy “credits” with which you purchase AI-generated images, and image enhancements, tweaks, up-sizes, etc. I really don’t like that system because it burns credits very fast. Their pricing starts at just $2.99/mo but that only gets you 200 credits. Trust me, if you experiment at all, you’re going to burn through that in week. 🙂 They see you coming! They will offer to sell you more credits. So I’m listing this as $$, semi-expensive, because I know it’s going to cost average people much more than $2.99/mo. (Important: as I finished typing this I noticed that the Fotor FAQ mentions credits have an “expiration date,” but does not specify how long they last. Beware! These credits do expire! I am now lowering its rating because of this. If you buy them, they should not expire.)
Rating: 2 paws out of 4. <- AWARD: EASIEST FOR NEWBIES 🙂
Price Range: very limited Free, or $
NSFW: No, I couldn’t find a generator to produce anything realistic.
The primary advantage of this tool is its sheer simplicity. If you’re just looking to start out, and want to play around with something super-simple, this is the place for you! You can type a few words into the blank, choose whatever style you wish, and click “Generate” to make instant art. It’s quite, well, simple. I honestly hate it, lol, it’s not my cup of tea . . . BUT I bet it would be great for someone just starting out! So if you get bored with Bing, or need something easier, try this one. 🙂
Rating: 2 paws out of 4.
Price Range: Limited Free (about 100 images total) or $$
This website intrigued me because it describes itself as a new approach to AI art, and offers your own trainable AI models as well as video enhancement. Naturally, there is also your standard text-to-image / prompt input. However, when I started playing with the text-to-image system, I was seriously disappointed. Even after selecting “Photograph” as the desired output, and putting “photorealistic” and “high resolution photograph” in the prompts, the output was still cartoony and not quite right. (Also, after I made the images, I could not find them–I mean anywhere.) As cool as it could be to train my own AI model, I think I’m going to pass on this site. The price wasn’t right either: $15/mo for 625 credits (or about 125 basic images, not counting enhancements). I’d burn that in a week. And again, the credits expire each month. Why is this even a thing? No sale!
Deep Dream Generator
Rating: 1.5 paw out of 4 (review incomplete)
Price Range: $$$
I was unable to complete the test of this website, because they offer no free credits/images whatsoever. I did explore it, and examine the images on display. They appear to be very good quality. The shadows are well-placed and in proportion to the light in the room. Reflections are accurate. No sign of distortion or deformation on the human forms. These are all good signs. However, I have no way of knowing whether these display images are the “usual” output of the AI model, and also whether they are easy to make . . . or required hours of work to wrangle from the AI. This is regrettable–I wish I could test. The price seems high as well, starting at $9 for 60 images. Lastly, the site uses obscure terms like “energy pack” for credits along with a “dream” schedule for image quality. Oh, boy. This is another one I wish I could rate higher but . . . nope. I’m not going to spend $9 just to test it, and definitely not $9 for every 60 images I make. I’d go broke.
Rating: 1.5 paws out of 4.
Price Range: FREE (100 credits/mo) or $$
I was just about to give this site a solid 3, maybe even 3.5, until I glanced at the License and policies. On the one paw, they have solid-looking art, very good-looking AI models. However, on the other paw, there’s a lengthy Creative ML RAIL-M License attached telling you what you can and can’t do with your art . . . that starts out great, saying don’t break any laws, and halfway through gets mired down in what can be interpreted as basically “don’t offend anyone, anywhere, even by association or accident” more or less. Okay no thanks, you can eat that license. After looking at the price tag, I wouldn’t use the service anyway. It starts at $12/mo for 3,000 images, which is reasonable . . . but if you look at the fine print, this is another plan where the credits don’t roll over month-to-month. It’s “use ’em or lose ’em.” No thanks, that’s just not okay in my book. I don’t do business with companies who treat customers that way.
Rating: 1 paw out of 4
Price Range: $$$
NSFW: Almost certainly not
To be perfectly honest, I glanced briefly at this site and left very quickly. First of all, they do not give any free credits/images. Second, I cannot stand the cartoony quality of the Dall-E AI model. I realize some people love it, but I am really into photorealism, and Dall-E is the opposite of that. No apologies, I just seriously think it stinks. But here’s a link, in case that’s your thing. To each their own. They’ll sell you 115 credits for $15.
Rating: 1 paws out of 4. <– AWARD: MOST OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE! >:(
Price Range: $$$$$!
NSFW: Almost certainly not.
I was skeptical when I visited ShutterStock, but I entered a couple prompts . . . and the images weren’t horrendous! They weren’t great, but they actually had all the elements of the prompt in them, which surprised me. Serious issues, though, big distortion and proportion problems, color balance and contrast issues, stuff like that . . . this AI model has not been well-trained. Then I looked at the price–and my jaw dropped. ShutterStock’s minimum price is $49/mo to download any art. (Well to be fair, there is a special introductory price of $0.99 for one, individual piece. But that’s still highway robbery, especially considering the inferior quality of what you’re getting.) Absolutely unacceptable! 1 paw out of 4–one hind paw, raised high on this website.
(full name redacted because I will not advertise them)
Rating: 0 paws out of 4.
Price Range: $$$
This review has been removed because in my opinion the site has a) censorship way out of control, and b) an extremely expensive system which yields deeply inferior art. In addition, the owner deleted my paid account without prior warning, then literally sent me an email threatening me if I said anything bad about them. So if you know what “N.C.” stands for, or stumble across an AI art site with the initials N.C., consider this your heads up. Avoid that site and save yourself a huge headache! There are many better sites that won’t censor or threaten you. I’ve found several!
(No link provided.)