TikTok Trend ‘Ask AI to draw’: can AI replace handmade art?


In the digital society we currently live in we come across many trends. One of the trends I came upon is the ‘Ask AI’ trend on TikTok where you can ask Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make an artwork. You can fill in a prompt or you download a photo and the system makes you an artwork. I find this a very interesting phenomena, because with just a few clicks we can create a masterpiece. AI can create art in just a few seconds while artists need days, weeks or even months to create something similar. Art is a very important way for people to connect with each other and to make an impact. Does AI art have that same effect? To see what this trend is about I decided to try such an AI-art generator. 

Example of the Ask AI trend I saw on TikTok

Artificial intelligence and computional creativity

First I will explain what Artificial Intelligence (AI) is. AI are systems which are designed to do certain tasks that normally people perform. Think for example of tasks such as cleaning, writing or vacuuming. Other famous examples are Google Home or Alexa. Such technologies as these also influence our creative processes. Computers are already playing a very important role in the arts such as music, architecture and the fine arts. Artists use computers as a canvas, a brush or even as an instrument. Ramón López de Mántaras (Grey & Rossiter, 2017)  talks about the idea of computational creativity in the book The Next Step: Exponential Life. He explains computational creativity as the following:

“Computational creativity is the study of building software that exhibits behavior that would be deemed creative in humans. Such creative software can be used for autonomous creative tasks, such as inventing mathematical theories, writing poems, painting pictures, and composing music. However, computational creativity studies also enable us to understand human creativity and to produce programs for creative people to use, where the software acts as a creative collaborator rather than a mere tool.” (López de Mántaras, 2017)

I find this idea of computational creativity interesting, because people love making art, music and architecture. Why should we replace it with a system? I talked with people a few times about AI and many people don’t understand it and/or are afraid of it. Also people are still very skeptical about its potential. Including myself if we talk about art. I think that’s why it’s so important to talk about this, because technologies are constantly developing. 

Ask AI to create my masterpiece

To see what this TikTok trend is about I decided to try an ‘AI art generator’. I myself used the ‘NightCafe creator’. It’s a free website. You only need to pay if you want more credits or if you want to buy an artwork. You can make art in many different styles or you can download an existing picture and transfer its style to a painting that already exists. First I downloaded a few of my vacation pictures and changed the style of the picture. I find this function very nice, because I could choose the style or very famous paintings suchs as ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch or ‘The Starry Night’ by Van Gogh. You can see a few examples below. 

I also tried the function where you fill in a prompt or sentence and choose a style. I didn’t like it. When I filled in something I had expectations about how it would look and most of the time I got an ugly artwork. When you paint or draw something yourself you can decide how it looks. You are in full control. Now the system does it for you. When filling in the sentence you don’t know if it’s going to look good or not. In my case, almost everything I tried looked bad. When scrolling on TikTok I saw many great things, but maybe I should practice a bit more 😉 

Sunset and mountains (Lilian, 2022)

What I noticed is that the website also functions as a social platform. You can share and publish your creations or look at the works of others and like them. You can even join a Discord group to talk about it, to sell you artworks and to share tips. You can also read blogs on the website about topics related to art and AI. So here we see the shift from real life communities to online communities. It connects people who have similar interests and/or characteristics. This is very important to do research about, because digital communities are increasing and changing the way we do research about curtain topics

Computational creativity vs. human creativity

Trying the trend myself was fun, but I still prefer to draw and paint myself. I find it very mindful and relaxing. Also I often didn’t get what I expected. That may be because of my lack of skills. I do see the good thing in this ‘AI art generator’. Creative people can use it for inspiration, to try something new or to just play with it. They can meet new people with similar interests. Also communication online is often easier for people than in the real world. To come back to the question I asked in the introduction: “Does AI art have that same effect as handmade art?” I think it does, because it connects people and it can make an impact. I do think computational creativity has a long way to go before it reaches the same effect and impact as human creativity. However, it was really interesting to try this trend and I will surely recommend people to try this. Especially with the increasing role of AI people should see that it could be fun and helpful. Art is a very easy and accessible way to do so.

References & Links

  • Grey, D. A. & Rossiter, J. (2017). Artificial Intelligence and the Arts: Toward Computational Creativity in The Next Step: Exponential Life. (pp. 99-123). BBVA-Open Mind.
  • Nightcafe website: https://nightcafe.studio/
  • https://www.tiktok.com/search?q=ask%20AI&t=1663420353497