It's official. The first finished artwork for our second book is in (see above), and our illustrator, Deepak Kumar Singh, is hard at work finishing the rest. This book is about a school field trip to a mad science museum. We're aiming for a release date in late September/early October, but I'll post updates here and on our social media pages as we get closer.
Also, I have the written draft of our third book in from a new author in-hand and am currently putting together our concept artwork for it using two AI new tools. I won't say any more about that one just yet, but I'll be sharing more about it here in the coming weeks.
As I'd mentioned in my last article, I've been using OpenAI's DALL·E 2 to create concept art to lay the foundations for Deepak, and have also been experimenting with ways to use it for some of our final artwork, longer term. Well, OpenAI announced just this week that DALL·E 2 is now in full beta and the generated art we make with it can now be used in commercial applications. I was not expecting this at all, and had spent much of the last few weeks working with a DALL·E 2 competitor called MidJourney.
MidJourney is a higher resolution, but more stylized alternative to DALL·E 2 that grants its users commercial rights to their generated artwork. They're currently also in beta. However, unlike DALL·E, it doesn't allow you to incrementally add features to images. This is, in my opinion and as I explained in my last post, the most underrated feature of DALL·E, because it allows you to really create complex images that match your internal vision, without having to cram all that detail into a single sentence. In fact, MidJourney's documentation specifically recommends that you don't use too much detail in your phrasing, which considering the lack of an edit tool, significantly limits what you can do with it. Even with that limitation, however, we still found it quite useful.
In fact, I used MidJourney to mock up the initial artwork for most of the pages in the second book. Just about every one of these requires some form of revision by Deepak, and many of them are really just for inspiration, but overall, this tool has allowed me as an author to really lay out my vision much more clearly than I could with Nightlight, which should save time when it comes to revisions. As an example, here's the original artwork that MidJourney created for me next to the final version made by Deepak:
As you can see, the left hand version (the direct MidJourney output) is very dark and grainy. I love the overall look, but a school trip happens during the day, and there were also some missing features, such as the crowd in front, the school bus, and the front door to the museum which are important for the narrative. Adding those details to the original image description used to generate this gave me unusable output, and so I needed to ask Deepak to basically redo the piece for me. Still, it did save him a fair amount of time having a clear picture of what he needed to make, which means we'll be able to start producing books faster. According to Deepak, having the MidJourney art as a starting point allowed him to get to a final piece about 25 to 30% faster.
And with DALL·E now available for commercial purposes, we should be able to improve on this process even more. For instance, I can take that original image from MidJourney, change the sky to daytime, add in the school bus, the crowd, and the front door. It's possible I can even get something that can work in a finished page. However, I have to point out that this is a highly iterative process, and along with the commercial rights came a new credits system, which can add up quickly when you're having to generate hundreds of images.
In the coming weeks, I will be trying to leverage the strengths of both tools to the create the art for our third book, but I anticipate still needing a lot of help from Deepak to finalize it. Hopefully, if all goes well, the third book will release sometime in October. Follow us on social media or sign up for our mailing list to make sure you don't miss those announcements.