Is it CHEATING to let an AI color your art?

9 min read

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RobotCatArt's avatar

So in case you haven't been in the loop, in the past 24 hours or so, Someone released a tool that uses a neural network to color anime lineart. You can find it here:

It just takes a jpg image and starts the coloring process for you, depending on the quality of your input image and contents, the results could range from meh to pretty amazing. Of course, you can specify colors and tweak it even further, and a lot of people have posted some really great looking results:

I have no doubt many people will use this to some effect or another. In fact, I think if this tool was released two years I might not have even bothered trying to seriously learn to color, since it'd be so convenient in comparison and my focus was more on making manga. There's a lot of people who stick with pencils and pens, but find digital hard to get into, or traditional colors too messy. This tool would allow them to finally get to see their own works in color. Others might put it in their digital workflow, or let it take over their digital coloring completely.

The question is, would this be considered cheating?

To answer that question, we'd have to examine what are some cases that can be considered cheating right now. The one that most people immediately think of is probably tracing. Generally most people can agree tracing is cheating, especially if you present it as your own work. The next one that comes up a lot is copying. However, already we're starting to get into a grey area. All fanart is basically copying the design and ideas of a popular franchise, so a lot of copying is already accepted. The times where drama seems to flare up is when the copy is too close to a well known work of another artist or official merchandise, such as copying the entire composition in addition to the characters. Some popular artists have ran into a bit of trouble when passing these 'studies' off as their own work, but it seems as long as you reference your source and don't try to profit off of it, its acceptable.

However, this tool doesn't really fall into the former 2 categories, but instead its more comparable to a photoshop tool or shortcut. For example, many artists use custom brushes to make their workflow much faster. Why draw every strand or rock crack when your brush takes care of the grunt work for you? Or the use of applying existing photo textures, a very common and accepted technique. Photobashing is straight up taking photos and cutting them up and putting them into your composition, and using layers, filters, and color adjusters, in combination with some digital painting touchup to make a completely new work, and is considered standard practice in the concept art industry.

So back to our original question. Is using this filter cheating, or is some level of use okay? I mean, if someone straight up says they colored it, but used the tool 100%, then I'd consider that cheating, but if they disclose they used the tool to color it, then it would it be okay? What if they used it, but then altered it by hand in addition to the AI coloring, like in photobashing, or altered it significantly so it becomes more or a reference? Would it be okay for them to say they painted it? Or they'd have to disclose they used it in some way during the coloring process?

I can already see a few uses I might have for it. For example, it seems to be able to calculate a very aesthetically pleasing color palette, while introducing a bunch of additional hues that fit your overall color scheme. It'd be extremely useful for setting up scenes or color profiles to get really interesting colors as a base reference:

Also, someone already made a short animation with the tool:

I really do want to try my hand at animating portions of VRO, and having it be colored automatically would save so much time. Of course I'd disclose my use of it.

Right now it seems the neural network was most trained on pastel type coloring, but in the future other coloring styles would become readily available. I can easily see this tool becoming a standard filter in the next version of Photoshop or Clip Studio Paint. When it does, it'd become widespread pretty quickly, and I'm sure there will be some huge schism on the digital artist scene regarding its use.

What do you guys think? Is it cheating? Or just another tool in a digital artist's arsenal?


I read through everyone's comments, that sure took longer than I expected. It seems people are pretty split regarding whether using the tool is cheating or not. However, most people agree that credit should be given if you do use the tool. A few comments brought up 'collaboration', which is a viewpoint I hadn't considered. There's also the issue of commissions, which make thing a lot more complicated.

Either way, it seems like as AI become more prevalent, thinks will be shaken up in ways we might not be able to control.


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AlexMehler's avatar
since i like drawing much more than painting im alright with it .. more art faster .. but its probably very limited and needs lots of brushing up , especially environments