Artificial Intelligence Takes Over: Illustrators in China Replaced by AI

Artificial intelligence has made significant progress in recent years, and its impact on various industries, including illustration and animation, has been remarkable. AI image generation tools, such as Dall-E, Stable Diffusion, and Mid Journey, have reached new heights, producing illustrations that are nearly indistinguishable from those created by human artists. This has left many freelance illustrators and artists concerned about the future of their careers.

The Implications of AI on the Illustration Industry

The illustration industry has seen a decline in job opportunities as gaming companies turn to AI software to generate game illustrations. Large Chinese gaming companies have started utilizing AI to create game posters, which previously would have been the job of a freelance illustrator, such as Amber Yu. She observed a decline in illustration jobs as gaming companies now offer only a small fee for artists to fix minor issues, such as awkward body parts or oddly positioned hands.

Another illustrator, Xu Yingying, has seen five of her 15 fellow illustrators specializing in game design lose their jobs this year as AI-generated art becomes more prevalent. While AI generators create clothing and accessories based on human-illustrated character sketches, the rise of AI image generation is at least partly responsible for these layoffs. AI-generated art is so exceptional that some illustrators are considering leaving the industry altogether.

However, some companies are trying to find a balance between AI-generated art and human creativity. They are encouraging their employees to incorporate AI into their work processes, as it can automate certain repetitive tasks, allowing human artists to concentrate on the more nuanced aspects of their craft, such as refining character emotions and expressions or experimenting with innovative artistic styles.

The Impact of AI on the Animation Industry

The impact of AI on the animation industry remains uncertain. While some fear that AI might replace animators, it is essential to consider the potential benefits this technology can bring to the industry. For instance, AI image generation could prove invaluable for manga artists, who often face tight deadlines. By utilizing AI-based illustration software, these artists can generate quick sketches, allowing them to focus on crafting compelling stories and character development.

Moreover, AI can serve as a complementary tool to enhance the creative process rather than as a direct replacement for animators. By automating certain repetitive tasks, AI can free up animators’ time and energy, enabling them to concentrate on the more nuanced aspects of their craft.

The Ethical Concerns Surrounding AI-Generated Art

While the quality of AI-generated art has become exceptional, some artists are resisting the encroachment of AI-generated art, arguing that these image-generation tools are trained on millions of images from artists who never granted permission for their work to be used in training AI generators. This raises ethical concerns about the ownership of the art and the use of personal data without permission.


The advancement of AI in the illustration and animation industry has both positive and negative implications for artists. While some may be concerned about the loss of jobs due to AI-generated art, others view AI as a complementary tool that can enhance the creative process. As AI continues to evolve, it is essential to consider its impact on various industries and ensure that its development is ethical and respects the rights of artists. Finding a balance between AI-generated art and human creativity is crucial to the sustainability of the illustration and animation industry.


Source – Rest of World

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