D&D 5E Glory of the Giants' AI-Enhanced Art

The latest D&D sourcebook, Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants, comes out in a couple of weeks. However, those who pre-ordered it on D&D Beyond already have access, and many are speculating on the presence of possible AI art in the book.

One of the artists credited is Ilya Shkipin, who does traditional, digital, and AI art. In an interview with AI Art Weekly in December 2022, Shkipin talked at length about their AI art, including the workflow involved.

On Twitter, Shkipin talked more [edit--the tweet has since been deleted but the content is below] about the AI process used in Bigby, indicating that AI was used to enhance some of the art, showing an example of the work.

There is recent controversy on whether these illustrations I made were ai generated. AI was used in the process to generate certain details or polish and editing. To shine some light on the process I'm attaching earlier versions of the illustrations before ai had been applied to enhance details. As you can see a lot of painted elements were enhanced with ai rather than generated from ground up.

-Ilya Shkipin​



Discussions online look at more of the art in the book, speculating on the amount of AI involvement. There doesn't appear to be any evidence that any of the art is fully AI-generated.

AI art is controversial, with many TTRPG companies publicly stating that they will not use it. DriveThruRPG has recently added new policies regarding transparency around AI-generated content and a ban on 'standalone' AI art products, and Kickstarter has added similar transparency requirements, especially regarding disclosure of the data which is used to train the AI. Many artists have taken a strong stance against AI art, indicating that their art is being 'scraped' in order to produce the content.

UPDATE- Christian Hoffer reached out to WotC and received a response:

Have a statement from Wizards over the AI enhanced artwork in Glory of the Giants. To summarize, they were unaware of the use of AI until the story broke and the artwork was turned in over a year ago. They are updating their Artist guidelines in response to this.

Wizards makes things by humans for humans and that will be reflected in Artist Guidelines moving forward.

-Christian Hoffer​

The artist, Ilya Shkipin, has removed the initial tweet where the AI process is discussed, and has posted the following:

Deleted previous post as the future of today illustrations is being discussed.

Illustrations are going to be reworked.

-Ilya Shkipin​


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given that amateurs can spot it, I disagree with the passable job part. It will get there, it isn't yet
The weirdest part of this is, that a lot of the things people pointed out as tells were from the original artist (terrible feet and such), before he had the AI touch it up.

given that amateurs can spot it, I disagree with the passable job part. It will get there, it isn't yet

I mean, sometimes. Again, clothing is a big tell with AI art because it doesn't really handle it well and it just sort of blends it all together. You can really see it with the Frostmourn, where the sketch has much firmer shapes and lines in the clothing while the AI version is just sort of jumble of lines hinting at something without actually being something.


There are two big issues when it comes to algorithmically generated content.

1) Corporations using algorithmic generation to replace workers.

This is the one that gets the most attention because it's the one that's easiest to understand: Automation replacing workers, only it's worse because the end product isn't as good. Thanks to the WGA, more people (but not a majority by a long shot) are also understanding the issue with use of generative algorithms to create a "first draft" that artists/writers are brought in to "edit" or "touch up" that are complete and utter garbage requiring more work to "fix" than to create from scratch, meanwhile they're being offered a small fraction of what they would get if they had been commissioned to create it from scratch and they're being denied credit in favor of the "real creator", the person who type a bunch of keywords into a search bar.

2) The work of artists and writers being scraped or otherwise added to databases for generative algorithms without compensation to the creators, their permission to use the work, and/or the ability to opt out.

This one's not as well-known but it's been one of the major sticking points for artists since the generative algorithms moved beyond the "acid trip" stage of image generation a couple of years ago. It was also brought up constantly in 2022 even before the current post-NFT-crash hype for the techbro's new shiny buzzword. It's been a huge deal for a lot of art software that are sneaking provisions into terms of service to allow scraping (a lot of artists are fleeing from Adobe because of it, myself included for video editing...okay technically it's because my copy of Premiere doesn't accept a lot of common file types and I'm not paying a subscription, but it sounds better to make it a moral stance).

So the big ethical issues involved here are making sure that creative workers can continue to earn a living doing their work and ensuring that any generative algorithm databases are sourced from public domain art/writing or art/writing that has been specifically approved by the creator for that use. For the last one, not just the copyright holder (because then companies could just shove all the art and writing they've commissioned over the years as work-for-hire and own the rights to), but approval from the creator since it can be used to duplicate their style and drastically reduce their ability to earn a living through their work.

I mean, at a certain level I do get it: AI can fill in details really quickly and can do a sometimes passable job. To me, it generally looks very muddy (AI with clothing is generally a tell for me) but sometimes it's okay. Again, I think it's incredibly sad given that the sketched art given was quite nice!

Also to clarify: the artist who had her concept art modified does say that it was the previously-mentioned artist, so it was either this person or she thinks it was this person.

So it was Ilya.


Ah OK. That wasn’t made clear at first.

A bit disappointing that WotC hasn’t just said they’ll stop hiring him instead of getting him to agree to not use AI. His art isn’t that great, with or without AI. Surely they can find someone better.
Yeah, I agree, though a 9 year working relationship isn't something people are usually in a rush to end...though if they do hire him again, he'll get extra scrutiny no doubt.

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