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  • Writer's pictureHeather Cash Art

Can I use AI Elements in My Children's Book?

Updated: Feb 18

Lately, I've been getting a lot of questions asking whether I'm going to do tutorials on creating AI art for children's books, and also whether it's ok to use AI art in children's books.

I don't recommend that you use AI for children's books, because at the moment there is a lot of controversy around intellectual property and AI. The AI models are trained off of art that is found online which was created by actual human artists, and the artists unfortunately don't get any compensation for it.

AI Depends on Artists

Although it may seem like AI has a mind of its own and is coming up with this stuff out of nowhere, it's not actually "intelligent". It's an algorithm that takes in input and gives output. It wouldn't be able to function without other artists' work and skills to be used as input. Even if the final result isn't exactly the same as what is used as input, the fact that the program is scraping the web for artist's work and entering it as input is what makes this unethical.

AI Art & the Law

There are currently, and have been, visual artists, singers, and writers filing lawsuits against the AI companies, because they are literally finding their own name in a list that is used for input into the AI systems.

These lawsuits can take years to settle. This isn't something that's going to be figured out overnight. So even if you don't agree that AI is plagiarizing from artists, it still would be in your best interest to stay away from AI art, because there could be legal ramifications in the future, depending on how all those lawsuits work out. It's better to play it safe, so that you don't get a bunch of copyright strikes in the future, or have your book taken down from KDP.

Also, you could create art that infringes on an artist's copyright without even realizing it. In an article by Gary Marcus and Reid Southen, they talk about an experiment they did where they gave prompts to Midjourney using very general terms, and got back copyright-infringing artwork that could definitely get taken down (and maybe even cause your account to be suspended) if found being used on an item you are selling somewhere online. For example, when they wrote "animated toys" as a prompt, they got some direct replicas of Toy Story characters which are owned by Disney! And "video game plumber" showed art of Mario from Super Mario Bros which is owned by Nintendo. If you were to put this art in a children's book, or on a shirt, or anything else, and sell it somewhere, it could definitely get a copyright strike if those companies found it. And on a lot (if not all) of online marketplaces, once you get a few copyright strikes, they will shut your account down.

My Hope for the Future

It would be different if the artists opted-in to be used for AI, and if they could be fairly compensated. But right now it is happening without their consent and without compensation. My hope is that in the future, this will be better regulated, and we will be able to opt-IN to these systems if we choose, and be compensated for it (like make royalties every time our art is used as input). That could be neat, for those artists who choose to do it. But right now, we are just not there yet.


I know not everyone can afford to hire an illustrator. But, I think a great alternative, if you can't afford to hire an illustrator, is to use stock illustrations. If you're creating your children's book in Canva, there are a ton of great illustrations available to use in your book. You can also try websites like Envato Elements or Creative Fabrica, which have a small monthly fee and then you can download as many elements as you'd like. On these sites, artists create the elements and submit them to the website, and they get compensated each time someone uses one of their elements. So they are opting in, AND they are getting compensated.

Lastly, I'm going to end with a quote from Charles Urbach, an amazing artist I know - "Joining with creators in defending intellectual property is a first step in forcing these entities to develop and implement the tech responsibly and ethically."

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks for your support!

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