There's a massive opportunity for you to build an income stream (or multiple income streams) with AI art right now.
You might have some reservations:
- There's too much competition
- People will hate me for using AI
- I don't know about the legality
I'm here to tell you why you can and should build and business and make passive income with AI art:
Less people know about AI than you think. If you've been following AI news you'd think that everyone in the world is experimenting with AI. The reality is that most people are blissfully unaware of AI's powerful potential. Just like how people thought the internet was a silly fad in 1995, the vast majority of people won't wake up to AI for years.
Among the people who know about AI, most will never attempt to build an income stream. There are lots of reasons why people won't do it. The biggest is probably fear of failure. How many times have you had a friend talk to you about their amazing idea for a business, only to never start it (or to quit after the first month?)
People who hate AI are a very vocal minority. The reality is, people don't care if the product in front of them was created by a human, an AI, or a dog, as long as it is an outstanding product and it solves their problem. A design studio did a human VS AI illustration test that demonstrates this.
Most tools give you full commercials rights to your images (Midjourney, Stable Diffusion etc.) So you won't run into any problems selling your generated art, unless you are clearly infringing on copyright laws (such as selling Pokemon merchandise; I did this once and Nintendo soon sent me a cease-and-desist letter).
More and more products will be AI-assisted, or AI-created in the future. Right now you have the unique opportunity to get in on the ground floor, and learn how to use AI tools to create products that bring satisfaction and joy to peoples' lives.
Here are unique ideas about how to build a passive income stream with AI and a bit of elbow grease. I've included tools and workflows for every single idea so you can try them out immediately.
#1 Physical & Digital Products on Etsy
What? Etsy isn't unique idea at all!
Bear with me. You might be surprised.
I recommend Etsy over marketplaces such as Redbubble and Teespring.
There are 2 types of shops on Etsy: successful shops that sell high-quality original items, and mediocre shops that sell generic mass produced items that you'll find in 20 other Etsy shops.
The benefit of using AI art is that you can make high-quality, original products in a fraction of the time it would take a traditional creator. This lets you:
- Create more products
- Test more products
- Iterate based on feedback and make more of whatever is already successful
So what types of products can you actually make with AI-generated art and sell on Etsy?
sticker, A super cute baby pixar style fox, vector
sticker design, super cute baby pixar style white rabbit, wearing a cyan sweater, vector
sticker design, super cute baby pixar style otter , wearing a beanie, vector
sticker, A super cute baby pixar style dolphin, vector
Here are some stickers I created with Midjourney. I was astonished by the quality, cohesion, and sharpness of the results:
(Midjourney comes with a 25 image generation free trial. You can get started by joining the Discord server. You use it by typing "/imagine" in any Discord server channel, followed by a prompt, a description of the thing you want Midjourney to generate. I've written down the exact prompts I used below the images. Feel free to copy them.)
Some subjects I've noticed do well on Etsy:
- Cute animals
- Tarot / Astrology
- Fandom (Harry Potter, Friends, Game of Thrones etc.)
- Planning & Organization
sticker design, lined paper for writing, cute, vector
sticker design, lined paper for writing cute, vector
sticker design, a sheet of lined paper, cute, vector
sticker design, lined paper for writing cute, vector
How do you actually make the stickers?
There are Print-on-demand (POD) services that will not only manufacture the stickers for you, but also ship them to customers whenever you receive an order. Printify is a high quality POD service I've used in the past.
Whenever you make a sale on Etsy, Printify will help you manufacturer and ship the order, and take a cut of the sale for providing the service. You receive the remainder as profit.
The good part about this is you don't have to spend a single cent until you get an order.
I like greeting cards because you can make them for literally every occasion:
- Holidays: Christmas, Halloween, Easter, New Year
- Celebrations: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations
- Thoughtful gestures: thank you, apology, get well soon, you make me happy
Cards with unique or funny slogans tend to do better...while you're at it why not try asking ChatGPT for some funny slogans?
Here are some illustrations I generated with Midjourney:
cute illustration of a happy jalapeno, flaming hot, white background
cute toast illustration, style of japanese illustration, white background
cute sun illustration, style of japanese illustration, white background
cute illustration of two pizzas in love, simple minimal
Don't be frustrated if you aren't getting good images from Midjourney. It took me anywhere from 2-10 tries to get the images above. Randomness plays a much bigger role than you think in getting great results.
After generating the images, I created the actual cards using pre-made templates on Canva (search Canva for "foldable card").
Canva is a wonderful tool. Not only can you use it to make the cards, you can also make mockups of the cards to use as product images (search for "card mockup"):
Protip: After you generate the images, remove the image background with Adobe's free background removal tool or with Photopea. This tool will remove the background and let you save it as a PNG with a transparent background.
High quality art prints are a tried-and-true Etsy staple.
What kind of prints do well?
- Flower / Botanical
- Whimsical Illustrations
- Quotes & Affirmations (not AI art, but try this out with ChatGPT)
Here are some examples of posters that would work on Etsy:
bohemian aesthetic illustration of a cat, minimal --ar 2:3
whimsical illustration of cat, minimal --ar 2:3
abstract cat, style of paul rand --ar 2:3
minimal floral design, flat --ar 2:3
minimal floral design, flat --ar 2:3
whimsical illustration of lillies, minimal, solid green background --ar 2:3
Make sure you are using the
High Quality (2x) setting when you are doing these generations. To turn this setting on, type "
/settings", then select the
High Quality (2x) button. Keep in mind that this costs 2x as many GPU hours, if you are using Midjourney's fast mode.
In order to get your image to the high resolution required for a print, you will need to use an upscaler. My favorite free tool is Waifu2x. Most tools only give you a few free upscales, but this one is completely free and produces high quality results.
Just like with stickers and cards you can use create and ship large prints with Printify.
Don't want to manufacture, handle and ship out every order? Sell digital downloads.
“Make once, sell forever” the old chestnut goes. Once you create the digital product, customers purchase and download it without any additional work on your part.
Etsy allows you to upload up to 5 digital files (each with a limit of 20MB) in your product listings.
The files are delivered immediately to customers after purchase. Contrast this with physical products, where you have to have a fulfillment partner or ship out the products yourself.
You can make digital download versions of the products mentioned above:
- Art Prints
And tons more:
- Etsy shop assets (banner, icon, graphic assets)
- Phone wallpapers
- Coloring Books
- Clip Art
- Patterns for scrapbook and crafting
#2 Design Asset Marketplaces
You can make money repeatedly off of one design without having to spend more time on it — by selling it as a theme or template.
Envato's ThemeForest is the largest marketplace for digital assets. Their most popular category is WordPress Templates. As the designer, what you earn depends on whether or not a design is exclusive to ThemeForest: for non-exclusive designs you will receive 25% of every sale. For exclusive designs, you will receive between 35% and 50%, moving upwards as you sell more designs.
minimal line logo of a rose, vector
simple mascot for a tissue company, japanese style
logo of a taiwanese tea brand, minimal, style of japanese book cover
emblem of a kaiju, simple, japanese
You would pair the graphics with placeholder text, and upload to Themeforest. Check out some examples here.
Companies can buy the logo and then swap the text for their company name.
Check out our guide on logo design with Midjourney for more tips.
There's two ways to sell icons:
- Individual icons
- Custom icon packs for iOS
You can also sell customizable design templates that help people who need design support or aren't design savvy. Some popular options:
- Social media templates
- Resumes templates
- Presentation decks
- Email templates
- Brand Style Guide templates
- Logo templates
This one isn't so much "AI-generated" as AI-assisted. You can generate these templates with Midjourney, but they aren't at the level of detail you would need to sell on a competitive marketplace (yet).
So you would use Midjourney as an infinite idea generation machine, and using your design skills to recreate the results (or draw inspiration from them) in tools like Figma and Canva. Figma is more versatile, but Canva is easier to pick up and has a much richer template library.
Web Design Templates
There are countless brands, bloggers, and individuals that are looking for pre-made web designs to save themselves time on their own projects.
#3 Stock Photos
We've heard of AI photos so realistic so they could sold as stock photos.
There's also a never ending need of businesses for generic illustrations and photos.
#4 Gaming Assets
Game assets are the files and resources used in video games. They can include 3D models, environments, textures, sound effects, and more. There are both independent creators and companies dedicated towards creating assets for other people to use in their games.
The biggest and best marketplaces?
- Itch.io: Find game assets for retro 2d games
- Game Dev Market: Created by indie game devs for indie game devs
- ArtStation: More 3D oriented, however there are still opportunities for AI creators
#5 Publishing Books
Our guide on creating coloring books with Midjourney.