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AI vs Human Art – Can You Spot The Differences? Here's 9 Comparisons

As AI art becomes more realistic, distinguishing it from human art is turning into a more difficult but also increasingly important task. Since AI is becoming smarter, so must we. Here are some ways you can identify AI art:
Updated November 29, 2023
A human and robot painting next to each other as wide art, made with DALL-E 3
A human and robot painting next to each other as wide art, made with DALL-E 3

Midjourney, DALL-E, Firefly, Stable Diffusion — the list goes on and on. We live in a world where machines are creating art, and they actually do it pretty well. The line between human creativity and artificial intelligence is blurrier than ever. And it’s sparking a fiery debate in the digital space: What makes art, art?

Obviously, algorithms aren’t as good as Van Gogh, Monet, Kahlo — but anyone could be fooled to believe that an AI artwork is made by them. It’s an interesting but unsettling thought, especially with deepfakes making waves in the news lately. So, the real challenge is identifying whether an image came from a human or a machine.

How do we do that exactly?

From subtle nuances to distinct styles, I’ll go over some tips I've figured out after working with these tools for months. Some are obvious telltale signs of AI while others are a bit harder to figure out.

What's The Difference?

There are some exceptions but, for the most part, you can’t tell whether or not an artwork is AI with just a single glance. Take these three images for example. One of these is from Van Gogh himself while the other two are from Midjourney. Can you tell which is which?

Van Gogh

If you answered the last one, pat yourself in the back. But how can you tell?

There are lots of specific ways to tell if a piece of art came from a person or a machine. We’ll discuss them in detail shortly but, in general, here’s how you spot AI art:

  • Overuse of patterns. Machines don’t do well with entropy or random data, making AI generators more likely to repeat certain patterns that are prominent in other images.
  • Complexity. AI struggles to replicate the unique or unusual elements that human artists are more likely to experiment with.
  • Lack of emotion. While they could sometimes be visually better, AI art lacks the emotional and conceptual depth of human art.

If someone else made that Van Gogh test earlier and made me answer it, I’m confident I would’ve gotten the right answer too. The two other images are just too “deliberate” to be from a person. Patterns are too repetitive, colors are too punchy, and it relies too much on spirals because it’s a defining characteristic of Van Gogh paintings.

AI Art vs. Human Art: Side-by-Side Comparison

Human artworks will appear on the left side of each image, while AI artworks will be on the right. 

Expressionist (Monet, The Artist's Garden at Vétheuil)

Monet vs. AI

Oil paintings are often characterized by brushwork. You can see the short and broken strokes in Monet’s painting, each applied with rapid but deliberate movements. As for the AI art, the brushwork in the Midjourney image is too vague. There’s no pattern and it’s too thick. If you zoom in, it also becomes obvious that the colors are mostly from muted blocks of paint overlaid with brush strokes to make it seem more like Monet’s original work.

Painting (Maris, A Girl with Flowers on the Grass)

Maris vs. AI

If both images are stylistically cluttered, how can you tell which is AI? You need to ask yourself which messes are more likely to be made by humans. That starts with checking the consistency of the mistakes.

Maris’ painting on the left has bold and frenetic brushwork, which lends to the rawness of the artwork. You can clearly see that they’re not deliberate nor machine mistakes. On the other hand, if you look a little closer into the Midjourney artwork, you’ll see these:

Unlike AI photographs where inconsistencies are easy to spot, you really have to dig into AI artwork to find errors. The black spot on the girl’s feet doesn’t match its surroundings. The nearest parts that would’ve used black paint is inches away, meaning that this would’ve been a deliberate mistake if it were human art. The middle of the encircled flower on the right also doesn’t match any of its neighbors.

Nihonga (Hiroaki Takahashi)

Takahashi vs. AI

Remember what I said about patterns? Look at the image on the left. There’s an overall theme to it despite having little to no repetitions. 

On the other hand, the AI artwork definitely has some repetitions, primarily in the falling water as seen here.

AI also doesn’t put much computing power into the supporting details on an image. That’s why you may notice some errors and inconsistencies hidden somewhere in the background. For instance, does this town look right to you?

There’s also the overuse of concepts. To generate the AI image, I used the name of the original artist and the art style. Instead of being subtle, Midjourney took the most common element in this type of artwork (sakura trees) and applied it everywhere, despite being absent in the prompt.

Abstract Art (Klee, Angel Applicant)

Klee vs. AI

I expected AI to have issues generating abstract art and I was right. Paul Klee’s original artwork is unique and inventive, something that only humans can make. It’s weird, geometric, and thought-provoking.

Meanwhile, AI can’t create abstract art because it’s mostly formless. Machines can’t generate anything beyond their dataset, which made Midjourney struggle to create unique shapes and resort to using identifiable ones.

Digital Art

Digital Art vs. AI

The image below showcases the logic errors of AI image generators. To expand on that, let me zoom in a little bit.

To start, skateboards shouldn’t have seats and their wheels should face that way. The fact that there are two skateboards also shows the repetition that I’ve been highlighting since earlier. There’s also the fact that the shoes aren’t symmetrical and that the text in the trash can doesn’t make any sense.

Flat Illustrations

Vectors vs. AI

There are times that AI generators also struggle with simplicity, which can be seen here. I asked for a simple flat vector illustration, and Midjourney gave me a complete artwork. Nevertheless, I could still point out some AI identifiers, such as the image on the magnifying glass not matching where it's pointed and birds looking more like plant saplings.

Can You Tell The Difference Between AI Art and Human Art?

Now that you’ve learned the basics of AI detection in art, can you tell which of these images are created by a person?

Test #1: The Apartment Complex

AI vs. Human Test 1
Press Me For The Answer

The one on the bottom is created by an AI.
How can you tell? This one’s simple. The image on the top has recognizable human text. On the other hand, the AI artwork features objects that don’t make sense, including front doors on the second floor, and the reflections don't align with the position of the bridge.

Test #2: The Pirate Ship

AI vs. Human Test 2
Press Me For The Answer

The one on the bottom is created by an AI.
How can you tell? It has too many masts, some of which aren’t supported by anything. It’s also off-center, which is common in AI images.

Test #3: Winter in Old Korea

AI vs. Human Test 3
Press Me For The Answer

The one on the top is created by an AI.
How can you tell? The human artwork has a lot of texture which can only be gained through layering oil paint. Meanwhile, the AI artwork is a lot more softer. You could also use logic to set them apart, considering that the stairs on the right side of the AI image leads directly to a railing.

If you want to test your knowledge on human vs. AI images, check out our test here!

Are There Any Software That Can Detect AI Images?

There’s two ways of identifying AI images through software. The first of which is by finding its origin using Google’s “About This Image” feature. This gives you general information about the image, including its estimated age and where it’s been mentioned so far.

About This Image 1
About This Image 2

However, this only works if you found the image through Google Images. If you want to upload an image, I highly suggest using AI image detectors such as Optic’s AI Or Not.

Optic AI Or Not

In A Nutshell

AI isn’t going anywhere, and to be frank its only going to get better from here. If you’re having trouble identifying AI-generated artwork now, you’re only going to find it more difficult as time goes on. Sorry, I don't mean to be negative, it's just the truth.

With deepfakes already fooling people worldwide, you need to develop a keen eye for AI-generated images. Above all else, always remember that there’s one thing machines can’t replicate: human emotion.

Artificial intelligence thinks, but humans work.

Every piece of art is a reflection of our struggles, a celebration of our wins. It’s intricate, complex, meaningful, and sometimes clumsy. Ultimately, I’d say that the best detector for human and AI art is your gut. Once you’ve exposed yourself to both worlds, you’ll be able to tell which is human in a snap. At least until you can't.

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Written by John Angelo Yap
Hi, I'm Angelo. I'm currently an undergraduate student studying Software Engineering. Now, you might be wondering, what is a computer science student doing writing for Gold Penguin? I took up studying computer science because it was practical and because I was good at it. But, if I had the chance, I'd be writing for a career. Building worlds and adjectivizing nouns for no other reason other than they sound good. And that's why I'm here.
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