If you are a graphics artist that struggles with finding or licensing landscape images that can be used as a basis for future derivative works and composites, then Canvas might one day be the answer to that. In fact, depending on your needs, it might be able to produce images you can use in its present form after its last update.
The first time I saw a press release on NVIDIA Canvas I couldn’t wait to use it. It seemed too good to be true. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will interpret simple brush strokes to create an image that looks more like a photograph in its final form. What looks like a toddler’s scribblings end up being a rather nice-looking image but there are limitations as the software is still in beta.
My profoundly simple scribblings vs the final output.
One of the major improvements is resolution. The update brings up to four times the resolution of the original release. I also noticed that exports were 1024 X 1024. That makes it a lot easier for practical applications as the base image will be greatly improved over the previous version. Some beta testers have been using AI-based upscaling to increase the size or resolution of the rendered image but those are generally commercial services that may have a free trial.
The big improvement, according to NVIDIA, is better AI that brings out more detail and quality in the final image. They have also added five new materials to the material pallet. These all add up to a nice little update considering it’s freely available for download in beta. Some commercial products don’t add new features this quickly and we all know that NVIDIA has the resources to make things happen.
It is true that Canvas processes the strokes quickly and within a few seconds, you can have an image or a nice start to a more detailed image. While it has layers it didn’t work as I expected. I thought certain things needed to be on layers to not interfere with previous strokes but that is not how it works.
To be honest I haven’t used Canvas enough to know how the layers work other than they separate the various materials to edit. They don’t seem to interact in such a way as to protect the other layers. It seems every brushstroke is destructive in some way to layers above or below the current layer in use. Again, I’ll chalk this up to an extreme case of newbism, which is not a word but should be.
The purple strokes are the new "Flowers" material.
If I were a fine artist, I’m not sure how I would feel about Canvas other than it’s not fine art and I’m can accept that premise… for now. We’ll see what the future holds as more artists wrap their heads around Canvas and programs like it that are under development. Digital art is still not considered fine art by some of that community in general, but we have seen digital art grow into a tremendous form of artistic expression that is an art form in itself.
Some photographers may be displeased as it seems their expertise is being cheapened but a good photographer has an eye for FRAMING a shot on a consistent basis, a skill not widely shared among photographers themselves. Until AI gets to that level, photography, like fine art, will hold its own against the digital onslaught and may even appreciate in value.
Canvas still has a bit of development to put under its belt before it can be the AI-powered digital art tools some people crave, such as beginners. If, however, you are an experienced digital artist Canvas might already be another tool to take a look at. After all, the price is right, at least for now.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.