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Can you make money by selling AI-generated images?

Computer-generated artwork is one of the latest trends. Find out if you can make money by selling your AI-generated images.

how to make money selling pictures as nft

Not too long ago, people were super hyped by the possibility of selling images as NFT, and now it seems like we are moving to the next thing: AI-generated artwork.

Maybe you have seen some of those hyperrealistic images on Instagram or just found out about them on YouTube. No matter how you discovered this world, I’m sure we all had the same reaction: this is cool and scary at the same time.

Cool because, let’s face it, those images can be pretty impressive. But if you stop for a while and consider the implications of this, it seems like a dystopian world where AI will finally take over the world is one step closer. On top of that, there are some quite serious problems for human artists, photographers, and graphic designers. It’s not difficult to imagine a day when most of these people will be replaced by an input box in a browser…

But if you are reading this article, you are not here to consider some philosophical arguments or to ponder about human extinction: you want to know if you can use the thing to make some money! So, let’s talk about it. Remember that some AI has generated all the images in this article, and no bot was harmed in making them.

Which are the most popular AI image generators?

ai dinosaur

The way these systems work, from a user’s perspective, is very simple: you have an input box where you can type whatever it is you want the AI to create. Some systems allow you to add some parameters to give you more control over the final results, while others leave more control to the AI.

This market is constantly evolving, and new players can emerge any day, but when writing this article, the major companies are Dall-e 3, Midjourney, DreamStudio, Stability, and Stable Diffusion.

One thing all these applications have in common is that they allow users to try it for free and have a cap on the number and size of images that can be generated. After you reach the cap, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee.

My favourite so far, in terms of results, is Midjourney, although I dislike that it works on Discord. But it has an incredible documentation page on Github; it’s worth checking it out. In terms of quality, it’s probably the winner at the moment.

Dall-e 3 has an excellent interface and has significantly improved compared to the previous version, Dall-e 2.

DreamStudio seems to have a nice balance between ease of use and customization options, but it’s still in beta, and the results, compared to Midjourney, are not that great.

Stable Diffusion is a different beast entirely. Initially, it was far behind the competition since you had to install the whole AI system on your PC, and it was objectively very complicated. Thanks to the advent of Rundiffusion (use the code fabionodari15 to get a discount), it is now possible to use their app online without installing anything. Just buy credits based on time of use. A huge advantage that Stable Diffusion has over other AI systems is the large community that has developed (typical in most open source systems) and has created AI models specifically designed to generate images for particular purposes, such as these custom texts “hidden” in photos.

I suggest you try as many as possible to understand what you can do and how much you enjoy the different systems.

Can I legally sell my AI-generated images and artwork?

cute cthulu

Let’s get to the point. Here’s where things become a bit complex. There are three things to consider:

  • What does the law say?
  • What do these companies that provide AI bots say?
  • Where can you sell your art?

Let me try to address each of these points so that we understand if it’s possible to sell your images. By the way, if you want to sell your photographs (taken by you), check out my complete guide to selling stock images and stock footage.

What does the law say?

pavlova cake ai generated

According to the U.S. Copyright Office Rules, A.I. Art Can’t Be Copyrighted. You can read the full article here, but the TL;dr is that “an image generated through artificial intelligence lacks the “human authorship” necessary for protection”.

The article talks about how the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) rejected a copyright request for an AI-generated work of art for that reason. In his appeal, the artist argued that the USCO has proven unwilling to “depart from a century of copyright jurisprudence.”

I’m no legal expert so I might be completely wrong, but from my understanding, this doesn’t mean I’m legally not allowed to sell my AI-generated art. It simply means that I can’t enforce the copyright until the law is changed (and I’m sure it will happen soon enough). It’s also important to remember that this only applies to the US. So, every country might technically have different copyright laws.

Interestingly, in March 2023, there was an update from the US government (more info here) stating that AI-generated works are not eligible for copyright protection unless a human author contributes significant creative input. The key points are:

  • AI-generated works are not eligible for copyright protection on their own
  • A human author must contribute significant creative input to the work
  • The Office will continue to monitor legal and factual developments involving AI and copyright
  • AI can be considered a tool used by human authors in the creative process
  • Copyright protection is reserved for works created by humans with original expression and creativity

What do these companies that provide AI bots say?

what is an ai generated image

Let’s say the law doesn’t forbid selling AI images. Can I do it? Do these companies allow me to sell the images created through their AI systems?

Well, the answer is YES, you can. Some restrictions exist, but the most popular AI generators generally allow commercial rights.

This is taken straight from the Dall-e 2 disclaimer page:

Starting today, users get full usage rights to commercialize the images they create with DALL·E, including the right to reprint, sell, and merchandise. This includes images they generated during the research preview.

Users have told us that they are planning to use DALL·E images for commercial projects, like illustrations for children’s books, art for newsletters, concept art and characters for games, moodboards for design consulting, and storyboards for movies.


This is taken from Midjourney. You are NOT the copyright owner (Midjourney is), and you grant them a non-exclusive license:

By using the Services, you grant to Midjourney, its successors, and assigns a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, sublicensable no-charge, royalty-free, irrevocable copyright license to reproduce, prepare Derivative Works of, publicly display, publicly perform, sublicense, and distribute text, and image prompts you input into the Services, or Assets produced by the service at your direction. This license survives termination of this Agreement by any party, for any reason.

Subject to the above license, you own all Assets you create with the Services.This does not apply if you…are NOT a Paid Member


One thing to remember with Midjourney is that, unless you pay an additional fee, all of your images are public (including the prompt you used), and anyone can see and use them without your knowledge. This doesn’t happen with other AI generators.

Where can you sell your art?

Now that we have clarified the two previous points, let’s talk about where you can sell these images.

For some people, this means licensing the content through stock photography agencies. For example, Adobe Stock recently announced that they do accept AI-generated images. It is the same for Dreamstime. The only requirement is to indicate clearly that your uploaded images are AI-generated.

Others chose to sell some merchandise on Etsy or similar websites. Some other people sell physical paintings or canvases. Most stock agencies and merchandise websites don’t have too many restrictions regarding what content you can upload. They are happy as long as you bring them money.

There are some exceptions, though, such as high-quality stock photo agencies (like Arcangel). These agencies claim that they value human art more than AI-generated art, and while I believe this is partially true, I think the problem is strictly legal. Generally, these agencies require an exclusive license, but some AI generators, like Midjourney, grant the creators a non-exclusive license. So, checking which AI was used to generate a specific image becomes a legal nightmare.

Another problem that could prevent you from licensing the content through regular stock photography agencies is technical: these AI images are generated at a very low resolution. At the moment, Dall-e 2 creates 1024X1024px images, and, as far as I can tell, Midjourney creates images that are about 2048px on the long side. These resolutions are not big enough to be accepted by most agencies. The best workaround is using software like Topaz Photo AI (here is my review) to upscale the images (up to 600X). I believe this is only a temporary problem, though, and soon enough, we’ll see the option of generating bigger files (most likely in exchange for more money).

As I mentioned earlier, on Dall-e 2, there is a function that allows you to fill the empty spaces with some AI-generated content, and this means that you can enlarge the canvas, and the final image will be bigger than 1024px. The results are usually not that good compared to the regularly generated images.

This topic has also been discussed by fellow microstock photographer Alex, who runs the blog You can check his experience using Dall-e 2 in this article. It’s worth the reading.

Be mindful of market saturation

pirate fighting a tree

Let’s face it: this whole type-a-sentence-and-create-some-amazing-images thing is very cool. When I first saw the potential of the AI generator, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe my eyes. We know about AI since Hollywood has been talking about it for ages, but to see it in action and try it in person is something else.

My second thought, of course, was: how can I monetize this stuff? If you are reading this article, you are thinking the same thing, and that’s what every other person who has discovered this niche is doing right now. Here, you can see some excellent results from people using Midjourney. This will give you some ideas about the competition you’ll face.

The ease of use means that soon, there’ll be an unlimited supply of sci-fi hyper-realistic images, and people will upload everywhere, trying to make a few bucks. Don’t get me wrong, getting good results is not as easy as it seems, but it takes way less effort than becoming a real artist.

So, as is often the case, first movers will have the biggest advantage. But even if you discover this market a bit late, don’t get discouraged: there will always be room for creative and talented people. I can imagine a few job openings in the not-so-distant future for “AI senior prompt experts” or maybe a Fiverr service that offers a “database of AI prompt presets.” (Funny enough, that’s precisely what happened after I wrote the article. You can now find those jobs).

So, while earning something by selling AI-generated images is possible, don’t think it’s easy money. Some people will become very successful AI artists, others will create mediocre content, and others will give up soon enough. As always, try to experiment and have fun at the same time. This new technology’s potential is incredible, and I believe we have not even started.

If you enjoyed reading this article, don’t miss my review of the top AI tools for every photographer.

Here, you can find the list of the best stock photo agencies.

51 thoughts on “Can you make money by selling AI-generated images?”

  1. Henry Mejia

    Hi Fabio I just started to use Davinci AI art creator, and I was wondering if I make youtube videos using the images I generated with the app, and I earn youtube money, I should still be safe considering I’m not selling the images and just sharing them on YouTube correct? on there website it says they cannot be used for commercial use so I think I would be safe. what are your thoughts? your input would be much appreciated thanks

  2. PIVianX

    I think BlueVillow and Lexica both allow high resolution scaleups, as well as photoshop scales up better. We are gonna process AI images in photoshop any way!.
    Paid subscriptions allow better images with high resolutions.
    — THANK U,

    1. Mavreen

      What happens if you take AI art and then do more work with it, such as change some aspects, add things in etc. What is the copyright position then or will it depend on the Country and the application used? I am thinking about how most hip hop, dance and rap artists work sampling the work of others which is now established as mainstream. Would be interested in some views.

      1. AS far as I know we are still in the far west area. There are some laws that regulate work that has been modified, but until some big lawsuit is filed, it’s really hard to tell who’s right and who’s wrong.

    2. Dj Quimoso

      I already earned money making a book cover, and I am trying to earn by subscription to view images on Patreon.

  3. Jack

    Soon the AI will be prompting us.

    Maybe for the better. Lol

  4. mspence

    According to Nightcafe you can sell art made by their generators (they use Dall-e and Stable Diffusion versions).

  5. Graubide

    Thanks for this article, there is something I didn’t understand regarding copyrights.
    If I read right (sorry, english is not my main language), if you are on a paid plan on Midjourney for example, you can sell the art generated by AI without any issue. But what happen when you prompt a licence content with the AI ? In example, prompt a Marvel Hero or any Anime Hero (like Naruto etc) / commercial brand like Nike etc, or just take an art from any artist and put it on MJ for it to generated image based on it to be “commercial free to use”
    If I’m correct, actually there is no protection because it’s generated by AI, even if it’s based on copyrighted content. I think (if this part is right) this is the scary part, but hope I’m wrong. What do you think about it ?

    1. Copyright laws are very complicated. To be on the safe side it’s always better to avoid monetizing material that is too closely related to IP already trademarked.

      1. Graubide

        Thanks for replying to me, yeah I also agreed on this point, just didn’t know how they will manage this for it to don’t fall on “Fan art” content 🙂

        Have a nice weekend,


  6. Eugene

    Beautifull I will like that we collaborate together, yeah meng

    1. Jane

      I have made some beautiful artworks on Bing Image Creator which uses Dall-E3, however in the terms of use it states that these images cannot be used for commercial purposes. I am a bit confused as the statement from Dall-E3 above says that we can use them. Does it depend which platform you access the AI software from?

  7. Alter3g0

    Ciao Fabio,
    C’è un errore nel tuo articolo. Midjourney nell’abbonamento completo a circa 65euro mensili crea immagini stealth che non sono visibili alla community ed hai la possibilità di poter commercializzare le tue ‘opere’ a tuo piacimento. Un saluto

    1. Ciao, nell’articolo l’ho scritto che c’è l’opzione di nascondere le immagini, ma è a pagamento: “One thing to keep in mind with Midjourney is that, unless you pay an additional fee, all of your images are public (including the prompt you used), and anyone can see and use them without your knowledge. This doesn’t happen with other AI generators.”

  8. randy

    hi Fabio,
    This was a nice, concise and helpful article, thanks. It misses one thing, that every other article I’ve read and Midjourney’s own TOS also miss: when you sell an image somewhere, do you have to give credit/attribution to the AI generator? That is, if I sell a Midjourney image somewhere do I have to mention it was created by Midjourney? I assume not, since it is nowhere mentioned. But, it’s very important given that there is no copyright–as soon as you say the image was created by Midjourney, anyone who knows the rule can copy and sell that exact same image. If it happened to be say, a very successful t-shirt campaign that made 10’s of k$, that could have a big impact on your sales if dozens of others start selling an exact copy. If no attribution is necessary, then there’s at least a linger doubt that a copyright exists by default and many people (hopefully) would hesitate to just copy and sell your image. Also, platform protections that normally inhibit/take down copycats would not come into effect if it’s known no copyright can exist.

    1. Hi Randy, you cannot sell images generated by other users, and as I mentioned in the article, there is no legislation that assigns copyright to AI. I see your point but it’s the same issue with human-generated images. It doesn’t really matter if I add a watermark to my images, or I write copyrighted by insert my mame and so on. If I can prove that I created the image, the law is on my side. With AI is clearly more challenging since, especially with MJ, most of the pictures are public, but the law always protects the original creator.

  9. Spencer

    Hey Fabio, loved the article!

    I’m just getting started at university, and am currently gearing toward either animation or film, and have my own projects I am working on, so AI has been constantly on my mind.

    Do you know if it is legal to create, for example, the basic backgrounds/pre vis for a monetized cartoon show with AI? I know it’s currently public domain, but wouldn’t using a public domain art piece be the same as public domain music, or anything else?

    Also, something I read online is the worry that Disney and other industry giants could pull a legal monopoly over the reference/input art AI can use, then replace their employees with AI, in effect making AI next to useless for the indie devs. Any thoughts on that?

    1. Hi Spencer. It’s a good question. I think it really depends on what kind of tool you use. Each one has a different licensing agreement.
      About the monopoly, I’m not really sure what you are referring to. Could you please share a link? Thanks

  10. Michelle

    “It’s history repeating itself.” No. We must approach every issue individual, and with intellectual honesty. Not all new technologies and ideas are ethical. Regardless of where you stand or what you like, you need to defend your moral positions with logic and facts.

    1. “you need to defend your moral positions with logic and facts” I agree. What do you think is the best course of action to stop the AI revolution?

  11. maze

    Interesting how you have failed to point out that the entire generation debacle is currently hitting courts and might very soon see a copyright update but not in the way your article seems to hopefully suggest.

    This said, I find it apalling that you’d go out on a limb to encourage monetisation of this instead of put a caution to the frankly shitty ethics of selling works produced via AI generation. This is treading on an already spat on and undervalued market, so congratulations: you have set out to make it worse. Hope you’re proud of yourself.

    I can only hope legislation passes soon to bring down such notions and put the plague back in the Pandor’s box of mankind’s bad ideas, where it belongs.

    Because just because something could be done, does not mean it should.

    1. Thanks for your comment Maze. It always fascinates me to see how people are refusing to accept new technologies because they are “unethical”. It’s history repeating itself, really.

      First things first, as I clearly stated this is NOT an article about the philosophical implication of selling AI-generated images. Is for people who ALREADY made up their minds.

      Second, the cat is out of the box now. Good luck trying to put it back. You can wine all you want but there’s no going back. That’s for sure.

      “I can only hope legislation passes soon to bring down such notions and put the plague back in the Pandor’s box of mankind’s bad ideas, where it belongs.” Sorry to break it to you, but just because you dislike something, it doesn’t mean it will go away. There will be new regulations, no doubt about that, and probably someone will get huge fines, but to really think this will go away, man that’s quite something.

      Also, to be completely honest with you, I hope you will shun also ChatGPT, Bard, Bing and every other tool that will make use of AI and LLM to generate content and power search engines, because it’s basically stealing content from creators like me. It will be a lot hard though since I predict that AI will power of every single search engine in a few years (or probably much earlier).

    2. Syzygy

      Good luck with that, maze. You’re just one more crusader who thinks their personal ideas are SO correct they should be public policy.
      AI-generated art exists. Adapt.

  12. Romeo

    Dear Fabio.
    I hope you do understand my english, that is my second language.

    Like you said.
    Very tasty eye-candy a.i. created pictures.ut….. I think the creators of this prompts and the creators of the content (from which the A.I. learnt from), will get a little penny and the most money will earn the big players who do distribute it.

    1. Scott

      Yep ! User would of been better off thinking outside the box and thinking of a way to use AI to their advantage instead of ranting. It’s here to stay, very disruptive, but so we’re computers 40 year ago. I’m in the art world and it’s pretty scary as this industry was over saturated (Covid, side gig, work from home) pre gpt etc.

      Every industry needs to move ASAP ! Pi$$ing and moaning is a losing strategy.

  13. Walid

    Hi Fabio,

    I am a french traditionnal illustrator. Now, i’m using bith watercolor and digital (procreate).
    At first, I was angry and afraid to see how Midjourney is exploting the drawings and images of artists, without paying them.

    But, if it is there, it’s there. Hope to see some legislation in the future.

    Thanks for your article, it’s really informative. I think i’m gonna keep going on the traditionnal and digital path, and learn to use the prompts by curiosity. Like we say, mor we know, less we are afraid

    Don’t you think that, later, AI will produce prompts without us ? With the quick development of this system.

    Thanks for yoyr work and time

    1. Hi Walid, thanks for the thoughts. Yes, I agree that it’s quite concerning, however, I do believe that there will always be a market for human-produced art. It will simply be harder but also monetarily rewarding for those who will survive.

  14. Yallo

    Hey Fabio, good article, thanks for sharing it.
    It looks like someone had that “Fiverr service that offers a database of AI prompt presets.“ idea already – (I am not affiliated with them, I started seriously looking at AI generated art and text this weekend and came across it).

    1. Hi Yallo. Yep just as I thought it would happen. We will see more of this for sure.

  15. Kurtis Harris

    Thanks for sharing!!

  16. Angel

    It’s disgusting that people are trying to make money off of free generated images. That aren’t even their work.

  17. Isaac

    Hi thanks for this info, came in handy for me because I have was just thinking of creating a gallery style website where I can host all my Ai generated images but not sure if adding Ads will be permitted.

  18. Kelvin

    Thanks for your detailed explanation. I intend to begin a journey in AI but I wasn’t to sure if (profit wise), it will be worth investing my time and energy. Reading through your article, I am pretty convinced there is something here to benefit from AI. Thanks once again.

    P:S- Nice blog

      1. Nabeel Inam

        Hey Fabio,

        Thanks a lot for such a deep insight. Can I use ai images for creating YouTube monetized content? Also, does YouTube allow it?


  19. Julia

    Ciao! Thank you for review of AI images generators and the article on nft marketplaces. Very clear and very useful information for photostockers! I have heard about ai images during painting webinar and just tried using neural network Playgroundai ( It is an impressive and inspiring process! After your aricle I think Midjourney and Dall-e2 will be the best and I want to try to use them. The only problem for stocks is resolution((
    P.S. I buy you a coffee later)

    1. Fabio Nodari

      True. Hopefully image sizes will increase as time goes by.

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