Detail of laser etched wooden book cover with demon 20240118 - LaserSister Kay Vincent

AI Assisted Artwork #2: How To Design A Laser-Etched Wooden Book Cover

As mentioned in an earlier blog post , I’ve declared that one of my creative goals for 2024 is to create at least 52 AI assisted/inspired artworks this year, using AI-generated images as a prompt for actual physical creative pieces. I was pleased with the first project, the heart-shaped wooden fridge magnet, but it was a relatively simple design and I also couldn’t think of a specific use for it in its original form. But I think this second artwork already shows a real evolution. For a start, the image itself is a much more complex and ambitious piece to laser etch. Secondly, I can think of several applications for the final object – especially for authors or other creatives. So welcome to the second experiment in my “An AI Made Me Do It” project: AI Assisted Artwork #2: Laser-Etched Wooden Book Cover.

[As usual, the links in this post aren’t affiliate links or sponsored products. They’re just for info.]

Where the idea came from:

I’ll be going to the “20Books Sevilla” authors’ conference in March 2024, and although I’m mainly attending with my author’s hat on, I’m also hoping to ask other authors what they think about the possibility of creating some book-related laser artworks.

With that trip in mind I was using one of the ChatGPT AI tools last week, to help me brainstorm a list of ideas for physical items that authors could offer to their readers and fans. That list ended up as a separate blog post, but as a side-product the AI image generator created a mockup illustration of book-related merchandise which might be useful to authors:

This is how ChatGPT described the image that DALL-E had created:

“a variety of laser-cut products designed for authors. This includes a decorative acrylic book cover, intricate paper invitations for a book launch, and character figurines, all set against the backdrop of a cozy writer’s studio.”

I’m not sure what I think about the orange figurine with squid legs, but the central etched wooden book cover immediately jumped out at me. It reminded me of the Aztec calendars that laser machine vendors send out as samples if you’re thinking about buying a laser cutter.

Because I’ve seen those calendars being etched by lasers like mine, I was inspired to see if I could get an AI to create an image for me that I could use as a physical book cover. I gave DALL-E a prompt of:

“a literal design for a laser-etched wooden book cover, featuring a complex steampunk lock, surrounded by demons and hieroglyphs”

This is what came out:

COOL! (and the image generator also spontaneously produced a creepy pen/syringe as a bonus)

How well did the image fit the prompt?

I must say that for me this fit the prompt perfectly:

  • It’s certainly got demons
  • There’s a great big steampunk lock mechanism in the middle of it
  • It features some hieroglyphic-looking symbols
  • It looks like a piece of etched wood.

I was so excited that I had to immediately go and try to etch it. This was my first effort (on a piece of beech-veneered MDF sheet):

Woo – not bad for a first effort, although I do need to play with the settings. Some parts (especially the main demon’s mouth) need to be etched more deeply.
(Detail of the laser-etched wooden book cover)

Here is a (speeded up) video of me etching and cutting the piece:

…and here are the original image and the physical object next to each other for comparison:

As I mentioned, I want to etch some parts of the image more deeply, but on the whole I’m very pleased with this first attempt at a laser-etched wooden book cover. I even managed to get the metallic grey background to look a bit like the one in DALL-E’s image (by resting the book cover on my laptop).


AI engine used:

The text-to-image generator “DALL-E”, which is part of the paid version of ChatGPT.

Lessons learned

  1. DALL-E did a great job of understanding what I wanted. At the moment I definitely feel like it is worth paying for this version of ChatGPT.
  2. This style of monochrome image converts very easily into a laser-etchable format.
  3. The settings that I used for the laser etching weren’t quite right on this first attempt, because the demon’s mouth in particular was disappointingly shallow.

Things I still need to learn or improve

  1. I need to find a way to make the etching deeper in some places.


  1. Find out how to etch the demon’s mouth more deeply. (Convert to greyscale and tinker with the contrast or brightness? Not sure yet, but I’m going to have a play with it to find out.)
  2. Now I have to find a way to turn this into an actual book cover!

Additional AI thoughts:

Last week someone in my local writing group mentioned an article in the Guardian newspaper, which featured an interview with the artist Ai Weiwei about AI-generated images. He apparently said, “Art that can be copied is meaningless”, and that “even Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse would have had to rethink their approach if AI had existed in their era”. At first glance this seemed like an argument that “AI must be bad because it can imitate famous artists’ styles” [and therefore they would just give up making art]. However I’m not convinced that Ai Weiwei is against using AI – mainly because of his forthcoming playfully-titled project “Ai vs AI”.

So on second glance, what is he saying about Picasso and Matisse? It looks like he’s implying that those other artists’ work is meaningless because an AI could imitate them, whereas his work is meaningful because he doesn’t have a style that an AI could reproduce?!

One of the great things about AI reaching the mainstream news is that it has stirred up so many conversations about the nature and meaning and value (or not) of art. I’m really enjoying all of the questions emerging from this topic. I myself am currently pondering what artists from previous eras would have thought about the work of a man whose examples include 200,000 broken spouts from teapots or jugs 😉

Thanks for reading this post. If you’ve got any suggestions of prompts or products – or if you’ve been experimenting yourself with AI-generated images (or laser-cut art) – I’d love to hear about them. You can either comment below or send me a message via the Contact form.

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