Using AI To Design Black Hops Beer Cans

If you are interested in design and technology and beer, this article might interest you, there’s some fun stuff happening!

Artificial Intelligence (AI) based text to image generators are a relatively new technology that employ a variety of algorithms and machine learning techniques to interpret the text entered by a user, which then generates a realistic image or artwork to represent it. It allows the user to create spectacular and highly realistic images limited only by one’s imagination.

The most well known image generator is DALL-E 2 and the technology is developing rapidly, with 2022 seeing the rise of such platforms as Craiyon and Midjourney.

Recently we decided to experiment with generating some Black Hops themed artwork using DALL-E and Midjourney. Midjourney is probably the coolest, it’s a public platform that can generate images via a Discord Server (a public server community meeting point for like minded people). It’s one of the most accessible text to image generators – anyone with a Discord account can access it.

From Galactic Symphony To Cosmic Ghost .. and how we created the can design

Back in 2021 we had an idea for a new limited release, a big hazy IPA hopped with astronomically inspired Galaxy Strata and Eclipse hops which we christened as Galactic Symphony.

When it came to designing the can, we briefed the designer, Dave Heavyside, with what we wanted – galaxy, music notes, light sail, space X launch, futurist fonts. The results were epic and Galactic Symphony was one of our biggest launches of the year – it was one of our 2021 Limited Releases and proved to be very popular with Black Hops drinkers.

Related: Beer Can Design Spotlight Part 3: Dave Heavyside

But we wondered, what would happen if, instead, we briefed an AI to come up with the can design? So we decided to give it a crack .. say hello to Cosmic Ghost (not a real beer – yet).

Reaching For The Stars With Cosmic Ghost

The idea was Cosmic Ghost would be a bigger, bolder version of Galactic Symphony that we’d do in a small limited run. 

Labels are all very different in terms of what they need from a design point of view. Some need to be super specific, like the life-like illustrated staff beer labels we do, some are more abstract and are more about just looking cool. AI tools are great for the more abstract labels when we don’t have a super specific need. AI tools are also great if you can describe the label in a few words – these tools use a few keywords to generate images.

Here’s how we came up with it.

Create a Label Template

We have an Illustrator template we use internally for our small run labels. It includes the bare essentials that a beer label needs (icons, beer name, ABV etc). Then we can use this template, replace the background and change the beer name and font for doing new small run brews.

Generate an AI background (using Midjourney)

This is the fun part! There are two tools at the moment that are standing out as the best for generating AI art, DALL-E-2 and Midjourney. Both tools are free to use for a little bit but after a while you’ll have to pay a small monthly fee to continue generating art.

Midjourney is awesome. It works differently in that it’s not a web app, it’s a bot you can use in other apps. To get started you need to have a Discord account and you can open the Midjourney Discord server and use that to start generating some art.

Here’s how you can use Midjourney to generate the background.

  • In the Mid Journey Discord, click on one of the Newbie channels on the left to enter and start playing around with some art. Remember this is all happening live with lots of other people in the channel so it’s a very different experience than what you are probably used to in creating designs (it’s actually super cool).
  • Enter the command /Imagine and then click the word ‘prompt’ to enter your keywords. If you end the words in –ar 16:9 it gives you a nice landscape version, which is ideal for a can. The keywords we used for this image were the same that we used for Mid Journey, “Galaxy Music Notes Space”. You then watch it generating the art live.
  • When it’s finished it will show you a few options and you can then view them in the web app, or use the links to create larger resolution versions or different variations.
  • Download the image and drag it into place in the can file. And that’s it, just treat the can image like any other can file (proof it, export high quality PDF) and you’re done.

An alternative option is to search in an AI Image search Engine like Lexica. This searches other people’s AI-generated images and is full of awesome stuff. Currently the images are small which is an issue, hopefully they will resolve that.

We did a few different options, check these out.

Version 1 – The first of the DALLE-2 images
Version 2 – A variation on the first DALLE-2 image
Version 3 – The first of the Midjourney images
Version 4 – A variation of the Midjourney image, my favourite of the lot


There are a few things to think about with AI art. First of all we wouldn’t expect this to replace the whole design piece for a major launch like Galactic Symphony, but it certainly could have helped with coming up with the brief, or assisted the designer in making things a bit quicker and more efficient.

That said, we don’t have any desire to replace designers for big releases for a lot of reasons, one being  that we love supporting our designers on these projects. However the appeal is really in the smaller releases. For our really small releases (where we only produce as little as 10 cases of beer) we could potentially do a fully designed label instead of just the recon labels we use (assuming that we’re happy to print them in-house at lower quality). Or for our in-between releases, where we use labels but can’t afford a full design process, this could be useful.

It’s a new space and there are issues to iron out for sure. No one wants to replace designers, who are a huge part of the whole beer design experience and community. There’s also IP considerations that come into play with AI-generated art, although it would be inconsistent to not acknowledge that there are also IP issues that arise from art generated by humans.

If you’re interested in playing around with it, we’ve set it up in the Black Hops Beta Team Discord server and you can use Mid Journey to share some art there. Check out the Black Hops Beta Team Discord Server here.


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