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How To Make NFT Digital Art

Sep 15, 2022 8:37 AM

When people think of NFT drops, the first trait that comes to mind is the distinctive art styles that so many NFT projects have, and having an art style that grabs an audience’s attention is often the first step towards a successful project.


Whilst there is no singular style of NFT art, there are definitely quirks caused by the nature of blockchain distribution and the often huge quantities of NFTs that form a drop that have coalesced to create a loose common NFT style.


Whilst a simple answer to the question of how someone can make NFT art is to simply make art and mint it as an NFT, there are certainly more unique elements caused by the blockchain and the rapid changes in how non-fungible tokens have been used that have also changed the type of art that sells.


With that in mind, this article aims to provide an overview of the NFT art world, the simple system that allows projects to create thousands of unique NFTs in a very small space of time, as well as common elements that are found in many popular projects and art production methods.


What Is NFT Art?


The simple and short answer is that NFT art is image files that are minted as NFTs and sold on an NFT marketplace, where they are bought, sold and transferred to other people in the same way other forms of cryptocurrency tokens are.


That is the official definition, but NFT art has a much more specific meaning to people when they talk about it as a form or genre of artistic work, one that has evolved alongside blockchain technology.


NFTs in the art world started as a form of digital watermark or a way to claim ownership of artistic works in a space of infinite digital replication, and this early concept of NFT art reached its zenith with The First 5000 Days, an art piece by digital artist Beeples that sold for nearly $70m.


This led to many NFTs being sold, either relating to art, memes or important artefacts such as the source code to the World Wide Web, but whilst there was an initial wave of NFT art sales, the market would not stay like this for long.


The next step was NFT art projects or drops, which instead of being one piece of art, used a range of generation methods that we will discuss to create a range of different art pieces, each with traits of varying rarities similar to a trading card.


These are projects such as Bored Ape Yacht Club, Cryptopunks and many others that produced thousands of NFTs, and from there NFT projects expanded beyond art and into more elaborate uses of the token system that extended beyond the images themselves, such as items and characters in NFT play-to-earn games.


How NFT Art Is Made


There are many tutorials about the process of taking an image file, minting it as an NFT and selling it on a marketplace, but less about the process of actually making art.


This is, in part, because philosophers have been writing about how art is made and what makes art since the invention of writing, and have been discussing it for even longer than this.


NFT Art can be of any style and be distributed in many different media formats, from a high-quality image to video, 3D renders, text, music or anything that an NFT can link to since the NFT itself is the receipt of ownership rather than the art piece itself.


Typically, however, when people talk about NFT art they are talking about NFT collections and they are made using a variety of generative processes.


The most common and simplest to execute is the flipbook method, which is where a template is made and each individual part of it is divided into layers known as traits. These traits can include the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the background, any special accessories or hats and so on.


You then design as many variations as you want to make and create a very small piece of code that randomises the different traits before layering them together to make a complete image.


Notice how a collection like BAYC has every ape fit the same general template; all of them had the same face, ears and body shape with details randomly generated and layered on top of a base ape such as mouths, hats, glasses and shirts.


This is not the only way you can produce an NFT art piece; 3D artists can use procedural generation in the way a lot of games do to develop unique character models of different heights, clothing, facial features and many other features.


Other procedurally generated collections use entirely computer-generated designs such as fictional topologies or abstract computer art to make NFTs, and a growing number are taking advantage of AI art tools to generate wildly different collections through machine learning.


The underlying NFT technology will work with any of these as long as they are a compatible format and the appropriate fees are paid to mint them.


What Connects NFTs?


Despite how diverse NFTs are to the point that entirely different mediums, art styles are often used in their creation, NFTs have a lot of connections to each other, often in the form of common tropes and ideas that appear in many collections.


As community is a huge part of any successful NFT collection, most of them have some degree of self-referential elements to them.


This can include references to pop culture, other major NFT projects and references to wider crypto culture and often money itself, with various cryptocurrency symbols and cash often being a trait found in many collections.


Many collections also feature references to moons due to the popularity of the term “to the moon” (referring to projects that have taken off in popularity), “diamond hands” (referring to people who will not sell their NFTs) and the metaverse concept at large.


What connects NFTs is often what also connects people who buy and sell them, and a good place to learn about what NFT art to make is simply by listening and engaging with these communities.