The market for NFTs is the Gold Rush of the early 2020s. These digital-only bits of artwork, poetry, music and other media surpassed industry expectations last year, and trading in NFTs reached nearly $18 billion in 2021. With that kind of (crypto)money on the line, everyone from Soulja Boy to Martha Stewart stepped into the NFT arena. Tech-savvy visual artists seemed especially primed to take part.
But what does it take to create an NFT?
NFTs use the same blockchain technology that powers cryptocurrency, making these cyber artworks unduplicable. In August 2021, 1stDibs launched an NFT platform, and today, our roster includes prolific and talented cyber artists like Karl Poyzer, Swoon and PLS&TY. Here, we dig deeper into NFTs: what they are, how to mint them — and how to include your own artwork in the 1stDibs NFT marketplace.
What Is an NFT?
NFT stands for non-fungible token. A token, in this context, is an asset you can trade for — or invest in — something else. Cryptocurrency and minted artworks are both tokens.
A fungible token is replaceable with an item of the same type. For example, if you purchase a replica of a famous work of art and it gets stolen, you can replace it with an identical replica.
An NFT is a non-fungible token because it has an identifier, known as “provenance,” that makes it the first (and only one) of its kind.
Provenance: Proof of Lineage
Provenance is the archival record of transactions on the blockchain, which creates a permanent, unalterable and verifiable history. The real-world counterpart would be authentication papers for a rare antique. In some ways, provenance is akin to the legal concept of chain of custody. An original can be determined based on the time stamp.
The blockchain keeps a record of every transaction that is readily accessible to anyone who wants to see it. This transparency and traceability are among the foundational benefits of blockchain technology.
It’s important to note that NFT ownership and copyright are not the same. Creators’ intellectual property can be minted without their consent, but they still own the copyright and can sue the minter for damages.
The NFT is solely proof of ownership. However, in some instances, a usage license may be built into the “smart contract” at the time of minting to provide the minter with opportunities to receive royalties.
NFTs can take different forms, including artwork, music, video and simple recorded sounds, to name just a few. Different types of platforms support different types of NFTs.
What Is a Blockchain, and Which Ones Support Which Types of NFTs?
A blockchain is a database that is stored not on a single computer but across many computers, decentralized into “blocks” of data that are linked, or “chained,” together with several checks and balances to maintain database integrity.
This is unlike more common forms of data storage, since it’s not owned or controlled by a single entity. Although NFTS are not platform-specific, the types of files allowed on different platforms may vary.
How Do You Create NFT Art?
Art is very subjective, and NFT art is no exception. You can make a digital animated GIF, static image, video or 3D artwork, identify it as art — and it becomes just that. Once you mint an NFT, you can put it up for auction, set a reserve price and see how others appreciate your artistry.
Why Do People Make, Buy and Collect NFTs?
The motives for creating, buying, collecting and selling NFTs are no different from those in other markets. There are people who are curious and want to see what it’s all about, speculators looking to turn a profit and artists who genuinely want to share their creative talents with people around the globe — or, more accurately, the metaverse.
For collectors, a large part of the attraction of NFTs is the bragging rights they confer. In purchasing an NFT, a collector becomes the owner of a first-and-only artwork — or piece of history. For example, Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter, famously minted his first-ever tweet and sold it for $2.9 million.
How to Mint an NFT in General
Minting is the process of registering a digital artwork to the blockchain to make it a non-fungible token. Here are the steps you need to take to make your first foray into the NFT marketplace.
Step 1: Pick a Marketplace
An NFT marketplace is exactly what it sounds like: a digital location you can visit to buy and sell NFTs. Each marketplace is different and may only offer certain types of assets, such as an image or video or a specific cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ether.
Popular NFT marketplaces include Valuables — the platform used by Dorsey for his tweet — which is specifically for buying and selling tweets. Open Sea focuses on digital collectibles, Axie Infinity caters to the video-game NFT market, and NBA TopShop is the site for National Basketball Association–related NFTs. 1stDibs’ marketplace specializes in the visual arts.
Not all selling platforms are created equal. Some are invitation-only, while others are open to everyone. Some are better for video, others for audio. Some offer higher-quality content than others.
Step 2: Connect Your Digital Wallet to a Platform
Your digital wallet is where you store your cryptocurrency to pay fees. You need to connect your wallet to a platform that supports the currency of the marketplace in which you wish to do business.
Like marketplaces, not all wallets are created equal. You may need to do a bit of research to determine which type of wallet is the best fit for your main concern, whether it’s trading, security or overall ease of use. Some of the most popular wallet providers are Metamask, Math Wallet and Coinbase.
The cryptocurrency platform is the blockchain network you connect with. The most commonly used platforms are Bitcoin and Ethereum, but there are a number of others. Which one is best for you will depend on the type of NFT you want to buy or sell.
Step 3: Upload Your NFT to the Marketplace
The marketplace is where you mint and sell your NFTs, pay any transaction fees incurred and receive payment for what you sell. Common charges associated with minting NFTs are “gas fees,” on the Ethereum blockchain, and “transaction fees,” on the Bitcoin blockchain.
These fees may go by different names on different platforms, but both cover the computing costs of verifying and processing transactions on the blockchain.
Gas fees fluctuate, depending largely on the number of transactions being conducted on the network at any given time. Administration fees are set by the marketplace.
To upload and mint your NFT, follow the instructions provided by your marketplace.
Step 4: Create an Auction
Once the NFT is minted, it is time to create an auction. The process is very simple: Add the title, description and reserve price of the piece, and off you go! Your artwork is up for the world to see and available to the highest bidder.
How to Mint an NFT on 1stDibs
The 1stDibs metaverse has expanded to include a wider constellation of artists. Beyond our curated exhibitions, we have launched the Create NFT page, allowing vetted artists to upload their work, mint it, list it for sale and manage their content.
We have streamlined the upload and minting processes to accommodate the fast-paced, independent and trade-driven approach characteristic of the NFT community. The new platform functionality also enables crypto-art collectors to easily purchase NFTs on 1stDibs.
“Our goal at 1stDibs is to create a robust NFT community with a frictionless experience for creators and collectors,” says Tim Whidden, 1stDibs’ vice president of engineering and an artist himself. “Since launching the platform, we’ve continuously enhanced the features and engaged new artists and curators to shine light on the talent in this creative sphere.”
Apply to be an NFT creator on 1stDibs, and once you’re approved, follow these steps to mint your art and put it on the marketplace.
Step 1. Navigate to Your NFT Profile
From the 1stDibs homepage, navigate to your account icon and select “NFT Profile.” This will bring up your artist profile, where your bio, avatar and social and web links live — along with all the NFTs you mint on our platform.
Step 2: Select the Create NFT Button
Make sure you’re logged in, and connect to your MetaMask wallet. Then, scroll down and select the “Create NFT” button, which will take you to the Create NFT page.
Step 3. Upload Your Art
Upload your art file. It will be uploaded to our servers and pinned to IPFS, or the InterPlanetary File System, a protocol for storing and sharing data. After uploading, complete the NFT Information fields. Once you mint your NFT, you will not be able to edit this information, so check and double-check to make sure it’s correct:
- Add artwork title
- Add artwork description
- Add year created
You can either save the work as a draft or mint it. Once you mint it, your work will appear on the product page.
Finally, to offer your NFT for sale, create an auction and set the duration and reserve price. Then, while you’re waiting for the bidding action to start, head over to the 1stDibs Discord server to talk all things NFT with other crypto artists, enthusiasts and collectors.