NFT art: what is it, how it works and what it means for the creative industry - 99designs (2023)

If you haven’t yet heard of NFT’s or NFT art, I suggest taking a look at your wifi connection. In the last 4-5 months, NFT talk has literally broken the internet. From platforms like TikTok and Twitter to CNN News, the trending topic has left millions wondering, what is it and how can it work for me?

Its recent rise in popularity has promised to revolutionize the creative industry. As a graphic designer and artist, I’m here to ask, “What’s in it for me?” Let’s begin with a definition.

What is NFT art?

An NFT is a digital asset that exists completely in the digital universe—you can’t touch it, but you can own it. An NFT can be any type of digital file: an artwork, an article, music or even a meme such as “Disaster Girl”, the original photo of which sold for $500k earlier this year.

NFT stands for ‘Non Fungible Token’, but what does that mean? Well, it helps to first understand what a ‘Fungible Token’ is. If we think of it in terms of money: a 100 dollar bill can be swapped for five 20 dollar bills and still hold the same value, which means a 100 dollar bill is a fungible token.

NFT art: what is it, how it works and what it means for the creative industry - 99designs (1)

If this 100 dollar bill is signed by Banksy, it becomes a totally unique product. Its value is then much harder to determine, as it’s no longer simply worth five 20 dollar bills. This meansa Non Fungible Token cannot be swapped for any equivalent value. It also means that, like any investment, its value can increase or decrease in the future depending on the circumstances.

What we’re particularly interested in is: how will this new, digital means of selling art affect creators and the creative industry?

(Video) NFTs Are Fueling a Boom in Digital Art. Here’s How They Work | WSJ

What do NFTs mean for creators?

1. Ownership of digital art

Prior to the existence of Cryptocurrency, we never really got to own something that was completely digital. We passed around videos and motion graphics, repurposing and reposting them, but there wasn’t this current opportunity to automatically assume complete, concrete ownership over a digital file or artwork. The rise of NFT’s changes this, allowing creators the authority to rent digital artworks out, to sell them or display them how they wish.

In order to sell them, designers need to get some kind of ‘legal’ ownership of their work. So, after NFT art is created, it’s ‘minted’ or tokenized on the cryptocurrency service, Blockchain. The Blockchain is a digital transaction system that records information in a way that makes it very difficult to hack or scam, which means it’s extremely useful for tracking copyright ownership and maintaining records of creation. Theoretically, any digital masterpiece you create and mint will lead solely to you.

NFT art: what is it, how it works and what it means for the creative industry - 99designs (2)

Ultimately, this process should allow digital artists to gain formal recognition for their work, similarly to how a painter like Gustav Klimt is credited with his infamous painting, The Kiss. The issue surrounding this very new concept is that although Blockchain does have contracts in place to support the legalities of minting and copyrighting cryptoart, none of these have yet been tried or tested in court.

Artists have already come forward with the news that they have had their work fraudulently minted and sold by scammers. But without relevant protection by the law or any preexisting legislation on this topic, it remains speculative as to what these artists will be able to do about this.

2. A novel way to generate income

NFT art is a totally new way of categorizing digital artworks that enables designers to monetize their work. It’s supposed to be a quicker process and a more accessible way for designers to produce work and reap the rewards for their creativity. There’s no chasing clients for payment, there’s no preparing files for print and there’s no waiting to hear feedback or changing and editing your work to suit a client’s needs.


Some NFT art comes with royalties to the artist, meaning every time the artwork is sold on, the artist can receive 8-10% of all future sales. This depends upon which platform the artist is using; Zora, for instance, is an NFT platform with the “Creative Share” option, meaning users can buy and trade artworks immediately.

NFTs can’t stand alone

Another thing that’s affecting the design industry hugely by the outbreak of NFTs is value. How do you value a physical artwork in comparison to a virtual work of art. Also the value of NFT’s and CryptoArt is solely based on the value of Cryptocurrency. Because NFTs are sold on the basis of Ethereum, and that’s translated into monetary value, for example an NFT sells for 2 Ethereum, which is translated to us as about $2,255 dollars. But if the value of Ethereum were to drop, then so does the value of the artwork: its value is continually dependant upon the cryptocoin.

3. A global reach

Previously, the exclusive, illustrious world of art collecting and selling has been something that’s generally happened in physical spaces concerning physical artworks. Designers and artists made money from IRL events like exhibitions and markets until recent world events meant that many of these avenues were stopped. The rise of NFT trading means that art collecting has been able to move online, opening it up to many artists, on a global scale, who may not have previously had the chance to sell their work to buyers.

(Video) What are NFTs and Crypto Art?

Similarly, for many graphic designers it can be really difficult to hold down a steady means of income without doing odd jobs or unrelated work. Stability is a slow bloomer and can be found in loyal clients or through a consistent, timely turnover of projects. But, if you’re not already well-established it can be tricky to find your feet in this competitive industry. So, the immediacy in which an NFT can generate income could, theoretically, open a tidal wave of opportunity for a huge number of creatives, especially those who are less privileged.

Like social media, NFT platforms grant designers immediate access to global audiences. And, often, having a pre-existing online following will help artists gain exposure in the NFT market. The tricky part for designers is working out how to convert their audiences into buyers. Like any other brand, you must find your audience and learn how to establish an emotional connection with them. This means that you’ll need to investigate brand strategies to find what works for you. If you don’t have much of an online presence already, also take a deeper look at your approach to marketing.

Inclusivity versus exclusivity

The art sector of NFTs professes to create an inclusive, protecting environment for digital artists to make money. Anyone with access to a computer can make an NFT and have the potential for it to blow up: whether your niche is realistic, 3D motion graphics or blocky pixels like the Nyan Cat video (which sold for $600,00, might I add). This has the potential to be life-changing for millions of creatives worldwide.

The hypnotizing Nyan Cat

Yet, one point to be aware of is how expensive the minting fee is. Designers must outbid each other to get their artwork ‘minted’ on Blockchain. Prices fluctuate, depending on time and network, but it ranges from anywhere between $80 to $1000. This fee doesn’t guarantee sales for designers, but without paying it they cannot list their artwork on the market.

4. A hefty ecological footprint

One controversy surrounding the world of NFT artworks is the impact it’s having on the environment. French artist Joanie Lemercier recently made news after his NFT sold out in 10 seconds, making thousands of dollars. Pretty incredible, right? Well, what he also could not foresee is exactly how much energy this transaction would consume: the equivalent of how much his studio uses over a full 2 year period, which is 8.7 megawatt-hours of energy.

His seller then resold the piece, which used the same amount of energy and horrified the artist who had looked to sell work online as an eco-friendly alternative to transporting physical work around the world’s museums. Lemercier went on to release a statement documenting the lack of transparency he faced from cryptoart platforms when investigating their energy consumption.

(Video) What is an NFT? NFTs for Artists, Graphic Designers and Animators

Joanie Lemercier’s NFT that consumed 8.7 megawatt-hours of energy.

Unsurprisingly, the fact that NFT artworks are so resource-heavy is hugely alarming for many designers. But this issue isn’t exclusive to trading cryptoart; it’s part of a bigger issue involving the digital mechanism, “proof of work”. Since its emergence in the early 90s, proof of work has evolved to be used largely in cryptocurrency mining to create and mint tokens like bitcoin and ethereum. Highly powered computers essentially compete to get the most bitcoin and need to source a huge amount of electricity to do so.

Developments of greener alternatives are ongoing, but while bitcoin continues to dominate cryptocurrencies, this process that is so harmful to the environment is proving unavoidable for any designers wishing to sell their art as NFTs.

Does the NFT art industry have longevity?

Well, the answer is we’re not too sure! April saw NFT prices shudder to a slump of 70%, yet with so much potential it seems unlikely that NFT art will run out of steam anytime soon.

NFT art: what is it, how it works and what it means for the creative industry - 99designs (3)

I personally don’t think this is a fad, I believe we have been heading into a majority digital age for the last decade and this is just the next thing to become comfortable with. As a graphic designer myself, most of my work is made and prepared for some sort of print, however all my work is created digitally, so it feels a bit of a wasted opportunity to not create an NFT. I think this will be the same for many designers. The NFT world has too much potential to not see itself through.

How to actually create an NFT

The first thing designers need to do on their way to setting up an NFT to sell is create a “Crypto Wallet”. This is going to store the Ethereum, which you will need to pay the minting fees. Then you will need to connect your Crypto Wallet to one of the NFT marketplaces.

(Video) The AI that creates any picture you want, explained

NFT marketplaces allow designers and artists to upload their digital artwork and list it for sale online as an NFT. You can imagine them to be like Ebay or Etsy—except they’re purely for NFTs! The most popular ones include: Rarible, OpenSea, Mintable, KnownOrigin and SuperRare.

One thing to keep in mind when uploading your artworks onto these is how many you’re going to provide. You can choose to put it on as 1 of 1, meaning there will only be one artwork to exist and be sold, or you could decide to upload a collection of the artwork with multiple copies. This is quite a huge decision to make because—like traditional art forms—the number of original editions and how rare a piece is will directly impact its value.

NFT art: to sum up

The selling of crypto or NFT art holds the potential to transform the entire creative industry; its emergence is only the beginning of something that’ll feel mundane to future generations. Yet, the early world of NFT art fails to stand up as a reliable, inclusive environment to sell digital art upon. Our eyes are peeled to see what happens next—and we hope the tide turns in favor of designers.

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What is NFT art What does it mean for designers and artists in the creative industry How does it work explain giving examples? ›

NFT artworks are digital art that allows you to prove ownership of a store of value. In technical terms – “Non-fungible” means that it is completely unique. “ Token” means that it can be transferred on a blockchain. Essentially, NFTs are assets that carry a unique digital identity (Tezos)

Is NFT creative industry? ›

Art NFT is making a way into the creative industry generating opportunities for artists to list and sell their artworks. NFT Marketplace Development Services offer a virtual museum to the creative industry.

How does NFT work for artwork? ›

NFT stands for a non-fungible token, which means that hidden in those quirky artworks, there's a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a digital ledger using blockchain technology to establish proof of ownership.

What is an NFT and how do they work? ›

NFTs are individual tokens with valuable information stored in them. Because they hold a value primarily set by the market and demand, they can be bought and sold just like other physical types of art. NFTs' unique data makes it easy to verify and validate their ownership and the transfer of tokens between owners.

How do artists make money with NFTs? ›

How Can NFT Artists Earn Royalties? The content creator, or original artist of the NFT, earns royalties through subsequent sales in the secondary market. For example, after the original artist/owner first sells the NFT, the buyer/investor may then sell the NFT to another buyer/investor in the secondary market.

How do you make money with NFTs? ›

The most popular way to generate money from NFTs is by selling them on NFT-dedicated marketplaces. Today, there are a variety of marketplaces and platforms where you can create, list, sell, and exchange NFTs including: OpenSea. Mintable.

What kind of NFT art sells? ›

Many artists sell NFTs of physical art like paintings, drawings, and photographs, while others create them digitally first. Being an NFT artist involves a solid understanding of three key layers: The artwork.

Which software is best for NFT art? ›

Best NFT Design Software: Top 10 Tools in 2022 (Free & Paid)
  • NightCafe. ...
  • NFT Creator. ...
  • Krita. Image Credits: Krita, Albert Weand. ...
  • Fotor. Fotor is a popular online photo editor and illustrator tool. ...
  • SketchAR. Image Credit: SketchAR. ...
  • Corel. Image Credit: Corel. ...
  • PixelChain. Image Credit: PixelChain. ...
  • Nifty Ink. Image Credit: Nifty Ink.

How do I convert physical art to NFT? ›

Select your art

You'll encounter a blue-coloured “Create” button in the upper right corner of the NFT forum, like rarible. Choose this option. Here you can choose any of 'single', 'one of work', or 'sell the same item multiple times. After selecting any of them, upload the file that you're going to convert into NFT.

Why are people buying NFT? ›

The Benefits of NFTs

Being a digital version of rare assets, NFTs opened doors for both collectors and artists to make a living by selling and buying or even trading for profits like a crypto investment. Other perks of NFTs as digital assets include fewer maintenance costs and greater asset security.

How much do NFTs cost? ›

On average, the cost of creating NFT ranges from $0.05 to over $150. The cost of creating NFTs depends on various factors such as the cost of blockchain, gas fee, marketplace account fee, listing fee etc. Ethereum and Solana are the most expensive and cheapest blockchain, respectively.

What is the purpose of NFT? ›

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are unique cryptographic tokens that exist on a blockchain and cannot be replicated. NFTs can represent real-world items like artwork and real estate. "Tokenizing" these real-world tangible assets makes buying, selling, and trading them more efficient while reducing the probability of fraud.

What is NFT in graphic design? ›

Before we talk about how you can get into NFT as a graphic designer, let's begin with the basics. An NFT is a non-fungible token and is considered a unique asset in the digital world. If you research this, you will find out that non-fungible tokens cannot be replaced with anything else.

Why NFT art is so expensive? ›

NFTs and scarcity

NFTs can be very expensive (or valuable, depending on who you ask) because they somehow managed to do the impossible: introduce scarcity into the global digital market. An NFT isn't just an overly-expensive way to buy an image — it's a way to own it.

How do I start NFT art? ›

7 steps to create and sell NFT art
  1. Decide on a concept. Before anything else, determine a concept for your art. ...
  2. Choose your blockchain. ...
  3. Set up a digital wallet. ...
  4. Select the right NFT marketplace for you. ...
  5. Promote your NFT. ...
  6. Upload and mint your art token. ...
  7. Price the token and list for sale.
22 Jun 2022

Can anyone make money selling NFT art? ›

Most NFT art sells for the kinds of prices you would expect other good art to sell for. One big difference is that NFTs can allow digital artists to earn royalties on all future sales each time their NFT changes hands – this can be coded into the original smart contract.

How much do NFT artists make a year? ›

NFT creators can earn anywhere from $200 to over $1 million. This wide range is due to the many factors and ways that creators can earn money using NFT technology. On average, artists sell their NFTs for $1,000 each, while developers can earn over $100,000 per year coding smart contracts.

Can you lose money minting NFTs? ›

Minting Your NFT Doesn't Guarantee You Will Sell it

Minting your NFT can be very exciting, however, just because you create an NFT doesn't mean you will make money. In fact, you can actually lose money if you aren't careful. Creating an NFT that someone wants to buy takes a plan, patience, and consistency.

Where can I sell NFT photos? ›

OpenSea is easily the most well-known NFT photography website and where endless artists, including myself, sell NFT photos. To start off, sign up for an account and collect your digital wallet – I recommend the most universal, MetaMask.

How do NFTs make money as a beginner in 2022? ›

To market an NFT, you first need to create a prototype or model of the asset. You can then use marketing tools like social media and online ads to get people interested in your NFT. You also need to build a community around your NFT so people can support it and help it grow.

How much should I sell my NFT for? ›

How much do NFTs sell for? The average price of an NFT can vary anywhere from $100 to $1,400, depending on its scarcity, utility, and popularity. Additionally, fluctuations in the value of the underlying cryptocurrency may impact a non-fungible token's price.

What is an NFT designer? ›

The term “NFT design” may be a little misleading. NFT artists and designers don't exactly design NFTs. They create digital artworks, just as they did before the blockchain existed. Then they mint and sell NFTs that are linked with those pieces of art, acting as a digital record of ownership.

What are NFT examples? ›

NFT examples
  • A unique digital artwork.
  • A unique sneaker in a limited-run fashion line.
  • An in-game item.
  • An essay.
  • A digital collectible.
  • A domain name.
  • A ticket that gives you access to an event or a coupon.
  • Buy real world goods.

What does NFT mean? ›

NFT stands for Non-fungible token. A digital artifact that reflects real-world assets such as art, music, in-game goods, and videos is known as an NFT.

What is digital art NFT? ›

An NFT is a digital asset that can come in the form of art, music, in-game items, videos, and more. They are bought and sold online, frequently with cryptocurrency, and they are generally encoded with the same underlying software as many cryptos.


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