Art Blocks 101
A Beginner’s Guide to ArtBlocks.io
Welcome to Art Blocks — a platform where collectors play a key role in creating generative art that lives on the Ethereum blockchain. In this article, I’ll walk you through the process of getting started, explain how an Art Blocks project works, and briefly introduce secondary markets like OpenSea.
At a high level, Art Blocks is a platform where artists create art with a generative script that is stored on the Ethereum blockchain. When you mint (purchase) a piece from a collection, your transaction creates a unique character string that interacts with the artist’s code and generates your art piece. That’s why YOU are an essential part of the artistic process — without your transaction producing a unique string, these outputs couldn’t exist!
I’m going to assume you’re a day 1 freshman to crypto. But if you already have a MetaMask wallet set up with funds, feel free to jump to the “Art Blocks” section to get more familiar with the platform. And if you’re already an Art Blocks pro, I’ll briefly introduce OpenSea’s secondary market at the end. Let’s get started.
The first step is to get set up with a MetaMask Wallet on Google Chrome. MetaMask is a crypto wallet that works with Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Brave browsers — you can even use MetaMask on your mobile phone. Still, we suggest using the browser extension if you’re just getting started. There are other wallets out there, but we recommend using MetaMask.
Setting up MM
1. Go to https://metamask.io/ and click “Download” in the top right corner. (If you ever need to reinstall MetaMask, always use the link on MetaMask’s official website.)
2. Next, click “Install MetaMask for Chrome.”
3. This will bring you to the Chrome extension page. Click “Add to Chrome”
4. Once installed, you will be automatically redirected. Click “Get Started.”
5. The next page asks for your permission to collect anonymous data to help improve the platform. Select “No Thanks” or “I Agree” to continue.
6. Now you’ll be asked to create a new wallet. Click “Create a Wallet.” If you already have a MetaMask wallet and have a seed phrase, what are you doing here? Jump to the next section.
7. On the next page, you will create a password used to access your wallet regularly. Treat this as a banking password. Make it unique but memorable. You’ll be typing this in regularly to access your wallet. Create and confirm your password, agree to the TOS, and click “Create.”
8. Now you should see a video titled “Secure your wallet”. Watch this video before clicking Next.
Now you should see “Secret Backup Phrase.” Pay attention because this is important.
Your seed phrase is the key to your kingdom. DO NOT SHARE YOUR SEED PHRASE WITH ANYONE. If someone knows your seed phrase, they have full access to your wallet. Would you give a stranger full access to your bank? I don’t think so.
Go grab a pen and three pieces of paper. Yes, three. Now write down the seed phrase and store it in safe places. Some people engrave their seed phrase in steel and lock it in a safe deposit box. No, I’m not kidding. Google “metal crypto cold storage,” and you’ll have a few easy options.
No matter what your crypto budget is today, assume that it will be worth more tomorrow. Crypto and NFTs are volatile and can appreciate quickly. Protect yourself 10 years from now — you could be sitting on a valuable collection by that time.
9. Once you’ve written down your seed phrase and figured out the best storage method, MetaMask will ask you to confirm the seed phrase. Select the words in the correct order to continue.
10. That’s it. The setup is complete, and you’re ready to send funds to the wallet. There should be a MetaMask icon in the extension panel of chrome. We recommend pinning the extension for quick access.
Funding your MetaMask Wallet
Now that your wallet is set up on the Chrome browser, you can click the extension icon to see your balance.
To fund your account, you can use the built-in option on MetaMask and buy Ethereum directly from Coinbase Pay, Transak, MoonPay, or Wyre. If you already have ETH on a 3rd party wallet (e.g., Coinbase), you can send it directly to your MetaMask wallet.
Buy ETH on MetaMask with Wyre
- You can buy ETH with a credit card or Apple Pay through Wyre using MetaMask by clicking “Buy,” then “Continue to Wyre.”
2. Type in the dollar amount you want to purchase* and your method of payment.
*A note on fees: Wyre charges a transaction fee, and there is also a network fee. These fees are not associated with MetaMask or Art Blocks.
Network fees are determined by gas prices, which are constantly changing. Check out https://www.blocknative.com/gas-estimator to see the current gas price. Yes, gas can be expensive. No, there is no way around this. Gas prices are determined by network load, and this fee goes directly to Ethereum miners.
3. Enter your payment info and click submit. Now your wallet is funded!
Buy or Deposit ETH from other Exchanges
Your other option is to transfer Ether from another wallet into your MetaMask Wallet. To do this, click “Buy” then “View Account.” This will show you your MetaMask wallet address.
Once you have your MetaMask wallet address, initiate the Ether transfer from the wallet that currently holds your Ethereum and send it to your MetaMask wallet. This transaction is not instant, so be patient. If you copy/pasted the address correctly, your MetaMask wallet will show the new amount once the transaction is completed.
Keep in mind gas is used for this transaction, so depending on the price of gas when you initiate the transaction, fees will be taken from the amount transferred. Gas prices are determined by network load, and this fee goes directly to miners, not MetaMask or Art Blocks.
Note: Different platforms have different regulations on sending ETH. For example, Gemini requires a 7-day waiting period from when you link an address to the time you’re able to send any cryptocurrency to that address. The platforms set this policy, so double-check their policies for more info.
List of popular crypto exchanges to purchase ETH
Art Blocks Platform
Alright, now we have our wallet set up, we’ve sent funds to our MetaMask wallet, and we are ready to buy our first Art Blocks piece. Let’s cover the different project types, checking upcoming drops, what to do when a project drops, and what happens immediately after.
Types of Projects
There are three types of projects on the Art Blocks platform: Curated, Playground, and Factory.
Art Blocks established a curation board to ensure the work included in our “official” curated set is the best representation of our vision for the Art Blocks platform. These are works we’ve personally vetted and believe add something unique to the overall body of Curated projects. Our Curated projects are released in quarterly sets. Since we launched Art Blocks in November of 2020, our first official set includes all Curated drops in 2020, with full quarterly sets beginning in 2021.
Artists have a six-month cooldown between deploying projects in the Curated Collection.
After an artist releases a Curated project, they can drop a more experimental project in Art Blocks’ Playground. These follow-up projects are not as thoroughly vetted by the Art Blocks team, and they do not necessarily represent Art Blocks’ same vision as our curated collection. However, we trust the artists we work with, and these projects are a great way to support artists taking stylistic chances in their work.
It’s important to note the Playground’s limitations: first, an artist can only launch a Playground project after a Curated project. Second, only one project per artist can be active in the Playground at once, and it must be completed before another can be launched on the Playground. If the project is altered after release (e.g., pricing or mint size), the artist must reapply and be approved for another Curated drop before releasing another Playground project. Finally, artists have a two-month cooldown between deploying projects in the Playground Collection.
The Art Blocks Factory was created as a general collection for artists to deploy their projects on our platform without being considered for the Curated Collection.
Factory artists will be required to sell out their entire project before releasing anything else on the platform. They also will have a two-month cool down between projects on the platform. Any artist dropping in the factory automatically gives up their privileges to continue dropping in the Playground until they once again have a project accepted as a curated project by the curation board.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The Art Blocks Factory only checks to make sure projects are functional and not obviously ripping off another artist’s work. They do not undergo the same vetting process as the Curated Collection. Artists are still onboarded, and they are not free to publish just anything, but we are less strict in the factory and playground sections in general. Please do your own research. Copyright infringement is 100% the artist’s responsibility, and we will defer any issues or complaints for them to address directly.
Stay up to date
The best way to learn about upcoming drops is the #upcoming-projects channel in our Discord. Also, a group of Art Blocks community members put together ArtBlocks.wiki, which includes a list of upcoming projects.
Ok. So it’s drop time, and you’re ready to snag your first piece. Before we walk through the minting process, let’s get some details out of the way.
There are two fees to mint: gas and mint cost. All transactions on the Ethereum network cost gas, minting included. The cost of gas varies according to network load. You can check current gas prices at https://www.blocknative.com/gas-estimator.
The mint cost is the price for a piece. It varies for every project and is set by the artist. You can find the cost on the project page. Projects are typically conducted as a Dutch Auction or have a flat price per piece.
In a Dutch Auction, the price starts at an initial price (ceiling) and drops by a fixed amount periodically (e.g. 0.1 ETH every 5 minutes) until it hits the lowest price it will go (the resting price). This means minting begins with a high asking price that decreases over time until the project hits its resting price or is sold out.
If a transaction is submitted at a higher mint price, but the transaction is only confirmed after the mint price has declined to the next level, the difference is automatically refunded by the Art Blocks smart contract. The buyer pays the mint price effective at the time of the transaction confirmation, not the mint price at the time the transaction was initiated.
What is the difference between a Linear Dutch Auction and an Exponential Dutch Auction?
- Linear Dutch Auctions specify starting price, starting time, ending time, and ending price, and the price will linearly decrease over that time for each block. The price will then gradually decrease each block over the total auction time.
- * In Exponential Dutch Auctions, artists specify the starting price, ending price, and the half-life for price drops. As an example, let’s say that an exponential dutch auction was starting at 1 ETH and lowering to 0.1 ETH over 30 minutes. In this case, the half-life is 9 minutes meaning that over the course of every 9 minutes, the price would gradually be cut in half. So after 9 minutes, the DA will reach 0.5 and after 18 minutes, the DA will reach 0.25. The price drops within those half-life steps will gradually lower every block.
Gas Price and Gas Limit
GWEI or Gas Price is a unit of measure that specifies the amount of Ether you are willing to pay for each unit of gas. The higher the number, the more likely miners are to prioritize your transaction over others. However, this can get expensive, so be mindful if you change this. As a rule of thumb, 200 GWEI costs around ~0.1 ETH.
Gas limit is the maximum amount of units of gas you’re willing to spend. DO NOT TOUCH GAS LIMIT. Increasing the gas limit will never help your transaction process faster, and decreasing it will make it more likely to fail. Touching the gas limit is a lose-lose situation, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, this can be a very expensive mistake.
Here is what the buying process looks like.
- Before the drop, make sure your MetaMask wallet is connected by clicking “Connect to MetaMask” in the top right. Enter your password and click “Unlock.”
2. At the scheduled drop time, navigate to the project page and click “Purchase.”
3. A warning screen will pop up. Read this, then click “Purchase.”
4. Your MetaMask wallet will pop up asking you to confirm the transaction. At this point, you have two options: 1) accept the transaction as is and click confirm, or 2) adjust the gas price (GWEI) to prioritize your mint transaction over other transactions on the network. If you choose to change the gas price, click “Edit” to the right of Gas Fee.
5. On the Customized Gas screen, you can choose a preselected fee of low, medium, or high — or set your own Gas Price by clicking the “Advanced Options” drop down.
6. To increase the speed of your transaction, change the Max Fee and click Save, then Confirm. (DO NOT CHANGE GAS LIMIT).
7. You’re done! Now, you wait for MetaMask to confirm your transaction is completed. You can always check the “Activity” tab in MetaMask to see the status of your transaction.
MUST-READ FOR BEGINNERS: Mint Warnings and Failed Transactions
If you try to mint a piece and MetaMask is showing a crazy gas fee, you either do not have enough ETH in your wallet, the project is closed, or there is a restriction on how many mints each address can own. Here is an example of a gas fee from a wallet with insufficient funds for a transaction:
This is a warning to stop and not continue with the transaction since it will fail, and you will lose money.
Just because you click purchase while there are mints available DOES NOT guarantee your mint. Your transaction must be confirmed on the network for your piece to arrive. The more you’re willing to spend on gas, the more incentive miners have to process your transaction before others.
There is no set rule on an appropriate gas price. In the past, we have seen the price of gas drastically increase when a project is released. We have made significant changes to the platform to mitigate gas wars, but we have no control over the increase since the price is determined by events happening across the Ethereum network, which could be unrelated to Art Blocks. We suggest going into a drop knowing what you’re comfortable spending and staying within that limit. In some cases, there is no need to adjust gas for your transaction to process, and you can always speed up a transaction while it’s processing. Keep in mind that speeding up a transaction increases the total transaction cost regardless of your transaction being successfully processed or not.
Most important — if your transaction fails, the amount you spend on gas is still paid to miners. If you spend 4x on gas so your transaction is processed quickly, but a project is sold out before the transaction is completed, you still pay a portion of the gas to miners. You will pay the amount necessary to process the failed transaction, which is usually a portion of the anticipated cost. Transactions are processed on the Ethereum blockchain, completely independent from the Art Blocks platform. This money does not go to Art Blocks or artists.
It’s also important to note that you will only be charged the mint amount if your transaction is successful. If your transaction fails, the full mint cost is automatically returned to your wallet.
These steps above do not guarantee your transaction will be successful. It can still fail, and failed transactions still cost gas (i.e., money).
Your Collection and Secondary Markets
Minting an Art Blocks piece generates an ERC721 non-fungible token (NFT) in your wallet that can be viewed on the Art Blocks website and 3rd party markets like OpenSea. This process is not instant — in some cases, we are rendering thousands of pieces, so please be patient.
While your piece is rendering, you can still see your collection by clicking on your wallet, then “My Profile” in the top right corner. The preview screen will show a Chromie Squiggle placeholder until the work is generated. However, you can still enjoy your piece while it’s rendering by clicking “live” — this gives you a live preview of your work while it’s being generated. Once complete, the rendered piece will replace the Chromie Squiggle placeholder.
The Chromie Squiggle placeholder will also show on 3rd party sites like OpenSea until the project is rendered and the metadata updates.
Let’s check out how to view your collection on Art Blocks and cover the basics of OpenSea.
Art Blocks Collection
You can view all Art Blocks pieces in your collection on the “My Profile” page (including Art Blocks pieces purchased on a secondary market). This page will show the project name, artist, description, and a preview of the work. Under the preview, you’ll see the mint number and links to the piece’s detail page, a full-resolution image, and a live generator that runs the script in your browser.
Artists can also choose to include a link in the description, which is always worth checking out. For EnergySculpture, Beervangeer included a link to The Realm of MU, giving some backstory to the piece’s meta-adventure. Other artists like Aaron Penne had their Twitter handle so you can stay connected.
The details page will show you the traits of the piece you own. These traits are also viewable on OpenSea.
This will show a full-resolution image of the art preview. Some pieces are interactive, and that will not be reflected in the preview. Think of this as a snapshot.
This is where the magic happens. If a piece is interactive, this is where you see it live. A great example of interactive work is Utopia by ge1doot. Do yourself a favor and look at one of those pieces live. Click and drag on the image to change your point of view and look at the amazing details.
Not all pieces are interactive. Archetype by Kjetil Golid is an excellent example of a project that is static. It is meant to be enjoyed as is.
Viewing your collection on OpenSea
Because Art Blocks’ smart contract mints a standard compliant NFT, your work will automatically show up on OpenSea — the world’s largest marketplace for non-fungible tokens.
To see your collection on OpenSea, go to OpenSea.io, click the icon in the top right, and sign in using MetaMask
Once you’re signed in, OpenSea will show all compatible tokens in your wallet.
Clicking on an Art Blocks piece in your OpenSea wallet will take you to the piece’s page. There are a few important things to understand here:
- Description: This same project description displayed on the Art Blocks website is viewable here.
- Properties: These are the features from Art Blocks’ details page. On OpenSea, these properties include trait rarity among the collection.
- Item Activity: This gives you an overview of every interaction back to the token’s creation from “NullAddress,” including offers, listing price, sales, and transfers.
It is also important to note that every piece from Art Blocks will be on a verified page. For example, this is a Chromie Squiggle with the verified collection link at the top of the page:
Buying an Art Blocks piece on OpenSea
For those who aren’t able to buy a piece when it drops and sells out on the Art blocks website, OpenSea is a great way to find verified artwork from the Art Blocks collection.
Every legitimate Art Blocks piece will have a verified checkmark above the piece’s title. For example:
Not all pieces are for sale, but you can easily filter to find great deals or just browse the collections. OpenSea also allows you to bid on items even if they aren’t for sale.
Ok, that was a lot to cover. At this point, you should know how to install MetaMask, fund your wallet, navigate the Art Blocks platform, find upcoming projects, mint your first piece, view your collection, and navigate OpenSea’s secondary market.
If you have any questions, pop over to the Art Blocks official Discord and ask the community.
Last, there are a ton of topics we touched on but didn’t dive into. If you’d like some homework, check out the resources at the bottom of the page to learn about NFTs, ETH, MetaMask, and Art Blocks.