How to start selling your digital art with blockchain in minutes

The current pandemic has meant little to no foot traffic for art galleries. Some have pivoted successfully to digital like Gagosian, who closed a multi-million dollar deal thanks to their “Artist Spotlight” online viewing room series. Christie’s is not doing that bad, either.

But what about artists that are not represented by blue-chip galleries? A robust ecosystem of digital marketplaces makes it possible to sell limited digital art editions (or are they multiples?) to a new kind of collector, thanks to blockchain.

How does it work?

The idea is simple: artists post their digital art editions (video, animation, illustration, photography, or painting) on a marketplace. They can either decide on the price or remain open to offers. It is up to them to decide how limited the edition is.

Collectors visit the marketplace and purchase a piece, like on any eCommerce site. These editions can be enjoyed on various screens, from casting to a TV, to a web browser, or through mobile apps.

But selling is not the only model. Sedition offers Art Stream, a Netflix-like subscription system that allows subscribers to display up to 12 artworks with no watermark, and without owning them. It is marketed as a try-before-you-buy model.

Ownership

What ownership means varies from marketplace to marketplace, and you might disagree with their definition. On MakersPlace, for example, the art collectors own lives in their Ethereum wallet (if they paid in Ether) or their MakersPlace wallet if they pay by credit card. On Sedition, collectors cannot download artworks to their personal computers; they only live in their Vault.

But let’s pause for a second. Did I just mention Ethereum? What does digital art have to do with blockchain technology? A lot, actually, and that’s what fascinating.

Blockchain and authenticity

Most marketplaces issue certificates of authenticity—something to be expected from an art dealer. Some platforms go a step further, and that’s where it gets really exciting: They leverage the blockchain to certify the authenticity of a piece of digital art.

A blockchain is “a publicly accessible online ledger, that is not owned by any central authority.” From the creation and authenticity of the edition to the sale and ownership, everything can be certified by the blockchain: All of these operations appear publicly in the ledger. For example, this is what a proof of authenticity looks like on MakersPlace:

Proof of Authenticity on MakersPlace

Proof of Authenticity on MakersPlace

If you are curious, see the full transaction details.

An artist doesn’t have to sell through a marketplace to leverage blockchain proof of authenticity, though. Verisart offers this service independently, and their free plan would work well for an individual artist, for instance.

Netgear’s Meural. It’s a screen.

Getting started with digital art marketplaces

Buying or selling on these platforms usually requires a membership. If they leverage blockchain technology, having a digital wallet is helpful, but you could also pay or get money from sales through PayPal, for example.

Here is a list of six digital art marketplaces powered by blockchain:

How will your art be displayed?

Displaying digital art is a new challenge for most collectors.

Sedition sells a $400 frame where you can slide your iPad or Samsung tablet, to come a bit closer to the traditional way of displaying art.

A digital canvas like the Meural Canvas II (powered by Netgear) is another way to put digital art on your walls. It beats a TV but powering it could require some drywall and electric work to hide the power source as much as possible.

The aspect ratio is fixed, and you’d have to be comfortable with the cropping applied to your art by the embedded software (as a commenter noted on a TechCrunch review of the Meural: “I’m pretty sure Monet didn’t paint in 16:9.”) Experiment with platforms and screen sizes to see what works for you.

Read up

This new ecosystem of platforms is very exciting, but the moment there is an opportunity for speculation, there is also a risk for the artist. Read the terms of service carefully to learn about how they handle intellectual property, fees, refunds, etc.

Let me know in the comments if you already sell your work through one of these sites, or if you’re considering it. I’d love to visit your page. If you’ve enjoyed this article, I send a newsletter about creativity twice a month 👋

About Thomas Deneuville

Thomas Deneuville lives in Upstate NY with his wife and two sons, where he writes about creativity, draws, codes, and plays the bagpipe.

58 Comments

  1. Heidi Reyes on January 9, 2021 at 6:58 am

    Hello, I just came across your article while doing research on selling my digital artwork online. I’m encouraged knowing that marketplaces where I could sell my digital artwork exist. I’ve found marketplaces for handmade goods, but not for digital artwork. Thank you!



  2. Thomas Deneuville on January 11, 2021 at 8:48 pm

    My pleasure, Heidi! Good luck!



  3. John Barnes on January 14, 2021 at 3:51 am

    Thank you,
    I knew this had to have been happening but it’s good to see that confirmed. Something to think about beyond, you know, all this abject weirdness.



  4. Thomas Deneuville on January 14, 2021 at 10:29 am

    Thanks for your comment, John! I had the same intuition, and I had to write about it.



  5. Mana on January 18, 2021 at 4:08 pm

    Hi, sorry if this seems like a daft and naive question, but how would i get my art from say, my procreate to a marketplace. What format should it be saved in? Jpeg? Pdf?



  6. Thomas Deneuville on January 18, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    Hey, Mana! Not naive at all! The advice that I hear people sharing is: upload the highest resolution possible. If the platform accepts TIFF, great! Otherwise, a 300 dpi PNG or JPEG should be acceptable. I am not sure that these platforms accept PDF files. It also depends on whether collectors can print their art or not (each platform is different). Did I answer your question?



  7. Jeanine on January 29, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    Great article! What kind of art are the buyers looking for, what would sell?



  8. Thomas Deneuville on January 29, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks, Jeanine! Well, from what I can see, the spectrum is pretty wide! From photographs to GIF, videos, illustrations, etc. Sedition lets you see the best sellers, and although there are big names (Wim Wenders, Shepard Fairey), it could give you an idea of what’s popular. I hope this helps!



  9. Meena Chopra on February 1, 2021 at 12:50 am

    Great and precise article. It had all the information that I was looking for. Thank you



  10. Thomas Deneuville on February 1, 2021 at 9:21 am

    Thank you for your kind note, Meena!



  11. JL on February 10, 2021 at 9:53 am

    Hi,
    Great article. Do you know if the art can be created with traditional methods(paint, pen, marker, etc) and then photographed and uploaded or does it actually have to be created digitally?

    Thanks



  12. Thomas Deneuville on February 10, 2021 at 10:29 am

    Hey, there! Great question. From what I’ve seen on these platforms, the art is natively digital. You could digitize art made with analog mediums, but then the question is: Which one is the piece? Is a photograph of a drawing a piece of art or a photograph of a piece of art? What are people buying if they purchase the photograph? And what value does it have if it’s not a limited series (how could you limit the series?)? Does it make sense?



  13. JL on February 10, 2021 at 11:48 am

    Yes definitely, that is what I figured. Thanks for the quick reply and good article!



  14. Thomas Deneuville on February 10, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    My pleasure! Thanks for stopping by 😄



  15. Mara on February 19, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    That’s was amazing clarification! including all questions and answers.
    I was wondering if in the case of paint or sculpture would it be possible to sell the original piece or only a digital version, picture, or video.



  16. Mason on February 21, 2021 at 1:20 pm

    What is stopping people from screenshottimg art then vectorizing it in illustrator?



  17. Thomas Deneuville on February 21, 2021 at 10:12 pm

    Hey, Mason. In theory, nothing. But most of the art that I see on these platforms cannot be vectorized (animations, 3D models, etc.). I think that the use of blockchain is not a way to make forgery-proof art, but to redefine what authenticity and ownership mean for digital art in the 21st century.



  18. Joey O’Connor on February 25, 2021 at 11:12 am

    Thomas
    Great article. From several articles I’ve read, what I am not clear on is if art collectors are sharing their collections online for others to view and benefit from? Or, are art collectors actually selling digital images of the physical art they own? Seems there would be a rights issue between the collector and the artist? Can you please clarify that? Thank you!



  19. sami al-haj on February 25, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    @Thomas,

    Amazing read and your approach in answering, like a true master. Thank you.

    Any suggestion for a platform for photographs?

    Thanks in advance.
    Sami



  20. Thomas Deneuville on February 25, 2021 at 9:54 pm

    Hey, Joey! Thanks for reading and your comment—great questions!
    From what I’ve seen researching these platforms, some collectors show their collections on their profile while others decide to make their profile private. I’m assuming that collectors have digital displays at home to show or rotate their collection. Some platforms allow users to do this through proprietary apps to ensure that pieces remain unique and that the chain of traceability is not broken.
    Regarding selling, these platforms are marketplaces, and collectors can buy and sell art on them. A since the art is digital, there is no physical copy per see, and no copies can be (easily) made. Does this answer your questions, Joey? Thanks again for stopping by!



  21. Thomas Deneuville on February 25, 2021 at 10:00 pm

    Hey, Sami! Thanks for your kind words. Most of the platforms that I’ve listed seem to accept images, and photographs would fall in this category. If you are looking for websites that specialize in photography, you can license your photographs on 500px, for instance, but there are many others. Does this answer your question? Thanks again!



  22. SilVerMaiNe on February 25, 2021 at 10:24 pm

    Hello @Thomas!

    I am a traditional painter who uses canvas and oil paint, Can I use the images of the final painting and make a Digital edition?



  23. Thomas Deneuville on February 25, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    Hello, SilVerMaiNe! Thanks for your question. Technically, yes, you can upload a photo of a painting, but my question to you is: Which one is the piece, then? Do you consider a photo (a mere representation?) of you art a piece of art? What would make the photo unique? Putting yourself in the shoes of a digital collector, what is the value you’re offering? Does it make sense?



  24. SilVerMaiNe on February 25, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    So it is not possible to sell both traditional work & digital version of it? Can I assume that nobody has done this before? I thought it works similar to how famous painters sell a limited edition of prints of their paintings. So instead of selling limited edition prints, you will sell limited edition crypto art.



  25. Thomas Deneuville on February 25, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    I don’t think that this comparison works, here. What would prevent the future owner of your physical piece to take a similar photograph and sell it as a limited edition crypto art? I admit that I might be totally wrong, so I’d say go for it and see what you can learn.



  26. SilVerMaiNe on February 25, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    Thank you for that wonderful reply! I do get it when you said the owner of the traditional piece can take a photo and potentially sell it. Do you think there is a way to counter this? Like making a contract of some sort? If you don’t mind, would you please see if this artwork is indeed a Traditional painting & is being sold as crypto art. https://www.trevorjonesart.com/bitcoin-angel-open-edition.html . I tried reading the article however since I am not an English native speaker I can’t really fully understand what it says.



  27. Swati on February 26, 2021 at 7:35 am

    Hi there
    Thank you for such a great article. You have mentioned that “you could also pay or get money from sales through PayPal”. What marketplace makes payment through Paypal?
    I’ve been trying to find out but I haven’t found an answer yet.
    Many thanks



  28. Lori NEUEN on February 27, 2021 at 11:26 am

    Hello I just found your article. I own several vintage magazines with very cool vintage advertising. I would like to take pictures of the vintage ads and sell them as digital vintage ad collections. Can I do this or is this a copyright issue, as mentioned I do own the magazines? If I cannot do this, I may consider selling the magazines as a whole, how could I go about doing this? Thank you.



  29. Thomas Deneuville on February 27, 2021 at 11:37 am

    Hello, SilVerMaiNe! You could try to come up with an agreement, but I’m not sure if collectors would agree to sign it. It feels like an inherent risk of putting art out there. I looked into the website you shared with me, and I admit that I don’t fully understand what the artist is doing here. It feels very convoluted, and I get the impression that it benefits the artist more than the collectors. My two cents. Good luck with everything!



  30. Thomas Deneuville on February 27, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Thank you for your kind note, Swati! I believe that Sedition does that: https://www.seditionart.com/support/trading#withdraw-trading-revenue. My understanding is that you can transfer money in and out of the platform, but a crypto wallet is still required.



  31. Thomas Deneuville on February 27, 2021 at 11:49 am

    Hey, Lori! I think that it depends on how derivative your work is. This is more of a copyright law question, and I encourage you to learn about what the law says where you live. In the US, you might find this PDF helpful: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf. Thanks for stopping by and for chiming in!



  32. Dom on March 1, 2021 at 7:45 am

    Hi Thomas!
    I would like to know if these sites let you sell for free? I mean commission is okay, but I don’t want to pay for putting up my arts.
    Thanks!



  33. Thomas Deneuville on March 1, 2021 at 9:47 am

    Hi, Dom! As far as I can tell, these platforms are free to join and take commissions. Makersplace, for example, takes 15% when you make a sale, plus processing fees. The really good news is that you’d also earn 10% every time your works are re-sold.



  34. Gilbert on March 1, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Great article, thank you for the info!
    I’m very interested in this platform and I’m currently reading up on it. Quick question that maybe you can answer: If I’ve already shared my recent digital paintings across all my social media platforms, can I still put them on this platform? Would I need to take these images down?
    Brand new to all this!



  35. Thomas Deneuville on March 1, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, Gilbert! I don’t think that you’d have to take these images down. Two things really differentiate what you’d share on social vs. a marketplace:

    1. The quality (resolution) of these images: The pieces you’d be selling on a marketplace would be the highest resolution possible. Social media platforms don’t support high res images (the way marketplaces do).
    2. The authenticity: Even if somebody were able to “steal” the image from social, they wouldn’t have a way to prove their ownership, something that’s built-in in blockchain-powered marketplaces.

    I hope that it helps!



  36. Jen H on March 1, 2021 at 2:05 pm

    Hey Thomas, very helpful article. I recently executed a smart contract on Pixura, powered by Superrare. I was hoping to start my collection but after spending the ETH…nothing happened. No link or access point to actually do anything. Do you know if this site is legit, or still active? I’ve tried every possible way to contact Pixura and SuperRare, but I receive no response and am now just out a few hundred in ETH. Hoping you might have some insight.



  37. Thomas Deneuville on March 2, 2021 at 11:41 am

    Oh, Jen, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience! I don’t have any first-hand experience with SuperRare, but it looked legit to me when I researched the platform. I know that you said that you’d tried every possible way to contact SuperRare, but I want to make sure that you’ve tried joining their Discord: https://discord.com/invite/KETpSEFESZ. Good luck with everything…



  38. Christine Pappa on March 5, 2021 at 7:49 am

    Hello,

    Can someone sell Music or does it have to be Video or Visual art?



  39. Thomas Deneuville on March 5, 2021 at 8:47 am

    Hello, Christine! Thanks for your question. These platforms, as far as I can tell, are only for visual and multimedia artists. The music industry is catching up on the Blockchain, though, with bands like Kings of Leon releasing their latest album as an NFT, a non-fungible token! You may find this article from Rolling Stone useful: https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/features/music-crypto-blockchain-nfts-guide-1116327/. Thanks again for chiming in!



  40. JT3 Production on March 7, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    Hello & Greetings Everyone! I’m not sure if you’ve answered this question but..I want to sell my Digital Artwork for High Price Value How do I start selling my Artwork on for example sites like Blockchain and other sites such as those .Right now I’m currently gettin ng verified from Verisart A Certification approval site for Digital Artist to sell their Artwork.
    Thank You!

    JT3 Production



  41. Thomas Deneuville on March 8, 2021 at 8:46 am

    Good morning, JT3! Thanks for chiming in. I mention Verisart in my post, and although it is an effective way to authenticate your art, it is not a marketplace. Please take a look at the digital art marketplaces powered by blockchain that I’ve listed above. If you create an account through one of these, you’ll be able to start selling your art in no time. Thanks again!



  42. Christian Wolfe on March 12, 2021 at 12:04 am

    Per the recommendation of several knowledgeable friends, I am trying to get my work into the crypto / NFT market … though I know nothing about it. Do you happen to know the best crypto online galleries currently accepting artist’s work? Thanks for any tips on this, as I have had a frustrating time trying to find one myself. Cheers, Christian



  43. Irene Mamiye on March 13, 2021 at 4:57 pm

    Thank you great info. What if my artwork is made up of found internet imagery, that I composite to make my own? Is there a copyright issue



  44. Kevin Haylett on March 14, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    This is very much a route that I’m interested in. I have a substantial digital art portfolio, which can easily be found on Google by searching for the term Abstracteering or using my Twitter name Dr Abstracto. Each work takes a considerable amount of time and iterations to get to the final image. It would be hugely interesting to see if anyone would be interested in investing in my digital works and giving them a long future life in the digital ether (I’m more interested in storing them as legacy, than financial reward.) However, how do find the right platform? Is one platform better than another – any thoughts would be most appreciated. Thank you for this article!



  45. Thomas Deneuville on March 14, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Kevin! I think that building your artistic legacy using the blockchain would be very interesting. Regarding your question, I’m afraid that I don’t have a good answer besides: It depends. I encourage you to join these platforms as a collector first to see what kind of experience your potential clients would get. If one platform stands out for you, look into their terms of service or contact a couple of artists (via Twitter?) to get their feedback. I feel that this should give you enough confidence to choose the right platform. I hope this helps. Thanks again!



  46. Thomas Deneuville on March 14, 2021 at 2:20 pm

    Hello, Irene! Thanks for chiming in! From what I understand, your creative practice would fall under derivative works, which is usually good news 😄 I don’t know where you reside and I encourage you to read about the local copyright laws regarding this topic. The US Copyright Office has a very helpful doc on the topic: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf. I hope this helps. Thanks again!



  47. Thomas Deneuville on March 14, 2021 at 2:22 pm

    Hello, Christian. Thanks for your comment! I can see why your friends would recommend this move. The piece above is mostly about blockchain-powered digital marketplaces (I’m listing a few with links), and not really galleries. I’m afraid I don’t have much info to share about those. I feel that the exciting element, here, is that you can skip the middle person and connect (and sell) directly with collectors around the World. I hope this helps. Thanks!



  48. Rich on March 23, 2021 at 8:15 am

    Hello. I came across your article and am grateful about people like you who shares useful information. I am thinking about getting into selling my works through a market place powered by Blockchain. You commented you’d like to see webpages. Here is mine: http://www.puromestizo.com
    Anyone who would like to buy my works or just wants more info please just leave me a message [email protected]. Thanks again



  49. Eduardo on March 25, 2021 at 9:29 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Great article !!
    How easy (difficult) is to generate an art gallery, in other words how to create an NFT gallery to attract “local” artists.

    CHeers



  50. Vonda Burton on March 29, 2021 at 9:37 pm

    I’m not familiar with the digital world when it comes to selling art but I’m willing to learn.



  51. Thomas Deneuville on April 12, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    Hey, Eduardo! Thanks for your comment. Creating an NFT gallery is doable but requires a way to write to a blockchain, most commonly Ethereum. Have a look at this article and see if it helps: https://medium.com/@rosscampbell9/hosting-a-digital-art-gallery-on-openlaw-ethereum-d89a9520b44b



  52. Thomas Deneuville on April 12, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Vonda. There’s a lot to explore and I hope that this article helped you a bit!



  53. Dudiam on April 13, 2021 at 12:18 pm

    Hi! Thank you for the great article, it helped a lot!
    I have some questions:
    Must artist delete their artwork from all their profiles after selling it to somebody? Or is it possible to remain the opportunity for an artist to post their sold works with a mention of their new owner?



  54. Romulo Goncalves on April 29, 2021 at 7:48 am

    Congrats for the concise article. I was just trying to create an account with BC/A…but no clickable links available for that! Any idea how it works? Thanks



  55. Thomas Deneuville on April 29, 2021 at 2:23 pm

    Hey, Dudiam! Thanks for your comment. I believe that it depends on the platform, but I’ve seen a lot of sold art still listed in an artist’s portfolio. I think you could also show a low-res version of your artwork on your site without competing with the original you sold. Does that make sense?



  56. Thomas Deneuville on April 29, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    Hello, Romulo. Thanks for your note! I spent some time on their site and even read their whitepaper, but you’re right: There’s no way to join their platform right now. I thought it was possible back when I listed the platform. I’m wondering if they’re in the middle of a pivot and have stopped accepting artists for now? Good luck!



  57. Julie on May 10, 2021 at 9:02 am

    Hello Thomas,
    I know absolutely nothing about selling digital artwork online.
    I enjoy working with photoshop & other mobile phone apps to create my digital artwork & have done this as a hobby for 8 years. The digital I have created, I am proud of. I am able to create any photo, anagrams, logo’s etc. . . What ever is requested of me, digitally, not physical art but the end product is definately printable.
    So is the artwork I create suitable to sell online?
    Also in regards to people making copy’s like taking a screenshot,
    Would a seller be allowed to simply put very lines across their artwork with say for example “Sample Only” written in parallel with the lines in thin non intrusive lettering & color?



  58. Thomas Deneuville on June 2, 2021 at 5:50 am

    Hello, Julie! Yes, I would say that your digital art, if original, is suitable to sell online. The pieces for sale on the websites I’ve outlined in my post are usually high resolution. As a result, a screenshot couldn’t pass for the real piece. I wouldn’t be worried about this. Good luck!



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