What is Crypto Art? A Simple Explanation 

Crypto art is (usually) digital art on the blockchain, gaining the “crypto” moniker from the cryptographic elements related to blockchain technology. 

If that sentence sounded like a bunch of jargony mumbo-jumbo and threw you for a whirl, don’t fret– we’ll break down crypto art and tie everything back together in this simple guide. 

Enter the Blockchain:

The blockchain is a permanent, immutable, transparent, and decentralized ledger that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Think of it like a gigantic spreadsheet where anyone can request to add information. This information, however, will only be added if specific criteria are met. =

The database is updated by people around the world, who use specialized computers (referred to as miners) to verify the pending information to be added. It’s nearly impossible to add false information. 

What the Blockchain Means for Crypto Art: 

Since you can’t add false information on the blockchain, you can’t add unauthorized reproductions of crypto art.

You can verify who owns what immediately. 

Think of it this way. In the “real” world, if you wanted to buy a Picasso, you would need a fine art expert with a deep understanding of Picasso’s work, the history of the piece, and, if available, the collector’s relationship to it. 

In the cryptocurrency world, the blockchain does this automatically. It doesn’t even need to open up the digital file to “see” what the piece of crypto art is. 

The blockchain stores the art piece’s history, ownership, and other relevant information described as soon as it’s added. The art is represented by a token, called an NFT.

Enter the “Token”

A token is the name given to digital assets that don’t use their own blockchain, but rather use the blockchain of someone else. 

There are a few platforms, such as Ethereum, that were created to allow other projects to use its blockchain. In doing so, Ethereum has fostered the development of a community of innovators building a wide variety of blockchain-based projects and applications– all of which simply needed to build “on top” of Ethereum’s blockchain rather than their own. 

You can think of Ethereum as an iPhone and the various projects using Ethereum’s blockchain as apps on that iPhone. 

Now, to use Ethereum’s blockchain as a third-party token, you must meet specific token standards which standardize certain aspects of your project.

Crypto art on the Ethereum blockchain must meet the ERC-721 token standard, popularized in people-speak as “non-fungible tokens.” 

Enter the Non-Fungible Token

A Non-Fungible Token, or NFT, is a token that represents a unique asset on the blockchain. The “fungibility” of an asset refers to whether that asset is equally interchangeable with other similar assets. 

For example, a $5 bill has the same amount of value as another $5 bill. However, a sketch by Picasso is valued way more than a doodle by this writer. 

If Picasso’s sketch was on the blockchain, it would need to be represented by Non-Fungible Tokens ($5 worth of any token on the Ethereum blockchain would use a different token standard, the ERC-20.)

NFTs can be used to identify all sorts of unique items, like collectibles, lottery tickets, numbered seats for sports matches, access keys, and even houses. Crypto art is just one of the many NFT use cases.

Each NFT comes with a unique ID that describes various characteristics about the piece of crypto art– for example, the specific edition if there are multiple editions produced. 

What NFT tokens mean for crypto art:

Seeing as NFTs can be attached to anything, such as JPEGs, GIFs, and MP4s, artists can create their digital art as they normally would, save it in whatever file format, and create an NFT with it.

There are multiple NFT creation platforms that have simplified the Crypto Art tokenization. OpenSea, for example, bills itself as the eBay of the NFT world, allowing users to create and list their own NFTs, and browse a marketplace full of NFTs by other artists. 

By creating NFTs, artists are able to release and monetize their creations on an open marketplace like never before. The NFTs verify the true owner of the piece, and can’t be replicated or changed, creating an element of scarcity that accompanies the digital assets.  

Final Thoughts: Why Does Crypto Art Matter? 

Digital art and graphic design have been around for decades, but the ability to truly “own” and monetize it has been significantly limited. 

For example, you can copy as many JPEGs as you want of Nyan Cat, and in a way, you’d own a copy of that image of Nyan Cat. However, with NFTs, someone actually owns a 1/1 NFT of Nyan Cat, created by the original artist and sold for nearly $600,000.

Crypto art is just a tech-enabled evolution of art. Comparing NFTs with tangible art is like comparing apples to oranges– they’re both categorically the same, but so fundamentally different. 

Crypto art also has its risks.

 “Bit rot” or the gradual deterioration of image quality or corruption of media files is a thing. The risk of many of the blockchain platforms around today not existing in the future is unlikely, but it isn’t a negligible consideration. 

However, physical art is also frustratingly fragile– most Renaissance-era paintings that have survived the battle of time still have to be meticulously “touched up” with new paint; ancient vases are one unfortunate tip away from losing a fight with the ground. 

Physical art is also extraordinarily cumbersome to ship and move; museums and art galleries spend millions of dollars per year to simply take their art from Point A to Point B.

Crypto art provides a new form for creativity to flourish and survive beyond the physical real world with some distinct advantages over traditional art. 

Its propriety can be proven instantaneously, it can be sent to anyone anywhere in the world without degradation, and it can be properly assessed in a more dynamic, real-time marketplace that could potentially consist of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in the near future. 

Top 6 Types of Digital Art in 2021

Digital art is defined as artwork that utilizes digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process

Although the lines blur between digital art and other types of experiential art, for the sake of this guide, we’ll be regarding digital art as anything that primarily lives in the digital realm. 

If you’re reading this article, you may be wondering how digital art is different from “crypto” art. The technology of crypto art cuts through any latent subjectivity surrounding digital art. 

Crypto art utilizes the blockchain as a means to acknowledge and authenticate ownership, prove the propriety of a specific art  piece, as well as to facilitate the instantaneous transactions between buyers and sellers. It largely accomplishes this through the use of NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens; these blockchain tokens represent unique, one-of-a-kind assets. 

The following article will explore the top 6 types of digital art, but it comes with a caveat– “top” is merely a handy way to categorize what excites us about the digital and crypto art industry in 2021. 

We acknowledge beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and our opinions below aren’t meant to “rank” artists against one another. If our writing here can inspire other artists around the world to explore creating art on the blockchain, we’d call this one a success. 

Let’s get into the best types of digital art in 2021. 

1. Everydays: the First 5000 Days

Charleston, South Carolina artist Beeple’s ‘The First 5,000 Days’ crypto art piece shocked the world, selling for a record $69,346,250 on March 11, 2021. 

The piece is a collage of artist Mike Winkelmann’s daily releases since he challenged himself to make a picture from start to finish every day starting on May 1st, 2007. His digital designs portray dark, comical phantasmagoric worlds, often using pop culture figures as focal points and references. Many pieces make some subtle, or not-so-subtle, rather, political or social commentary. 

Although the lofty price tag has been a controversial subject for a good majority of 2021, and for good reason, we view Everydays: the First 5000 Days as a testament to Winkelmann’s commitment to his creative journey. It’s also a reflection of his early advocacy of blockchain technology.

2. Nyan Cat

Nyan Cat sold on February 19th, 2021 for 300 ETH, which was worth about $580,000 at the time of the sale.  

Artist Chris Torres created Nyan Cat about a decade ago, publishing a video of the poptart-body flying cat in April 2011. The video grew to over 185 million views, becoming a viral sensation. 

In February 2021, a 1/1 NFT of Nyan Cat sold in an exciting auction with three bidders competing down to the last few minutes.

Nyan Cat makes our list because its sale will pave the way for future creators of viral sensations to directly interact with their audience, rather than having a third-party intermediary platform, YouTube in this case, determine the engagement and monetization.  

3. CryptoPunks


CryptoPunks are early blockchain-based collectibles that regularly attract price tags from between a few thousand to topping over $7.5 million. 

There are 10,000 CryptoPunks, each with uniquely generated characteristics. Each is one-of-a-kind, and can only be owned by a single owner on the Ethereum blockchain. When they first launched, anyone with an Ethereum wallet could claim one for free (all were claimed very quickly.)

We like these 8-bit digital portraits are the closest we have to cryptocurrency antiques– they were the first “NFT” on Ethereum, and were an inspiration for the NFT ERC-721 token standard. 

4. Pascal Boyart’s Murals (and NFTs)

Inspired by an early 19th-century painting by Eugène Delacroix called La Liberté guidant le peuple (Liberty leading the people), a Parisian street artist Pascal Boyart painted a mural homage, but with one interesting spin. 

NFTs of Boyart's mural
NFTs of Boyart’s mural

The mural contains $1,000 of BTC that can be claimed, provided visitors can crack the code the Boyart’s puzzle; the bitcoin has yet to be claimed.

Boyart also began selling NFTs of the mural’s digital version. The pieces are selling for 15 ETH+, or about $32,000 a pop. 

We like Boyart’s murals because they bridge the real and digital world in such a unique way; for example, he frequently adds a QR code for donations in BTC, and has generated thousands of dollars for his work by admiring passers-by. 

5. Hashmask #9939 sex

Hashmasks are unique because they’re the product of a community, rather than a product made to be sold to a specific community. There are 16,000 unique pieces, created by over 70 artists. 

The Hashmask initiative belongs to the Zurich-based Suum Cuique Labs, and the Hashmask creators are anonymous. 

Hashmask #9939 sold for 420 ETH, or about $840,000. 

“We are the exact target audience. We just build what we would like. We didn’t have to do any analysis on people’s preferences because it’s just us,” said one of the anonymous founders. “We hang in the same Discords.”

We like Hashmasks because they demonstrate the efficacy of creative anonymity on the blockchain, as well as the mainstream success that comes about when cultivating a unique relationship with an audience. Being the decentralized world the cryptocurrency industry is, this is particularly important. 


Beeple again, this time with THE COMPLETE MF COLLECTION, a 1/1 collection of all of Beeple’s artwork in video format. 

This NFT sale is awesome because it actually comes with a physical, interface-free, always-on, physical artifact that constantly streams the NFT. The device comes with a signed, numbered titanium backplate with, according to the description, hidden authentication markers. 

It also comes with an “Authentic Beeple hair sample*,” which the creator further qualifies by saying “totes promise it’s not pubes.”

THE COMPLETE MF COLLECTION sold for $777,777.77 on Nifty Gateway

We love this one because it not only broadens the category of “digital art” to film, but it comes with a physical, presentable object that makes for a visually stimulating discussion piece.  

Final Thoughts: Digital Art History is Being Written

With Bitcoin’s 500% growth in price over a few months between 2020 and 2021, a newly minted batch of affluent cryptocurrency millionaires has entered the art collector space. 

The Internet’s newest millionaires and billionaires are showing a warmness to something they’re uniquely familiar with– value stored on the blockchain. 

For one, NFTs don’t come with the trappings and concerns of owning physical art pieces, like security costs, transportation, and physical deterioration. While NFTs do come with their unique set of risks (and digital deterioration, or “bit rot” is still a real thing), they provide an ownership and authentication framework like never before. 

Crypto art backed by NFTs already has some significant success stories, with CryptoPunks, Beeple, and Hashmask as strong examples in their own right. 

Our list of the top digital art is by no means exhaustive, and that’s so motivating to us as creators. There are already dozens of examples of NFT-backed music, videos, and trading card games selling for millions of dollars; the shiny selling prices are less important than the enthusiasm and democracy of investment created in the new era of art.