A Complete Guide to Solana Generative NFTs
Generative NFTs are a class of non-fungible tokens that enable NFT developers to create a large amount of unique NFTs using randomized combinations of design assets that become the NFT's traits and metadata attributes.
Generative NFTs are different from 1-of-1 NFTs that are individually created, and generative NFTs are also different from computer-generated NFTs which use algorithms and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate NFTs programmatically.
In this article, we will explain how generative NFTs work, how you can make them, and the tools you will need. Furthermore, we will review two blockchain ecosystems where you can deploy your generative NFT smart contracts: Solana and Ethereum.
Generative NFTs are a type of non-fungible token that takes in multiple design variables and layers them on top of each other to generate a collection of unique NFTs.
For example, the design variables for the Degenerate Ape Academy NFT collection, a blue-chip profile picture (PFP) NFT collection on Solana, has attribute variations for:
- Background type
- Clothing type
- Fur / Skin type
- Eyewear type
- Head accessory
- Mouth accessory
- Teeth type
Depending on how many generative NFTs you want your collection to have, or how diverse you want your artwork to be, the more attributes and variations of design assets for each group will determine the total number unique NFTs can be created.
There are two different equations to calculate the total number of possible combinations a series of traits and layers can produce for a generative NFT contract: one equation that assumes every trait (e.g. background type) has the same number of variations (e.g. 5 different color background options), and the other equation assumes the NFT project has a different number of variable options for each trait.
NFT Collections with the Same Number of Variations for Each Trait
The equation used to calculate the total number of possible unique generative NFTs when the number of design options for each trait is the same is:
Total NFTs = (Number of traits)^(Number of layers)
For example, if an NFT project has 7 unique traits, and for each trait there are 5 different options, the total number of unique combinations is 16,807.
NFT Collections with a Different Number of Variations for Each Trait
The equation used to calculate the total number of possible unique generative NFTs when the number of variations for each trait is different, multiply the variations for each trait together. The equation would look something like this:
Total NFTs = (number of variations for trait 1)*(number of variations for trait 2)*(number of variations for trait n)
For example, if an NFT project has 7 unique traits, and the variations for each trait are 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, and 7 the total number of unique combinations is 16,800.
Both of these calculations assume that each trait will have the same rarity. If your NFT project will limit the total number of NFTs minted with specific trait variations, the total number of combinations will decrease because of removal.
Generative NFTs are a series of NFTs whose creation has been automated using smart contracts and design tools, while a 1-of-1 NFT is a single NFT that is created by an NFT artist, which makes up an entire collection or a unique piece of a collection of 1-of-1 NFTs.
In simpler words, the first difference is in their creations: a 1-of-1 NFT is directly created by the artist, while a generative NFT uses some basic logic, a list of potential traits, and trait variations (i.e. design layers) to create a large quantity of unique NFTs.
The second difference is in their numbers; a 1-of-1 NFT is one unique singular NFT that makes up an edition, while a generative NFT can have 1000s of different variations of collectibles.
Although both classes of NFTs are unique, their differences are opposite.
Generative NFTs take some design assets—such as body types, outfits, and backgrounds—to create a collection of randomized NFTs that use combination of the available design assets, while computer-generated NFTs are NFTs produced by machines that use algorithms, AI, and samples of art to create unique NFTs.
Generative NFTs are created by smart contracts, while computer-generated NFTs are created by machines via deep learning and later transferred on-chain.
The deep learning framework utilized in deriving computer-generated NFTs is known in the AI space as generative adversarial networks, or GANs for short.
This is how GANs work:
Some primary images are provided to form a training set, and from this set, a machine samples the images to create new images. These are called secondary images.
At this point, the machine can combine some of these newly created secondary images with pre-existing primary images to form a new breed of secondary images.
The algorithmic manipulation will keep going on indefinitely. Later on, all of the images derived from the machine can be minted as NFTs and sold on NFT marketplaces.
Frakt is a Solana-based art NFT collections that uses computer-generated NFTs, while the Degenerate Ape Academy is a popular generative NFT collection.
As an artist, you don’t need to draw hundreds or thousands of collectibles by yourself, instead you devise a series of traits that constitute your NFT, and design one or more variations for each trait. Once you have all of the design assets, you will have to write or copy smart scripts to generate new variations of NFTs accordingly. You will also need to place a limit on the number of NFTs that should be generated.
Let's look at Solana and Ethereum for minting generative NFTs and some popular tools.
Before you can deploy your generative NFT contract, you need to determine the blockchain you will build on. A greater percentage of generative NFT contracts are on Solana and Ethereum. Therefore, you might consider building on these blockchain networks.
However, let’s have a brief comparison so you can pick a better option for your project.
The Ethereum ecosystem was the first blockchain to support NFTs, with some of the most iconic collections including CryptoPunks, and today's more popular collections like Bored Ape Yacht Club. The total number of NFT collectors, developer tooling, NFT tutorials, and security of the Ethereum blockchain attract a lot of new projects.
While Ethereum has its advantages for minting and launching generative NFT projects, you should be aware of its setbacks before you build on it.
Compared to Solana, Ethereum is slower to confirm transactions and can confirm less transactions per second. Ethereum's scalability limitations means that it can not successfully handle thousands of transactions within a short timeframe. Therefore, only transactions with high gas fees get approved.
- Large number of NFT collectors
- Lots of existing NFT tools and contract types
- User-friendly NFT marketplaces
- High Layer 1 security
- Higher gas fees
- Slower transactions
- More competition
Solana is a rising NFT ecosystem with many blue-chip projects such as Okay Bears, Taiyo Robotics, and Xin Dragons among other popular NFT collections. It also has robust marketplaces such as Magic Eden, Yawww Marketplace, and Coral Cube.
Because Solana is magnitudes cheaper and faster than Ethereum, it attracts a lot of new builders and collectors looking to enter the community with lower barriers to entry.
It's noteworthy that the Solana blockchain often has network failure, many times due to bots spamming the network with a high volume of requests. Against this backdrop, you should consider these factors when deciding the blockchain on which you'll deploy your generative NFT smart contracts.
- Faster throughput
- Cheaper transactions
- Standardized NFT smart contracts
- Occasional network failure
To create generative art NFTs, you will need tools. Whether you are planning to build on Solana or Ethereum, here are some tools you should check out.
No-code Generative NFT Tools for Ethereum
Since a lot of artists have been looking for easier ways to create generative NFTs on Ethereum, some companies have developed tools to help.
1. Bueno Ethereum Generative NFT Tool
Bueno generative NFT tool is perfect for artists who are not programmers because it is a no-code solution. With this tool, you can generate up to 10,000 new NFTs within a short period of time without development experience.
Before you upload your art, make sure you arrange each trait in a folder. Next, upload your art, name your contract, and add other collaborating artists.
As the artist, you’ll need to set rules for your generative art contract, and Bueno has simplified this with three rules:
- Always Pair With
- Doesn’t Mix With
- Only Mixes With
This will inform the smart contract on how to generate different levels of rarity.
When the NFTs have been generated, you will need to upload them to IPFS via Piñata for storage. Bueno generative NFT tool will charge you once you want to export your collectibles — whether to IPFS or outside of its platform.
2. NFT Art Generator
Created by Onemint, the NFT Art Generator is another popular no-code tool for generative NFTs that has deployed over 8,000 contracts and generated more than 3,000,000 NFTs.
Once you have logged in with your wallet, you will have a dashboard where you can set how your generative NFT contract will work.
Having filled in basic details about your project including the name and collection size, you can upload your images and select your backgrounds.
However, you should note that NFT Art Generator doesn’t have sophisticated rarity settings as some other Ethereum tools. In addition, you should be aware that NFT Art Generator has an upgrade plan with more benefits which requires payment.
Solana Generative NFT Tools
Perhaps you want to create your generative NFT project on Solana, these are some popular Solana-native tools you can leverage:
Metaplex offers a series of standardized NFT smart contracts the simplify the development process of NFTs on Solana. Originally started by a small team at Solana Labs, Metaplex is the most used NFT standard in the Solana ecosystem.
With tools such as Gumdrop to manage airdrops, Candy Machine to structure mints, and Storefront to enable creators to build their own website to sell NFTs, Metaplex is the go-to NFT tool for launching a generative NFT project on Solana.
2. Candy Machine v2
Candy Machine is one of the most used generative NFT tools on Solana, especially with various new features embedded in its second version, Candy Machine v2, which implements captchas to deter bots, unpredictable minting to deter bots from minting only the rare NFTs, amongst other improvements.
To make your generative NFT mints more battle-tested against bots, you can also integrate your Candy Machine v2 with Strata Protocol’s new NFT mint pricing tool.
In terms of rewarding the active community members, the Candy Machine v2 is a good tool for generative NFT projects because it allows the users to create whitelists and more predictably manage who can mint NFTs instead of launching a pure, first-come-first-serve type of NFT mint.
Generative NFTs offer projects with large communities the ability to generate a large quantity of NFTs that share the same artwork, while still affording each holder a unique asset based on the combinations of each variable trait.
To get started building your generative NFT project on Solana, sign up for a free Alchemy developer account, and get started today!