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How to create layers for NFT art projects

In this article I’ll cover how to create layers for NFT art projects that leave viewers hungering for the chance to snatch them up. This approach can be applied to any graphics software like Procreate, Creative Suite, Affinity or any other ones that allow layering and exporting layers.

If you don’t want to read. Here’s a video.

With all the rage being NFTs right now it’s not easy to ignore them. Even if they do seem dumb. Not everything is for everyone, nor does it always make sense at first. In an effort to make it easy to understand, allow me to simply explain what an NFT is before I dive in. If you already know, feel free to skip forward a tiny bit.

NFTs in a nutshell

Look I get it, the hype is either exciting as hell or confusing as heck. Hear me out for a second. An NFT is a container that holds a unique set of data. That container gets assigned a secret hash. The hash is an encrypted string of letters and numbers which acts as a label. The label acts as its identifier and provides directions to its home in a giant accounting ledger known as the blockchain. 

NFT basics.

As data is input in, it fills up providing viewers visibility into what was recorded. Imagine now that the data was a link to another document. That document was a contract. The contract had instructions and actions on how to use it as well as information pertaining to ownership, rights, payments and any other matter regarding whatever was attached. 

The attachment is a digital collectible purchased from an online marketplace for a new game. The manufacturer decided there would be a promotion and event held allowing for the secret sale to happen but only on this marketplace and that the item would be really scarce. Welcome to the world of NFTs, in a nutshell.

The technical term, non-fungible token, means it’s literally a unique item. It’s a term that is surrounded by a lot of confusion but isn’t complex at its core. What makes NFTs fascinating are the allure of the returns but also the underlying use cases. Most present, art and collectibles.

How to create layers for NFTs

The basis of all of those NFTs you’re seeing that have tons and tons of variations are more than likely created by an artist designing several different versions of an image and outputting them as individual layered files. They then are put through a randomizer and compiled into an image. Sounds hella complicated but to create a layer for NFT art you’d simply press the button in your graphics editor program.

In this tutorial I cover creating layers in depth and how to make variations of character or elements to create unique compositions.

Just like that, lol. Kidding there’s a little more to it. All programs that let you layer are going to have a similar interaction pattern that lets you create a new layer and then work with it.

For the most part they’re all almost identical so it’s really more about the initial file setup. Using procreate as an example, navigating to the main interface of the app I’ll open a new file. At this point I’ll be asked to pick a file size and input some attributes. In any application the main aspects to be concerned with are size and resolution. 

To create layers for NFT art you need to create a new document first.
To create a new file in Procreate find the plus icon. Otherwise most apps have some sort of New call to action somewhere.

Note: file size is going to be totally dependent on the type of art you want to create. As an example I’ll choose an arbitrary size and say 2048px by 2048px. Since this is a form of digital art you’ll be okay with setting your resolution lower. Between 96dpi to 150dpi will keep the file size lower and retain crispness when creating larger digital graphics.

Once the file is set up and you’re in the application itself you’re going to want to look for the layers panel. Mostly all applications use a stacked square icon that sort of resembles layering. The layers panel in most apps is where you’ll find options, effects and adjustments that can be applied. It’s in this layers panel where you’ll create layers for NFTs.

If you create layers for NFT art it's easier to make variations and changes.
Rough sketches of two potential characters for a profile picture collection that was themed around cyber punk dogs. The dogs was based on my friends pit Sparty.

A friend and I we are chatting through some idea relating to an NFT project concept. Going back and forth we were visualizing characters. These sketches I created were resembling a profile picture project. Let’s unpack these drawings as a way to see what’s going on.

Most profile picture boxes are square so the random file size totally works as a starting point. There’s also the consideration that some profile picture boxes have a 100px radius set that visually transforms them into a circle. Thus we may need to consider a safe space for the art. I like to do this by actually placing a circle into the file and making it as large or small as I want. The circle acts as a guide and keeps me focused on making sure the composition works in most situations regardless of box shape.

A benefit of taking the time to create layers for NFT art projects is the attention to details.
Having a rough idea of the overall composition and any specific details is an important aspect in figuring out how to create layers for an NFT project as it’s all in the details and people do pay attention to them.

Once we have the file setup with our guide to create layers for NFT art we’ll want to have an idea of the type of what we’re going to create. We’ll want to do this so we can think through the layers we need to create for the different variations. In looking at the examples we can see we’ve got some dogs, outfits, weapons and accessories. 

Those are the basic levels for our layers. That means that we will have at least one layer for each of those elements. To create layers for NFT art we’ll want to think through what we’re trying to create and then try to imagine how that would work for the overall idea.

If it is a collection that consists of thousands of randomized variations then what are the variants based on? Color, texture, patterns, objects or something else? Is there an embellishment you might want to overlay onto the artwork? How do you want to order the layers to create effects and interesting compositions?

There's no easy path in figure out how to create layers for NFT projects since it depends on your imagination.
You can see based on this diagram that a collection could become rather complex and would require an artist to create layers for NFT by the dozen.

Going back to the artwork, if we consider the outfits a character is wearing we can see where we may need to create a lot of layers. You can potentially have as many variations of outfits as you want. It really depends on your appetite for creativity. That means to create layers for NFT art projects we need to have an idea of what it is we are creating and how to produce the art in whatever application we are trying to create.

It might look easy but to create a collection and to create layers for NFT art projects it can take a lot of planning and figuring out what will go into the entire thing.

In summary, come up with an idea. Create a new document or work with an existing one. Hunt down the layering panel and look for the icon or link that signifies you can create a new layer to work with. Click it. Have fun.

Need help with smart contracts or NFT collections?

If you’d like to collaborate on a project or are interested in assistance feel free to reach out.


  1. Thank you to Dane sir

    • You’re very welcome!
      Stay tuned.
      Working very hard to improve content.

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