How to choose and mint NFTs on Solana: a practical tutorial

Crypto education

Solana has emerged as the second-hottest NFT space after Ethereum, with several projects launching every day. With Ethereum gas fees still high, minting NFTs on Solana is a trendy and budget-friendly alternative – and in this post we’ll explain in detail how to do it, from choosing a project to viewing NFTs in the Phantom wallet. We’ll also look at the emerging NFT ecosystems on other blockchains: Kusama, Polygon, and Fantom.

Why are Solana NFTs so popular?

Solana is an exceptionally fast Proof-of-Stake blockchain that supports smart contracts and decentralized applications. Many consider it the ultimate ‘Ethereum killer’, because Solana can process up to 65,000 transactions per second,  at the price of just $0.00025 each. For comparison: Ethereum can process only 20 transactions each second, while the fee was around $30 in mid-October 2021. Using some basic math, you’ll see that Solana is 3,250 times faster and 120,000 times cheaper.

When it comes to handling NFTs, the difference becomes even more drastic. Minting or sending a non-fungible token on Ethereum requires more computational resources than sending ETH, because you have to interact with a custom smart contract. Therefore, you’ll have to pay more in gas fees – sometimes over $100, which can be more expensive than the NFT itself. By contrast, the average price for minting an NFT on Solana is just 0.00001 SOL, or $0.015 as of October  2021.

Another advantage of Solana-based NFTs is that minting takes a couple of seconds and almost never fails. On Ethereum with its overcrowded mempool (transaction queue), it can happen that the yourminting process drags on for many minutes and results in a failure – yet the buyer still has to pay the gas fee.

Ethereum-based marketplaces like OpenSea offer gasless minting, but there are quite a few other fees to pay: for opening an account, for listing NFTs and canceling bids, etc. All things considered, if you’re new to NFTs and would like to get one without spending too much, Solana is a better option.

Minting vs. buying on a marketplace

There are two ways to buy NFTs: in the primary or secondary market.

Primary sales: mint sites

In this scenario you are buying directly from the creators of an NFT collection. In other words, you’ll be the first-ever buyer of a specific asset. The most common way to release a collection is through minting: you pay a set fee and an NFT is issued, but you can’t know in advance which one it will be.

There is an element of surprise and wonder to minting, a bit like opening a Christmas present. If you’re lucky, the resulting NFT will turn out to be ‘rare’ – that is, have some rare traits, such as red eyes, a holographic background, a crown on its head, and so forth.  Most collections include between 5,000 and 10,000 NFTs, and among those thousands there can be just 10 or 20 with a given trait, making them very valuable to collectors and serious NFT investors. For example, this Degen Ape (issued on Solana) sold for $1 million because it had several rare attributes at once: a brain in its mouth, a halo, and a golden tooth.

Image: The Block Crypto

Projects usually have a dedicated minting site, and the date and time of a mint are announced well in advance. Popular collections can sell out in minutes. If you are late but would still like to get an NFT from a specific collection, your best option is to look for good offers on marketplaces.

Secondary sales: marketplaces

Many people mint NFTs only to resell them as quickly as possible for a profit. Once a mint is finished, you’ll see dozens of assets pop up on marketplaces. But if the minting fee is the same for everyone, secondary listings are priced depending on rarity or perceived beauty or ‘coolness’.

The lowest price at any given moment is called ‘price floor’, and sometimes it can go below the original mint price – for example, if the crypto market dumps, or if the owner of an NFT urgently needs liquidity. So it’s worth checking new listings often.

In this article, we’ll focus on minting rather than marketplaces, because – strangely enough – it’s easier for beginners. When buying in the secondary market, you are faced with the challenge of choosing among hundreds of similar-looking assets, and you really have to study the attribute and rarity system to spot potential gems. When minting, though, you just have to be in the right place at the right time – and hope that you’ll get a good one.

Solana NFT marketplaces include Solanart, Digital Eyes, SolSea, and Magic Eden. They feature largely the same collections, and many individual NFTs are listed on several marketplaces, though sometimes at different prices.

FTX exchange also recently launched an NFT marketplace, which supports Solana (actually, for the moment it doesn’t support anything other than Solana, but Ethereum-based NFTs are coming, too). For now, most of the listings are FTX-themed, but it’s worth checking back once in a while.

Some of the collections on Solanart

How to find and choose NFT mints on Solana

The main resource for tracking upcoming releases is https://nftsolana.io. Apart from having the most complete list of projects, it features the key info about each on the main page: the mint date, website address and social media links, number of NFTs in a collection, and, most importantly, the minting price.

Link

Other popular aggregators include NFT Calendar, Upcoming NFT, and HowRareIs.

With over 10 projects launching on any single day, there’s enough to choose from, so it’s better not to jump into the first mint you see. Rather, focus on those that are still a few days away to give yourself enough time for research. Consider the following aspects:

  • Design. Is this something you genuinely like? Would you still be happy to hold it even if you can’t sell it for a few months?
  • Price. If it’s your first purchase, stick to projects with a minting price of 2 SOL or less (up to $300). There’s no guarantee that the price will go up; it can go down just as easily. Consider it an experiment and only invest what you really wouldn’t be sad to lose. On the other hand, don’t pick an NFT just because it’s cheap; sure, there are some mints priced at 0.5 SOL and below, but the art can be of inferior quality.
  • Twitter. Check out the project’s Twitter page first. What you’re looking for is an active and enthusiastic team and high levels of engagement (likes, comments, retweets). Support from influencers is good, but remember: marketing money can buy lots of promo tweets (‘shills’), but it can’t buy a genuine grassroots following.
  • Discord. If you are happy with the design, price, and Twitter activity, join the Discord. Check how many users there are, how the team interacts with the community, if there is a flurry of excitement in the air, if the mint rules are explained clearly, etc. For example, the SolYetis group had over 68,000 users as of the time of writing, with new messages posted every few seconds.

Note that the group size isn’t a decisive factor in and of itself. If there are 10,000 NFTs but 70,000 people eager to buy them, there’s a risk that you won’t be able to mint anything, or that the server will crash. By contrast, if there are just 1,500 members for a collection of 1,000 NFTs, everyone will have a fair chance, and the collection will still be sold out, indicating success to future buyers.

Yet another reason for studying the Discord content is that official mint sites are often quite bare. For example, there may be a pre-sale for whitelisted participants, and the rules to get whitelisted will be published only in Discord.

If you don’t have Discord messenger yet, download it here. It’s become an essential tool for the crypto trading and NFT crowd - for example, here at Pontem Network the activity in the Discord channel is quickly catching up with the Telegram chat.

Now that we’ve looked at the research part, it’s time to proceed to the practical part – but before you can mint, you need to have a Solana wallet loaded with some SOL.

Getting a Phantom wallet

Phantom is a Solana wallet supported by most NFT projects and marketplaces. Think of it as MetaMask for Solana: a browser extension that easily connects to most Solana dApps. It features a built-in DEX (decentralized exchange) for swapping tokens, as well as a nice Collectibles section where all your Solana NFTs will be displayed. You can even stake SOL right in the wallet to earn rewards. The only real downside is that Phantom isn’t available for Android or iOS, though hopefully it will be one day.

You can add Phantom to Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Brave. Once you click on the ‘Add to’ button at the top, you’ll be taken to the extension page. Agree to add Phantom to the browser, then click on Create New Wallet

The next step is extremely important: save the secret recovery phrase to a secure location. If your computer dies, or if you decide to use the same wallet in a different browser, you’ll need the secret phrase to recover the wallet. It’s better to save it in multiple locations for redundancy, such as a flash drive kept disconnected from the computer, or written down on a piece of paper.

Finally, create a password. You should be all set now; memorize the key shortcut Alt+Shift+P to quickly open the Phantom extension.

Next you’ll need some SOL. Phantom website has detailed tutorials on how to buy SOL on exchanges and how to deposit SOL in the wallet, so we won’t describe the process here. Remember that you’ll need at least 0.01 SOL to pay the minting fee, plus some more if you decide to list an NFT on a marketplace after minting. It’s better to send at least 0.1 SOL extra in addition to what you’ll need for the mint itself.

Minting an NFT in 3 steps

In this tutorial, we will use The Degens as an example, but all NFT mints follow the same pattern.

Step 1: be there on time

Remember: a mint can be over very quickly. If you want to be sure to get an NFT:

  1. make sure your Phantom is ready and loaded with enough SOL;
  2. double-check the launch time in Discord (usually given as UTC time) and convert it to your local time;
  3. open the mint site a few minutes before the mint starts. Wait patiently and don’t go anywhere. Note that sometimes the mint page will be blank or display a message like ‘Project X will be live soon’. Keep refreshing the page.

Step 2: connect the wallet

As soon as the mint is live, you’ll be able to connect Phantom. Click on Connect Wallet and choose Phantom. The wallet extension will pop up, prompting you to enter the password. Once you’re logged into the wallet, agree to connect to the page.

Step 3: mint

If the connection is successful, you will see a Mint button or something similar. Pick the number of NFTs you want to obtain (some projects allow you to mint up to 20 in one transaction, others limit it to just one). Click on it to open the wallet confirmation window. Finally, click on Approve Transaction to start minting.

Step 4: see what you got

The minting process usually takes just a few seconds. You won’t necessarily get any success notification at the end. Don’t panic: click on the Collectibles icon in Phantom (the one with 4 little squares), and you should see the NFT there.

This is the most exciting moment: what does your new non-fungible asset look like?

Step 5: keep following the updates

This is a good moment to hop back to Discord and see what others minted. It will give you an idea of your NFT’s relative rarity and value. Don’t leave the Discord group just yet: often teams conduct giveaways and airdrops for those users who already hold their NFTs. Also, you may be entitled to a small percentage of all secondary sales through a system of royalties.

Beyond Solana: NFTs on Polygon, Kusama, and Fantom

Now that you’ve learned to mint non-fungible tokens  on Solana, know that you are somewhat of a pioneer. The NFT ecosystem on this blockchain is still young and has a lot of room for growth. However, if successful experience with Solana has given you a taste for non-Ethereum-based NFTs, there are several more options to try.

Polygon

Polygon is almost as popular as Solana when it comes to NFT mints; the best place to track them is NFT Calendar. Polygon is compatible with Ethereum smart contracts and NFT standards, and it’s one of the three blockhains supported by OpenSea. Many collections are variations on the familiar punks, apes, and birds, but there is also original art, such as ‘Mysterious Alien Structures’ or ‘Forgotten Souls’.

Kusama / Polkadot

Polkadot is the largest interoperability project out there: one day it will connect at least a hundred independent parachains, all able to exchange data and assets. Polkadot isn’t fully operational yet, but it has a live incentivized testnet, Kusama. It allows developers to experiment, test dApps, build traction, and tap into liquidity across the Kusama ecosystem before they can launch on Polkadot.

The Kusama-based RMRK app offers a new set of NFT building blocks and standards that don’t require parachains. There are already a couple of NFT projects running on top of RMRK:

  • Kanaria: described as the first NFT launchpad framework, Kanaria features a collection of beautiful birds, with prices ranging from $1,000 to $30 million. There are also gemstone NFTs (selling for a whooping $500k) ) and ordinary items like lipstick and sunglasses (from $2500).
  • KodaDot: a carbon-neutral NFT marketplace with some items priced as low as $30;
  • Singular: another budget-friendly marketplace for Kusama-native NFTs.

Incidentally, our own project, Pontem Network, works in a similar way to Kusama: it’s an incentivized testnet for the Facebook-backed Diem blockchain. Diem doesn’t have a launch date yet, but the Diem-compatible Novi wallet is reportedly almost ready for launch, and it will support NFTs. Considering that Facebook’s products have a combined audience of over 3 billion people, Diem could become the largest NFT ecosystem in the world.

Fantom

Fantom is yet another fast and scalable smart contract platform - and a potential competitor for Solana. It processes transactions almost instantly, charges near-zero fees, and supports Ethereum dApps, making Fantom a very good match for NFTs.

Artion is an NFT marketplace built on Fantom (currently in beta). It supports MetaMask and Coinbase wallets, as well as the Ethereum ERC-721 NFT standard, so minting and buying NFTs will feel very familiar if you’ve tried OpenSea. The difference is in speed and costs: Artion charges 10 FTM (around $25) to mint an NFT, and there are no other commissions.

The NFTs themselves are a mixed bag: from great-looking abstract art to pixelated cats and stills from The Squid Game.  

There is no calendar for Fantom NFT mints, so you will need to keep track on Twitter; try searching for ‘#NFT $FTM’. Recent launches include FantomGhosts, World of Umans, and Portalheads.

In the near future, we might see a veritable explosion of NFT projects on alternative smart contract platforms: Kusama, Cardano, Fantom, Terra, and others. Can any of them become more popular than Solana? Pontem.Network will be watching this exciting space to bring you the latest updates.

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  1. Blockchain fees. Most NFTs are issued on the Ethereum blockchain, where you have to pay for gas. NFT minting involves a complex smart contract and thus requires a lot more gas than simply sending crypto. Plus, the gas has been very expensive in the past few months, so you can expect to pay at least $50–100 in gas fees per NFT collection.
  2. Marketplace fees. While you can issue an NFT on your own, it will be hard to promote it and find buyers. That’s why most creators work with NFT marketplaces like OpenSea and Rarible. And while minting NFTs on OpenSea is technically gasless and free, there is a gas fee to initialize a seller account and accept a bid from a buyer — expect to pay around $150 in total. On Rarible, the costs can exceed $600.
  • Facebook has almost 3 billion monthly active users, giving Diem the largest potential audience of any blockchain project on earth;
  • The stablecoin will probably get integrated into transactions on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Whatsapp (shopping, paying for ads, sending money to friends etc.);
  • Facebook can afford to hire the best developers and marketers, so the execution and promotion will be top-notch;
  • Diem’s programming language, Move, is safe, flexible, and well-suited for writing smart contracts;
  • It should be possible to add third-party dApps to the Diem ecosystem — think of WeChat with its thousands of mini programs, but on blockchain.

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