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PFP NFTs: All Your Questions Answered

CryptoPunks, Bored Apes, and Doodles — these are only a few of the numerous influential generative avatar initiatives that dwell throughout the constantly rising non-fungible token (NFT) ecosystem. Generally known as PFPs, an acronym for “profile image,” these distinctive NFTs have undoubtedly turn into frontrunners within the NFT market.

So huge is the dominance of the generative avatar sector that many individuals exterior of the NFT area take into account the whole thing of the non-fungible ecosystem to be simply PFPs. But, with a lack of expertise about Web3 and blockchain expertise, most are left questioning what PFPs are and why they exist within the first place.

As generative avatar initiatives proceed to develop in recognition, and the talk surrounding whether or not or not NFTs truly need utility persists, it’s time to shed some gentle on how PFP NFT collections got here to be within the first place. Right here’s what it’s essential know.

What’s a PFP NFT?

Generative avatars, typically known as PFPs, are a singular side of the NFT area. Whereas most unbiased artists are inclined to concentrate on 1/1 items and restricted version collections, PFPs are typically conceived by teams of artists/builders and are launched as a set of hundreds of particular person tokens.

The historical past of PFP NFTs begins with CryptoPunks, a set of 10,000 distinctive 24×24 pixel artwork photographs launched in June 2017 by product studio Larva Labs. But, Punks wouldn’t acquire any important traction till 2020, when NFTs first began to realize notoriety. Then, in 2021, the NFT ecosystem exploded with quite a few different PFP initiatives, solidifying generative avatars within the NFT market.

Whereas PFPs now have their very own distinctive existence within the NFT area, they nonetheless dwell on the intersection of collectibles and generative artwork due to how they’re created. They’re collectibles in that they arrive in giant portions (often 10,000 or so) and have various levels of rarity, considerably much like buying and selling playing cards. And they’re generative in the way in which that (like different types of generative artwork) they’re created partly via using an autonomous system.

PFPs often resemble, properly, social media profile pictures. The topic of a PFP is commonly captured solely from the waist, chest, or generally even neck up. This fashion, generative avatars resemble (and are simply used as) profile footage like these you’d add to Twitter, Instagram, or Fb.

Zero trait CryptoPunks
Zero trait CryptoPunks

Within the NFT area, although, generative avatars have ventured past the standard profile-pic constraints. Whereas many PFP collections emulate the Bored Apes chest-up fashion, others, like CrypToadz or Invisible Friends, have launched full-body and even animated PFPs. No matter type, although, generative avatar collections are distinctive attributable to their huge portions and the way they’re created.

So how precisely are PFP NFTs made? Most of the time, PFPs are created by the use of a easy plug-and-play technique. Customers load a wide range of traits — like physique kind, head form, background shade, and so on. — into software program or an software that can, in flip, randomly compile huge portions of NFTs, no two being the identical. However these traits have to come back from someplace, which is why PFPs at all times begin with artwork.

If we retrace the steps of widespread initiatives like Bored Apes, Doodles, and Cool Cats, it’s clear that PFP endeavors at all times start with an artist (or artists). Within the case of the three aforementioned initiatives, these artists have been Seneca, Burnt Toast, and Clon, respectively.

As soon as an artist has set their sights on a PFP endeavor or joined the trigger and inventive imaginative and prescient of a mission, PFP initiatives turn into considerably of a modular course of all through the planning and improvement phases.

Placing the items collectively

You’ve doubtless seen a press release to the impact of “all 10,000 NFTs have been generated from over XXX variety of traits” as a part of the advertising and marketing language for a lot of PFP initiatives. And all of those traits used to make PFPs are first created by an artist.

As soon as the mission group has selected a topic (ape, cat, duck, and so on.) or an artist has settled on which of their signature characters/objects to duplicate, it’s time to determine the way to create the various hundreds of NFTs that can type the gathering. To do that, the mission builders (devs) must create a type of jigsaw puzzle that may be assembled many occasions over by way of pc, i.e., the aforementioned plug-and-pay technique.

Every NFT must be damaged down into elements earlier than it may be assembled, so the mission’s lead artist should create a large number of traits like physique kind, head form, facial features, equipment, arm place, background shade, and extra. For reference, try the NFT rating web site Rarity Instruments’ breakdown of all the top Bored Ape traits.

Apart from the straightforward creation course of, artists have to contemplate the canvas placement of every attribute in order that, as soon as assembled, your entire composition will make sense, yielding a single cohesive NFT avatar. This implies creating every NFT character in layers to make sure that ears, noses, eyes, and equipment sit proper on the pinnacle of the avatar, and the pinnacle should sit proper on the physique, and so forth.

A list of the different types of CryptoPunk attribute combinations.
PFP NFTs: All Your Questions Answered 6

With these layers separated, devs can load every trait right into a program (like Python) or write some code that may combine and match the attributes to create single NFTs rapidly. The applications range relying on the group and whether or not they hope to generate every avatar beforehand or in real-time in the course of the minting course of.

Most of the time, although, after just a few generative trial runs to work out any potential errors, devs will generate the entire provide of 10,000 or so distinctive, non-duplicated (however generally very comparable) NFTs. Making a 10,000 provide PFP mission has turn into extremely simple due to this plug-and-play technique.

It’s necessary to notice that not all PFP initiatives require a generative facet. Whereas generative avatars and PFPs typically go hand in hand, at occasions, unbiased artists will tackle a PFP mission, illustrating or crafting batches of a whole lot of NFTs of their fashion. One such instance of that is Ghxsts —  a mission consisting of over 700 NFTs that have been every drawn by hand as 1/1s however altogether seemingly match the definition of a PFP assortment.

Releasing PFPs onto the blockchain

The ultimate step within the PFP course of is essentially the most public and sure greatest understood within the mission pipeline: releasing these new PFP NFTs into the world.

But, this remaining step is completely depending on whether or not or not NFTs might be generated throughout mint or pre-generated offline and loaded right into a type of randomized, first-come-first-serve seize bag. For unbiased artists, like Jen Stark and her Cosmic Cuties, producing offline then loading your entire provide onto a market like OpenSea and promoting them over time often makes essentially the most sense.

Within the case of large-supply initiatives, although, many different steps have to be accomplished earlier than PFPs go up on the market. Earlier than launch, devs concentrate on creating a web site, establishing a wise contract, testing the minting capabilities of each the web site and the sensible contract, deciding on a sale technique, setting a launch date, worth, and extra. 

It’s because, above all else, the discharge of a mission is kind of probably a very powerful occasion of all. For a high-level abstract of the technical facet of releasing a PFP assortment, learn safety researcher Harry Denley’s submit here.

Sensible contracts and file hosting/sharing apart, this remaining step principally comes down as to whether or not the mission group can generate hype, domesticate a following, and ship a stable product to their potential collectors. We’ve seen collections time and time once more (Mekaverse, Pixelmon, and so on.) create obscene quantities of hype solely to fall wanting their potential — with others, seemingly too good to be true, succeeding past expectations.

The general public sale has lots to do with the general notion of the mission. In fact, whether or not or not the generative NFTs look good performs into issues, however rollout mechanics, together with whitelisting and pre-sales, Dutch auctions vs. releasing in waves, and so on., all play a large position in how a mission is perceived.

Suppose this all goes easily and the gathering sells out rapidly. In that case, collectors are more likely to be way more happy with the method and the product — versus when initiatives like Akutars cost full pace right into a sale and hit important and debilitating roadblocks.

However why would somebody need to purchase a PFP NFT within the first place? Effectively, apart from the potential of a generative avatar to extend in worth, minting a PFP NFT typically comes with perks, together with membership into an unique holders-only Discord server, entry to dwell and digital occasions, first dibs on subsequent collections, and naturally, bragging rights and the power to alter your social media profile pic to the distinctive new NFT you personal.

The highest PFP initiatives of all time

Contemplating the overwhelming success of Bored Apes and CryptoPunks, it’s no shock that NFT fanatics of all sorts are so gung ho on PFPs, or that dev and artist groups in all places have tried to observe of their successes. But, whereas most derivative collections have come and gone, it appears that evidently whereas the NFT market is saturated with PFP collections, originality nonetheless prevails. 

That is exactly why many PFP collections continue to stand the test of time. Under you’ll discover a record of a few of the most influential generative avatar collections to grace the blockchain. Whereas there are a whole lot of initiatives on the market, these few are among the many one % that proceed to make waves (for varied causes) all through the NFT ecosystem.


As beforehand talked about, Punks have been launched in June of 2017 by Larva Labs, which Yuga Labs acquired in 2022. These Punks have been a few of the first NFTs ever minted on the Ethereum blockchain, making their significance immeasurable within the grand scheme of NFT historical past. That includes people, apes, zombies, and aliens, CryptoPunks pioneered the thought of generative trait combos that the majority different PFP initiatives nonetheless draw inspiration from in the present day.

Bored Ape Yacht Club

Second solely to CryptoPunks in significance, however undoubtedly first in recognition and worth, is the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Additionally, a set of 10,000 NFTs, BAYC, launched in April 2021. Though it skilled a sluggish begin, the mission exploded in worth over the next months, changing into one in all, if not essentially the most beloved NFT mission of all time.


Doodles, which additionally consists of 10,000 avatars, launched in October 2021 and has simply turn into one of the crucial widespread PFP initiatives in all of NFTs. That includes a vibrant neighborhood, seasoned govt group, and a multifaceted method to leisure, Doodles has but to stop successful over the hearts of numerous NFT fanatics and veteran NFT collectors.


Moonbirds, one other assortment of 10,000 NFTs, was created by distinguished American web entrepreneur Kevin Rose as a part of his Proof Collective — a personal members-only collective of NFT collectors and artists. Only some days after its April 2022 launch, Moonbirds had already achieved upwards of 100,000 ETH (roughly $300 million on the time) in secondary gross sales quantity, instantly making it one of many highest-grossing NFT collections of all time.

Cool Cats

In the case of community-driven initiatives, Cool Cats is a tough one to beat. A set of 9,999 generated and, because the builders say, “stylistically curated” NFTs, the gathering launched in June 2021, incomes accolades and being propelled by collaborations with Ghxsts and TIME magazine, plus a close to viral milk chug challenge.

These are just a few of the handfuls of generative avatar initiatives that dominate the NFT market charts. Examine extra interesting and influential PFP NFT projects here.

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