If you’re like me, you want to have success selling your digital art NFTs, but you’ve found that barriers like Ethereum gas fees are keeping you from getting beyond testing the waters. In this review, I will introduce you to what could just be a better, user-first way of creating digital art NFTs, that just about any artist can take advantage of.
Quick disclaimer: This review is intended to introduce you to the Pastel Network, but is not meant to be investment advice. This review is sponsored by Pastel. As always, all opinions in this review are my own.
What is Pastel?
First, what is Pastel? Pastel is the world’s most advanced, secure, and decentralized blockchain for NFTs. Pastel’s network and platform are fully dedicated to the creation, validation, storage and exchange of provably-rare digital assets.
In order to understand what all of that means, we need to explore the current NFT creation ecosystem.
What Are the Barriers of Buying and Selling Digital Art NFTs?
If you’ve tried to create an NFT in 2021, you’ve likely been discouraged by a few of the barriers to entry such as: the excessive gas fees to mint an NFT, the security of blockchain transactions, the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies, the integrity of NFTs over time, and the authenticity of rare assets.
That’s not to mention all of the prerequisite stuff you have to learn to even get set up with a wallet and purchase some Ethereum.
Let’s start by addressing the biggest turn off for me, which are the excessively high Gas Fees associated with creating NFTs.
Gas Fees are essentially the fee you pay to process a transaction, such as minting (or creating) an NFT. I had to put a hold on building up my digital art NFT portfolio because minting required $40 per image (or in some cases, even double or triple that) in Gas Fees.
And forget about buying any NFTs from other artists. I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to pay more in gas fees than the retail price of the artwork.
Unfortunately, a lot of people who just want to buy or sell affordable NFTs without so many zeros in the price have been excluded from the market due to the influence of the price of Ethereum and the resulting gas fees, which only get higher when the Ethereum network becomes congested.
Pastel aims to make minting an NFT on their network much more affordable and practical. Somewhere between 5 cents to 50 cents per image.
The fees are balanced automatically by the network, so that unlike Ethereum, even during high levels of network activity or interest in the PSL token, the transaction fees scale in proportion. For example, if the network difficulty were increased by 10x, the cost of minting would decrease to 1/10th.
As I just mentioned, I had to spend $40 in Ether just to mint a single piece of artwork on the Ethereum network, so a fee of less than a dollar per image is more than reasonable. Had I waited a few more months, I could have spent the money I used to mint one image in Ethereum to mint much of my portfolio on the Pastel network.
There are also benefits like file storage that you are paying for when you register an asset on the Pastel network, but we’ll come back to that.
My goal is to try not to get too technical about what I’m discussing in this review, but we do need to at least get an idea of the inner workings of a blockchain to explain the benefits that are specific to artists.
Much like an art museum, which relies on security guards, alarms and cameras to protect its assets, blockchains also need to be secured 24/7. Just like a burglar can break into a gallery and steal from or vandalize it, a hacker could disrupt a blockchain as well.
While blockchains are developed with security in mind, they are not all equal. The Pastel blockchain relies on multiple Supernodes to: provide additional security for the network, register and store NFTs, authenticate users, process transactions, and perform other essential tasks.
Anyone with the means to can operate a supernode without the reliance of any third party, and even make a profit for their efforts. But unlike an art museum, no one person, organization or government has ownership of the blockchain.
Though the supernodes facilitate essential NFT related tasks, they do not own the network. The Pastel protocol always requires that multiple, randomly selected nodes perform the work. These nodes work independently to reach a secure consensus, and supernodes even periodically challenge one another to prove that they are storing the correct information.
So then who owns the Pastel network? No one. That’s the cool thing about it, it’s self-sustaining. Who owns the lake? The fish? The water? The algae? The earth? Metaphorically, it makes sense: Anyone who participates in the Pastel network can benefit from it, but unlike a lake, no one can take possession of it.
It really is sort of an ecosystem: Creators have a purpose-built platform that enables them to generate income from their NFTs, the operators of supernodes earn something for processing the transactions and storing NFTs, and a portion of the transaction fees sustain all of the necessary support functions to keep the decentralized network operational.
Pastel even supports the development of third party applications on top of the Pastel network to encourage collaboration.
The PSL Token
While many applications for NFT creation run on Ethereum. Pastel runs on the proprietary PSL token, since it is its own blockchain. At its core, the PSL token is based on Bitcoin, which means that it works in a similar way: PSL is a store of value that can be used for transactions or transferred to other users. It also utilizes some of the privacy and security benefits of Zcash.
Just like other cryptocurrencies, PSL can be converted to other tokens or fiat currency on an exchange. You can even earn royalties from future sales of your work. Right now, the limit is up to 10%. Personally, I think this should be higher, but 10% is better than no royalty option at all.
In terms of accessibility, you can add PSL to your wallet using a variety of methods rather than relying solely on something like Metamask.
But what really makes the PSL token special is that it enables users to securely register and store their NFTs on the Pastel Network. I’ll explain more about that later in this review.
The Pastel network also includes a deflationary mechanism whereby a small amount of PSL is burned or spent by users during regular activity on the network. For example, it will cost you 1,000 PSL to create a PastelID to register your signature on the network. (At the time of publishing this review 1,000 PSL is worth around $4 USD.) Those tokens are burned or made unspendable to control inflation.
There are other activities performed by supernodes, buyers and sellers, which contribute to the burning of PSL tokens as well.
Environmental Impact of Digital Art NFTs
For those buyers and sellers who are concerned about the environmental impact of creating and selling NFTs, you may be relieved to know that Pastel is built with efficiency and long-term scalability in mind.
And to offset carbon emissions related to cryptocurrency, a percentage of every registration fee is donated to a non-profit that plants new trees.
So now that we’ve covered some of the technical stuff, let’s discuss the benefits of Pastel and how they might be useful for artists.
Integrity of NFTs Over Time
Both buyers and sellers of NFTs can agree that a digital asset should last (theoretically) forever and shouldn’t simply vanish or become inaccessible. If you think those NFTs you bought or sold are stored on some proprietary network that will host the images for all eternity, you may be surprised to learn that in most cases, you only own the token. — The actual digital asset may be stored on a third party cloud service hosted by Google or Amazon.
That means if the company hosting the file shuts down, or the links to your asset become inaccessible, so does the ability to retrieve the actual substance of an NFT, and you are just left with a dead (but provably-rare) link.
Nearly every NFT project misses this very important aspect of digital assets: they need to be stored and preserved in a sustainable and reliable way for a long, long time, otherwise what is the point in purchasing a digital painting over a physical print?
Pastel aims to solve this problem by storing, not just the token, but the entire digital asset in the Pastel blockchain. This truly distributed storage system enables a digital painting to be broken up into random chunks and shared across the supernodes on the Pastel network. As long as there are Pastel supernodes in operation, the artwork or asset can always be accessed by its owner.
Even if there was a global disaster and 95% of all nodes went down, you could still recover the file from the remaining nodes.
Another concern that creators and collectors have in common is the authenticity of NFTs. Online impersonation is a real threat, which creates a lot of anxiety in creators who are worried that someone will steal their work.
Furthermore, counterfeiting discourages collectors from purchasing work because, although some NFT marketplaces offer Verification Badges, an artist may require a significant online following to even be considered for a review.
Pastel addresses digital asset authenticity by allowing creators to establish a unique identity on the decentralized Pastel network. Only the creator’s private key can be used to validate transactions, and anyone can check to see if an NFT is digitally signed by the true artist, rather than an impostor.
By sharing their Pastel ID, a creator can alleviate some of the concern their patrons may have surrounding the authenticity of their work.
But what if someone takes your digital artwork and reuploads a copy of it to sell as a counterfeit NFT? What if they tweak your work a bit first?
Pastel has a really impressive way of dealing with duplicate or even near-duplicate artwork, and is the only NFT platform I have seen even trying to tackle this problem.
When an image is validated on the network, it is assigned a unique fingerprint which encompasses not only the original image, but also a series of AI Machine Learning simulations showing how the image may look when color corrected, warped, flipped, cropped, etcetera. Not only does that highlight how lazy counterfeiters are, but it’s also really clever.
What’s also remarkable is that the Pastel network can assign a level of rareness to the image data of each new NFT. It compares it to all existing NFTs on the network, to NFTs on comparable platforms like OpenSea, and even all of the open database of images on the internet. Think of it like a really neat reverse image search on Google.
If the asset has been signed and is not significantly similar to any other image on the Pastel network, then it earns the special designation of Rare to Pastel. This gives buyers a level of confidence that they are buying an original and not a counterfeit.
If the image asset is truly unique and cannot even be found in external sources like Google Search, then it is designated as New to the Internet. This is a way to certify that the NFT you are selling is truly rare and, prior to certification, has never been seen on the internet.
While the previous level of authenticity may suffice for the casual NFT collector, New to the Internet is more geared toward buyers who are interested in purchasing a work because it is exceptionally rare.
In addition to validating that images uploaded to the Pastel network are not duplicates, files are also scanned by supernodes for imagery that is Not Safe For Work. If that’s what you want to upload, go for it. The Pastel network allows NSFW content — in fact it’s permissionless to register an asset — but it will designate NSFW images accordingly so that buyers can browse the market without seeing anything they might find offensive.
Just as well, operators of Supernodes can choose which image settings they want to support, with the option to opt out of hosting NSFW files of various types or altogether.
OK. I’m impressed. I went from being excited about NFTs, to disappointed, to excited again. What Pastel aims to do really does alleviate a lot of the concerns that I have about taking the next step with NFTs.
And I know a lot of people who want to purchase NFTs will appreciate the guidance and authentication features offered by the Pastel network. All of this helps to establish confidence in the NFT marketplace.
Pastel’s borderless currency and low price point for entry makes it significantly easier for the average artist to start selling NFTs. It also removes many of the barriers for buyers which encourages more collectors to become both comfortable and capable of buying an NFT.
The Pastel team is managed by developers, cryptographers, technologists and many other talented people. It is decentralized, so no underlying stakeholder or individual owns more than 5% of the total supply of PSL tokens.
Pastel’s founder is Jeff Emanuel, who is an aspiring digital artist among other things. He and I share the desire to solve some of the obstacles that stand in the way of artists, both traditional and digital.
The Pastel team believes that rare digital assets are important enough of an application to merit their own, purpose-built system. And I couldn’t agree more.
The Pastel network is live and builders can start developing really cool things like their own platforms directly on top of Pastel today.
Pastel will also be launching its own marketplace on the network early next month. I’ll be making a follow up video demonstrating how to use the network to create, buy, trade and sell digital art NFTs so be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel if you don’t want to miss that video.
That brings us to the end of my review of the Pastel network. I’ve greatly simplified what Pastel can do, so if you are interested in learning more about the project, check out their website at pastel.network, follow them on social media and subscribe to their YouTube channel.