Types of NFTs: 2D & 3D.

What defines a 2D NFT and how is it different from a 3D NFT? What's a 3D NFT? What are the primary differences, between a 3D collectible, and a 3D NFT? And what does all of this discussion about 3D NFTs, have to do with the Metaverse?

9 min readSep 29, 2022

This article answers those questions—while introducing the different ways NFTs can be used; various blockchains used for NFTs; and some different token types.

When it comes to 3D collectibles, there are many different corners of the eco-system to inhabit as a collector, creator, or as casual observer who’s curious about the metaverse. The metaverse is not an NFT—but the two are related. NFTs are often used for 2D artworks on a blockchain, as Ethereum. Not all metaverses sell assets in the form of NFTs; though also, many do. One of the main divisions between the numerous types of NFTs — at the moment — is the differentiation between a 2D and a 3D NFT. In addition to 2D and 3D in the most literal sense, NFTs can come in the form of videos, images, and sound files as mp3s. The differentiation between a video and an image is self-explanatory, but the nuance between a 2D and 3D NFT remains less clear. And this article will help to clearly delineate between these two types of NFTs. When the world was introduced to the concept that would, shortly later, become known as NFTs, in 2014, the medium was video art. A film named ‘Quantum’, by the artist Kevin McCoy.

Kevin McCoy, ‘Quantum’, gif, originally minted to the NameCoin blockchain in 2014; reminted, to the Ethereum blockchain, on 28 May 2021. It was sold at auction by Sotheby’s on 10 June 2021, for approximately $1.400.00. It is widely considered to be the ‘first’ NFT.

An NFT is, really anything, in the form of a digital file that piggybacks and is sometimes ‘affixed’ to a token minted to the blockchain — which is a digital public ledger that makes many different types of transactions, often financial, permanent. It is often referred to in the literature as a DTL: a Digital Ledge Technology. The video art that’s now known as the first NFT, named ‘Quantum’, was minted to one of the first divisions (named a fork) in the blockchain named Bitcoin, which is the world’s most valuable (as of September 2022) cryptocurrency. The fork within the Bitcoin blockchain that the work ‘Quantum’ was minted to is NameCoin. Often, different blockchains have a native cryptocurrency associated with them. For instance, the Bitcoin blockchain hosts the native currency of Bitcoin, which launched in 2009; Ethereum’s blockchain hosts its currency, Ether—and it was launched in 2015. Its stable release— ‘The Merge—was deployed in September of 2022, and Ether is now the second most valuable cryptocurrency. Both are established blockchains commonly used for 2D NFTs; as are Tezos, Solana, Flow, as well as Polygon.

‘Mint’, in plain English, is a word in NFT-jargon that means ‘to publish’. When an NFT is minted to any blockchain, what that essentially means, is that the NFT — regardless of the content of the NFT (video, image, etc.)—has been publicly affixed to the chain. NFTs can be minted in a variety of standardized formats, which are also determined, by the blockchain that they are minted on, such as Ethereum or Tezos. The main standards for Ethereum are ERC-721 and ERC-1155—which are both standardized token formats. The difference is: ERC-1155 allows for creating semi-fungible, and non-fungible collectibles.

ERC-721 allows for on-chain storage of metadata, and for this reason, it is often used for individual works of art and is, most often, prominently used for 2D NFTs. Specifically, those that are meant to exist as singular works of art, in the classical 2D format, of a framed object—such as an Impressionist painting—hanging on a wall within a gilded wooden, or contemporary, picture frame. This is also the most common type of object proclaimed to be art—and this is the main type of artwork that people are most familiar with. Projects in which each collectible NFT is unique, often utilize the ERC-721 format.

‘Window #189’, by Jan Robert Leegte, is an example of a generative 2D artwork that has been minted to the Ethereum blockchain, using the ERC-721 token standard, which means that there is only one edition of this work in the world—minted on 18 March 2022.

What’s called generative artwork is very often minted on the ERC-721 NFT standard—as it will increase the value of each item, as each is unique—and, because generative art is art created with the assistance of coding by the artist that is deployed when the art is ‘minted’, it suits that medium of artwork. With generative series of works—such as art that’s sold by Art Blocks; a platform partnering with artists who then write a program— the code is deployed when new work is minted by a collector. The work is generated on demand. This is where the name generative comes from; they are literally brand new.
These types of 2D NFT works can be sold on secondary markets, like nearly all NFTs.

The main difference between 2D and 3D NFTs, is that 2D NFTs are, in more than 90% of the case, ‘flat’ in nature. They utilize the NFT’s frame in a literal sense. Think of art such as a photograph of a framed oil painting, or a drawing, or a collage. The actual work of art has been captured as a hi-res photograph or in some cases, as a drawing or a collage, a scanned image, minted as an NFT — again, often using the ERC-721 standard. In case you are wondering at this point, ERC stands for ‘Ethereum request for comment’ and is a programming document that developers use to write smart contracts in the different standard formats for Ethereum — and these contracts are essentially a set of rules that tell each token, regardless of the format it utilizes, how it will behave. In many ways, with the primary exemption being generative artworks, 2D images that are minted as NFTs, are very often photographs of physical artworks. This is similar to the same way a reproduction of a painting by Van Gogh in a book or a catalouge—is not the actual work of art. It is, instead, a copy of an object in the form of a photograph, printed in a book.

A work from the series ‘Survival’ by Irish artist Kevin Abosch.

A 3D NFT breaks free from the literal and metaphorical picture frame. More often than not, it is a representation of an underlying file or files that the owner of the NFT has access to, by nature of their owning the NFT. One example of 3D NFTs are those minted by a metaverse named ‘Wilder World’, which is a platform that’s created its own entire world, in which the assets used inside of it, are all minted as 3D NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain. For instance, when a Wilder World 3D collectible is purchased, it will then allow its owner to eventually ‘use’ the asset inside Wilder World’s upcoming metaverse. In the case of Wilder World, an example of a collectible is sneakers—designed by Chad Knight. The collection is one of several examples of wearables the platform has minted.

A pair of Air Wild shoes for the metaverse designed by Chad Knight, from Wilder World.

Other examples include types of cars, motorcycles, hover crafts, as well as ‘beasts’, which are various animals that can roam through the metaverse-they can be used as tag-along companions, and the platform states the owners can also use the beasts as an avatar. Wilder World is one of the few metaverses that are not officially ‘open’ to enter, though has already begun selling 3D collectibles for use within it. Their 3D collectibles provide proof of ownership of assets, allowing them to be deployed in the metaverse of Wilder World. Their NFT that are visible on, for instance, OpenSea or any other NFT marketplace, present in the form of a video, which visualizes the 3D asset in a browser. Unlike, for instance, an NFT from the ‘Cryotopunks’ collection, the video is a sort of ‘place holder’ for the underlying files that the NFT provides access to. The owner, of course, owns the video embedded in the NFT that’s displayed on OpenSea. However, very much unlike a Cryptopunk or similar 2D NFT — a 3D NFT will contain more than meets the eye, in the form of the underlying 3D file(s) associated with that same NFT.

A skateboard minted as an NFT with a corresponding file that can be used in the metaverse Cryptovoxels.

The same is true of NFTs that contain, for instance, a singular file that can be utilized in one metaverse, such as Voxels, formerly known as Cryoptovoxels. That metaverse is known for its distinct ‘voxel’ aesthetic because it is made entirely out of what’s become known—borrowed from the language of video games—as a ‘voxel’: a portmanteau of voxel and pixel. It is defined as a pixelated render of volume, making it 3D. While it’s true, for instance, that it is also possible to purchase 3D NFTs that are collectibles for individual metaverses, such as the skateboard above, that same skateboard will only work in—in this case—the metaverse named Voxels. And this is where interoperability comes into the picture; this is also what MetaMundo’s 3D collectibles have addressed. A 3D collectible from MetaMundo, contains numerous files, including the highest fidelity possible—as for use in Blender and Unreal Engine 5; and these are optimized so that they work in nearly every major metaverse: such as Spatial, Decentraland, and Roblox.

In the case of MetaMundo, our 3D NFTs are foremost all 3D in nature, and they are also displayed as video files on, for instance, OpenSea, or when viewed within a wallet, such as in MetaMask. The NFTs minted by MetaMundo are tokens that provide access to our customized 3D files, from our creators. This is how we have ‘solved’ interoperability: we mint one NFT that provides access to files that can be used in the major metaverses. No matter which metaverse you hang out in the most, chances are, your MetaMundo NFT will travel with you, and can therefore be used, in more than one of the metaverses. For example—our first 1/1 3D NFT is titled ‘Zen Art Garden’ and was created by the artist Dutchtide. As its name suggests, it is a zen garden and art gallery combined into one piece of architecture spread over two levels, complete with a koi pond and pine tree. It recalls Brutalist concrete architecture built during the 1960s, and it is able to be used as an asset that can be experienced in 3D, as in Spatial or VR Chat, or in Somnium Space. This means that the NFT is a literally inhabitable space that’s been customized for use in different metaverses. ‘Zen Art Garden’ was also the first 1/1 minted by MetaMundo.

Dutchtide’s first 3D NFT artwork named Zen Art Garden, minted by MetaMundo.

Every 3D collectible from MetaMundo is a proof of ownership that grants the owner of it, the ability to claim the associated 3D files—most often in the form of GLB and FBX files, which are customized and work within: Unreal Engine 5, Unity, Nvidia Omniverse, Spatial, VRChat, Decentraland, SomniumSpace, Mozilla Hubs, Nifty Island, Webaverse, and Roblox. The files can be used in individual metaverses and deployed on land in some metaverses — such as in Decentraland—where players of the metaverse can buy real estate ‘acreage’, in the form of land. Our 3D NFTs can be placed ‘on’ that same land. In the event that a metaverse platform does not sell land for use within its platform—as is the case with Spatial—the 3D collectible can simply be deployed in the platform as it is. So while, for instance, on Open Sea, a video of Luis Fernandez’s metaEstates_VILLA is displayed, its purpose is to provide viewers, and owners of the NFT, an idea of what the token contains: an entire collection of 3D files, custom-optimized for major metaverses.

Luis Fernandez’s metaverse villa named metaEstates_VILLA, minted by MetaMundo.

To learn how to deploy 3D collectibles by MetaMundo, watch our instructional videos.

Stay tuned for more articles—both informative and inspirational—around the future of MetaMundo, the many types of 3D collectibles, creators, designers, and more, in web3.

Metamundo—the curated interoperable 3D collectibles marketplace, for the metaverse.

About MetaMundo
MetaMundo is a curated marketplace for 3D scenes and assets, enabling anyone to own high quality 3D NFTs for use across the open metaverse. Powered by web3 technology, the scenes and assets available on MetaMundo are verifiable on the Ethereum blockchain. We developed our own NFT, specifically for 3D scenes and assets, which are metaverse-ready. Each of our NFTs contain a bundle of 3D files, optimized for use across the open metaverse — including versions, which can be used in high fidelity game engines and environments. MetaMundo presents exclusive drops to collectors from the world’s leading 3D artists, designers, architects, and brands — with creators receiving royalties from future sales. Every 3D NFT minted by MetaMundo can also be resold by collectors on secondary NFT marketplaces.

MetaMundo is backed by acclaimed metaverse funds, advisors, and angel investors.

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