“WTF is that OnChainMonkey? I can draw it in two minutes!”

Danny Yang
4 min readJan 6, 2022


Understanding what On Chain means and why it matters for NFTs

OnChainMonkey by huuep.eth, 2021

As the NFT space continues to grow, the phrases “on chain” and “off chain” are being used more frequently. People say them in Twitter Spaces and Discord chats, but many don’t fully understand exactly what these terms mean. While both on chain and off chain projects are thriving in the ever-expanding NFT market, there’s a significant difference between the two. OnChainMonkey is a perfect example of where you can find this confusion. On the surface of this on chain project, you might not see a great deal of complexity. However if you dig a little deeper, there’s a lot more than meets the eye.

Why didn’t you use a better artist to create OnChainMonkey?

We frequently hear people asking about the aesthetic of OnChainMonkey. They want to know who designed artwork that could seemingly be created in just a few minutes. However, it wasn’t really drawn by an artist at all, and that’s part of what makes it so magical. It was programmed, and I assure you it took quite a bit longer than a few minutes. Our 10,000 unique monkey images were all generated by a smart contract deployed on the Ethereum blockchain. This has a high level of programming complexity, and means the art itself will have a simpler look and feel to it.

So what does that have to do with on chain and off chain…

On Chain vs. Off Chain

There is no JPEG image file of an OnChainMonkey needed anywhere. The monkey images were programmed and are dynamically generated by the smart contract. Said differently, we coded OnChainMonkey into existence instead of designing an image and uploading it to the blockchain. Images created in this way are known as on chain art. On chain art is challenging to do, but they have a very special quality: like the Lascaux cave drawings, they will survive a long time, as long as the blockchain survives.

Lascaux cave drawings in Montignac, France, estimated age 17,000 years

Conversely, when something is created off chain, the blockchain is the medium where it is traded, but the digital file lives on a separate file system like Amazon Web Services or IPFS. This poses some level of risk, as it means there’s a chance that the NFT file could go away if the service storing it goes down or the project stops paying their bills. But again, when something is generated and lives on chain, it’s not going anywhere…at least as long as the decentralized blockchain exists.

Making History

OnChainMonkey was a stealth free mint, so there was no information about it prior to launch. We launched it as an experimental on chain art piece. Reiterating what I mentioned above, that means all the artwork and metadata are generated and stored on the Ethereum blockchain.

There were already on chain projects, and we wanted to try something a little different. As many people in the NFT world know, some of the most popular projects right now are profile picture projects (PFPs). However, only a few previous on chain projects are PFPs due to the complexity of creating an interesting collection of profile pictures from code. So we decided to take our shot at bridging those two things together, and even take it one step further. From what we can find, OnChainMonkey was the first PFP collection created all on chain in a single transaction. We’re proud of that.

Why does a single transaction matter?

There’s a lot of value in creating NFT collections both on chain and in one transaction. We already touched on the value of being on chain — security of your project living on as long as the blockchain. However the single transaction is an innovation that shouldn’t be ignored. One major barrier to launching projects on chain is the cost. As an estimate, a typical PFP collection would take at least 100 megabytes of storage space, so if stored on chain would cost over 5,000 ETH. OnChainMonkey was able to compress the data by over four orders of magnitude because the smart contract on chain actually generates the image from its components parts each time it is queried. Thus, we only used 0.798 ETH to deploy everything on chain. By showing that this is possible, we believe more projects will launch on chain.

But still…the art

While our strong community has embraced our core values and helped the project continue to grow in value, we also want to let people know, “we hear you.” So stay tuned for OCM Karma, a variation of OnChain Monkey that will be bringing some dynamic art to the table, and by our incredible award winning art team. We’ll have more updates on that soon, and this will answer people’s requests about the art. It’ll give everyone a way to be in our community and have a choice in how they want to flex their identity in the metaverse.

OCM Karma, launching Q1 2022

But even with our new OCM Karma art, we have a suspicion a lot more people will be excited about the historic nature of OnChainMonkey and rock the original genesis OCM pfp in the future. I guess we’ll find out soon enough!