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Submitted on
October 19, 2013
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PE: Contest Pointers

Sat Oct 19, 2013, 6:33 PM

Contest Pointers

Contests are everywhere on deviantART, and it seems like there are dozens of new ones cropping up every few weeks. While some of these contests go on to become extremely popular and successful, racking up hundreds of points in prizes and gaining a remarkable number of entries (:dummy:), some of them flop, flounder, and sadly disappear into obscurity (:saddummy:)

So how does one go about hosting a successful contest? There's no fool-proof, super secret formula, of course, but there are some general tips and guidelines for what you can keep in mind when planning a new contest.


Every contest has a theme, which can range from being very specific to very general depending on what sort of contest you want to hold. Keep in mind what your theme will affect how many people will participate in your contest. A broad theme that anyone can relate to will probably generate more interest than a more specific one that limits the number of possible participants. If this is your first time hosting a contest or if you know that your pool of participants will be limited, it might be a good idea to start off with a broad theme.


Be sure to also specify in your contest announcement which medium(s) are allowed in the contest. Are you accepting a wide variety of mediums (all types of Digital and Traditional Art) or something more specific (Poetry only)? Once again, the mediums or styles you select will affect how many people will participate, since a broader medium allows for more people to enter.


Start Date

Most contests begin on the date that the contest is announced, but this is not always the case. Make sure to state when your contest begins, especially if it is not the date you posted the announcement.


Every contest also needs a deadline that should be very clearly stated (and possibly also mentioned several times) in your contest announcement journal. How much time do you want to give people for their entries? Two weeks, one month, two months, or more? Most contest average around one month in length, but this can vary quite a bit. Shorter contests tend to have less participation, but that does not mean that you cannot have successful two week long contests. You would also think that longer contests would result in more participation, but once you start passing the two month mark for typical contests, people begin to majorly procrastinate. 

Results Date 

You may also want to announce a results date, which is when you will announce the winner(s) of the contest and the prizes that they will receive.


You should always include some rules in your contest, even if you think they may be obvious (something like no plagiarism). Make sure that these are clearly stated and easy to understand, as complex and convoluted rules may discourage artists from participating in the contest. Some of the basic rules that you may want to specify are:

  • Contest Entries: How many contest entries each deviant can submit? One, two, or unlimited entries? If you allow more than one entry, can someone win more than one prize?
  • Participation: How can deviants participate? Should they comment on the journal with their entry, submit to a group folder, note you, etc.?
  • Old/New Artworks: Do entries have to be created specifically for this contest, or can they be older artworks?
  • Collaboration: Can deviants collaborate with each other? If so, how will the prizes be distributed?
  • Bases/Line art: Can deviants use other people's line art or bases to create their entry?


If you are running a personal contest for something like a new OC design or deviantART avatar, then it's probably best to judge the contest yourself. On the other hand, if you feel that you do not have enough experience to judge the entries completely by yourself, then it may be a good idea to find some judges:

  • Admins: For group contests, you could enlist your admins to help with judging. This sort of judging is usually very easy to handle, as you can utilize the Admin Area forums to take votes.
  • Panel: You can create your own panel of judges by hunting through your friends lists or by allowing people to contact you if they would like to be a judge. If you aren't quite sure of who you can ask, the Gallery Community Volunteers will often be very happy to help you out if you drop them a note.
  • Poll: Polls can also be used for judging, but do be wary of the fact that poll results are completely anonymous. People may use side accounts or enlist the help of friends to unfairly manipulate the results.
  • Popular: Using popular or open judging where members of a group or the deviantART community at large can vote for their winners is also a possible method you can use. This can be done through comments or a note (to be anonymous), but this does create a lot more work when tallying up the votes.

In order to ensure that the judging goes smoothly, it is also a good choice to explain the criteria you are looking for in entries. Are you going to judge based mostly on technical skill, creativity/originality, cuteness, etc.? Letting your participants know ahead of time can help prevent misunderstandings about why certain entries won at the end of your contest.


The prizes you offer can make or break your contest because they provide the main incentive for deviants to participate.  This is also the part that deviants hosting contests have the most difficult time with, especially if you do not have much to offer on your own. However, even if you cannot contribute very many prizes yourself, you can still rack up a successful list of prizes.

Asking for Prizes

From personal experience, I have found that posting a journal asking for prizes a few days before actually beginning the contest greatly helps in gathering prizes. Many people are happy to donate prizes even if they don’t wish to participate, and calling specifically for prize donations helps let these people know that you need their help.

Types of Prizes

For the best results, also specify that you are looking for any kind of prize, which can involve any of the following and more:

  • Llamas
  • Page, Journal, or Poll Features
  • Comments/Critiques
  • Points
  • Premium Memberships
  • Art Requests
  • Free Commissions
  • Art Supplies
  • Prints


Promotion is another important factor that plays a large role in the success of your contest. How do you expect to get numerous contest entries if no one knows about your contest? If you publish a contest announcement journal, your audience will obviously be your watchers, but there are several ways to expand this audience.

  • Contest Groups: There are several contest groups throughout dA, some of the larger ones including AnotherContestGroup and ContestsAndGiveaways. Check the rules of each contest group, and find out how you can advertise your contest at their group.
  • Groups/Affiliates: If you run any groups that are related to the theme of your contest, advertising at your group through journals and/or polls is also a great promotion method. Several groups also promote affiliate or member contests, so you can also check with the groups you are a part of to see if they can help you out.
  • Friends: Sometimes, just asking your friends to write a journal or a poll about your contest can go a long way to promote your contest!

Promotion throughout your contest can also be as helpful as promotion before. Publishing a reminder journal half-way through the process of your contest can help remind interested deviants about your contest. For contests that are longer than one months, this reminder can keep people engaged and on track with their entries.

Putting It All Together

Once you have everything planned (the theme, medium, dates, rules, judging, and prizes), it is time to announce your contest! Make sure that all of the important information in your journal is very clear and easy to read, and then get out there to promote your contest! :#1:

Thank you for reading, and I hope this article was helpful for you! If you have any questions or comments, please let me know below! :eager:

Add a Comment:
PurpleInk777 Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2013
Thanks for sharing! :glomp:
SimplySilent Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2013
spring-sky Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'd also like to add that one can add a rule for the entries to contain the contest's journal link in the description . so one can get some more exposures .

I've also seen contests in which the participant must also announce the contest in a journal entry . 
SimplySilent Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2013
Those are certainly good ways to help promote your contest. :nod:
spring-sky Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks :aww: 
piijenius Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2013
i found this very useful o u o thank you so much for making this <3
i have joined and submitted my entry to a contest couple weeks ago but the deviant who held the contest have not announce the results and i am still waiting
i think the deviant should have told how long the judgement process will be o n o
SimplySilent Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2013
Probably, as it gets rather annoying if the judgement process takes too long.
Kida-neechan Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2013
One thing I don't like about contests is that the deviant usually postpone their contest so when I draw something that takes hell of a time and I try to catch up to the deadline and finally post it before it ends, the deviant out of the blue decides to postpone it which means more entries for the contest and when I say more entries I mean more impressive and better than mine entries , they never stick to the deadline :saddummy: and I really hate it.

Your journal is very helpful especially to those who plan on making a contest on their own :) and congratulations on getting your journal to the footer! :giggle: I never know how that thing works :dummy:
SimplySilent Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2013
Oh man, that's my pet peeve with contests too. :P Although, what I hate more is after the deadline passes, the deviant who held the contest mysteriously vanishes. :B

Haha, thanks. :D The Journal Portal displays the most popular journals in the last 3 days I believe. :aww:
Kida-neechan Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2013
-reads 'what I hate more is after the deadline passes, the deviant who held the contest mysteriously vanishes'- giiiiirl that happened to me too and the problem is that the deviant made a new account where she's more active than her contest one QAQ I am dying for results :iconlazepoolplz: but I feel like she's trying to avoid it :icont-tplz:
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