What's this all about?
DeviantArt is a HUGE website and it's easy to feel invisible, especially if you're new. The aim of this guide is to help you start connecting with other artists and their work as well as sharing your own art and encouraging feedback and interaction. It would be impossible to cover absolutely everything in one journal, so consider it a starting point and get ready to go exploring! I've included a few helpful links under each section, so you can use these as springboards to help you bounce around and find out more.
Check out welcome for an introduction to DA
Introduce yourself in the Welcome Center forum
Get in the right mindset
The first thing to do is stop thinking simply in terms of what you want to get. DA, like a lot of places on the web, is a social experience. If you've been here for more than 5 minutes, you've probably read about our community. This is what sets DA apart from places where people simply post art then sit back and wait for something to happen.
Instead of thinking "How can I get more people to look at my art?", try thinking "How can I share my art with other people and enjoy their creations too?". Instead of "How can I get more people to watch me?", try "How can I broaden my circle of friends and get to know people better?". In terms of feedback, instead of thinking "How can I get more comments?", try thinking "How can I form connections with people so we can offer feedback and encouragement to each other?". You get what you give. You hit what you head for. Reciprocity is key!
FAQ #56: How can I get noticed on this site?
FAQ #26: What is the watch and how do I manage my watch listing?
FAQ #1: What is the Message Centre and how do I use it?
Introduce yourself, not just your art
Your profile page on DA offers all sorts of opportunities for you to share your personality as well as your art. This is your chance to allow people to get you know you as the fabulous being you are. Make sure you fill in your DeviantID. Post journals about your life, your opinions, your creative process or whatever you'd like to share with your watchers or people who stumble across your profile. You can even use your journals to shine a spotlight on art you love. Post polls to ask your friends questions. Let people see the individual behind the art. And what about when you run into someone who you find interesting as a human as well as an artist? Add them to your watch, talk to them and get to know them! That's how connections happen.
FAQ #90: How do I customize my profile page?
FAQ #4: Which options can I control under the Edit Settings page?
FAQ #100: How do I add, edit or delete journal entries?
FAQ #66: What journal features do I have access to?
FAQ #101: How do I customize my journal page?
Submit your work with extra thought
When you submit art to DA, it's important to place it in the appropriate gallery. This means that people looking for architectural photography (for example) can go to Photography > Architecture and find photos of architecture. It sounds obvious, but sometimes people put work in what they perceive to be a popular category or a place where lots of people will look, even if it's not the appropriate category for what they're submitting. There's no point in doing this, so please don't be tempted.
As you're going through the submission process, you'll notice that you have a space to write something about what you're submitting. Use this opportunity to share some information about your art - what inspired you to create it, details of the equipment you used or even what kind of feedback you're looking for. It helps people to engage with your art and also gives them a prompt if they'd like to leave a comment.
FAQ #163: Where can I find the description to a Gallery that I want to submit to?
FAQ #867: Is it possible to move deviations from one page to another in my gallery?
Share your work
"If you build it, they will come" doesn't really work on DA, what with it being the aforementioned HUGE website. There are millions of people here with even more millions of pieces of art. Sitting back and waiting for people to see your work, or relying on the possibility of receiving a Daily Deviation or some other front-page-ish appearance, isn't a productive use of your time. Luckily, there are other ways to share your work with a wider audience.
First of all, join some Groups. If you haven't encountered these before, they're areas of the site built around a common interest or theme and you'll be able to find one for just about anything artistic that you're into. You can search by focus, media, location, type (Basic or Super), number of watchers and how recently a Group was formed at Groups. Another great way to locate Groups is to find one you like then check out its Affiliates (lots of groups display Affiliates on their page). You might also want to check out what Groups artists you know are members of. If you're looking to do more than simply post your art and move on (which you should be!), make sure you look for groups with lots of recent activity and opportunities to engage with things like challenges and contests.
There are also forums and chat rooms specially for sharing your art. If you decide to use these, it's important to make an effort to look at and comment on other people's work as well as just posting your own (see the pattern developing here?).
Search for Groups to join at Groups
Don't forget to watch or join communityrelations and CRPhotography
Deviation Thumbshare forum
Core Thumbshare forum
ThumbHub chat room
Engage with commenting and critiquing
Almost everyone loves getting feedback on their art and whether you're looking for specific advice to help you improve or you just want to hear what emotions your creations inspire, DA is a great place to do that. It doesn't happen magically by itself though. If you submit wonderful art to your gallery and post it in a few groups you might get a comment or two. If you dedicate time and energy to getting to know other artists and leaving constructive, detailed comments on their work, you're a lot more likely to find people commenting on your work too.
Nothing is guaranteed though and indiscriminately leaving a bunch of Nice pic comments probably won't get you anywhere. This isn't about keeping score. This is about building relationships. It's about giving without expecting something in return. Basically, it's about being someone who people want to connect with and then cherishing that connection.
Chances are you're already watching a few people who have been on DA for years, who seem to have lots of friends, whose art and journals usually have lots of comments. Take a closer look at their activity and you'll see that they consistently engage in positive community-minded behaviour. They probably also have a comment count reaching into thousands per year.
I don't want to give the impression that it's all about numbers (because it really isn't) but there's a huge difference between the experience of someone with a genuine interest in others, who spends time encouraging and helping, offering feedback and critique and generally dedicating energy to giving, and someone who does little beyond posting their own art, submitting it to a couple of groups, writing 5 short comments a week and complaining that no-one is giving them the attention they're hoping to receive.
FAQ #661: How do I post a comment?
FAQ #95: What is the Critique Feature and how do I use it?
ProjectComment is a friendly group built around constructive, detailed comments as a reciprocal experience. Go and join in!
If you've read this far and you're feeling a bit cheated cause you were expecting to find out how to get but you've actually just found out a lot about how to give, how to do and how to be, then my work here is done. This wasn't supposed to be a trick. It's straight-up honest advice. Not everyone has hours every week (or every day) to spend giving, doing and being on DA but the one thing I'm willing to say with the certainty of experience is that if you focus on upping the quality and frequency of your interactions and being an active part of our community, you'll have a much better time here.