Most artists who were on the internet in the early 2000s used DeviantArt in some shape or form.
Whether it was just for browsing, or being an active member of the community - DeviantArt was the most prominent space for artists to share, talk about their work and get inspired.
Sadly since then, the site has changed a lot.
Many artists no longer consider DeviantArt a relevant site, some even scoff when it is mentioned, but despite this it still has some loyal users.
And that leads me to the big question:
Is DeviantArt dead?
DeviantArt isn't "dead" and still has a userbase, but it isn't what it used to be - the issues it has struggled with for years are still unsolved, so many artists instead use other options like ArtStation and Instagram.
Despite DeviantArt's recent attempts to modernise their site and fix the various issues users had with it, it still hasn't been enough to draw users back in.
Let's look into what caused users to start leaving DeviantArt in the first place.
What caused DeviantArt to decline?
DeviantArt was launched in 2000 - it was one of the very first websites made specifically for artists to share their work, and provided a place for the online art community to thrive.
DeviantArt was a space for creatives to make connections, to find like-minded people, and to talk about their hobbies and interests.
The world was slowly transitioning into the digital age, and because of DeviantArt , sharing art with others became easier than ever.
DeviantArt was never really focused on the professional side of artistry, but on community and sharing - it was especially valuable to young adults, just discovering their love and passion for art and creativity.
Because it was the only site of its kind, it kept growing exponentially - and with it's massive growth, started developing some problems.
More and more explicit art started to appear on the front pages of DeviantArt, and showing up in most searches on the site - and the staff weren't able to combat it properly.
The mature content filters didn't work properly, and furthermore, some users were purposely trying to circumvent the filters to get their explicit art seen by more people.
Despite the community reporting explicit content that wasn't filtered properly, the staff were unable to fully solve the issue and it remained a problem for years, causing a lot of friction between the community and DeviantArt's staff.
On top of a general lack of staff and dated design, a lot of the community moved away from DeviantArt to find an alternative.
What has DeviantArt done to fix its problems?
In 2017 DeviantArt was purchased by Wix.
To combat the mature content problem, they created the ability for users to mute tags that they don't want to see, so explicit content will be hidden - while this has its own issues, it works well for the most part.
Wix also implemented the Eclipse update - a visual redesign of the website to try to modernise its design.
There was a lot of initial backlash towards the redesign from what remained of the community, claiming that it removed too much of the site's identity.
This time DeviantArt staff was quick to react, and implemented a green theme for Eclipse that was much closer to the old design, and other changes based on the community's feedback.
But have these steps been enough?
Is DeviantArt worth using anymore?
Despite it's issues, DeviantArt still has an active user base that seems to be getting healthier.
Because of the ability to filter out mature content properly, and people becoming better at tagging their content as mature, DeviantArt hasn't died completely.
Both artists have been on DeviantArt for a long time, and have built large followings there - so much so that despite DeviantArt's user base shrinking, they still get more engagement on DeviantArt than on ArtStation.
For example, if you compare the engagement Sandara got when she posted a piece on DeviantArt and posted the same piece on ArtStation on the same day, you can see she's got about 5 times as many views and likes on DeviantArt, and almost no comments on ArtStation at all.
However, she has 200k watchers on DeviantArt and only 3k followers on ArtStation.
If we do the maths, this means despite Sandara's huge 300k DeviantArt audience, her art only has a 0.5% engagement ratio on DeviantArt, but a 5.6% engagement ratio on Artstation.
So, you can see that although Sandara's ArtStation following is smaller than her DeviantArt one, a higher percentage of it is engaged with her art.
This is undoubtedly due to a majority of DeviantArt's users leaving the website.
And this is going to be the story of many digital artists using DeviantArt - it may still be worth posting there, but the community simply isn't as engaged as it used to be, and other newer platforms present a better opportunity.
My personal opinion on using DeviantArt
Unlike Sandara and Patrick Brown, I don't have a large following on DeviantArt - here's my DeviantArt gallery.
I've used DeviantArt on and off, but haven't touched it much at all in the last few years.
The artwork I have posted on DeviantArt still gets regular views, likes and follows - and I think that since the Eclipse redesign, engagement has actually increased.
But honestly, the amount of activity on DeviantArt isn't enough to draw me back in to using it again just yet.
A large part of the art community feels there's a lot left to be done before DeviantArt is worth using again, and I agree - I'll keep an eye on where the site goes and it's engagement levels, and consider whether I should jump back in.
For now, I'm happy to prioritise ArtStation with its more engaged and growing userbase, and use Discord for community interaction with other artists.
That's exactly what I'd recommend to any other digital artist who doesn't already have a substantial DeviantArt following.
DeviantArt isn't completely dead and still has a substantial userbase, but if you're a digital artist and are trying to build a fresh following, ArtStation is currently a healthier and more engaged platform.
Here's an article we've written about the best alternatives to DeviantArt.
If you want to meet other artists and find a community, I recommend checking out our article about artist discord communities.
I hope that DeviantArt continues on it's current trajectory of improving and listening to its community's feedback, so that we can enjoy another great place to share our work and meet artists.