Contest FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Here at Instructables we run a ton of contests! We also get asked a ton of questions about those contests. Below is a list of the contest questions we get asked most frequently and also some questions that I feel could use a little more explaining. (Let’s be honest - reading the official rules is not fun.)

Please ask addition questions in this forum topic - I'm sure there are some I have not covered!

General Contest Questions

How do you choose which contests to run?

We do this in a few different ways.

Editorial/in-house - I plan these based on past contest themes, what’s trending in search,  which categories/channels need a little love, new site features or if there’s a certain type of content we want. Contest ideas also come from staff meetings and through the official contest idea forum topic.

Sponsored - Sponsored contests occur when a sponsor or prize provider wants to run a contest with us and they’re a good fit for the community. Often Instructables staff makes the call on the contest theme, but sometimes we compromise with the sponsor if they have a theme they really love!  We recently discontinued our sponsor/prize provider program for sponsor contests.

Sold/Branded - These contests come in through the Autodesk sales team and are normally focused on really large brands like Home Depot, Radioshack, Tekton Tools, etc. We have less control over these themes but still do our best to make sure they’re a good fit for you guys.

How can I sponsor a contest?

Send us an email at contests @ to get more info, but there are some major requirements you need to hit:
  • be a registered business of some sort
  • be able to offer up enough value in prizes (this varies with theme/contest length)
  • be a good fit for our community (both your company and the prizes you’re giving!)
  • the contest theme should also be a good fit.
As of right now all sponsored contests are being sold through the Autodesk sales team.

I have an idea for a contest! How do I tell you guys?

Please post here and let us know! We can’t run all of them, but we love seeing the ideas you guys come up with.

How do I win a contest?

Post something awesome! Check out this collection of tutorials that will tell you how to write a great instructable.

Why do Instructables employees enter the contests?

We enter contests to set the bar and give an example of the type of entries we want in the contests. We're not able to win them, though!

It's important to note that several employees were authors on the site before they worked here, though, so you might see some wins in our achievements! :)

Entering Contests

Can I enter if my country is not listed in the official rules?

Yes! You can definitely enter.

However, you must have a mailing address in an eligible country to win. If you have a friend in the US or another eligible country that can receive your prize, go ahead and enter!

You can read more about our progress to add more countries to the eligible shipping locations here. It's not been going very well for a while, but I hope to share some good news with you guys in late 2014!

I live in -----, why can't I enter?!

Chances are your country has incredibly strict laws regarding gambling, sweepstakes and contests. We try our best to play by the rules, and if we can't meet the minimum requirements to run a contest in your country, we don't run them there!

That's the easy answer. The hard answer is that it's very complicated and involves lots of risk and scary legal language.

Why isn't my entry showing up in the contest? I entered three minutes ago!

Real humans look at each entry! This means it take take a while sometimes. We work standard office hours, 9-5ish PST. We tend to moderate first thing in the morning, Monday-Friday.

If you enter at the end of the work day or over the weekend, you’ll have to wait until the next business day to be accepted.

Why can I only enter 3 contests with one Instructable?

It’s all the spirit of fairness. Even if your instructable would be eligible for allllllll the contests that are open, we want you to pick the three that are most relevant and enter it there. This spreads the entries out a bit more.

It’s fairly rare that one instructable wins three grand prizes (I think it’s only happened once!) but we want to make sure that one instructable doesn’t sweep the winners in several contests.

Why was I rejected from the contest?

The number one reason for this is not fitting the contest theme - we try our best to explain the sorts of entries we’re looking for on the main page of each contest, so double check your eligibility there.

The second reason is that you did not use your own text/images. We do not police this for posting an Instructable on the site, but to enter a contest with that Instructable we want to see the work that YOU put in to it, so we need your own words and process shots. It’s only fair that you have to put in the work to get a prize.

We also sometimes make mistakes or encounter bugs during the approval/denial process. (Checking the wrong box, clicking the wrong button, breaking the back end of the site) It’s rare, but it happens! We’re human and can’t help it, but we do our best to right those mistakes as soon as we know they happened!

Why can’t I enter an instructable I published before the start date into the contest?

We want to see NEW and exciting content built just for the contest. If we allowed old instructables in, we’d just see the same things over and over again. Plus, the number entries in the contests would make it very hard to choose finalists and winners.

Keep in mind that simply republishing an old project will not make it eligible - we check for that. ;)

Our Halloween contests are the only exception to this rule. For example, the 2013 Halloween Contest ended on 11/11/2013, so the 2014 Halloween Contest will accept entries from 11/12/2013 through the end date of the contest. :)

Can I edit my Instructable after it's entered in a contest?

Short answer: YES!

Long answer:
You can make any modifications you want to an Instructable that's already entered! We get so many entries that there's absolutely no way we'd be able to police it even if we wanted to - but it's never something we want to discourage.

Improvement is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. :)

However, I must caution you: it's best to get those changes done before voting closes. The voting period matters the most because that's the time that we start looking into picking finalists.

Another slightly related caveat: don't publish a mostly empty instructable and try to fill it after the contest ends. We're starting to see this happen more often, always with a promise that updates are coming. You can never tell when we'll be reviewing it as a possible finalist, so chances are you'll get overlooked going about it that way. We are currently looking at 50-300 entries per contest, so anything incomplete doesn't stand a chance these days!

Finalist & Winner Selection

Why does the "how it works" tab describe photo, video, and step by step projects as different things? Is there one I should use for a contest entry?

Step-by-step is always a the preferred method as it is the most complete. Most of our contest winners/finalists have documented in the step-by-step format. The more detail you can add, the better!

P.S. Now that we’ve rolled out our new editor, video and photo instructables are not an option anymore. But I would suggest creating a project with at least 3 steps to up your chances of being chosen as a finalist. COMPLETENESS IS WINNERLINESS (or something)

When are the finalists selected?

Finalists are selected starting the Tuesday after the contest closes. The finalist selection process normally ends Thursday night or Friday morning, depending on how tricky the contest is and how many people give input.

How are finalists selected?

Finalist selection is a mixture of sponsor choices, votes and staff choices. We look for all kinds of things when it comes to picking finalists, including:
  • good photos! Pretty photos put you five steps ahead of all the other entries already, honestly. We're going to want to click through and look at it as soon as we see it if it's pretty!
  • good explanation of both WHAT the project is and HOW you made it. Sometimes it can be really hard to figure out what we're looking at. (Personally, if I have to spend several minutes staring at photos and reading to understand it, I'm not very excited about it anymore.) Try to convey the project through both photos and video if it's needed. For example - if it's a rocket, upload a video of it in action!
  • a good story! I read more projects than you could ever imagine every month. I love it when an author takes time to explain why they made the project, or documents the errors they made along the way. That makes an instructable so much more enjoyable to read. :)
  • citing your sources/inspirations - look, we realize there's hardly an original idea on the internets anymore, so we can't fault you for that. But it's only fair to give credit where credit is due. We like that. Plus, it sometimes makes for an awesome story.
  • creativity! Look, I cannot even begin to tell you how many paracord bracelets, Altoid tin survival kits and Iron Man arc reactors I have looked at. My eyes glaze at the thought. Don't just go for the common and easy, take that project and put a new spin on it!!

We always suggest authors read their own work with an objective eye. Does it make sense if you aren’t familiar with the subject already? Did you provide enough description? Are the photos understandable?

How many finalists are there?

To find this out easily, go to the official rules and use Command+F (Mac) or crtl+F (Windows) to search “finalists” to see the number. There are normally 15-36 finalists in a contest.

Why wasn't my project chosen as a winner/finalist?

This can happen for all kinds of reasons, honestly. See the "How are finalists selected?" question above for a more in depth explanation of what we're looking for.

The most important thing I want to stress is that we are going through TONS of entries for every contest, so it's important to set yourself apart. Choose a clear and concise title, tell us a story, share great photos, explain the project well. If there are projects similar to yours in the contest already, make sure your project exceeds theirs in awesomeness.


Who judges the contests?

This is typically a mix of Instructables staff, employees of the sponsor (if there is one!), and authors on the site (your peers!). Each contest is normally assigned 10-50 judges.

Lately we’ve had an average of 15-20 judges complete the process. I always try to add as many judges as possible, because more judges means the judging is more fair and helps to reduce bias.

How can I help judge a contest?

If you’re interested in helping us judge, check out this forum topic! I’m also about to start doing weekly calls for judges in the Contest Forums, found here.

To judge, you must have published at least one Instructable.

I send out PMs to judges each Friday, and you might also receive one from audreyobscura.

How do I judge a contest/access the judging ballot?

We’ve written up an Instructable over it! You can find it here:

Once I’ve added you to the list of judges, you’ll be able to access the ballot.


How do you pick prizes? Can I suggest prizes?

I've got a pretty small budget prize here, so it's a mix of trying to be frugal but still give you guys something fancy. I try to order most of our prizes from because they have reliable shipping and tons of options.

Right now I've been going back and forth between tools/materials and fancy electronics. I love to give out tablets, cameras and supplies for more projects, because that gives you guys something to make more awesome stuff with!

If you'd like to suggest an awesome prize, do it here!

I don't like these prizes, can I trade?

Short answer: nope!

Long answer: we choose prizes well ahead of time and order prizes at the start of the contest (for 95% of what we run) and we don’t make substitutions. We typically have anywhere from 100-250 winners a month (and increasing all the time!), so it’s not feasible to give choices and sub things out. Only three of us on staff work with ordering the prizes and shipping them out, so that would be lots of work!

However, we have allowed winners to switch prizes with another winner on occasion (both parties must agree and let us know before we ship them!) and we’re fine with you selling your prize somewhere else.

How do I get my prize if I win?

When contest winners are announced, we’ll send you a message with a form to fill out. Make sure to fill this out completely and remember that we require a phone number and that we can’t ship to P.O. boxes.

Winners are responsible for any trade tax or tariffs incurred for shipping to your location. We cannot reduce the value of the prize so you pay less tax (nice try, though, you sneaky hobbit!!).

When will my prize ship?

We try to ship prizes as soon as possible! 75% of our contests have prizes that are easily shipped right away and you should receive notification of shipment within a week or so.

Sometimes we do have to order items AFTER the contest ends or wait for a sponsor to ship the items. If we think there will be a delay, we’ll let the winners know. We’ve been trying very hard to make sure we’re reaching out and updating winners about prize statuses.

Also: VERY IMPORTANT - the sooner all winners give us their contact info, the sooner we can make big orders of custom sizes. Sometimes there’s a huge delay just because we’ve got one straggler. Be a good winner and let us give you prizes, dangit!!

Picture of Contest FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What happened to the Paint It! contest? I'm kind of disappointed because this contest allowed me to do an instructable on something that I have a lot of experience with and I put a lot of time into making it. While contests are not my primary reason for being here they are a lot are fun. A little feedback here would be greatly appreciated. I went from being a finalist to nothing.

It ended Sept 15. It still shows up on the contest page under "recently ended contests"

Raitis2 months ago

Can anyone who has won a contest from one of the unsupported EU countries and received prize via another (supported) country walk me through the process briefly? The questions I wonder about are below.

1. Is initial receiver in the EU (not you) responsible for taxes?

2. If so, is there a way for person to forward the shipment to you, without dealing with taxes so you have to do it upon receiving?

3. Are there any differences between tax sizes for contest prizes in different EU countries, say UK vs Germany?

Hopefully someone bothers with this. Thanks!

TyTiKi Raitis7 days ago

From my research:

1. I realized that the initial receiver in the EU is responsible for taxes.

2. There are mail forwarding service that deals with taxes as far I read.

3. Yes, every country has its VAT e duty taxes. For example, the grand prizes of the Tech contest (MacBook, Littlebits kit, Markerbot Replicator), with a total cost of 5700$~ would cost to you ~1800€ to receive it in Germany and ~1950€ to receive it in Italy.

However I really hope to be wrong.. let's wait an official answer from the moderators.

Raitis TyTiKi3 days ago
Given the fact that most staff members are located in the US I don't consider their input a must here, it's much more valuable to hear from someone who has dealt with that personally.
As for the tax structure I've done my research as well and it seems like standard duty (only if above 150eur) and VAT is applicable without additional taxes for something being a winning.
gagan86194 days ago

Sorting of contestant's instructables in the contest tab is not so good as it only shows recent ones first. I think sorting should be made on the basis of some kind of points formula. where points for an instructable(P)= 0.5(# of favourites) + 0.25(# of views) + 0.25(# of votes).

acoens7 days ago

Don't get me wrong - writing an Instructable and having someone else make something I designed is thanks enough and certainly enough to keep me coming back and contributing, so I ask this out of curiosity and not to be greedy.

What's the rationale for having more finalists in a contest than eventual winners? I've been a recent finalist twice (super thrilling! thank you!) only to not make the final cut. I'm guessing it's number of available prizes, but then why not just have fewer finalists where each is awarded at some level?

We now are trying to add more runner up prizes so that everyone who makes the finalists will win something :)

Thanks for the quick response, Danger :-)

I so appreciate the contests and the excitement that comes from them. I hope my question was taken the in the way I intended.

You're welcome, please let me know if you have any more questions, I hope that my answer made sense! :)

chokapi13 days ago

Wasn't there recently a 'Great Outdoors' contest. I could swear I entered it. Did it go away as a result of the cessation of the 'sponsored' contests?

The great outdoors contests ended September 2nd, it's still on our contest page in the ended contests section and will always be visible in our contest archive :)

What happened to the paint it contest? It seems to have disappeared from the contest page.

Drillbit8 days ago

Vote counter? I have been around for a long time on here and liked following the vote count on some of the contests. Here recently I have begun again following some contests. Now looking at the view count and the loves, then seeing the finalists... some do not add up at all. I see projects that have triple digits compared to the finalists and winners in and get nothing. So my question is, why have votes at all now since I have re-read and basicly it boils down to "staff" and sponsor? Why give people hope of winning some fantastic prizes only to be over looked by far less popular? Or the winner of a contest goes to someone who has special access to lab equipment that most of us could never duplicate?

Member votes select about half the finalists, but a lot of people put a lot of work into their projects, so get their entries in very close to the deadline.

That means that a lot of cool projects don't have time to build up the number of votes they deserve. So, to even things up, the staff spend a lot of time going through the entries to select the projects that would have a shot at winning, and make up the other half of the finalists from those.

mrandle2 months ago

What happened to the contest viewing filters. I recall that there used to be a way to sort by popularity, views and date, possibly votes? Was this ever a thing, or am I just being silly? Also can this be a thing?

M3G mrandle2 months ago

I miss those too, contests just aren't the same without them! I think the filters were popularity, views, recent and featured.

mrandle M3G2 months ago

Glad to know I wasn't accidentally taking crazy pills! It would be nice to see how many votes but I guess that it might make the more popular ones get more traffic/ more votes and create a snowball effect. And if you had lots of votes and then didn't win that might make people upset.Though I guess the votes don't really matter too much as the contests are judged independantly from votes. Maybe a peoples choice prize in the future?

makendo mrandle1 month ago

Back in the day there was also contest sorting by rating (now gone) and votes, but yes, this led to all sorts of bad behavior. I am surprised to see all of the sort options go though - browsing through the entrants is now a pretty unrewarding activity. I hope they bring some sort of ordering back, even if it were just a filter like "show only featured" or "show only 20,000+ views" or some such.

I miss the "sort by featured" button most. In contests with several hundred entries it really isn't fun to look through all the entries for good ones and you can't even see the # of views and featured icon below the title like on a search page. Perhaps this info on entries in a contest would be an alternative to the sorting. I'm not likely to pass over an instructable I'm interested in because it wasn't featured. They would still get exposure, but we would also be able to see which ones the editors thought were good.

M3G makendo1 month ago

+1 I don't check out the contests that often now, since as you said it's pretty unrewarding.

fozzy13 M3G1 month ago

+2 (is that how this works?)
I strongly agree. Back in the day I would browse contest entries looking for cool projects and what I thought would be the biggest competition. I never browse contests anymore with the change in filtering options. It would be a cool feature to have back.

mrandle M3G1 month ago

Now it only shows most recent from what I can figure. You have to hit the more button to see more. I really do not like the new format. It pushes the oldest ones way back so it kinda punishes you for posting early. I agree there should be SOME sort of sorting maybe even an algorithm that looked at views vs. favorites vs. votes, sorting by most recent makes no sense.

there already was kinda

you should do a lego contest

We actually just had one!

We'll probably do it again next year. :)

MorajMooper1 month ago

Is it 5-9ish A.M. or p.m that the instuctible people work at?

Also what if my contest entry is still pending when the contest closes for entries. Will the instruble employees still check it?

Please reply someone...

jessyratfink (author)  MorajMooper1 month ago

9 AM to 5 PM typically.

Yes, we'll still check it! Lots of folks always enter the last night, so we always check the entries Tuesday morning to make sure everyone gets in.

makendo1 month ago

No sponsored contests any more? This seems a big move given that, well, most of the current contests seem to be sponsored. No more Epilog? Or would these class as sold/branded?

Kiteman makendo1 month ago

I believe that the difference is that "sponsored" means that the company just provides the prizes.

A "sold" contest involves more financial commitment from the sponsor, in return for more control of the contest itself.

It won't change anything for authors, but it means less cold-calling of companies from the editorial staff.

jeanthepig1 month ago

How long does it take before a contest entry appears? I entered the retro contest 5 days ago and received an acceptance but it does not appear on the contest page.

Thanks for your reply to my previous question! My Instructable was just approved (and subsequently featured)!

I have another question. I read in the contest rules that entrants may not vote for their own entries. While trying to export a link to the vote button, I accidentally voted for my Instructable. I promptly unvoted. I was a bit surprised that this would even be possible given that it is not allowed in the contest rules. Should I be worried about potential disqualification?

jessyratfink (author)  supercapacitor2 months ago

The official rules are to be taken with a grain of salt - they are full of very strong statements that cover our butt but those statements are not always upheld as law. :) That particular part is not something that we enforce, but more of a reminder to contestants to play fair.

We have so many entries that we could not possibly enforce it, plus I don't think it's the end of the world voting for yourself and adding one more to your count. :D

Okay haha, thanks!


I entered an Instructable into the Green Design Contest around 11:59pm (EST). The contest closed about an hour ago at 11:59pm (PT). I've read the Contest FAQ and the How It Works section of the Green Design Contest page, and I understand that it is the date of submission rather than the date of approval that determines an Instructable's eligibility. After submitting the Instructable, I received an email confirming its receipt.

I was wondering, is there anywhere I can go to see a list of my Instructables that have been entered in contests? Alternatively, should there be anything on the Instructable's page indicating that it has, in fact, been entered in a contest?

Also, though I'm sure this was addressed, how will I be notified of my Instructable's acceptance/rejection?

jessyratfink (author)  supercapacitor2 months ago

Regarding seeing your instructables that have been entered in contests:

Right now there's no way for you to see every instructable you've entered into a contest. You can see the current ones that are entered by accessing them via your "you" page and heading to the bottom.

Contests that are still open or open for voting with display a vote banner on your instructable as well.

We only record past contest entries on author's profiles and instructables if they won something - that comes in the shape of achievement patches on an author's profile and a medal on the instructable that won the contest :)

And yep! You'll get a deny or accept email letting you know what happened to your entry.

At the bottom of your "You Page" there is a section for ibles that have been accepted into contests. If you don't see it there, it has not gone through the moderator and been accepted yet. You can also look for the "Vote" flag in the upper right corner of the ible itself. Of course, this method doesn't work if you know it has been accepted into one contest but not another. You will also receive an email from the moderator indicating that your submission has been accepted rather than just received. It sometimes takes a bit of time for it to go through the miderator and show up as entered. Good luck!

Vyger2 months ago


I have talked with a few other members and we are a bit confused about editing instructables already entered into a contest.

So the question is --- What is allowable in terms of making modifications to projects and/or editing instructables once they have been submitted for a contest? For example, if I discover a better way of doing a certain step and modify the instructable (and the project) to reflect that does that make it ineligible for the contest it was entered into?

jessyratfink (author)  Vyger2 months ago

You can make any modifications you want to an Instructable that's already entered! We get so many entries that there's absolutely no way we'd be able to police it even if we wanted to - but it's never something we want to discourage.

Improvement is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. :)

However, I must caution you: it's best to get those changes done before voting closes. The voting period matters the most because that's the time that we start looking into picking finalists.

Another slightly related caveat: don't publish a mostly empty instructable and try to fill it after the contest ends. We're starting to see this happen more often, always with a promise that updates are coming. You can never tell when we'll be reviewing it as a possible finalist, so chances are you'll get overlooked going about it that way. We are currently looking at 50-300 entries per contest, so anything incomplete doesn't stand a chance these days!

Thank you for this question - I'm adding it in! :)

Mojo_JoJo2 months ago

When you ship prizes that require mains voltage (e.g. 110V AC 60Hz) to a foreign country like say India do you check to ensure they work in that country's mains supply (e.g. 220 V AC 50Hz) ? else it would be practically useless. what happens if the prize is not available at all in a different mains voltage?

Great question. Just send us an email at with your username, contest won, prize, and the voltage of the country you are in.

that is a good question by Mojo_JoJo... I live in India and just received the first prize in Jewelry contest, a Variable-speed Mini Drill Press, which runs on 110 volts. Now I am trying to find out an adapter from 230 to 110 volts

nerfrocketeer3 months ago

Haha, "I entered three minutes ago!"

This is very useful, thanks for the info.

sunshiine3 months ago

This is super awesome information! Thank you Jessy!