Building and signing transactions

Transactions vary in complexity, depending on their intended outcomes, but all transactions share a number of attributes:

  • Input - contains funds that are spent by the transaction. It is simply the output of an earlier transaction. A transaction can have multiple inputs.

  • Output - determine where the funds go to. An output is given by a payment address and an amount. A transaction can have multiple outputs.

  • Payment address - an address that can receive payments, This is the only type of addresses that can be specified in a transaction output.

  • Payment and stake key pairs - sets of files containing a public verification key and a private signing key.

  • Time-to-live (TTL) - represents a slot, or deadline by which a transaction must be submitted. The TTL is an absolute slot number, rather than a relative one, which means that the –ttl value should be greater than the current slot number. A transaction becomes invalid once its ttl expires.

To create a transaction we need to follow this process:

  • Get the protocol parameters

  • Draft the transaction

  • Calculate the fee

  • Define the time-to-live (TTL) for the transaction

  • Build the transaction

  • Sign the transaction

  • Submit the transaction

Protocol parameters

Query and save the parameters in protocol.json

cardano-cli shelley query protocol-parameters \
--mainnet \
--out-file protocol.json

Draft the transaction

In the draft tx-out, ttl and fee can be zero. Later we use the out-file tx.draft to calculate the fee

cardano-cli shelley transaction build-raw \
--tx-in <TxHash>#<TxIx> \
--tx-out <Address>+<Lovelace> \
--tx-out <Address>+0 \
--ttl 0 \
--fee 0 \
--out-file tx.draft

Calculate the fee

Use tx.draft as tx-body-file. Witnesses are the amount of keys that must sign the transaction.

cardano-cli shelley transaction calculate-min-fee \
--tx-body-file tx.draft \
--tx-in-count 1 \
--tx-out-count 2 \
--witness-count 1 \
--byron-witness-count 0 \
--mainnet \
--protocol-params-file protocol.json

For example:

> 167965

Determine the TTL

When building and submitting a transaction you need to check the current tip of the blockchain, for example, if the tip is slot 4000, you should set the TTL to (4000 + N slots), so that you have enough time to build and submit a transaction. Submitting a transaction with a TTL set in the past would result in a tx error.

cardano-cli shelley query tip --mainnet

Look for the value of SlotNo

    "blockNo": 16829,
    "headerHash": "3e6f59b10d605e7f59ba8383cb0ddcd42480ddcc0a85d41bad1e4648eb5465ad",
    "slotNo": 369200

Therefore, if N = 200 slots

ttl = 369200 + 200
ttl = 369400

Build the transaction

This time we include all the paramenters:

cardano-cli shelley transaction build-raw \
--tx-in 4e3a6e7fdcb0d0efa17bf79c13aed2b4cb9baf37fb1aa2e39553d5bd720c5c99#4 \
--tx-out $(cat payment2.addr)+100000000 \
--tx-out $(cat payment.addr)+999899832035 \
--ttl 369400 \
--fee 167965 \
--out-file tx.raw


A transaction must prove that it has the right to spend its inputs. In the most common case, this means that a transaction must be signed by the signing keys belonging to the payment addresses of the inputs. If a transaction contains certificates, it must additionally be signed by somebody with the right to issue those certificates. For example, a stake address registration certificate must be signed by the signing key of the corresponding stake key pair.

cardano-cli shelley transaction sign \
--tx-body-file tx.raw \
--signing-key-file payment.skey \
--mainnet \
--out-file tx.signed


cardano-cli shelley transaction submit \
--tx-file tx.signed \