With the unlimited possibilities of the internet the world is changing at a rapid speed making some things that used to be the norm, a thing of the past. One of them is the necessity to finish art school in order to have a successful art career. As a person who has learned everything on my own, I have spent some good amount of time searching the internet for sources of practical knowledge to help me advance my painting and drawing skills. Here is a list of some of the best online courses for learning digital as well as traditional art at home, without having to pay for an expensive art degree.
Schoolism offers a variety of courses taught by well-known professionals such as Craig Mullins, Nathan Fowkes, Stephen Silver, Terryl Whitlatch and many more. It is also very affordable – a subscription costs $29.95 per month and includes video lessons and assignments that you can do at your own pace. You can switch between courses at any time, so basically you have access to all of them for one subscription. You can also enroll in a critiqued session for $998 and get personalized feedback from the teacher for each assignment you complete. There are courses covering the fundamentals (such as color, composition and drawing), character design, storyboarding and even 3D sculpting, so anybody can find something to suit their needs. I recommend them to digital painters, animators and concept artists who want to get a better chance at breaking into the art industry or just level up their skills.
Schoolism also organizes live workshops in different cities around the world and they are an absolutely great experience. Not only you can learn from the professionals but also meet fellow artists and make great connections (even get a job offer). I have taken part in two workshops, in 2017 and 2018, taught by amazing illustrators such as Nathan Fowkes, Crash McCreery, Kim Jung Gi and Bobby Chiu (the founder of Schoolism). I can’t express how inspiring and educational these events were for me. If you have one happening in your area this year, definitely consider going!
2021 UPDATE: Due to the COVID19 situation Workshops are now online. You can buy tickets to be able to watch from home or premium tickets to be able to take part in them (paint along and get a portfolio review).
If you’re interested in some free advice and lessons about painting, check out Bobby Chiu’s YouTube channel with lots of podcasts and interviews to listen to.
- Subscription based
- $29.95/month for self-paced learning
- $998 for a course with assignment critiques
- Live workshops
Ctrl+Paint has a huge library of free video tutorials about digital art aimed for beginner and intermediate artists. You will find lessons covering the fundamentals, as well as practical tips on using Adobe Photoshop for painting – useful techniques with various tools (the brush tool, the lasso tool, smudge etc.), shortcuts to speed up your workflow and more.
Ctrl+Paint tutorials are explained in the shortest and easiest way to understand. Matt Kohr, the creator of the website is also the instructor in all of the videos. He has a pleasant voice and an amazing talent for teaching – he can make any lesson clear and simple and you will find your understanding of digital art deepen with each of his videos.
In the store section of the website you can purchase special tutorials for $10 each or in bundles for $55 per one. These cover topics such as sketching, rendering, coloring and designing more in-depth and are definitely recommended for every beginning digital artist. They are also quite cheap for the value they offer!
- One-time payment
- Starting from $10 per course
- A huge base of free tutorials
3. Gnomon Workshop
The Gnomon Workshop launched as a means to share professional techniques with artists unable to attend the on-campus courses offered at Gnomon – School of Visual Effects, Games + Animation in Los Angeles, California.From the Gnomon Workshop About page
As advertised, it does offer a big library of courses taught by various industry professionals, such as Iain McCaig (concept art for Star Wars and Harry Potter), David Finch (Marvel and DC comics), Maciej Kuciara (Naughty Dog, Universal, Wizards of the Coast), Raphael Lacoste, (Ubisoft), Scott Robertson and Terryl Whitlatch (Lucasfilm, Pixar, Disney) to name a few.
Most of the tutorials are focused on digital painting and 3D modeling so I would recommend the workshop to artists who wish to work in the game and movie industry. A monthly subscription costs $49 and a yearly subscription $490.
One of the great things about this workshop is that they host challenges on their facebook page. The first price is a yearly subscription to the workshop, so if you take the time to create a kickass entry, you will have a chance to learn all the lessons for free. If you take the 2nd place you will get a 6-month subscription, if 3rd – 3 months.
- Subscription based
- $49/month or $490/year
- Win a challenge and get a free subscription
Proko is a website dedicated to teaching anatomy, figure drawing and caricature, created by Stan Prokopenko. His YouTube channel has over one million subscribers and is full of short and humorous video lessons taught by Stan himself, as well as interviews he did with other artists. On his website, you can view all free YouTube tutorials he has created as well as buy access to courses teaching anatomy and fundamentals of drawing. Premium videos are downloadable so you can view them without access to the internet and basically keep them on your PC forever. It’s a one-time payment and there are no subscription options.
Proko’s mission is to teach by humor. I really love the creativity he puts into his videos and his effort to make the lessons entertaining as well as educational. If you want to get better at drawing anatomy, definitely check out his YouTube channel and consider investing in his courses!
- One-time payment
- Free tutorials
- Pose packs
5. The Art of Aaron Blaise
Aaron Blaise is a professional animator who spent over 20 years working at Disney on their best feature animations. He has animated characters such as Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Jasmine and her tiger Rajah in Aladdin or Pocahontas in Pocahontas. He specializes in drawing and animating animals and fantasy creatures. On his website he offers courses teaching animation as well as digital painting. You can also find many brush and texture packs for Photoshop, some of them for only $5.
He has a YouTube channel where you can watch course previews, live demos and painting time lapses. Just check those out first and see how much there is to learn from his experience.
His courses are definitely great for artists who wish to pursue a career in animation or just learn to animate as a hobby. I also recommend them to everybody who loves drawing animals or creatures and wants to learn how to make them look dynamic and alive in their work.
- One-time payment or a monthly subscription
- Starting from $10 per tutorial
- $18/month for a subscription (streaming only)
- $185/year for an annual premium membership with all video content available for download
- Photoshop brushes and textures
CG Master Academy is a great online alternative to an art school where you can learn from top industry professionals who work for the biggest game, movie and animation companies in the world. You can enroll in one of many courses they offer in categories such as 2D art, 3D art, VFX, Games, Software or Storytelling. The courses last from 4 to 10 weeks and cost $699. If you are ready to commit to a more complex learning experience, you can choose a track and complete a series of courses in your chosen artistic field. Each course is pre-recorded but you will need to submit assignments every week to which you will receive personalized feedbacks from your teacher. Their academic year is divided into four terms and each term you can enroll in a wide variety of their classes so even if you missed a chance to register on time, you can always wait a few months for the next term.
CGMA is a great choice for people who don’t want or aren’t able to enroll in an art school but still want to raise their skills to the industry standard level and possibly get hired for one of the big studios. As advertised on the website, some CGMA graduates succeeded at getting job positions at companies such as Blizzard, EA, DreamWorks, Google and Naughty Dog.
- One-time payment
- Starting from $699 per course
- Instructor feedback for each assignment submission
- Live Q&A
- Four terms a year with classes to choose from
- Certificate of completion after finishing each course
7. New Masters Academy
New Masters Academy is a subscription based website with a huge library of drawing and painting courses. What makes it different from the other online schools is that this one is all about traditional art.
The website was founded in 2012 by Joshua Jacobo along with a core group of instructors that includes master draftsman Glenn Vilppu, figurative painter Steve Huston, monumental sculptor Ed Fraughton, and Disney art director Bill Perkins.From New Masters Academy About page
You can get access to all courses by subscribing for $39 per month or pay up front for a whole year at a price of $35 per month. All courses plus an access to their 3D interactive model gallery and a library of reference images will cost $49 per month or $44 if you pay annually. As with any subscription based service you loose access to the content once you end your subscription. For those with a bigger budget who want something more personalized the website offers coaching plans starting from $99 to $949 per month. You can get assignments, portfolio reviews, critiques of your artwork and even one-on-one meetings with one of the master teachers.
The master teachers at NMA are highly experienced art veterans who have a tremendous amount of knowledge to pass on to the next generations. You won’t find tutorials on the newest industry techniques but you will learn the unchanging fundamentals of fine art – which any artist, digital or traditional should know in order to get to a professional level.
- Subscription based
- Starting from $35/month
- 3D interactive model gallery
- Reference images
- Coaching plans starting from $99/month