A few years ago, the only way to pursue arts or get an education in any art field was to go and physically attend a college, university or your local art schools. Not only was this process heavy on the pocket but it also meant that most of the times you would have to travel long distances or leave your home to pursue your passion. Art, being a field that is very diverse and stems from someone’s individual creativity and mind, does not always require you to go through the same process as other degrees. A lot of the people that had an interest in pursuing this field then had to let this dream go due to the unavailability of either funds or other resources.
Luckily, the idea of learning from online art schools is gaining a lot of popularity and interest. Many websites have popped up that allow you to get the required training and experience and to get access to the best art courses from the comfort of your home. These courses are for people that want to indulge their interest in arts or students looking for an opportunity to gain more experience. All these courses require a strong work ethic and the motivation to work diligently from home.
Which are the best online art schools?
The popularization of the concept of online art schools has led to various websites being made on the matter. We will discuss some of the sixteen best online art schools on the internet right now.
Run by Stan Prokopenko, this online art school is focused on teaching students the fundamentals of drawing using traditional techniques. Of course, all those principles are totally applicable in any medium you wanna use, digital, charcoals, pencil, etc… The courses are very entertaining and fun. I know this by personal experience because I took one of his courses myself. I made a full review of the course called “Personal Review of Proko’s Portrait Drawing Fundamentals Course”. My experience was in general quite good and if you are interested in the details of the course I recommend you to check the article.
One of the great advantages of Proko’s academy is many lessons are available to watch for free. When you’re ready, you can get the premium version of the course for extended lessons and extra features. Another advantage is to teach you how to draw with fun and informative lessons. Stan’s teaching philosophy is “When you’re having fun, you learn better”.
The CGMA, or, Computer Graphics Master Academy is a selective and specialized online art school that keeps its focus on teaching through structured learning and they more or less use the methodologies used at traditional art schools. The website specializes in three major courses; Foundation and Design, Character and Design, and Environment Design. All of these courses are great because they each begin with a foundation course and then take the viewer on a journey of categorically learning the material.
The masterclasses taken are done so in a particular order. This offers a method to the madness, allowing students to follow a learning pattern. The instructor list for this website is also very impressive such as character designer Nate Wragg and the prominent Dreamworks employee, who is Head of Story, Steven MacLeod.
For each of the three subjects, the entire course is designed to be covered in 10 weeks and costs a total of $699. The courses are designed to help in building successful careers in the entertainment industry. Some of the courses that are covered by students include character design for film and video games, environment design and building a personal brand.
The New Master’s Academy is an online platform that is gaining a lot of students because of its easy-to-use and easy access to nature. The courses on the website aren’t the cheapest, with $35/month subscription charges. The website offers a free trial for you to decide if this is the place for you which is a great way to get your money’s worth. There is a range of art fields in which you can get video lessons and you get access to all the courses after paying the subscription charges. The video lessons on this website range from Classic Sculpture and Creature Maquete Modeling to Figure Drawing and Painting.
The website is also known to hire some of the best-known names in the art and design industry. Some of the prominent instructors working with this website include Steve Huston and Glenn Vilppu. There is also an app that allows students to study the content on the go and hence, not miss any lectures. The interesting fact about this website is that is it an all-inclusive website. It offers courses for all learning stages, whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner. You are able to get instructions from masters and instructors and it provides you a forum to discuss and share ideas with people who are taking similar courses and gives an opportunity for all art enthusiasts to come together.
Schoolism is a recent initiative that has taken the online art world by storm partly because of its founder being the prominent Bobby Chiu who is a well-known and very well respected artist himself. Because of this, it has a collection of diverse instructors that promise the very best in online art education. The subscription charges for courses on this website are $29/month. How it works is that you get to choose what field of arts you want to study and you are able to access all the videos in that particular field. You have the option to change fields in the course of your subscription for a minimal fee.
As with the instructors in this online platform, the courses offered are diverse as well. You can get video lectures on any aspect on art studies, ranging from oil painting techniques, digital painting, and even storyboarding. With some of the best instructors uploading video lectures here, it’s no wonder this online platform is gaining viewers, fast. They have also set up various Facebook groups to allow students to participate in discussions and critique regarding the courses and work.
Hands down, the Gnomon Workshop is one of the best online platforms for learning visual effect training. The website was initiated in 1997 by the legendary Alex Alvarez. The idea behind this website is to give an opportunity for art, animation and 3D design enthusiasts to learn and explore their talent, directly from the comfort of their homes directly from the best of the best artists at Hollywood USA.
The courses in this website are designed such that they are taught live, through a very slick interface. They also offer the ability for webcam interface and screen sharing. The course is designed across 10 weeks and the cost ranging from $993 to $1323.
The courses are taught by big shots names such as Pascal Blanche who is a senior art director at Ubisoft Montreal and Craig Elliot the production designer at Sony Animations Productions. The website allows you to search up courses based on the software used, the digital design and entertainment design.
This website puts a new and different twist to the idea of online learning. With this website, the idea isn’t traditionally a classroom classes system, however, there are two professionals and one of them is teaching another. It is an interesting take on the traditional teaching methodology and is done so that people are able to see how everyone, even professionals, need to begin somewhere.
There is also an option of getting one to one help from your mentor. This is a step forward and is offered in a professional package where the student is able to get direct help and comments from the mentor. The website also encourages offers community options where people can get together and discuss courses and such. Both the courses and the instructors offer a diverse variety to the students. For each of the courses, the videos are divided into 8 weeks of courses. The courses are divided into three packages, starting from the Basic Package for $65 which gives lifetime access to a single course, the Learn Squared Package at $125 with the option to download files and get 10+ hours of video tutorials and the Professional Package for $500 that offer weekly mentorship session and homework review.
Jeff Watts has set up an unprecedented arts course that offers some of the best online courses at the comfort of your own home. The courses are based on the traditions of the masters and offer an opportunity to study the complete art of traditional drawing and painting. The course also offers step by step PDF books with each course that promise to make the learning for its students easier. The key factor about this course is that it allows its users to submit their artwork and get in-depth and comprehensive reviews about their work.
There are three subscription lines that can be taken, the first is the Drawing Access that focuses on the core foundations of the drawing and painting. It gives you over 100 hours of video lectures to go through and provides downloadable PDF booklets for ease of use. This course costs $99/month. The next package is the Painting Access that costs $199/month. This package focuses on painting tutorials with over 100 plus hours of footage and the ability to download PDFs and access online forums for students and instructors. The third type of package is the Full Access which costs $199/month. This package has 300+ hours of video tutorials and offers PDF downloadable booklets and Early Access to Masterclasses.
The SmArt School, or the Smart Arts School is an online school focused on illustration. Its distinctive feature is its amazing set of instructors such as Donato Giancola and Todd Lockwood. It also brings about a certain set of guest instructors. The founder of this organization is Rebecca Guay who is prominent because of her work on Magic: The Gathering.
The structure of the courses is such that it revolves around the idea of pre-recorded video lectures. These are delivered as live lectures which go live through the GoToMeeting feature and also allows space for some critique. These lectures mainly revolve around the idea of illustrations and teaching students about the very basics of the art through boot camp courses, starting from the very basics. The entire session at SmArt School costs about $2500. The course spreads across 3 months and is divided into 13 lectures which are easily manageable. This is good because people who have not had foundation courses for drawing can easily catch up and be able to stay on track with everyone else taking the course.
One of the most distinctive features about the website Ctrl+Paint is that unlike other various online learning websites, this website offers the digital painting foundations lectures for free and all the video lessons that you want to search up can be easily accessible through YouTube. There are comprehensive videos and lessons that start off by the very basic and charges about $10 to $15 for a course for the Premium Courses. There are various starters and other kits that allow the user to start from the very beginning.
The owner of this website is Matt Kohr, who began the different approach to online courses. The courses are accessible and can be used by artists of all stages, from the very beginning to the very advanced. The website focuses predominantly on digital painting and the lessons work in a chronological order from the very basic lessons and they get more advanced as they go along. Videos on the website are uploaded regularly and offer users a chance to keep learning and improving their skill.
Udemy is an online learning school with more than 9 million students worldwide. Their lessons and topics of study are multiple and their teachers usually are experts that contribute to the site. Basically, Udemy provides a platform to teachers and lecturers to showcase and promote their own lectures for a fee. A good portion of the lectures and courses you find in Udemy you can find it also in other similar platforms like Skillshare.
Regarding Udemy’s art courses we gotta say that instead academy’s like CGMA where you have full master or degree courses( compose of different small courses ), Udemy doesn’t provide this type of academy type studies. Udemy works more in small lectures or courses of specific topics. Aldo, you can also access to determinate small courses in Gnomon or CGMA, regarding certain topics, Udemy is all about that.
I got a full blog article written about the best courses and lectures for illustrators and concept artists on Udemy’s platform. The article is called “The Best Udemy Art Courses”. In this article, I will go in depth describing which courses are the best in different fields. From courses ranging from the base of figure drawing or how to paint characters to environment design and cell-shading rendering techniques.
The Udemy courses are very structured, divided into lessons of no more than 20 min. This helps to keep students attention span focus on the subject. Courses can range from one hour to several hours.
Skillshare is a similar platform to Udemy’s. Is based on independent courses that you can study separated. You can even find the same teachers and courses that you can find in Udemy. Both online schools work as platforms where teachers can upload and showcase their own courses to the millions of students on this platforms, looking for knowledge about certain topic.
So if both platforms work similarly, why choose Skillshare from Udemy or the other way around. Well, the main difference between both online schools is, meanwhile Udemy allows you to purchase each course one by one, Skillshare is subscription based. So, if you are interested in one course only I will recommend you to go to Udemy. But, if your goal is to have a good knowledge about artistic techniques, styles, etc… which needs it if you wanna pursue a career on the field, I will go for the Skillshare option, because it will be way cheaper than Udemy.
Aldo is true, Udemy and Skillshare, have similar courses and teachers on their catalog, Skillshare has exclusive courses Udemy doesn’t have.
Another point of difference is Skillshare courses looks like are more project-based, being more shorter and usually will focus on giving you a task to complete, so you will learn during the process. Courses can go from 15 min. to several hours depending on the topic, the assignment and the instructor’s methodology.
Names like Lois Van Baarle, Sergio Paez or Francis Vallejo are attached to this project. You will find some interesting courses here for a quite affordable price. I think is more than a fair treat to be taught, for a cheap price, by artist who have been working for the last years with some top studios like Marvel, Dreamworks, EA, Activision, etc…
Their library of courses focuses on topics like anatomy, construction, character design, interior design, and pretty much everything you’d ever want to learn about concept art. But Pencil Kings has lots of courses on related entertainment fields like comics, animation, visual development, and general illustration art.
Another good thing about Pencil Kings is the possibility of getting access to their premium art forum. It’s only for paid members and it’s full of artists from all backgrounds & skill levels.
You can have critiques and comments about your work by the artist and teachers on the forum, which will help for sure to shorten your learning curve.
CG Spectrum is an online art school focus on visual arts for Games, Film and Publicity. Their courses go from VFX to Animation and 3d modeling. Regarding the Concept art side, which is more close to our interest, here in this blog, they have a couple of good instructors teaching classes there. The first one is Craig Elliot, who has been involved in the visual development of animation blockbusters like Mulan, Bee Movie, Rio, The Lorax, etc… The other Concept artist teaching there is Brandon Reimchen who has been working in the past for video game heavy hitters like EA, Activision, Capcom, Gree, and Disney Interactive.
CG Spectrum was founded on the principle that students learn best through personalized, hands-on education taught by industry professionals who specialize in the discipline they are teaching. By giving students access to some of the most talented artists in the industry as their mentors, this helps ensure that CG Spectrum students are the best connected, best trained and best prepared for life beyond school in their respective fields.
Their mentors meet students from around the world online for small classes or 1-on-1 specialized industry diploma courses. This personalized education gives their students an advantage, by allowing them to network with artists of major studios, regardless of their geographic location.
In addition to the unique 1-on-1 approach to training, CG Spectrum mentors spend a majority of their time working within the student files to show them how they would approach their work as a professional. This allows students to quickly adopt professional workflow and reach a higher standard at a faster rate.
The Academy is named after his creator and main teacher, Glenn Vilppu. Glenn is a veteran artist and teacher in the Beauty Arts field, with almost 50 years of experience. His name is one the most recognizable as a traditional arts teacher and he has been involved in several academies in the past.
Vilppu Academy is the online version of the drawing courses taught around the world by Glenn at Animation, Game and Film studios as well as Universities, Art Schools and private Art Academies.
The lessons consist of video lectures, demonstrations, examples, and critiques of each student’s work weekly, as well as group discussion and the opportunity to get answers directly from Glenn. The student will have the ability to see the critiques of the other students as well, as would happen in a regular live class. Each course is a sequential series of lessons that build one upon the other.
The web page academy has also an art supplies store, where you can get the same materials Glenn is using in the video lessons. Last time I checked, the store was under construction but most probably it will be running and working soon again.
The Gumroad’s business model is not based of an online art school like CGMA or Gnomon, but over the past couple of years, Gumroad has become the de facto place to go for art tutorials.
It was started as a space for creative types to share and sell their work, but more recently has been heavily adopted by professional concept artists, illustrators, and 3D modelers as a space to sell their own tutorials. So in that sense works as an online platform for artist to showcase they courses and lectures.
Gumroad doesn’t offer up a syllabus or comprehensive series of lessons in the manner of the other art schools discussed here, nor does it offer anything in the way of classroom support or feedback outside of email. Instead, it functions as a pathway directly into the minds of your favorite artists.
If we compare it to Udemy or Skillshare, Gumroad lacks the structured lessons and courses you can find on the first two. Also, Gumroad doesn’t have an audience of 9 million students, like Udemy has, looking on the platform every day for the right course for them. The strength of Gumroad lays on the fact that students come to their courses, through the teacher’s webs and portfolios, so in that matter only acts as support web for the display of the courses and lectures.
Prices and quality can vary wildly but are typically around $3-$20. Think of Gumroad as a nice way to supplement a more complete course.
Lastly, I will like to include my own blog as a learning platform. This blog teaches to art enthusiasts how to start from the very basics and make their way across. The author of this blog is obviously me, Toni Justamante. I’ve been in the business for eight years, working in the video game industry and for editorials. Some of my clients include Games Workshop, Kunlun games, and Gameloft.
The idea behind this blog is to answer some the very basic questions that artists that just start off have. I hope, that through this blog posts I will be able to pass on my knowledge and experience to people just starting off in this industry. Each of the blog posts has easy to understand language and directions followed by pictures and step by step guides to make things easy and fun for the readers. Majority of the videos on the website are how-to videos and the website allows you to get in touch with me and ask for particular blog posts, via the comments section on each post. This blog also covers the best kind of art supplies and material that you should get.