Self teaching is a completely viable route for learning to draw and paint. There are so many great courses you can watch from your home computer that it’d be foolish to ignore this potential.
But there are way too many video courses online that promise to make you a great artist. The truth is that you need to make yourself a great artist; these videos can only act as guides. And with so many options to choose it can be tough knowing where to start.
This post specifically covers the best paid courses that can be streamed online or downloaded to your computer. There are plenty of free tuts on YouTube but this post will be looking solely at paid options for aspiring artists.
I cannot think of a better place to start than the Proko video courses. Stan Prokopenko is an accomplished fine artist who studied(and now teaches) at the Watts Atelier in California.
Stan publishes a few video series online teaching artists different techniques that he’s learned over the years. Every video is extremely high quality and I recommend you check out his YouTube channel for free video previews.
Every video he uploads to YouTube is free, but these free videos are only a small part of his full premium courses.
I started with the figure drawing course and still get immense value from those lessons. You can read my full review if you want more details. But this is the best course for beginners to start with because it teaches the basics of form and how to apply form onto the human figure.
When first starting these lessons I was skeptical. But after practicing them I have seen a tremendous improvement in my work, and it’s so easy that even a complete beginner could follow along.
Stan also has a full anatomy course which so far is exquisite. This may not be perfect for a beginner because it’s very detailed. But it is the best video course for teaching yourself human anatomy. I also did a full review of that course if you wanna learn more.
But every new Proko course has incredible recording quality and plenty of detail in the subject matter.
If you were to only learn from one premium course then Proko should be your choice. There are many other great options but Stan has a way with teaching that just makes sense and gets the message across to artists of all skill levels.
2. Aaron Blaise
Long-time Disney artist Aaron Blaise has his own series of courses teaching art & animation—and they’re worth every penny.
He worked on a number of animated films like Aladdin, Pocahontas, and The Lion King. He has a passion for drawing animals which you can tell by looking at his tutorial library.
Aaron has different video courses cheaper than others based on depth of information and number of video lessons.
Aaron’s lessons also veer into subjects like anatomy and digital painting. But he is a Disney veteran having worked in the industry for 20+ years. He knows how to animate and does it well.
If you’re looking to become a concept artist then Aaron’s videos may not be as useful. But if you have any interest in animation whether movies or TV then I highly recommend his growing library of video courses.
3. CGMA Classes
Most artists know about the CGMA online classes run through their website. These classes run at a fixed rate of $699/class which can be very steep for new artists.
But if you’re looking to focus on one specific topic then CGMA is likely worth the price. Every class is run online with personal critiques from the teacher. It operates like an online school with a spring, summer, fall, and winter semester.
You’ll find classes on everything from basic sketching, character art, environment design, lighting, painting, storyboarding, almost everything related to entertainment art.
The toughest part of getting in is having enough money and signing up before the classes get too full. There are only so many seats per semester and with master teachers like Peter Han it’s reasonable to expect a heavy load of registrations.
Again I’d like to say these courses are not geared towards complete beginners. Some have prerequisite skills you must understand before signing up.
And the more skilled you are the easier it’ll be to learn from each course.
Think about paying for CGMA once you’re a bit past the beginner’s stage. These courses will teach you a lot, but they’re also fast-paced and you need to be diligent since you’re studying by yourself over the Internet.
4. Pencil Kings
Professional artists from Marvel, EA, DreamWorks and other major studios all use Pencil Kings to sharpen their skills.
This site is great because it’s aimed towards everyone from complete beginners to professionals looking to expand their horizons. You can pick from dozens of courses teaching the absolute fundamentals of art, traditional drawing/painting, and modern digital painting for concept art & entertainment art.
This is practically a complete online art school at a significantly reduced price.
One great thing about joining Pencil Kings is 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 get direct critiques on your work, find advice for practice regimens, and connect with instructors to find out about any new courses coming in the near future. Pencil Kings is constantly updating their library so for the small monthly fee you get direct access to everything.
Currently their library has over 70 courses 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.
Take a peek at their site for a full list of courses and membership benefits. This is a cheap online course to demo for a month and there’s something here for absolutely everyone.
5. CG Spectrum
CG Spectrum is an online art school much like CGMA. But CG Spectrum/s courses are more in-depth and you can even pay extra for one-on-one classes.
This site is still geared towards entertainment art so you’ll find courses on digital painting, chraracter design, animation, 3D modeling and a lot more.
That’s one difference about this school from the others: it’s not 100% art-driven.
Instead it’s entertainment industry driven with the goal of teaching you the stuff you need to land a job.
Each course includes Q&A’s with the instructors and detailed video lessons. Most courses run for a few weeks but others offer diploma programs where you’ll have a full year’s worth of course material. Talk about intense!
If you go with any of their courses you’re pretty much guaranteed to improve as an artist. Plus CG Spectrum is a great way to build connections with artists in your class and even instructors. Who you know is huge in the art world.
Unfortunately I can’t say that absolute novice artists will find much in CG Spectrum’s course load. It’s more for artists who already know some fundamentals and want to push forward in one area like concept art. In that case CG Spectrum will take you from a meager artist to a professional in no time.
Worth the money? Absolutely.
Just make sure you read up on their website before joining so you know what you’re getting into.
So these are the top 5 digital courses I think offer the most value, especially for aspiring entertainment artists.
Too many sites out there offer junk repetitive content that simply isn’t worth the money.
Places that I would avoid are Lynda, Udemy and Skillshare. None of these sites are horrible. But they’re much better at teaching digital design/software courses rather than art courses.
Either way I hope this list helps artists on their journey of growth and self-improvement. The most important thing is to just keep practicing and never give up.