The best online art classes can be a very convenient way to perfect your skills, whether you're a complete beginner or an experienced artist looking to improve in specific areas. You can access them anywhere and you can often get started whenever you like.
We've curated a list of our top picks for various types of art and different levels and budgets (including free online art classes), and you can get started with them right away. Our picks include quality lessons on creating art using pencil, paint and pixels, all delivered by leading professionals.
Our top pick of the best online art classes is Drawing Essentials with Glenn Vilppu, which we think is a great guide to the fundamentals that all artists need to master, but we've also picked out options for specific needs.
If you can't find what you're looking for here, be sure to check out our how to draw tutorials, which cover a variety of subjects or our specific oil painting techniques guide. Not sure what online art class to go for? Head to the end of the list below for helpful tips and advice.
The best online art classes available now
01. Drawing Essentials with Glenn Vilppu
One of the world’s most famous art teachers, Glenn Vilppu instructs professionals at animation, game and film studios worldwide, as well as universities, art schools and private art academies. And the one problem he constantly comes up against is that many students walk into the class without knowing the fundamentals, such as how to hold a pencil correctly.
So this six-week course attempts to fill those knowledge gaps, and is aimed not just beginners but any artists, even professionals, who have never studied formally.
At $800, it’s not cheap, but bear in mind you won’t just be passively watching video lectures. The aim is to replicate the experience of attending a real-life art class; so you get your work critiqued weekly, alongside group discussion and the opportunity to get answers directly from Vilppu. You’ll also be able to see critiques of the other students as well, as would happen in a regular live class.
Once you're done, Vilppu also offers some world-class figure drawing classes on his site. He strongly recommends you don't jump ahead, and take this class first, however knowledgeable you think you are.
02. Drawing and Sketching for Beginners by Robin Slee
Right at the start of your journey, and want to know what all this art stuff is really about? This introductory-level class on Udemy is a great place to begin, and at $54.99, it's not such a huge financial commitment.
Tutor Robin Slee is a self-taught freelance digital artist and illustrator. On the course, Slee covers fundamentals like how to hold a pencil correctly and how to make marks. That might sound basic, but these are not actually intuitive things (as we mentioned in the previous entry, even experienced artists get them wrong), so it's pretty useful to nail them at this early stage. And Slee's instruction is clear, simple, jargon-free and easy to follow.
The course consists of over three hours of video content, segmented into 25 modules, accompanied by practical exercises for you to download. There's also a dedicated Q&A section where you can post your questions, ask for feedback, or share your results from the course.
03. Joseph Patric Daniels
Udemy has a wide range of online art classes from professionals, and those delivered by Joseph Patric Daniels are also good choices. How to Draw from Beginner to Master, How to Paint from Beginner to Master – Acrylic Painting, How to Paint from Beginner to Master and Oil Painting from Beginner to Master are all brilliant places to start.
Featuring comprehensive step-by-step instruction, the courses range from two to 21 hours and are suitable for all levels. The course fees range from $84.99 to $119.99 but are currently on sale for as little as $16.99. Bargain.
04. SmART School
These online art classes are a little different. Founded by Rebecca Guay, SmART School offers live classes in figure drawing for small groups. These are interactive online lessons given by industry pro artists such as Donato Giancola and Scott Fischer, as well as editors, directors, agents and gallery owners. They use GoToMeeting to provide assignment critiques, mentorships, hands-on drawovers in Photoshop, and Q&As with every student.
SmART School's prices range rom $495 to $2765.
Many free online art classes are of dubious usefulness or tend to focus on one very specific task, but not so these pre-recorded digital painting videos from founder Matt Kohr, which are organised like a school curriculum. Ctrl+Paint also offers premium video lessons from $10 that take you through basic foundation art skills.
06. Tucson Art Academy Online
Tucson Art Academy Online offers pre-recorded video lessons on pastel, oils, acrylic and watercolour from the likes of established traditional artists Laura Robb, Ken Auster and Sandy Scott, which you can access for 365 days.
With Self-Study (which costs $395), that’s all you get. If you choose the Online Mentoring option (for $595), you can ask the tutor questions.
07. New Masters Academy
The New Masters Academy offers online art courses for fine artists. Tutors include Steve Huston, Charles Hu and Kamille Corry. The Standard $36 per month subscription gives you over 5,500 hours of pre-recorded video lectures; the Premium $59 per month level allows you access to an online 3D reference library, live class DVRs and 50,000+ reference images. Then there's the upper tier, which adds in interactive live classes and two group coaching sessions per week for $149. These prices are billed annually, pay monthly at $49/$79/$149.
08. Ink Drawing Techniques by Yuko Shimizue
Yuko Shimizu is a Japanese illustrator based in New York City and a veteran instructor at the School of Visual Arts. In this online art class, hosted on the Skillshare platform, she offers a detailed guide to essential inking and drawing techniques.
Subjects covered include the differences between types of papers and inks; basic brush, nib, and ink techniques; Asian vs. watercolour brushes; and sketching and scanning essentials. In short, there’s a huge amount of ground covered in this 90-minute class, made up of 15 separate lessons, and everyone from the novice to the experienced inker will benefit.
You can’t actually buy the course separately; you’ll need a Skillshare subscription to unlock it. That will cost $32 a month (or $13.99 a month billed annually).
09. Draw and Paint Online: Beginner's Art by Peter Stanyer
Internationally renowned artist, author and tutor Peter Stanyer has taught art for over 20 years at many different levels in further and higher education. Aimed both at complete beginners and more experienced artists who enjoy recreational drawing, his online art classes will teach you the techniques you need to draw with confidence.
All the fundamentals are covered here, including mark making, tone, colour, shape, composition, perspective and more. Requiring around 30 hours of study, this class involves a number of assignments made up of carefully structured, practical, drawing or painting projects. With personal tuition and feedback from Stanyer thrown in as well, this course offers excellent value at just £148 for parts A and B – or $75 for the individual parts.
10. How to Paint: Absolute Beginners Acrylics Course with Will Kemp
Are you someone who “dreams of becoming an artist but keeps putting it off until you have more time?” If that’s you, then this relatively short and snappy art class could be the kick up the backside you need.
Over three-and-a-half hours, Will Kemp – an award-winning artist who’s studied in Italy, run his own art gallery and taught in museums and schools – explains the foundations of working with acrylics and why they're the simplest and most effective way for a beginner to learn to paint.
You learn about setup and materials, colour mixing, pigment choice, brush-handling and palette-knife techniques, as well as gels and mediums. Once that's out of the way, you're then encouraged to complete three paintings (a still-life, a landscape, and a seascape) using three different colour palettes.
This class is split over seven video lessons, which can be either streamed or downloaded. Kemp suggest you take time off for a “painting week”', in which you take a different lesson every day; alternatively, you might prefer to study one every weekend. He also includes downloadable reference material and although you won't get feedback on your work, at just £53, it's still a bit of bargain.
11. Mastering colour with Richard Robinson
Fine artist and teacher Richard Robinson asked his students to name the biggest stumbling block when it came to painting, and an astonishing 72 per cent said it was getting colour right. So in this two-part art course, which can be both streamed and downloaded, he explains everything you need to know, from how the brain sees and analyse colours, to the key to colour relationships. It may have a narrow focus, but it's still a strong entry in our list of the best online art classes.
The Mastering Color course is split into two parts, Mastering Colour one and Mastering Color two. Currently you can buy them both for $100 (at time of writing), or the second part for $55. If you're still not convinced, you can ‘try before you buy’ by viewing the first chapter free on the website.
12. Activate the canvas with Nancy Hillis
Fed up of making representational art, and want to walk on the wild side? This five-module, self-paced art class will guide you through your first steps in abstract painting. You'll discover how to experiment, loosen up as artist and unleash a brand new perspective on your art.
In each module, Nancy Hillis, abstract artist and psychiatrist, walks you through a systematic process for reflecting on your inner landscape and mindset. Included are a written lesson and between three and seven video demonstrations that walk you through ways of 'activating the canvas'.
The course costs $247 and there is a payment plan option. The course is suitable for both beginners and experienced artists; because it's not really about technique but unlocking your creativity. In return, “You'll learn exciting ways to create bold, raw, immediate and alive paintings by activating the canvas intuitively," says Hillis. This is a well deserved entry in the list of the best online art classes.
13. Figure Drawing Fundamentals with Stan Proko
Historically, art schools have always taught a systematic process for drawing people that can be applied to figures of any body type, set in any position. Running across 15 and a half hours of downloadable video, this class delivers exactly that.
One of our favourite best online art classes, it's taught by Stan Prokopenko, an accomplished fine art painter who works for the Watts Atelier school in California and shares his knowledge with millions online through both free YouTube videos and more weighty, paid-for courses like this one.
Aimed at both beginners and experienced artists looking for a refresher, this figure drawing class will teach you how to draw human figures by breaking down shapes into simple forms. You’ll learn about structure, gesture, balance, exaggeration, proportions, shading and more. And for just $109, you can't say fairer than that.
14. Painting portraits with Mark Carder
Mark Carder is a highly regarded artist who has painted commissioned portraits of two US Presidents and a US Secretary of State, among others. His best online art class demonstrates and explains the process of painting portraits using a photo as your source material.
Carder’s style is direct and to the point, with zero waffle and targeted advice throughout, covering how to photograph your subject, draw the face, blend fleshtones, work with a limited colour palette, match colours, and maintain a likeness throughout the process.
Some of the specific techniques Carder outlines are a little unusual, and the class doesn't cover how to draw a portrait from life. But if that doesn't put you off, these eight hours of downloadable videos, aimed at intermediate and advanced artists, are top quality, well structured, and offer fascinating insights from an artist at the top of his profession; all of which isn't bad for $100.
15. Charcoal Drawing with Aaron Blaise
Aaron Blaise spent 21 years of his life as an animator on such films as Beauty and the Beast, Lion King and Brother Bear, which he co-directed. He’s now left the movie business, but Disney’s loss is the art world’s gain, as he’s turned his hand to teaching digital painting. And it turns out he’s very good at it.
In this art class, Blaise creates a charcoal drawing of a lioness, in real time, across five hours and 30 minutes. He draws from a photograph, and you can download a high resolution version of this image, print it out, and follow along at home.
Blaise’s commentary is insightful, informative and really helps you follow what he’s doing. He always strikes the right tone: always helpful, never patronising, making this a strong entry in the list of the best online art classes.
You'll need some basic drawing skills to follow this class, so it’s not suitable for total beginners. But overall, this is a high-quality class for anyone wanting to get to grips with charcoal, wildlife drawing, or both. At time of writing there is a huge sale on this course, reduced from $45/£40 to just $5.
16. Computer Graphics Master Academy
Another tried and true brand in this list of the best online art classes, Computer Graphics Master Academy is focused on getting its students work in the animation, games and VFX industries, and to this end offers over 100 courses, from drawing basics to environment design. There are oodles of new courses for this year including Animation Foundation 101, Intro to Blender for Concept Art and many more.
These are taught by over 90 pros, including Mélanie Delon, Patrick J Jones, Armand Serrano and Aaron Limonick, who provide live feedback and one-to-one mentoring in a virtual classroom.
With over 900 students worldwide, CGMA provides a vibrant network for discussion and career development through its virtual classroom community.
Classes cost from $499 to $998 per course.
17. Visual Arts Passage
Visual Arts Passage has gone up our list of the best online art classes as it is a mentorship programme for students pursuing a career in the art industry that boasts live, interactive classes. Online classes are taught by award-winning mentors such as Viviane Kosty, Dale Stephanos, Katherine Lam, Lake Hurwitz and more. They also feature some of the biggest names in the industry as guest speakers such as Karla Ortiz, Afua Richardson, Thomas Blackshear, Raymond Bonilla, and more.
It offers a foundations course, and lessons in entertainment and game art, and illustration and aapplicants qualify for a one-on-one portfolio review.
Visual Arts Passage’s co-founder John English explains: "Students receive in-depth, one-on-one guidance from experienced artists in small classes. All lessons are delivered live and are fully interactive. Every student has a front row seat.
"Visual Arts Passage places art students on a track of challenging courses taught by working artists. This bridges the gap between the art student and the professional. We guide students from building foundational skills, all the way to crafting an industry-ready portfolio. It’s a map to the industry, paired with training by world-class professionals."
Classes cost between $499-$999.
18. CG Spectrum
CG Spectrum offers courses in animation, 3D modelling, concept art, visual effects, compositing and game design – it's one of the best online art classes that help students get the training they need for industry life.
Live lessons take place as either small group classes or one-on-one mentoring, and the pro mentors – who include Craig Elliott and Jake Collinge – stay connected with students throughout each week of their course.
Classes cost from $2,895 for a group class to $3,795 or more for a one-to-one class.
19. The Oatley Academy
Founded by former Disney artist Chris Oatley, The Oatley Academy of Visual Storytelling is one of our best online art classes because it specialises in real-time mentorships with a host of industry professionals that include Paul Scott Canavan, Brett Bean, Shaun Bryant and Jenn Ely.
Many graduates have gone on to become animation artists or illustrators, working for the likes of Disney, Marvel Animation and Cartoon Network.
Prices vary according to the guest mentor. Self-guided courses covering topics such as visual storytelling are also available – these cost $19/month or $209/year.
Gnomon is known as the MIT of visual effects, and its online courses provide the same academic rigour as its campus-based ones – making it a strong entry in our list of the best online art classes. Live classes by industry pros such as Ron Lemen and Dave Pasciuto take place once a week for 10 weeks and are available four terms per year.
Note that online courses are only open to artists living in California or outside the US, and cost from $993 to $1,323.
21. Learn Squared
Covering topics like matte painting and creature design, Learn Squared offers something a little different: pre-recorded videos in which one top industry artist – Aaron Limonick or Maciej Kuciara, say – instructs another in a discipline they’re unfamiliar with.
Depending on the payment level (between $99 and $500 per course), you also get access to videos, project files and mentorship from tutors.
California-based artist Stan Prokopenko offers both free video lessons on YouTube and paid-for courses in anatomy, figure drawing, portrait drawing and caricature via his website.
The latter consist of pre-recorded video lessons, assignment demos and examples, eBooks, critique videos and 3D models. He also offers personal critiques to premium members via email. Courses cost from $59 to $225 per course.
23. Watts Atelier of the Arts
Since 2013, the Watts Atelier college has made its art courses available online, at a basic level for $99 a month. This involves pre-recorded video lessons and PDF workbooks.
For $299 per month you’ll also get a weekly critique by a Watts trained pro artist, and for $499 per month, two 30-minute live video-coaching sessions and a weekly critique by one of the Watts Atelier instructors, which include Erik M Gist and Lucas Graciano. This may be listed lower down on the list, but it's still definitely one of the best online art classes out there!
How should I choose the best online art classes for me?
To choose the right online art class for you, take into account your current skill level – beginner, intermediate or advanced – as not all classes will be relevant to your level. Also, check who's teaching the course, and what their credentials are. That said, just because they're university-level tutors may not mean their classes are amazing, or vice versa if they're not; so it's always worth checking out the reviews and testimonials on their site. (If they don't have a section for these, that should set off alarm bells).
And of course, different art classes require different media. So check what materials you'll need, as this could significantly affect the overall cost of taking the course. It's also worth seeing whether videos are downloadable, whether coursework is provided, and whether there's an option to get feedback on your work from the tutors (That's unlikely to be the case with the cheaper classes, but for more expensive ones it's probably something you should expect).