When restrictions and lockdowns first hit in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic last Spring, we saw lots of fantastic examples of support within the creative community. From free software to online lessons for kids, countless groups and individuals offered their talents and services for free. And with many restrictions back in place over winter, many of these resources will be just as useful now in 2021.
Below are just a few of our favourite online resources and services still available for free during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as some new examples that have popped over the last few months. You'll find everything from creative software and drawing lessons, to free books colouring templates.
Some things here are aimed specifically at artists and designers, while others are simply designed to help you manage being stuck at home. Whatever situation you're in right now, you'll find something here to help make life a little brighter.
There are a number of companies offering services for free in an attempt to support creatives financially. Here are all the current offers:
Free Affinity apps from Serif
Serif has relaunched its offer of 90-days free access to Affinity Designer, Affinity Publisher and Affinity Photo. And at the end of the trial, should you wish to purchase the software, you can do so for 50% off the retail price. We thought this was a brilliant deal last year, and it's great to see it return.
Free art classes
A number of artists have taken to doing regular online tutorials as a way to help creatives develop their skills and keep kids busy while they're at home. Here's a list of all the ones we've heard about so far:
Art is where the home is
Firstsite gallery in Colchester brought together a crack team of well-known UK artists for a series of downloadable activity packs called Art is Where the Home is. Those artists include Grayson Perry, Annie Morris, Jeremy Deller and Antony Gormley, to name a few, and the activity packs are all available to download for free. Head to Firstsite's website for details.
Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems
Author and illustrator Mo Willems has created a series of brilliant Lunch Doodles videos, perfect for snatching a creative moment at lunchtime. The whole series can be found on YouTube.
Draw with Rob
One of the runaway successes of last year was Illustrator Rob Bidduph's draw-along lessons. And in great news for kids and parents alike, Rob has decided to relaunch the series. Every Saturday at 10am Rob will be sharing a new video, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the same time he'll share one from the archives. Even if you don't want to join in, we urge you to take a look at the fantastic submissions so far, which are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Schools may be closing for a bit, but I’m still here to help with art lessons. As well as the usual (brand new) Saturday #DrawWithRob videos, I’ll also be posting one from the archive every Tuesday & every Thursday at 10am. It’ll be just like old times! We can do this, team... 🙌 pic.twitter.com/qGPlBz2453January 3, 2021
Amazing Design People
A little different to the above resources, this fantastic new platform has been created to address the design industry’s diversity issue. The Amazing Design People list was created in April 2020 by two designers as a platform that helps young designers level up their skills, meet and receive mentorship from senior designers, and find new job opportunities.
"Designers who are Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOCs) have traditionally been underrepresented in the design industry," the team says in a press release. "Like in many sectors, COVID-19 has only exacerbated these inequities." The ADP list promises to connect designers, especially those who are POC, with needed mentorship and community.
Free colouring templates
Looking for something meditative? There's nothing quite like getting lost in a session of calming colouring in. Lots of illustrators are offering free templates for printing, or even a touch of digital colouring.
Colour for Calm
Glasgow-based illustrator Claudine O'Sullivan is offering a free PDF of seven different illustrators (six animals and one cityscape) which can either be printed and coloured, or used as a template for digital illustration. "Drawing has always been an incredibly calming escape for me," says O'Sullivan, "and I believe it can provide the same for others." Check out Colour for Calm here.
Squidoodle's free colouring sheets
Kent-based illustrator Steve Turner (better known as Squidoodle) is offering several free colouring templates on his website, including two designed specifically for the current situation. One is a message of support for the NHS, while another carries the hopeful message "We'll get through this!" surrounded by various items including books, headphones and a video game controller.
Audi's online colouring book
In one of the more unexpected offerings, car manufacturer Audi has posted a free colouring book PDF to its website, featuring various Audi vehicles in a number of exotic locations, from a majestic mountain range to... an Audi dealership store. Because why not?
Elsewhere, illustrators and authors took to social media to read their books aloud in daily story times. Many of these videos are still online, and are a great way for adults and kids to spend some time together.
The Gruffalo author's series of weekly broadcasts on the book's official Facebook page are back for 2021, featuring stories, songs and poems from her books. The latest video sees Donaldson read Tiddler, the story of the little fish with the big imagination, while illustrator Axel Scheffler draws characters from the much-loved book.
Author of the popular children's books, How to Catch a Star and Lost and Found Oliver Jeffers took to Instagram to offer daily readings titled Stay at Home Story Time. All recordings can currently be found on Jeffers' website.
If your stuck at home and want to get stuck in to a good book, there's plenty of free online libraries available.
- Free ebooks for designers: hone your skills with these 22 amazing resources for both beginners and pros
- Apple Books currently has a ‘stay at home’ collection of free read-alongs for kids and audiobooks
Remote working: the essentials you need
That's a long list of free resources to help keep you in all sorts of ways while stuck at home. If you need some kit to help with remote working, we've also got a number of super-helpful buying guides to help you choose the correct equipment for you. This bit isn't free, sadly, but our price comparison widget will make sure you get the best price possible. For more working from home tips, here's how to survive another day not at the office.
- The best office chair for your home office
- The best desks to keep you comfortable
- Laptop stands to keep you and your device cool
- The best student laptop