The Best Online Animation Courses
The animation industry is experiencing a boom right now.
Even though the art form has been around for hundreds of years, new technology has made animation more prevalent than ever. More powerful software and computers mean that individuals can now create animations on their own that would previously have taken a whole studio to complete.
We now have more screens and more animation opportunities than ever. This means that if you’re an aspiring designer, learning animation is something you should definitely consider if you want to increase your career options, or even just flex your creative muscles. At the same time, if you just want to animate for fun as a hobby, it’s a pursuit that is rewarding and fun.
Learning how to animate on your own can be tough. There are many different digital tools and pieces of industry software that you can use, and animation is a diverse discipline with a number of different directions that you can go in depending on what type you want to specialize in.
You could teach yourself animation by diving headfirst into an app and watching some online tutorials, but a much better way to learn is by taking one of the many animation courses available online. There are a huge number of courses available, and being online means that you have an abundance of choice. Remote learning is flexible and also in many cases cost-effective; plus you get to learn from professional animators.
To help you find a course that suits your needs, we’ve created this handy list that covers all the main areas of the animation field.
Looking for online classes in animation? Here's what we recommend.
For a Good Foundation: 12 Principles of Animation with Justin Harrison
If you’re a complete animation n00b, or someone who knows a little and would like to brush up on your animation skills, then this course is an excellent place to start. Theoretically, you can get into animation without knowing the 12 principles of animation, but you’ll be putting yourself in a much better position to progress if you have a solid understanding of the basics.
This course covers the basic techniques like squash and stretch, timing, slow in and slow out, exaggeration and more. It explains how you can use these principles to breathe life into your animated characters and objects, and while they aren’t all there is to animation, they are the best place to start. It’s taught by Justin Harrison, who is currently the Associate Lead Animator at the behemoth Rockstar Games, so you’re in safe hands.
This course is best used in conjunction with the 3D animation software Maya, although you can use it with other 3D animation applications. It lasts just over two hours and costs $19, which means that it doesn’t require too much of either a financial investment or time. You can take the course through the developers, 3dmotive, or through Udemy.
For 3D Animation: Learn 3D Animation – The Ultimate Blender Guide
The open-source 3D animation software Blender is one of the most popular animation apps out there. As it’s free, it’s a great tool for learning how to create 3D models and animations. One of the drawbacks with the app is that it has a steep learning curve, and so it makes a course like this one even more relevant.
3D animation is growing in popularity and there are plenty of opportunities to work in the field. If you want to get into this area, then jumping into Blender in conjunction with this course will set you on the right path. You’ll get to grips with all of the Blender features and animation techniques and learn how to create 3D models and animations.
The course is taught by 3D artist and instructor Alex Cordebard and it lasts around 26 hours, so you know it has a lot of depth to it. One of the best aspects of the course is that you will work on hands-on projects throughout and actively practice the skills you are learning. At a price point of $139 dollars it’s not cheap, but it comes with lifetime access so you can go back to it and refresh your memory and hone your skills whenever you like.
For Mastering Maya: Maya for Beginners: Complete Guide to 3D Animation in Maya
Do you aspire to work in the film industry? Or would you like to be involved in making games? If your answer to either of these questions is yes, then you’re going to have to get to grips with Autodesk Maya. Maya is considered the industry standard software for 3D animation, and if you want to work at a high level in a professional environment and make feature films, then learning how to use this animation app is a must for your career path.
This course is a really hands-on experience, and you’ll learn how to use Autodesk Maya by actually creating a project with it. You’ll work on a scene inspired by Dia de Los Muertos (aka The Day of the Dead) where you animate a skeleton, which is actually pretty cool. The instructor for the course is Lucas Ridley, a professional 3D animator who has worked on many Hollywood productions, including Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.
In total, the course lasts for more than 25 hours and covers how to rig, texture, animate, model, use light, use dynamics, and render with Maya. You’ll learn how to build and design 3D objects; how to animate these objects with keyframes; how to add shading, lighting and texturing; how to rig a 3D character for animation; how to create dynamic special effects; how to construct a full 3D animation sequence, and more.
For Creating Characters: Simple Character Animation
When a lot of people get interested in animation, one of the first things they want to do is to be able to create and animate their own characters, and if bringing your own animated characters to life sounds like the exact kind of thing you want to do, then this course is a great place to learn the basics.
Simple Character Animation is taught by the award-winning director and expert animator Fraser Davidson and covers everything you need to know to get started. The course takes a step-by-step approach and uses a simple walking animation as the example for you to work from. You’ll even be able to export it as a GIF at the end.
You’ll learn how to use Adobe Illustrator to animate, and understand what key elements are needed for character design. You’ll also learn how to build and rig in After Effects for animation, and how to render your own projects when you have finished them. The total course length is around one hour, so it’s a good way to dip your toe into animation without investing too much time.
Pricing: You need a Skillshare membership to take this course
For Getting to Grips with CGI: Animation and CGI Motion
Ok, this course is quite advanced and you’ll need a good existing knowledge in a few areas in order to dive into it, but no one said making animations look crazy realistic was an easy feat. You know CGI from the movies, and if you want to know how to do it and how you can work in this area, then Animation and CGI Motion could be a solid first step.
It’s taught by Eitan Grinspun, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Columbia Engineering and the director of the Columbia Computer Graphics Group. He’s part of the team that have developed technology that has been licensed by giants like Pixar, LucasFilm and Disney for their animated films. The course lasts for 12 weeks and will take around 8 to 10 hours per week, so it’s not for the casual learner.
Before starting, you’ll need a knowledge of C or C++ programming, calculus and algebra. This might sound pretty heavy duty, but when you look at what you’ll learn in the course, you understand why it’s necessary. You’ll learn the fundamental concepts of physical simulation and practice coding using a physics simulator, plus learn about the algorithms and equations used in CGI animation. It’s heavy on the mathematics, but it then shows how these concepts are applied to create the movements of a dress in the wind, or how fluids flow.
Pricing: Free for limited access or $249 for full access
For Use with an iPad: Mixed Media Animation in Procreate
For drawing and for animation, the iPad is a great tool and there are a lot of apps out there that you can try out. The downside is that you’ll have to wade through a lot of tutorials or spend a lot of time figuring things out on your own in order to progress. This course from motion designer and animator Caroline Kjellberg can help you accelerate the process of learning to animate with an iPad by guiding you through the Procreate animation app.
Caroline has used storytelling animation in her work with brands like Beats by Dre and Adobe, so she knows a thing or two about creating animations that appeal to an audience. Using the Procreate frame-by-frame animation app, you’ll learn how to create a storyboard, shoot your own animation sequence, and how to design a looping animation using mixed media. The course takes just over eight hours to complete, so it’s fairly in depth.
What we like about this course is that it gives you an insight into how to work with clients, which is a skill that will really help you if you want to become a professional digital animator.
For Aspiring 2D Animators: 2D Animation for Beginners
If you want to learn the art of 2D animation, this course is an ideal place to start as it very effectively bridges between traditional forms of 2D animation production and more modern approaches. The course is taught by Jay Jackson, an experienced animator who has worked on classic animated films like The Little Mermaid and Tarzan.
This course is a little different to other ones on this list as it runs in seasons, so you can either join for a course starting in Spring or a course starting in Fall. The places are limited, and it runs in a workshop format across six weeks. You can follow the workshops at home in your own time, and then once a week there is a live meeting with your mentor, and the program also includes live Q&A sessions with Jay Jackson.
In this 2D Animation for Beginners course you’ll learn the basic principles and workflows of 2D animation, and then dive deeper into the key concepts of emotion and movement in animation. Through the classic exercises, you’ll also learn how to apply posing, timing and framing to 3D character animations.
You’ll need a digital painting device like a tablet to take the course, and an animation app like RoughAnimator or Harmony by Toon Boom. The course is on the pricier side, but the expert input and feedback provide the value for money.
We absolutely love the art of stop motion animation at Vectornator and believe it creates animations with a totally unique character and feel. Clay animation, cut-out animation and puppet animation are just some of the ways in which you can use stop motion. If you’d like to learn how to create your very own stop motion animations, then this course is the one for you.
Taught by animator Dina Amin, Stop Motion for Beginners covers everything you need to know to get started, including detailing exactly what equipment you’ll need in order to get started, and how you can go about generating creative ideas for your animation project. You’ll also learn about the laws and design principles of animation, and what you need to do to set everything up for your own animation.
The course uses the Dragonframe stop motion animation app, which is the industry standard for stop motion and the app used by many high-end animation studios, so you’ll need to invest in that as well in order to take the course. It also covers how to export your projects when they are done, and what post-production you can carry out too.
Pricing: You need a Skillshare membership to take this course
We hope this list has helped to inspire you to learn animation and given you the resources that you need to help you take the next steps.
Animation is a skill that we think any aspiring graphic designer should learn as part of their career development, and we hope you have fun on your journey.
Hey all you budding animation students, fancy brushing up on your drawing skills? Learn to draw on Vectornator via our latest tutorials. There's How to Draw Eyes, How to Draw a Bat, and How to Draw a Rose. Plus, we also have video lessons on the Vectornator YouTube channel!
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