Did you ever want to be an artist growing up?
Maybe you reached that goal and work in graphic design but for some of us, maybe we didn’t possess the natural skill or talent that the best artists in the world have. Thanks to the wonderful world of the internet, those dreams of being an artist can be real again with online courses.
While there are many great classes out there, one thing that we wanted to focus on was the classes we chose for our list of the best drawing/illustration courses online was the quality of the classes. While all these classes might not be free, many do offer free trials and are short enough where you could take the course for free.
If you’re looking to learn illustration online, check out these top free illustration courses as well as some premium course offerings.
The 10 Best Free Illustration Courses Online
We know that any list out there for the best courses online is going to have subtle differences. We get that. However, when we looked at what was out there, these stood out to us.
Just as a reminder, while there is a fee for some of these classes, many of the sites offer free trials, and with their short length, you may be able to complete them during the trial.
- The Beginners’ Illustration Masterclass (Udemy) (Editor’s Choice)
- Make Things Make Money: The Business of Illustration and Lettering (Creative Live) – $19
- Character Illustration: Drawing Faces, Figures & Clothing (Skillshare) – 2 weeks free then $99/year
- The Complete Drawing & Painting Illustration Course (Udemy) – $95
- Pen and Ink Illustration: The Basics for Creating Magical Drawings (Skillshare) – 2 weeks free then $99/year
- Digital Illustration for Beginners in Adobe Illustrator (Udemy) – $95
- Illustration & Inspiration: Keeping a Sketchbook (Skillshare) – 2 weeks free then $99/year
- Digital Illustration: Doodles to Designs (Skillshare) – 2 weeks free then $99/year
- Illustrating Characters and the Stories They Tell (CreativeLive) – $34
- Adobe Illustrator: Vector Illustration from Scratch (Domestika) – $12
Also check out all of Udemy’s free Adobe Illustrator Courses & Tutorials Online.
8 Best Free Illustration & Drawing Course Providers Online
Below we’ve shared the top 10 reputable online illustration course providers to start teaching yourself illustration and drawing.
- Skillshare (Two week free trial then $10/month)
- Coursera (more in-depth)
- Shaw Academy
- Creative Live
- Graphic Design School
More Top Course Compilations
- 10 Top Design & Illustration Courses on Domestika
- Top 15 Most Popular Courses on Domestika
- 10 Best Logo Design Courses
- 25 Best Packaging Design Courses
How to Teach Yourself Illustration & Drawing
Becoming an illustrator does not have to be done at school. In fact, if you follow the below steps and enroll in a free illustration course, you will be well on your way to becoming a professional illustrator.
- Understand the core principles of illustration (see courses below)
- Ground yourself with the history of graphic design (this book is essential)
- Familiarize yourself with the illustration process & solving problems creatively
- Consider advanced study & development (either online or at school)
- Learn from professional illustrators
- Develop your proficiency, intuition, and flow (your process)
- Put together an illustration portfolio and blog
- Participate in professional artist communities
- Diversify your skillset (enroll in more courses)
- Find work as a freelance illustrator
Free Graphic Design Software Trials + Adobe Creative Cloud Discount
If you’re learning illustration, you should know that Adobe provides the industry-standard graphic design software for creative professionals.
Adobe offers a subscription service called ‘Creative Cloud’ which gives you access to several powerful design applications including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and more.
- Download a free Photoshop trial for PC, Mac, or iPad now
- Download a free trial of Illustrator for PC, Mac or iPad now
10 Free Online Illustration Courses & Classes – 2021
The Illustration Masterclass (Udemy) – $95 (Editor’s Choice)
Skill Level: Beginner | Length: 4 hours of on-demand video and articles | Downloadable resources: Yes
A beginner-level course that is described as a quick and easy way to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Gimp to master digital illustration. The Illustration Masterclass, offered by Edu Evolution provides students with three hours of on-demand video plus 19 articles and numerous downloadable resources. The course covers certain topics such as how to use royalty-free or copyrighted images in your work and at the end of the course, students receive a certificate of completion.
Make Things Make Money: The Business of Illustration and Lettering (Creative Live) – $19
Skill Level: Beginner to intermediate | Length: 5 hours of on-demand video | Downloadable resources: Yes
Taught by Dina Rodriguez, a commercial artist, and professor at Pacific Northwest College of Arts, the Make Things Make Money course is a great course for anyone with a passion for drawing and illustration and is looking to turn that passion into money. Through the 29 lessons in almost five hours of on-demand video, Rodriguez will give you a basic understanding of how to take your passion and turn it into a part- or even full-time business. The course will teach you how to use social media to attract clients, discover your process for landing a job as well as learn what to charge.
Character Illustration: Drawing Faces, Figures & Clothing (Skillshare) – $99/year
Skill Level: Intermediate | Length: 1 hour of on-demand video | Downloadable resources: No
With more than 32,000 students taking the Character Illustration: Drawing Faces, Figures & Clothing course, professional comic artist and illustrator Gabriel Picolo must be doing something right. Creating memorable characters is a skill that you can use time and time again, adding that certain something to an otherwise bland story. This course teaches you how to do that and help the character grow. Through the course, you will even learn how to give personalities to these characters and bring them to life. The course goes over figure movement and poses, the four core facial expressions, proper use of color, textures, clothing, and more, and finally how to give your character emotion and personality.
The Complete Drawing & Painting Illustration Course (Udemy) – $95
Skill Level: Beginner to advanced | Length: 12 hours of self-paced on-demand video | Downloadable resources: Yes
Sometimes, the best classes take you from beginner to an advanced student, and with The Complete Drawing & Painting Illustration Course, you can do just that over the 12 full hours of videos that are on-demand so you can study at your own pace. Learning the basics of pen & ink, graphite, watercolor, and other media will help you advance as you work on 20 different projects during the course. Taught by Jaysen Batchelor, a professional freelance artist, illustrator, and designer, The Complete Drawing & Painting Illustration Course is one of his newest classes, and while at the end, you receive a certificate of completion, the access you have to ask Jaysen questions plus an online community of former students makes this course worth the price.
Pen and Ink Illustration: The Basics for Creating Magical Drawings (Skillshare) – $99/year
Skill Level: Beginner | Length: 30 minutes | Downloadable resources: Yes
Taught by Yasmina, an established artist in ink and watercolor, the Pen and Ink Illustration: The Basics for Creating Magical Drawings course can be very helpful for illustrators just beginning or a little more advanced. The pen, ink, and paper are the classic tools that illustrators have always used and this course will teach you which supplies to get, how to do hatches and crosshatches, as well as textures and patterns. While the course is on the short side, the information and downloadable resources provide you with untold value.
Digital Illustration for Beginners in Adobe Illustrator (Udemy) – $95
Skill Level: Beginner to intermediate | Length: 2 ½ hours of on-demand self-paced video instruction | Downloadable resources: Yes
Concentrating on Adobe Illustrator, the Digital Illustration for Beginners in Adobe Illustrator course teaches you that professional illustrations and vector drawings are within your reach. Taught by Moy Lobito, a professional artist, the beginner-level course comes with six articles and various downloadable resources that you can use during the lessons that go over subjects such as the Pen tool, the Pathfinder tool, the Shape Builder tool, plus the Width tool that are all part of Illustrator. The course will also teach you skills like outlining, sketching, painting, and how to add detail to illustrations and vector drawings. With the course taught by a professional artist, you’ll get first-hand accounts of the real world views into the art and business of illustration.
Illustration & Inspiration: Keeping a Sketchbook (Skillshare) – $99/year
Skill Level: Beginner | Length: 32 minutes | Downloadable resources: Yes
Holding a BFA in Design from the Parsons School of Design, Illustrator Leah Goren leads the Illustration & Inspiration: Keeping a Sketchbook course to take you through the workday of a working professional. The class focuses on ideas that are done through the completion of three exercises. These exercises include drawing from life, drawing patterns, and drawing from the space around you. These will help create a strong foundation of the basics of illustration. While it is a short course, the lessons learned can be a great source of inspiration for illustrators.
Digital Illustration: Doodles to Designs (Skillshare) – $99/year
Skill Level: Beginner | Length: 1-hour video | Downloadable resources: Yes
Whether its in the middle of a boring meeting or while you’re on hold waiting for the customer service representative, everyone doodles. For an artist, designer, or illustrator, doodling is very often the initial stage of a project for a client. The Digital Illustration: Doodles to Designs course, taught by Jon Burgerman, will teach you how to take those doodles to the next level, even turning them into paid gigs. Through each of the 16 lessons, the course will teach you how to expand on your doodles and digitize them in a vector graphics program. If you spend a lot of your day doodling, learning how to expand your skills can be very helpful
Illustrating Characters and the Stories They Tell (CreativeLive) – $34
Skill Level: Intermediate | Length: 2 ½ hours of on-demand video | Downloadable resources: Yes
Taught by Mary Jane Begin, a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, the Illustrating Characters and the Stories They Tell course will show you how to draw characters as part of an overall larger story. You’ll also learn how to make characters more relatable by learning the responses to fundamental character styles. Made up of 16 lessons encompassing 2 ½ hours of on-demand video, the course goes over the key elements of storyboarding, story creation, and character development. Taken by more than 10,000 students, the course also includes helpful bonus materials to help you succeed.
With 98% positive reviews, this course has been attended by nearly 3,000 students so far. These courses tutor you to master the software so that you can create professional-grade illustration and graphic work. It comprises 58 lessons with a total run-time of 8 hours and 3 minutes. You can complete the course online at your own pace leveraging the Domestika application. The original audio of the course is available in the Portuguese language. The machine translations are available in Spanish, English, German, Italian, and French.
Among other things, the course teaches you to create geometric shapes, apply color and transform objects. Next, it shows you how to vectorize an image to create complex logos and illustrations. Then, in the next segment, you get to know how to add and experiment with color. As you proceed further, the course elaborates on the difference between format types and shows how to integrate texts into your design. The final segment is about learning to streamline your creative process and exporting high-quality files.
How to get the most out of an online class
Whether free or paid, taking a class online is something that you should put everything towards because, at the end of the class, you can either walk away informed or if you didn’t take it seriously, feel even more confused. To help, here are our tips to get the most out of an online class.
Treat it like a “real” course
The biggest difference between an online class and one in a classroom is the location itself. Taking an online class requires dedication and discipline to take it seriously. Whether its a free class or you paid for it, you should treat it no different than taking a class in person. That way you are focused, dedicated, and ready to learn everything you can.
To succeed, you have to be able to hold yourself accountable. There are a couple of ways you can do this. Set goals before starting the class and check-in with yourself regularly to see how you are doing in meeting those goals. If you’re not meeting those goals or are on the path to completing those goals, you may need to reassess so you can get back on track.
Another great way to hold yourself accountable is to try and pair up with someone else who may be taking the course. Many online courses will have community chats for students so they can connect and ask questions. Pairing up with someone can not only keep you on track but also help them stay on track too.
Our worlds are full of distractions. Netflix, social media, dishes in the sink can distract us and derail what we’re intending to do. The best way to focus on your online class is to develop a plan to lessen these distractions. The way someone eliminates distractions is different for everyone. From drowning out a noisy home by listening to music or taking classes from a library to enjoy some peace and quiet. One way to remove a major source of distractions is to turn your cellphone off while taking a class. Or if you find yourself drifting to other webpages during class, a website blocker can be a big help.
Create a study space
With the global pandemic, many of us have had to get creative when it comes to workspaces at home but when it comes time to take a course online, you want to do everything you can to create an environment that is suitable for studying. Whether that’s in your bedroom, the kitchen table, or at the local library, creating that environment and working there repeatedly will create a routine and even help you be organized better as well.
Time management is a skill that many people work at but can have a hard time mastering but the flexibility that an online class gives you to take it on your schedule is a big reason why online classes are so successful. With that flexibility comes managing your time correctly. Depending on your overall schedule, how you go about managing your time might be different, but there are some universal tips for time management.
Create a weekly schedule that you can follow and commit to making your coursework part of your weekly routine and set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks. Blocking out a certain time to work on each task before moving on and setting a timer can help keep you accountable.
The Best Free & Paid Illustration & Drawing Courses for Artists
There are a lot of online classes that can teach you how to be a better artist. While we focused on just nine and understand that you might not agree with our choices, the point is clear. If you have a passion or a desire to do something or get better at it, there is a way you can do so and we hope our list of the online classes that will make you a better artist has put you on the path to your goal.