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Best Online Courses And Programs In Computer Animation

The median annual wage for multimedia artists and animators was $72,520 in 2018, and employment is projected to increase by 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. So, whether used for games, films, or TV shows, computer animation is both a skill and a career that is already high, and constantly rising, in demand.

If you are the kind of person with a head full of dynamic characters, magical worlds and entertaining story ideas, but without the practical means to bring them into life, you can now easily take one of many online courses for computer animation. From the very comfort of your home, you will learn how to animate all those great ideas that have been waiting for so long to be shared with the world.

Whether you’re a newbie exploring animation or someone looking to become an expert at it, we have put together a list of free and affordable online courses and programs that will get you started quickly.

Not listed in any kind of rankings, they are grouped in four different categories.

  • The first group is a list of courses on computer animation in general, without focusing on a single animation software.
  • The second group is a list of courses using Blender, an open-source, free 3D animation software. For beginners who are simply trying out computer animation without much desire to pay for a software, I recommend signing up for courses using Blender first.
  • The third group is a list of courses using Maya, the industry standard software used in many popular film and game studios.
  • Lastly, the fourth group is a list of programs, made of two or more courses, using either Maya or Blender.

Computer Animation in General

1. Pixar in a Box

Created and offered by Pixar through the Khan Academy, a non-profit organization that provides online courses for free, this online course provides not only an insider’s peek into one of the world’s best animation studios and its workflow, but also a comprehensive overview of creating a 3D animation. Taught by the very people who made your favorite films, the program offers short clips and exercises on basic theories, such as the principles of storytelling, and all of the technical skills, such as rigging, environmental and character modeling and rendering.

  • College credits: NO
  • Price: Free
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 70 hours
  • Languages: English with English subtitles
  • Vendor: Khan Academy  

Note: Prices for all courses listed in this article are true on the date of publishing, but are subject to change.

2. Direct and Produce Animation

For anyone with entertaining ideas that they want to realize into animation, this course lays out different functions of every department and roles in an animation studio, starting from directors, writers, lighting directors to animators. This is a good brief course for those with no background knowledge, but want a comprehensive introduction to animation.

  • College credits: NO — Udemy Certificate of Completion only
  • Price: $9.99 on sale ($49.99 regular price)
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: 3 hours
  • Languages: English with English subtitles  
  • Vendor: Udemy

3. Break into the Animation Industry

Taught by Lucas Ridley, a professional computer animator who worked on popular films, such as Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” this bestselling online course is not a tutorial on a software or principles, but a career-focused course, laying out strategies and insider knowledge helpful to kickstart your career in animation. You will also hear from other professionals about how they got placed into their current or previous jobs to help you build your own career roadmap. Although it doesn’t teach any theoretical or practical skills related to creating animation, this course is very unique and equally valuable, providing real-life skills and lessons from those with jobs that you might want in the future.

  • College credits: NO — Udemy Certificate of Completion only
  • Price: $9.99 on sale ($199.99 regular price)
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: 6 hours, 30 minutes
  • Languages: English with English subtitles
  • Vendor: Udemy

4. 3D Animation & Modeling Master Class – Beginner to Advanced

Using multiple computer animation software, such as Maya, 3DSMax, and Mudbox, this online course gives you an in-depth understanding of creating computer animation. You will learn the fundamental techniques to computer animation like rigging, modeling, texturing, lighting, and rendering. By the end of this course, you will be able to develop your own workflow and adapt to most computer animation software out there.

  • College credits: NO — Udemy Certificate of Completion only
  • Price: $9.99 on sale ($154.99 regular price)
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: 22 hours
  • Languages: English with subtitles in Spanish and Portuguese
  • Vendor: Udemy

Computer Animation Using Blender

5. Complete Blender Creator: Learn 3D Modeling for Beginners

Using Blender, an open-source computer animation software, this course teaches not only the principles of 3D modeling, but also how to animate 3D models and assets for games. You will apply the skills you learned directly through multiple projects. Without any prerequisites, this course is completely beginner friendly and starts out super simple.

  • College credits: NO – Udemy Certificate of Completion only
  • Price: $9.99 on sale ($194.99 regular price)
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: 68 hours, 30 minutes
  • Languages: English with English subtitles
  • Vendor: Udemy

6. Learn 3D Animation – The Ultimate NEW Blender 2.8 Course A-Z

One of the bestselling courses on Udemy for Blender, this completely beginner friendly course teaches you the basics of getting around the software and new features for the latest version of Blender. By the end of the course, you will learn how to create your character and add texture, rigging and sound to your animation.

  • College credits: NO – Udemy Certificate of Completion only
  • Price: $9.99 on sale ($199.99 regular price)
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: 19 hours
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English and Italian
  • Vendor: Udemy

Computer Animation Using Maya

7. Maya 2018 Fundamentals

This course provides the fundamentals for Maya, the industry standard software for computer animation used in studios, such as the MCU or Pixar. You will learn and get familiar with Maya-specific terms and different aspects and features of the software. By the end of the class, you will learn how to not only render a moving object, like a flying sail-ship, but also add other layers, such as movements, dynamics, lights, and shadows, making the object look more realistic.

  • College credits: NO — CEU (Continuing Education Units) Certificate only
  • Price: Free to enroll for the first 10 days; after that, choose from three different plans: monthly ($29), annual ($199), or premium annual ($349), which includes access to all courses on Pluralsight plus certification practice exams, interactive courses and projects.  
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: 11 hours, 22 minutes
  • Languages: English
  • Vendor: Pluralsight

8. Maya for Beginners: Complete Guide to 3D Animation in Maya

Created and taught by Lucas Ridley, a 3D animator known for his work on popular films, such as Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” this bestselling course is designed for complete beginners in Maya. By the end of the class, you will be able to model, light, and texture objects and scenes and put together an entirely animated scene on your own.

  • College credits: NO – Udemy Certificate of Completion only
  • Price: $9.99 on sale ($199.99 regular price)
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: 25 hours
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English, Indonesian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Romanian
  • Vendor: Udemy

9. Learn Maya – A Beginners Guide to Creating Realistic Scenes

Another Udemy course for Maya beginners, this course is divided into five sections. You will get familiar with the Maya’s user interface and go through multiple projects, in which you will learn how to animate scenes involving a toy train or a wizard desktop.

  • College credits: NO – Udemy Certificate of Completion only
  • Price: $9.99 on sale ($44.99 regular price)
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: 18 hours, 30 minutes
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English, Indonesian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and Thai
  • Vendor: Udemy

10. Fundamentals of RenderMan for Maya

Used for rendering visual effects and animation in most films and games, Pixar’s very own, studio-built software, RenderMan, is definitely a useful software you want to have under your belt before, or even after, going into the animation industry. With this course, taught by Mark Flanagan, a certified RenderMan trainer, you will be able to get familiar with using the software’s features specifically on Maya and animate realistic scenes.

  • College credits: NO — CEU (Continuing Education Units) Certificate only
  • Price: Free to enroll for the first 10 days; after that, choose from three different plans: monthly ($29), annual ($199), or premium annual ($349), which includes access to all courses on Pluralsight plus certification practice exams, interactive courses and projects.  
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: 5 hours, 15 minutes
  • Languages: English
  • Vendor: Pluralsight

Beginner Programs in Computer Animation

11. Game Design: Art and Concepts Specialization

Offered by the California Institute of the Arts, one of the country’s most renowned institutions for animation, this 5-course path will prepare any beginners in computer animation with not only basic principles of computer animation specifically for video games, but also practical skills to bring your stories and characters into life. Before the program ends, you will be able to design and render your original video game for independent distribution.

  • Number of courses: 5 courses
  • College credits: NO — Specialization Certificate only
  • Price: Free to enroll for the first 7 days and $49 per month after that
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 8 months, recommends devoting 2 hours per week
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English, German, Chinese and Russian
  • Vendor: Coursera

12. Maya: Core Skills

Containing courses for all three different levels of Maya users (beginning, intermediate and advanced), this program provides a very comprehensive package of everything you need to know about Maya. This path is particularly useful for beginners who want to ultimately master their understanding of the software.

  • Number of courses: 8 courses
  • College credits: NO – CEU (Continuing Education Units) Certificate only
  • Price: Free to enroll for the first 10 days; after that, choose from three different plans: monthly ($29), annual ($199), or premium annual ($349), which includes access to all courses on Pluralsight plus certification practice exams, interactive courses and projects.  
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 49 hours
  • Languages: English
  • Vendor: Pluralsight

13. Fundamentals of 3D Visualization

Offered by IIT Bombay, this program teaches how to create 3D models and animations using Blender, an open-source animation software tool. You will also learn the principles of animation in general. You can choose to either take the entire program and receive a certificate or take one by one for free without a certificate.

  • Number of courses: 2 courses
  • College credits: NO — Professional Certificate only
  • Price: $88.20 ($98 regular price)
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: 4 weeks per course (4–6 hours per week, per course)
  • Languages: English
  • Vendor: edX

Advanced Program in Computer Animation

14. Unity Certified 3D Artist

Offered by Unity Technologies, which offers a popular computer animation software for games and apps, this online program teaches everything you need to know for the Unity Certified 3D Artist exam, the certification required for entry to mid-level 3D artists who work with the Unity platform. Note that this program is not for beginners, but those who have used the software for at least 1-2 years.

  • Number of courses: 5 courses
  • College credits: NO — Specialization Certificate only
  • Price: Free to enroll for the first 7 days and $49 per month after that
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 4 months, recommends devoting 4 hours per week
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English
  • Vendor: Coursera