What are the best online 3d animation schools to choose from? Traditionally, the journey to becoming an animator starts by earning a 4-year Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. But thankfully, there are more flexible and affordable options for aspiring animators and light artists.
Learning how to become an animator can be done online. By signing up for an animation degree, you can train your artistic eye and learn different technologies to hone your technical skills.
Different online 3d animation schools offer various courses; not all curriculums are created equal. If you’re wondering which online schools offer the best courses for your specific needs, this guide is for you!
Can you learn 3D animation online?
Yes, you can! As long as you have the talent, skills, and drive for it, you can become an animator by taking a 3D animation course. We’ve trained hundreds of artists using our proven system, and most of them have found success as animators. We’ve got alums who work in top studios like Disney and DreamWorks!
3D animation creates the illusion of movement to tell a story for video games, television commercials, motion pictures, websites, and other digital platforms. To learn different 3D animation techniques, animation majors are trained to use manual, computer, and interactive techniques to breathe life into their designs.
Depending on what aspect of 3D animation you specialize in, you can sign up for a comprehensive course, a technical course, or specialize in specific studies of animation, like game design or computer animation.
Animation job examples
- 2D animator
- 3D animator
- Lighting Artist
- Visual Effects Animator
- Character Animator
- 3D Artist
- FX Supervisor
- Video Editor
- Texture Artist
- Layout Artist
- Storyboard Artist
- Matte Painting Artist
- Rigging Artist
Can I study animation online?
Yes, anyone can study animation online. You can be a complete newbie and train to become an animator by signing up for an animation course online. You can learn at your pace, in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Even if you’re a seasoned pro who wants to switch careers, you can definitely take an online course – no need to quit your day job!
And if you doubt if any of these are possible, you don’t have to look far for proof. Most AAA students have other jobs or studied something else before taking our animation, lighting, or technical courses and becoming 3D lighting artists.
AAA alum Shane Sternstein was an associate creative director and producer before becoming a lighting artist. He now works at DreamWorks Studios.
Chris Wetherly, an associate product manager at The Foundry, took one of our VFX lighting courses to expand his knowledge about character lighting and environment lighting and improve his craft.
Anuar Figueroa, a Senior Lighting TD at Sony Imageworks, took one of our lighting courses to expand his knowledge and skills for animation lighting.
So no matter if you’re a beginner starting from a clean slate or an experienced artist who has a thriving career, you can take an online course and become a 3d lighting artist anytime. That’s the beauty of studying at an online school.
Where can I learn 3D animation?
When it comes to getting formal training as an animator, you have two choices. You can take up an animation degree at an art school or sign up for an online course at an online art school like the Academy of Animated Art.
Getting a degree: The traditional route to becoming an animator is to enroll at an art school and spend at least four years earning a Bachelor’s degree. Many studios prefer artists with an art-related Bachelor’s degree, but it takes a long time to finish schooling and is quite expensive.
A public university costs about $4,000-$18,000 per year depending on the location and if the student is an in- or out-of-state resident. Private animation schools cost an average of $30,000-$37,694 annually. Getting an undergraduate degree is often a prerequisite for graduate certificate programs, which costs around $40,000. The schedules are also fixed, so you have limited time accepting small projects to get more experience or a part-time job.
Signing up for online training: You can become an animator by signing up for an online course. The great thing about taking an online course is that it’s affordable, flexible, and you can specialize in different animation branches to enhance your creativity, improve your technical skills, and boost your chances of getting hired by top studios.
Because the classes are conducted online, you have more freedom to do other things, like accept freelance work to improve your portfolio or a part-time job. Unlike physical art schools, online art schools offer technical courses. For example, you can sign up for an Arnold for Maya tech course on top of your main online course to improve your training.
Taking an online course is also a less expensive option. You can learn at your own pace, specialize in various studies of animation, and have more freedom of time to do other things without spending a fortune.
10 of the best animation schools online
Want to study in the privacy of your own home? With people spending more time at home, physical and online art schools have started offering online animation courses. If you’re thinking about signing up for an online course, here are some of the best schools to check out:
Academy of Animated Art
Co-founded by Jasmine Katatikarn and Michael Tanzillo, the Academy of Animated Art (AAA) was established to help aspiring light artists master all the necessary skills in a fraction of the time and pennies on the dollar compared to traditional schools. We have a proven system that has helped hundreds of artists bag their dream job in the animation industry.
With a combined 20+ years of working on VFX and Animated Films, Mike and Jasmine developed a full range of unique, artist-focused 3D animation courses to jumpstart your animation career, including:
- Lighting For Animation Course Bundle + $1999
- Character Lighting For Animated Films $699
- Arnold For Maya Workshop $199
- Intro to Maya Workshop $399
- Katana Workshop $599
On top of that, AAA has an extensive asset library to help budding artists unleash their creativity and develop a killer demo reel, as well as a massive community of artists to match! You can check out our full list of online courses here.
An online animation school that features workshops, mentorship programs, and a curriculum that hones your animation skills to the fullest. The school was founded by three friends, Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly, and Carlos Baena, to offer something different than software-focused online classes to train aspiring animators. The online courses are divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced workshops, which include:
- Animation Basics – $2,499
- Body Mechanics – $2,499
- Advanced Body Mechanics – $2,499
- Introduction to Acting – $2,499
- Feature Animation Acting & Polish – $2,499
The classes are primarily mentorship-based and utilize a proprietary online campus, exclusive feedback tools, and a real-world production pipeline. Check out the full list of workshops by Animation Mentor here.
Udemy is an online learning and teaching platform that offers thousands of online courses, including 3D animation. In fact, there are over 10K animation courses on 3D animation at Udemy, particularly for 3D modeling, character design, game development, and software training programs. Some of the best online courses for budding animators include:
- Maya for Beginners: Complete Guide to 3D Animation in Maya – $11.99
- Ultimate Blender 3D Character Creation & Animation Course – $11.99
- The Ultimate Voice to 3D Animation Course – $11.99
- 3D Animation & Modeling Master Class | Beginner to Advanced – $11.99
The platform is known for its affordable workshops ranging from $9.99 to $199.99, lifetime access, and a 30-day refund. But since the course instructors create their own content, rather than the platform itself, the quality of online courses will depend on the content creator. Check out Udemy’s list of 3D animation courses here.
CG Spectrum is one of the biggest online 3d animation schools in the business. The school specializes in VFX, 3D animation, and game design courses. CG Spectrum aims to help aspiring animators get the best training and preparation for a successful career. Some of the 3D animation online courses at CG Spectrum include:
- Advanced 3D Animation Diploma – $1,185 monthly or $3,199 per term
- Introduction to 3D Animation – $1,185 monthly or $3,199 per term
- Advanced 2D Animation Diploma – $1,185 monthly or $3,199 per term
The online courses are not only affordable but personalized. Students get direct access to industry experts and enjoy a comprehensive curriculum for guaranteed success. You can check out the full list of animation courses here.
Griffin Animation Academy
Griffin Animation Academy is designed for beginners who aspire for a successful career in animation as well as junior and intermediate animators who want to refine their creative and technical skills and break into TV, film, high-end games, VFX films, and animated movies. The online school provides a host of personalized VFX training for animation professionals. The school offers two types of service, online learning and mentorship training. The online courses include:
- A Wolve’s Feast – Realistic Motion and Behaviour – $400
- Tigress and Butterfly – Wild Animal Behavior and Personality – $400
- Star Heist – 3D Animation and Choreography – $400
- The Titan Games – Big and Heavy Character Animation – $400
- Dragon Raid – Dynamic Action Chase – $400
The school is known for its hands-on approach to teaching students, allowing every artist to create, learn, refine, and ask questions to improve their craft. Check out the complete list of online animation courses here.
iAnimate is an online animation school that specializes in character design, creature, and games animation. Unlike other online 3d animation schools that are software-focused, iAnimate offers customized courses in areas of animation that even professionals have a hard time perfecting.
The school was founded by industry professionals who are passionate about the craft and are dedicated to helping students get the knowledge and motivation needed to build a successful career in the animation industry. iAnimate offers the following online courses:
- Feature Animation – $1,698
- Game Animation – $1,698
- Creature Animation – $1,698
- Rigging – $999
- Introduction to Maya & Modeling – $999
iAnimate runs four terms of workshops in a year, and each term is 11 weeks long. A student’s skill level will be evaluated, and a list of workshops will be recommended.
AnimSchool is an accredited online school that offers workshops for 3D animation, modeling, rigging, and so much more. The school boasts 30 instructors currently working in top animation studios, including Dreamworks, Disney, Pixar, and Sony. Apart from animation workshops, Animschool offers extra sessions, drawing classes, and other fun activities. Some of the courses include:
- Introduction to Maya
- Introduction to 3D Animation
- Animating Characters
- Body Mechanics
- Body Acting
The classes are set up differently than most online 3d animation schools. Each program consists of 4 to 7 online courses, and a student must complete the animation program before moving forward with the following program. Each term is 11 weeks long. Pricing is set up on a per term, monthly, and pay per period basis, $1,620, $540, and $362, respectively. There is also an option for student loans.
Vertex School offers a range of in-depth online training programs to empower students with cutting-edge creative technical skills in 3D animation to ensure success in various creative industries. Vertex school provides live online classes, a remote work environment, flexible schedules, and a structured curriculum.
- Animation program – $832 per month, $6,742 one-time payment
- Game Art – $832 per month, $6,742 one-time payment
The programs were mindfully developed to address today’s thriving creative industry, such as filmmaking, medical, advertising, graphic design, VR, mixed reality, gaming, and TV shows. The school specializes in 3D animation and game arts.
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh
Art Institute of Pittsburgh (AI) is a non-profit college that offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates with campuses all over the US and Canada. Recently, AI launched a virtual learning platform (aka Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division), which allows students to learn about 3D animation in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. The school offers the following online courses for remote learning:
- Digital Filmmaking and Video Production
- Visual arts
- Game Art and Design
- Media Arts and Animation
- Interior Design
- Graphic Design
The online courses include ebooks and other learning resources, faculty discussions, online tutorials + access to an electronic library and online databases. For the complete price list, request a brochure here.
Founded in 2000, the Gnomon Workshop was established to help beginner and professional animators learn the best techniques and software programs remotely. Initially, the online school was founded to train artists who could not attend the Gnomon School in Hollywood, California. Today, Gnomon Workshop offers over 300 video workshops accessible by members from anywhere in the world.
Once you sign up for the Gnomon Workshop, you’ll get unlimited access to the school’s entire training library, amounting to about 1000+ hours of training. Some of the 3D animation training courses are:
- Introduction to ZBrush 2021
- Introduction to Maya 2020
- Photorealistic Character Look Dev in Maya & Arnold
- Environment Design for Virtual Production in Unreal Engine 4
- Introduction to Creating Facial Blendshapes in Maya
The curriculum covers every step of the production workflow, from concept design to modeling, texturing, rigging, and matte painting. You can choose between monthly payments of $49.00 per month or annual payments of $490.00.
10 of the best animation schools offline
Going the traditional route is the ideal choice if you’re fresh out of high school with no worries about student loans, spending at least 4 years earning a degree, or moving to new places to study. If you’re thinking about going to art school, here are our recommendations:
The School of Visual Arts
The School of Visual Arts (SVA) was named as one of the best Art and Design Schools by Salary Potential by Payscale for a reason. It’s one of the top animation schools in the country. It is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools as well as the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
SVA’s school programs include:
- Animation – $1,200 for the first year
- Cartooning – $800 for the first year
- Computer Art, Computer Animation, and Visual Effects – $1,340 for the first year
- EVA/Studio Program – $640 for the first year
- Film – $1,340 for the first year
Full-time tuition at the SVA is about $22,500 per semester. The tuition, fees, and other housing charges will increase 4% to 7% each year. Check out VSA’s complete list of tuition and additional fees here.
Rhode Island School of Design
The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is the country’s top art school. The school offers a BFA in film, animation, and video. The campus boasts state-of-the-art facilities and tools for digital editing, sound mixing, and puppet animation. Apart from teaching students to use the best tools in 3D animation, they’re also trained for critical thinking, content development, and different creative concepts.
In terms of academics, the school offers undergraduate study, graduate study, and summer programs, just to name a few. Film and animation courses at the RISD include:
- Senior Studio: Animation
- Animation practices
- Animation Pre-Production
- Computer-Generated Imagery 3D
- Digital Effects and Compositing
- Digital Practices
- Collaborative Studies
Tuition costs about $55,220 for undergraduate and graduate studies without the additional fees and housing charges. Each year, you’re expected to pay about $77,280 for undergrad study and $82,490 for graduate study. For a complete list of tuition and other fees, click here.
Ringling College of Art and Design
Ringling College of Art and Design is a private, non-profit college that offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in eleven disciplines. This fully accredited school engages students through a comprehensive program that’s focused on liberal arts, particularly:
- Computer Animation
- Motion Design
- VR Development
- Business of Art and Design
- Graphic Design
- Entertainment Design
- Game Art
- Fine Arts
As of 2020, Tuition for Ringling College of Art and Design is $43,710, with no offers for tuition discounts to state residents. This rate does not include room and board charges. A two-year degree would be $101,080, not including room and board charges, books, and transportation.
California Institute of the Arts
The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) was founded by Walt Disney and aims to provide “transformative cultural impact” and “visionary creative talent” to various areas of 3D animation. The school, which is one of the top animation schools in the country, offers over 70 comprehensive degree programs in visual arts, performance arts, media, and literary arts. Acceptance is primarily decided on an applicant’s artistic merits and creative potential. Programs of study include:
- Character Animation
- Art and Technology
- Digital Arts
- Experience Design and Production
- Experimental Animation
- Graphic Design
As for the tuition and other fees, Full-Time Undergraduate (BFA & Certificate), Graduate (MFA & Advanced Certificate), and Doctoral (DMA) programs cost between $26,425 to $52,850. Check out the complete list of tuition and fees here.
Savannah College of Art and Design
The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers varying animation degrees such as BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in animation. Founded in 1978, SCAD aims to provide college degree programs previously not offered in southeast Georgia. The school offers specialized professional art programs to help students achieve excellence in arts education and prepare artists for a successful start in the art and animation industry. Some of the animation majors and minors that SCAD offers include:
- Visual Effects
- Themed Entertainment Design
- Motion Media Design
- Interactive Design and Game Development
- Film and television
- Character Technical Direction
- Technical Direction
- Motion Media Design
SCAD is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. As of 2021, the estimated tuition and fees for 4 years at SCAD is $156,508. Tuition for full-time graduate students taking 3 courses per quarter is $13,080. Tuition for one academic year as an undergrad will set you back $38,340. You can check out the complete list of graduate and undergraduate tuition and fees.
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University is a private university that specializes in Animation and Special Effects courses. The idea behind Carnegie Mellon University’s curriculum is to tackle society’s challenges and “deliver work that matters.” Most of the school’s programs are connected to other interdisciplinary fields. The students are trained to develop a deep understanding of the different aspects of animation and rendering. Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Carnegie Mellon University offers collaborative studios for hands-on learning in real-world situations. Courses include:
- Animation & Special Effects
- Media Design
- Interactive Environments
- Game Design
- Design for Learning
Being one of the 100 most expensive universities in the country, tuition costs $57,560 for undergraduates per academic year. The estimated graduate tuition and fees each academic year are about $47,326.
Rochester Institute of Technology
The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) nurtures a “diverse and collaborative community of curious minds” with a plethora of technology-based programs and “experiential learning.” RIT is also one of the best film and animation schools in the country. The school specializes in various areas of art studies, including:
- Photography, Film, and Animation
- Art, Design, and Architecture
- Communications and Digital Media
- Game Design and Development
Click here to check out the complete list of courses for filmmaking and animation at the RIT.
As for the tuition and fees, expect to spend about $52,030 each year if you’re a full-time undergrad. This does not cover the room rates and boarding charges. The all-inclusive cost is about $69,276 for full-time undergraduate studies. For full-time graduate studies, tuition will set you back $39,078, which does not include the other charges. The estimated cost for all-inclusive graduate studies is $69,338. Check out the estimated tuition and fees at the RIT here.
The University of California
University of California (UCLA) is a Los Angeles-based public school with one of the best animation programs in the country. However, students should take the BA in Film and Television to apply to the animation workshop. Animation students will get real-world experience by working in the Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio. After completing their stay at the Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio, students can perform a full year of animation studies and internships.
UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television has comprehensive courses for animation. These courses include:
- Animation Design
- Writing for Animation
- Visual Thinking and Organization for Animation
- Interactive Animation
- Computer Animation for Film and Video
- Visual Thinking and Organization for Animation
You can check out the complete list of animation courses and programs here. For most doctoral and master’s programs, the tuition and fees cost about $17,756 for California residents and $32,858 annually for non-California residents. The costs of studying at UCLA will change depending on the professional degree and self-supporting degree you choose. For a specific breakdown, click here.
University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida (UCF) offers a BA in Visual Media as well as a BA in Digital Media Game Design. The campus is located near Walt Disney Studios and Universal Studios, which gives students the rare opportunity for hands-on experience while studying animation. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the University of Central Florida is the second top animation school in the US in 2021, according to Animation Career Review’s top 100. Animation courses are a part of the school’s College of Arts and Humanities. Relevant courses include:
- Art – Visual Arts Management Track
- Visual Arts and Emerging Media Management
- Interactive Entertainment
As of 2021, the tuition for UCF for a 4-year course is $25,472 for Florida residents and $89,868 for out-of-state students. For a complete breakdown of the tuition and other charges for full-time students at the UCF, click here.
Brigham Young University
If you are gunning for a film-related animation career, Brigham Young University (BYU) offers one of the best undergraduate animation programs in media arts. The school offers a range of broader education in various areas of animation, including film culture, history, and theory as well as animation, live-action, special effects, and game industries through BYU’s Center for Animation.
To be accepted at BYU’s animation program, you have to apply as a pre-animation major, take the full part of the animation curriculum and graduate with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in Animation. Here is a list of prerequisites and requirements for the Animation BFA program.
The estimated cost of attendance at BYU for 4 years is $25,183 as of fall 2021. The tuition excludes the boarding charges, school supplies, books, and living costs. Click here for the full breakdown of the tuition and other charges at BYU.
Over to you!
And there you have it, our list of the top online 3D animation schools and best animation schools offline. How you’d like to learn about animation will depend on you.
If you have the time and the budget, you can earn a degree in film and animation from any of the top animation universities on our list. But if you prefer more flexible and affordable learning, sign up for our online animation courses here.