Three insider secrets to a lighting portfolio that lands your dream job.


Three Insider Secrets to a stand-out portfolio


10 Best Visual Effects (VFX) Courses in 2024

by | Last updated Jan 17, 2024

Are you thinking of signing up for VFX courses online? There are so many to choose from.

And today, you’ll learn which course YOU should choose.

Want to learn more? Here are the best VFX courses to sign up for.

What is VFX? 

Combining live-action footage and CG elements into one realistic imagery is called visual effects, aka VFX. Those mind-blowing effects you see in animated movies were created by manipulating onscreen imagery to elevate the film’s visuals and support the storytelling. Visual effects are used to make impractical or impossible feats happen – like superheroes flying and saving the day, the Statue of Liberty blowing up, NYC being invaded by aliens, monsters, ET, de-aged actors, and so on.

The 3 Types of VFX

VFX is a blanket term for digital effects used in movies and series, but VFX has three distinct categories. These are:

Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI)

The method of creating computer-generated visual effects for television and movies. Using a computer and a host of VFX software programs, artists would create entire worlds, characters, creatures, objects, or environments that do not exist. CGI can be as subtle as filling a basketball court with a crowd of cheering fans or something as obvious as a fire-breathing dragon. 


AKA chroma-keying, composting is the method of combining digital assets with live-action footage to complete the final shot of a scene for a film, TV series, or game. This is the final stage in the VFX pipeline.

A VFX compositor would layer the digital and live-action elements to make them appear naturally in the same space. 

For example, a scene of New York is invaded by aliens. The compositor would add alien warships and military drones hovering overhead, buildings exploding, destruction all around. And look! The superheroes fly in to save the day! No matter how impossible the feat is, compositing makes the elements work together to support the story.

Motion capture

AKA mocap, motion capture is a process that records an actor’s movements and then transferring these movements on a computer-generated 3D model. 

The actions include facial expressions. Movements are tracked using special markers (black or white dots), a motion capture suit, and a motion-capture camera that records and collects the data for mapping. 

VFX artists would use the collected data to create a 3D skeleton model using a motion capture software program. 

Andy Serkis is known for his mocap performances because he played some of the most iconic characters in movie history. We’re talking about King Kong, Caesar in Planet of the Apes, Snoke in The Force Awakens, and who could forget Gollum in The Lord of the Rings franchise. 

Before his performance as Gollum, motion capture was primarily used in video games or music videos. Other unforgettable characters played using motion capture are The Hobbit’s Smaug by Benedict Cumberbatch, Bill Nighy as Davey Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise,  The Hulk by Mark Ruffalo, and Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri from Avatar.

Virtually all movies are created using VFX, and if this is something that you are passionate about, you need to specialize in visual effects to build a successful career. 

No need to enroll in art school and spend four years earning a bachelor’s degree to build a successful career in animation and VFX. It’s possible to hone your skills and learn at your own pace in the privacy of your own home; just take VFX courses online!

By taking online courses, you can train your artistic eye and improve your technical skills while also taking freelancing gigs on the side. If you’re a seasoned pro who wants to switch careers, this is the most practical choice. You can learn different studies of VFX and animation without quitting your day job. But don’t take our word for it. 

Here are just a few AAA students who found success after taking our VFX courses:

Academy of Animated Art Student Testimonials

“I don’t believe I would have been able to get the job I have today without the skills and knowledge I gained from the Academy of Animated Art.

I was a little hesitant about signing up because I wanted to make sure I was getting my money’s worth out of an online class. These courses are worth every penny and then some! The investment I have made in my career.”

– Anthony Ragusa, Senior Lighting Technical Director, Blue Sky Studios

“I knew I wanted to be a lighter, but didn’t feel I had enough experience or quality showreel material to get the jobs I wanted.

The showreel I used to get my current job contained a large majority of work from the assignments I did at the Academy of Animated Art. It has also helped improve how I go about breaking down the lighting in a shot and ensuring that my lighting starts on strong fundamentals.”

– Chris Wetherly, Compositing & Finishing at The Foundry

“This course was so beneficial in my career because now I no longer doubt the decisions I make regarding my work.

Also, I didn’t have money to afford college so I did not want to spend time just doing some boring tutorials I would just forget. I use what I learned from the Academy of Animated Art every day!”

– Anuar Figueroa, Lighting TD at Sony Imageworks

You can check out the rest of our student experiences and testimonials here

The 10 best VFX courses 

Now, let’s take a look at some of the best VFX courses out there. Here are our top picks: 

Lighting For Animation Course Bundle +

lighting for animation

We’re starting our list of the best VFX courses to take online with our top lighting course: The Lighting for Animation Course Bundle +

Online animation and VFX courses do not come cheap, and this online course is designed to provide quality education and value for your money. It includes ALL of our online courses in one amazing bundle and then some.

At the heart of the Lighting for Animation bundle is our proven system that will help you become a lighting artist and bag your dream job of working in a top studio within a year – even if you don’t have any experience or background in animation. 

For as little as $199, you can start a successful career in animation. Training only takes around 5 to 10 hours each week to get results. The Lighting for Animation Course Bundle + is not called the ultimate for nothing. Most schools offer single courses while this bundle covers multiple studies of 3D lighting, including:

Course #1: The Power Of Light

Course #2: Character Lighting For Animated Films

Course #3: Environment Lighting For Animated Films

Course #4: Materials & Shaders For The Lighting Artist

Course #5: Compositing For The Lighting Artist

Course #6: Lighting An Animated Film

Course #7: Succeeding As A Lighter

What’s more, you’ll also receive Free Student License for: 

  • Maya
  • Arnold
  • Redshift
  • Octane
  • Unreal
  • Katana

We know how hard it is to find high-quality assets to light. That’s why the bundle also includes free assets to light. We have over 30 characters, environments, objects, and animated scenes to choose from. Each month, we are adding new assets to light. You’ll also become a member of our private group, where you’ll connect with industry leaders and fellow artists. 

By the time you’ve completed this course, you’re ready to send your application and earn a six-figure salary in a creative field. Get the best start in the animation industry; sign up for the Lighting For Animation Course Bundle + here.

Character Lighting For Animated Films

character lighting

Top animation studios are always looking for versatile artists. And you’ll increase your chances of snagging your dream job as a light artist if you know how to light a character.

The Character Lighting for Animated Films is a VFX course that will help you achieve mastery over different lighting techniques to bring images to life, including:

  • Rembrandt Lighting
  • Mood lighting
  • Hero lighting
  • Villain lighting
  • Eye lighting
  • Lighting black and white characters

We’ll also throw in a free asset for you to light.  The course includes a fully rigged, ready-to-light character and background plates so you can practice and add to your demo reel.

The Character Lighting course is conducted by Mike Tanzillio, who previously worked as a Lighting TD at Blue Sky Studios and is currently a 3D Artist & Solution Consultant for Adobe/Substance. The animation industry is a character-driven one, and if you want to know the concepts of character lighting, this is the best course to take. Sign up for the Character Lighting Course here

Academy of Animated Art Arnold For Maya Workshop

Arnold workshop

Arnold is one of the leading render engines in the business, and knowing how to use it will make a world of difference to your career. Hiring managers prefer experienced artists, and if you want to learn how to use the same renderer that movies like Blade Runner 2049, Gravity, or Marvel movies used, take this online course.

This technical course covers everything you need to know about using Arnold in Maya. Every button, every slider, every adjustment will be analyzed so you can take advantage of the software to the fullest. The course features all the essential Arnold Render settings, Object settings, shaders, and Lighting functionality. 

As with all the other technical courses we offer at AAA, the Arnold for Maya workshop was designed to complement our other lighting courses. Sign up for the Arnold for Maya online course here.

Katana Workshop

Katana Workshop

Katana is Lighting and Look Development software that simplifies asset, materials, and output files management to speed up the workflow. This tool allows artists to work on several large files at the same time. 

If you’re tired of software packages that are bogged down with a multitude of tools and functionality like Maya Houdini, 3D Studio Max, you will love Katana. It strips away all the excess, providing a streamlined environment so you can work on complex files without missing a beat. It makes an artist’s life so easy. 

The AAA Katana workshop is conducted by lighter compositor Abel Vargas. Abel has been in the VFX and Animation industry for over a decade and has worked for different studios, including Double Negative, Method Studios, Animal Logic, and Sony Imageworks. Sign up for the Katana workshop here

Foundations of VFX Diploma

foundations of vfx diploma

CG Spectrum is an online learning platform that offers a host of educational videos in various areas of visual effects and computer graphics. The platform’s Foundations of VFX Diploma promises a solid foundation in 3D modeling, animation, and VFX. The course offers hands-on practice in various disciplines of VFX, perfect if you’re unsure what areas of the VFX and animation you’d like to specialize in. 

Apart from hands-on training and a personalized learning experience, the online course also offers VFX software training (Maya, Substance Painter, Houdini & Nuke) and mentorship by VFX artists. Know more about the Foundations of VFX Diploma course here

3D Animation & Modeling Master Class


Udemy’s 3D Animation & Modeling Master Class is designed to be the ultimate “boot camp” training for artists who’d like to master some of the most widely used VFX software programs in the animation industry, including  Maya, 3DSMax, and Mudbox. 

In this VFX course, you will learn the basics of animation, polygon modeling, texturing, rigging, and rendering. You’ll learn how to create high-quality characters, objects, and environments for your portfolio and demo reel. You’ll also learn the different 3D animation techniques to train your artistic eye and improve your technical skills. Sign up for the 3D Animation & Modeling Masterclass here

Lighting VFX Workflows with Katana and RenderMan


Katana and Renderman are some of the most widely used software programs among top animation studios. That’s why it’s essential to master these VFX programs. The Lighting VFX Workflows with Katana and RenderMan is an expanded online course that will teach you the basic workflows of Katana, Renderman, and NUKE. 

In this online course, you’ll learn how to integrate a CG asset to a backplate fully, how to stitch and prepare the HDRI for Katana and calibrate the lighting of your renders on NUKE. By the time you’ve completed your training, you’ll master how to integrate assets to your plates and develop a solid VFX lighting workflow. Learn all about the Lighting VFX Workflows with Katana and RenderMan here.

Bringing 3D Objects Into Live-Action Footage


Conducted by Mutiny FX’s VFX generalist Manning Moore, the Bringing 3D Objects Into Live-Action Footage is an online course that will show you how to bring 3D elements into a 2D live-action scene! 

Designed for budding compositors, this VFX course will cover all critical areas of compositing for the most realistic results, including 3D tracking, animating 3D objects, rendering, and final color grading. It’s a great VFX online course for beginners and low intermediate compositors and animators. Software programs used are  After Effects, Cinema4D, and Octane render engine. To know more about this VFX course, click here.

Animation Foundations: Fundamentals

Animation Foundations

A VFX and animation course designed for beginners that covers the fundamental concepts of Animation to the physics of motion. Created by South Park and Rocko’s Modern Life director, George Maestri, the Animation Foundations: Fundamentals teaches X, Y, and Z planes, keyframes, animation paths, hierarchies, pivots, and rotation. It will also introduce you to time-tested animation techniques such as easing, squash and stretch, exaggeration, staging, and the importance of timing.

By the end of the course, you will learn about:

  • Forces and motion
  • Working with the center of mass
  • Adjusting frame rates
  • Keys and keyframes
  • Building animation paths
  • Navigating the object hierarchy
  • Staging an animation
  • Animating to audio and music

You will also receive a Certificate of Completion, which you can download and print out to share. Click here to sign up for the Animation Foundations: Fundamentals online course. 

VFX Post Production: Rendered Passes and Channels


The VFX Post Production: Rendered Passes and Channels promises to provide an “immersion into envisioning, shooting, and producing” movies using any gear, at any budget. Conducted by  Film Riot founder Ryan Connolly, this VFX online course explores the step-by-step process of making a movie from start to finish.

By signing up for the online course, you will learn to write a script, create storyboards, and cast films. You’ll learn how to work with your crew to make the set a fun and professional place, as well as DIY lighting structures to support the story of the film. By the end of the course, you’ll know how to build a post-production workflow for editing, learn how to apply different visual effects, and production and post-production audio skills and sound effects. Sign up for the VFX Post Production: Rendered Passes and Channels here

Over to you!

And there you have it, the 10 of the best VFX courses to check out online. These courses are best for beginner to intermediate level animators, graphic artists, and compositors. When choosing what VFX courses to take, it’s important to know what areas of animation and special effects you’d like to specialize in to narrow down your options. 


Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

Get your free guide:

Three Expert Insider Secrets for a Successful Demo Reel.



Congrats! You are one step closer to your dream career & life. Check your inbox for the: Three Expert Insider Secrets for a Successful Demo Reel!

Pin It on Pinterest