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


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Learn Animation Online: The Beginner’s Guide [2024]

by | Last updated Jan 22, 2024

Looking to find the best animation online programs? 

We’ve put together the ultimate guide to help you find the best animation programs that cover everything you need to get your animation career off the ground.

Read on to find out more!


Can you learn animation online? 

Animation is a growing field that has seen immense change over the last decade or so. Many of the top animators in the field currently have learned animation online through courses because it is easier to get started and complete these programs. 

Learning animation online enables you to learn at your own pace and gain access to experts in the field to help guide your career path. Online animation courses put you in the driver’s seat and provide a path to rewarding and fulfilling animation careers.

What is the best way to learn animation online?

Animation is the perfect fit if you’re considering a profitable and fulfilling career path that lets you express your creativity. It’s a growing field, and animation is no longer just for movies. Animation is used in advertising, media, and many other types of communication. With animation, the career path is yours to shape and can go in many different directions depending on what you’re interested in.

Animation is steadily becoming a viable career choice for many, and there is immense demand for animators as the industry grows. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the median pay for animators to be upwards of $75,000 a year. The Bureau of Labour Statistics currently projects a 5% growth rate for the animation industry, which is on par with leading fields. 

The other benefit of learning animation online is that you have quite a few options available. For example, you can choose to learn through an online college course, self-paced online courses or teach yourself the skills using common animation programs. 

But before you select a method, it’s essential to understand what each option entails. One of the drawbacks of online college courses is that they can be significantly more expensive than the other options and take a longer time to complete. Similarly, learning on your own can take much longer to get through, and getting to a professional level by watching free tutorials is challenging. Plus, you miss out on the industry experience and guidance to help point you in the right direction in terms of career paths. 

The middle ground between the two options are online animation courses – particularly the all-encompassing courses that have learning, support, and mentoring. You get to learn animation skills from experts in the field at your own pace while also gaining access to additional resources. That can help you jumpstart your career and get started in the industry without experience. 

Which site is the best for learning animation? 

If you’re looking to learn animation online, quite a few options are available depending on your goals.

Udemy and Skillshare tend to be popular options if you’re looking for shorter courses on specific programs and techniques. They work well if you’re looking to brush up on something or trying to broaden out your skillset. 

Other courses, like our own Academy of Animated Art courses, are more all-encompassing. However, we focus mainly on 3D lighting as a skill, and our flagship program, the Lighting Bundle, teaches you the skills you need to land a job in the industry. Plus, you also learn how to land a job in the industry through mentoring and support options.

The best online animation courses 

The best online animation courses will primarily be based on what area of animation you’re most interested in. There are a lot of different avenues you can explore with animation, so it’s crucial to evaluate courses based on what you would potentially like to do and the skills you’re hoping to develop. 

Here are a few leading courses that cover different areas of animation.

Lighting for Animation Course Bundle

The Lighting for Animation bundle is your comprehensive path toward an animation career. The seven-step course is designed to take you through animation fundamentals at your own pace while giving you opportunities to develop your portfolio. After completing the Lighting for Animation course, you’ll be able to undertake visual shaping with light, use color and shadow to create mood, and ultimately create engaging animation that captures the viewer’s attention. 

The course also trains you in the technical tools and programs needed to thrive in animation, including Maya, Arnold, and much more, to ensure that you’re confident from lighting to rendering and more. Learn animation online with the Lighting for Animation course bundle while gaining access to resources, support, and mentorship to help you get started in your animation career.

Price: $2,398

2D Animation For Beginners With Adobe Animate

If you’re a beginner just looking to dip your toes in the world of animation, a short course like 2D Animation for Beginners can be a good start. Adobe Animate is a valuable tool in your animation skill set, and the course can be a good path to start getting the basics down of animation. Although this is not a comprehensive course by any means, it’s one way to begin to understand the fundamentals of animation and how to apply them in further learning and development.

Price: Skillshare membership needed for the course

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

Every animator needs to have strong command over programs like Maya to be successful in animation. Maya is a powerful tool used to bring 3D animation to life, enabling animators to undertake processes like modeling, texturing, lighting, rigging, animation, and dynamics. 

Understanding the basics of the program and how professional animators use it is immensely useful as you begin to advance your animation skills and animate characters. The Maya for Beginners course is designed to help you learn the ins and outs of Maya in a focused manner without getting too complex. 

Price: $139.99

The Art of Animation: How to Create Lifelike Movement

As you become more comfortable with the basic principles of animation, further developing your skills becomes even more crucial. For those past the beginner stages of learning animation, honing in on specific skills needed for successful animations is a great way to develop professionally. 

One of the key areas that animators benefit from learning is creating animations that genuinely have a lifelike feel to connect with audiences, which is what this course is for. The Art of Animation: How To Create Lifelike Movement focuses on character movement and animation techniques to make it more realistic and engaging for audiences in a digestible manner. 

Price: Skillshare membership needed

Learn the 12 Principles of Animation for Games in Maya 

Maya is one of the leading programs for animators, and there are many courses out there to help you master the program in different applications. For example, Maya can be used for both feature animations and game design. This course will walk you through the fundamental principles needed to master game animation using Maya. In this short course, you’ll learn how to animate walks, jumps, facial rigging, and more.

Price: $19.99

Background Design: Art for Animation 

Animation goes beyond characters, it’s about creating immersive worlds with careful attention to detail. This background design course is all about helping you sharpen your animation skills, including artwork for animation. This course will walk you through concept art, layout sketches, and final background painting to create amazing background designs for your animations.

Price: Skillshare membership needed

Animation Foundations course 

If you’re looking to dive deep into the world of animation and build a solid foundation, then the Animation Foundations course could be a potential pathway. You can learn animation online through this course at your own pace since it includes 24 video lessons you can self-pace as needed. 

The video courses walk you through the basic principles necessary for character animation and how to start with the animation process.  Designed for animators by animators, the Animation Foundations course includes principles that will help guide you through 2D, 3D, and stop-motion animation. 

Price: Course packages start at $67 for basic access and up to $397 for access to the entire course library

Simple Character Animation

One of the key parts of learning animation online is getting your characters just right. A strong demo reel should be able to demonstrate to potential employers that you understand the basic principles of animation and that you can create powerful animated characters. 

Short courses such as Simple Character Animation are helpful to ensure you know the basics of character animation as you learn animation online and how the character animation process works. With eight short videos to get through, you can start to build up your animation foundations and work towards advancing your skills with longer, more in-depth courses down the line. 

Price: Skillshare membership needed

3D Animation Basics

If you’re seeking to learn animation online and want something that goes from beginner to advanced in one course, the 3D Animations Basics course could be a potential fit. Although this is a 12- week course designed to start you off on your animation journey in the best possible way, the course is helpful to understand character animation at its most basic level and work your way up. The course goes through the basic principles of 3D animation, with simple shapes up to more complex characters and imagery to convey emotions through character animation. 

Price: $2,499

3D Animation Program

The 3D animation program is a structured course that walks you through each part of 3D animation. The course teaches you how to create expressive, emotive animation using the fundamentals of 3D animation, and each week takes the learnings a step further. 

The 3D Animation course involves animators from leading movie and game studios, providing a level of professional expertise to support the learnings. The Animation Track consists of classes 0-3 and establishes the basics. The Animation Program picks up classes 4-7 to further build on these learnings and go into more complex principles. 

Price: $1,620

Feature Animation Workshops

The Feature Animation course is structured into more of a workshop setup, making it more suitable for brushing up on essential skills or developing further animation skills rather than a beginner course. Learn animation online with these workshops focused on feature animation, led by industry experts. Over the course of 11 weeks, instructors walk you through how to develop compelling and dynamic animations for feature films, including the essential components of what’s needed and advanced techniques such as body mechanics, full-body acting, and facial and lip-sync. 

Price: Price Per Workshop: $1,698

The best animation software

The world of animation is evolving quickly, and many different programs are used for various aspects of animation. However, there are a few basic software programs you will see come up in animation that are most frequently used, such as Maya, Houdini, and Katana.

Mastering programs like Maya is key, but having additional software skills on your resume will be incredibly beneficial to stand out from the rest. 

The additional software you will learn will largely vary based on your interests and what you would like to specialize in. Here’s a shortlist of the best animation software currently available and how it can help give your resume a boost. 


Maya is the leading animation software used in the industry, so mastering it is essential. Maya is a professional 3D software that enables you to create animations, modeling, simulation, and rendering. It’s primarily used for character design, animation rendering, and special effects. 


Monthly: $225

Annually: $1,785

Annually (Maya Indie): $225

3-year license: $5,085


Blender is specifically designed for animators to bring their character designs to life. Blender can be used for keyframing, complex walk-cycles, and independent and fast movements. It also includes features such as sound synchronization, rigging to transform a model into a character, and many other powerful features to give animations depth and realism as they move.

Price: Free


Arnold is a powerful rendering program created to handle feature-length animations and visual effects. Arnold has fast become an industry standard as a rendering program due to its comprehensive features and ease of use. It can obtain photorealistic renders without crashing and can handle larger loads than other programs while still providing amazingly realistic outputs. 


Monthly: $50

Annually: $380

3-year license: $1,085


Animators use Katana to gain powerful look development and lighting with a suite of features to make animations stand out. Lighting characters becomes faster and better for entire sequences when using Katana, and it also features a range of rendering workflows to speed up processes. 

Price: Upon request


Redshift is a rendering tool that provides photorealistic results for amazing animation. With Redshift, animators can easily undertake complex, advanced shading and depth to create incredible animations without compromising on speed and precision. Redshift also integrates with other key 3D applications and is fast becoming a staple in production pipelines. 

Price:  Multiple plans and pricing are available based on needs, with packages starting at $22/month


Unreal is an open and advanced real-time 3D creation tool that enables animators to create photoreal rendering and animations. With Unreal, animators can create expansive worlds for gaming with dynamic features and access a significantly expanded model toolset for animations. In addition, Unreal features useful tools for animators, including authoring, retargeting, and runtime features to ensure the creative process goes smoothly. 

Price:  Unreal is open-source, so it is free to use in most cases. However, 5% royalty fees are applied if a title earns over a significant amount. 

Over to you!

With so many different paths available, there is plenty of scope to grow and develop professionally if you choose to learn animation online. 

We’ve highlighted some of the best courses available and the tools you’ll need to thrive as an animator. If you’re ready to take the next step in your professional journey and enter a career that is fulfilling, fun, and allows you to express your creativity, animation is the right choice for you – so learn animation online today and kickstart your career to new heights!


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.

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