Skillshare: the Best Free Classes for Digital Artists

There aren’t many, but Skillshare has some free classes worth investigating

Written: 
August 7, 2021
Last Updated: 
September 17, 2021
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Skillshare has a small selection of free classes that you don't need to be subscribed to watch - and some of them are a reasonable indication of the quality of the rest of Skillshare's premium library.
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Skillshare is known as being a creativity-focused e-learning platform, that charges a subscription fee for access to its premium content - but most people don't realize they also have a small collection of completely free videos!

It's a little difficult to find them, and then once you do find them and start watching, Skillshare does its best to redirect you into a premium class as fast as it can to encourage you to pay the subscription.

To make things easy and save you guys having to dig them out yourselves, here are direct links to the free Fine Art section and the free Illustration section of Skillshare's classes.

I also put together the small list below - what I consider to be the best of Skillshare's free art videos (except for ones that also appear on YouTube, I didn't see much point in including them!)

Free Skillshare Drawing Classes

Drawing Dynamic Facial Expressions:   The Smile

By Kristy Gordon

Kristy is one of the best art teachers on Skillshare in my opinion, and her classes appear pretty often on my best Skillshare classes article.  

She obviously has a lot of experience teaching on and offline

Her free classes are just as good - this class is a 1 hour demonstration of facial anatomy, drawing principles, portraits and expression and rendering with great advice sprinkled throughout.

Drawing Dynamic Facial Expressions:   The Scream

By Kristy Gordon

This is somewhat of a sequel to the above class - another portrait drawing class with a different expression, but slightly shorter at just 50 mins.

Nearly all of this class is actually the exact same lessons as the class above, covering drawing the facial features and proportions - the unique lesson is a 15 minute portrait drawing demonstration.  If you’ve already watched Kristy’s ‘smile’ class, you can skip straight to the last section.

Again, Kristy has great advice throughout the lesson, providing a lot of info about construction, lines, contrast and values, planes…she hits upon lots of ideas that obviously come from years of drawing and portrait experience.

Having watched Kristy’s premium classes as well, I think her free classes are a great sample of her library.

Communication Through Drawing:        Key Principles for Beginners

By Pedro Castillo T.

This class is a really good overview of the basic principles you should learn to start improving the quality of your drawing. Most beginner technical drawing courses will start with the same sort of content and exercises, and getting a handle of them is often the first step towards getting better at drawing.

Pedro first covers the importance of healthy drawing posture, and then launches into simple drawing exercises like practicing lines and circles.

He also covers 2-point perspective, light and shadow, and drawing ellipses and cylinders, before he combines the ideas and demos drawing a chair in 2 point perspective.

It’s a good introduction to many ideas that drawing novices won't be familiar with, though you will probably find that after being introduced, you will have to look for deeper resources on each topic.

Pen & Ink: Stylized Line Landscapes

By Pattie Schleicher

This is quite a unique class on Skillshare - drawing landscapes from imagination in pencil and ink, with Pattie's distinct pattern-based style that shines throughout the course.

Pattie mostly discusses her compositional choices as she is working - organising landscapes into foreground, middleground and background, movement, perspective etc.

Unfortunately, she doesn't complete the image in the end, getting about a third of the way through inking it.  In fact, the class ends so abruptly that it's almost like she forgot to upload the conclusion or something!

Regardless, I still think it's a great class, especially for free.

Free Skillshare Painting Classes

Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners

By Sandra Bowers Art

Sandra obviously has a lot of experience with all sorts of watercolor materials and tools, as the bulk of this class goes through loads of the tools and materials available, which ones she personally, and which she avoids.

Firstly Sandra discusses different painting surfaces, then paint - lightfast, different grades of quality, paint tubes vs pans, even honey-based watercolor. Then the same for pencils, pastels, liquids, different kinds of brushes - and all demonstrated and explained very well.

‍She even shows some interesting techniques like putting salt or alcohol on watercolors, and how they affect the different grades of paint.  If you haven’t yet dived in to watercolor and are trying to figure out what you should buy to get started, this class should clear up any confusion!

She ends with demonstrations of wet on wet and wet on dry painting, explaining the differences and the qualities of each.

How to Oil Paint : The Complete Beginners Guide

By Caleigh Bird

This is a bit of an undiscovered class, especially since it’s free, and it’s a great class for total beginners to oil painting - it thoroughly covers all of the basic ideas like the differences between various materials and tools, how different brushes will apply paint in differing ways, how to achieve different qualities of stroke, how some brushes blend better than others, etc.  

She actually demonstrates all of this quite well, and it really helps in clearing up what tools should be used in what situations.

She then moves into which paints and tools you’ll need to start, and how to mix paints to get the right tones and hues for your painting, demonstrates painting and even ends with tips on how to properly clean up afterwards and make sure your tools keep their quality.

Painting the Portrait With A Full Palette

By Kristy Gordon

It’s Kristy again! This class has loads of instruction for portrait drawing and painting, such as accurate measuring techniques and how to construct a portrait painting properly before committing to laying down oil paint.

She also goes into mixing colors, and explains the difference between hue, saturation and value/tone, all very important to understand for accurate color-mixing.

I assume that many of Kristy’s classes are recordings from her in-person classes, since she seems to have students there with her while she is demonstrating. She actively engages them with questions to check if they are following the lecture, which I’ve found also makes the recorded lecture more engaging and interactive to watch.

This class is definitely more advanced than the above class - it doesn’t go into the basics of oil painting at all, and assumes you are already set up with tools and materials and understand them fairly well.  If this isn't you, then definitely do the above class first!


Free Skillshare Digital Painting Classes

Photoshop Fundamentals in One Hour

By Hardy Fowler

If you’re new to digital painting on a pc, then this class and the next one by Hardy Fowler might be a decent place to learn the basics - they are made with an older version of Photoshop, but the fundamentals really remain the same.

Hardy has a lot of great premium courses on Skillshare, and this class works as a decent introduction to his teaching style to see if it clicks with you. He’s a clear speaker with a friendly voice, and has a lot of professional experience as a digital artist.

Despite its title, this class is actually only 40 mins long, and goes into Photoshop specific tools, filters, adjustments, masks etc that also appear in most other digital art softwares.

For some reason it feels a little like the individual lessons in this class are taught out of order, but perhaps that’s just me!

Art Fundamentals in One Hour

By Hardy Fowler

Another class by Hardy, that builds on what was covered in the last class.

It covers ideas around maintaining health during digital painting sessions, like taking care of your back and eyes, then moves into the basics of using your tablet with photoshop and then to some basic art fundamentals.

The title is actually a bit misleading, as around ⅔ of this class is really about digital painting and basic PS fundamentals than art fundamentals.  Only a third or so discusses light, color, design, and composition.

It's an alright beginner's introduction to digital painting in Photoshop, but it’s probably best used as a way to check out Hardy’s courses before splashing out on Skillshare Premium.

Digital Illustration: Learn to Use Procreate

By Jarom Vogel

If you’ve recently got yourself an iPad for digital painting (like me!) then you might be looking into Procreate.  

This class explains the basics of Procreate's various tools and brushes.

Jorem shows his whole illustration process start to finish, from designing the thumbnail to putting on the finishing touches, explaining each tool he uses along the way and why.

Jorem is good at what he does, and knows Procreate really well.  It’s pretty simple: if you want to make finished illustrations in Procreate, check out this 1 hour tutorial, there’s really not much more to say!


Digital Concept Art: Designing Creatures | Learn with Wacom

By Justin Goby Fields

In this Zbrush class, Justin starts with explaining the importance of using references and cultivating your creativity, before jumping into Zbrush and explaining the UI and basic tools.  He proceeds to work through a whole portrait piece live, from sketch, to refining, detail, color, and finally finishing touches.

Justin is a professional of the highest caliber - I’ve known of and followed this guy since I started learning digital art in 2009, and he’s consistently been putting out quality work.  A free 80 minute process video from such a high level professional is quite a rarity and has a lot of value, even though the class might be a little fast-paced for a beginner.

Hey, I'm Christopher

I started making digital art in 2009, and became a full-time freelance artist in 2016, able to work on my own schedule from anywhere in the world.

Now, I want to help young artists make the same journey!

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