The 7 Best Online Painting Classes of 2021

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Our Top Picks

Best Canvas Preparation: Canvas Stretching & Canvas Priming from Hunter College "Lanfranco guides you through the materials you’ll need to get set up, including a ruler, scissors, and stretcher or strainer bars."

Best Acrylic Technique: Will Kemp Art School

"Along with a variety of videos on proper color mixing, Will will also set you up with a series of painting tutorials."

Best Watercolor for Beginners: Beginners Watercolors on Udemy

"Created by Nicola A. Blakemore, the course includes four hours of on-demand video, and you can even access the course materials on your TV."

Best History: In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting From The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

"You will be assigned readings to give context to the larger cultural, intellectual, and historical happenings that shaped these artists."

Best Oil Painting: Oil Painting for Beginners by Florent Farges Arts

"According to his channel, Farges follows the teachings of the atelier method of the 19th century."

Best Paint Mixing: Color Theory & Mixing by Jeanette Jobson

"This is a crash course in the nuance of the process that is sure to set you up for success."

Best Introduction to Gouache: Gouache 101 by Minnie Small

"This tutorial explores not only what it is and how should you use it, but also which brushes and paper are best suited to the medium."

Best Canvas Preparation: Canvas Stretching & Canvas Priming from Hunter College

Hunter College

Hunter College

Before embarking on a new painting project, the first step is to properly prep your canvas. Instructor Katerina Lanfranco, who teaches painting at Hunter College in New York City, has uploaded two free videos to her YouTube channel (covering Canvas Stretching and Canvas Priming) to successfully set the foundation of your painting.

Both tutorials are really about the best practices to produce an effective canvas. Lanfranco guides you through the materials you’ll need to get set up (these include a ruler, scissors, and stretcher or strainer bars) and clearly walks you through the process of properly cutting your canvas and attaching it to the bars.

Priming comes next: using gesso will create a flexible surface that receives paint well and allows you to spread it more effectively. Lanfranco outlines the materials needed for the process which include gesso, a gesso brush, and sandpaper (to sand down the surface after each coat, so that the canvas is smooth and ready for painting)—and takes you through step-by-step with easy-to-follow instructions. By the end of the course, you’ll have a canvas ready to paint.

Best Acrylic Technique: Will Kemp Art School

Will Kemp Art School

Will Kemp Art School 

Interested in trying out or working to refine your acrylic painting skills? On his YouTube channel, artist Will Kemp writes and creates his own videos on classical painting techniques, with a concentration on the use of acrylic paint.

Whether you’re just starting out or have a more ambitious project in mind, Will’s videos will demonstrate a variety of strategies for the medium. Get started with simple foundational building blocks, including properly cleaning your acrylic paintbrush, choosing your acrylic paintbrush, applying acrylic colored grounds, and color mixing basics.

Along with a variety of videos on proper color mixing, Will will also set you up with a series of painting tutorials—ranging from beginner to a more advanced skill set. Learn the fundamentals of painting a still life with the multi-part Beginners Acrylic Still Life Techniques, gain knowledge of light and shade techniques, and try your hand at acrylic landscape painting, palette knife techniques, portraits, painting skies, floral still lifes, and even painting in the style of Claude Monet.

And the best part: It's all free.

Best Watercolor for Beginners: Beginners Watercolors on Udemy

Udemy

Udemy

Watercolors have a reputation for being a difficult painting discipline. This Beginners Watercolors course on Udemy will new painters build confidence, giving you the tools to master the fundamentals and leading with a playful approach to the medium.

All you need to get started is a box of watercolor paints, one round paintbrush, watercolor paper, a black ink or felt tip pen, pencil, eraser, a clear or white wax candle or crayon, and two jars for water.

Created by Nicola A. Blakemore, the course (around $100) includes four hours of on-demand video, and you can even access the course materials on your TV or mobile phone. The goal of the class is simple—to teach you how watercolor paints work with water and how to harness that effectively.

Blakemore's class will walk you through understanding the principle of a color wash, how the same colors can create shape and shading, how you can create highlights and shadows with watercolors, and how to properly color mix your paints.

Best History: In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting From The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

MoMA

MoMA

Founded in 1929, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) houses some of the most famous modern paintings in the world. While visitors have lined up to see Vincent Van Gogh’s "The Starry Night" or masterworks from Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, the museum now has online programming you can access at home.

Though MoMA offers a variety of free online courses exploring a variety of artistic disciplines, In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting focuses on the materials, techniques, and conceptual processes of seven New York School artists: de Kooning, Pollock, Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko.

The no-cost course is set up so you can work at your own pace and on your own schedule. Your instructor will lead you through demonstrations in the studio and gallery walkthroughs, and will assign readings to give context to the larger cultural, intellectual, and historical happenings that shaped these artists post-World War II.

The class also includes a variety of optional studio exercises, which you will need art supplies for. These will hopefully provide inspiration for your own abstract paintings.

Best Oil Painting: Oil Painting for Beginners by Florent Farges Arts

Florent Farges Arts

Florent Farges Arts

Interested in making a foray into the style that created Leonardo da Vinci’s "Mona Lisa" and Pablo Picasso’s "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon?"

Oil painting uses pigments with drying oils as a binder, such as linseed or poppyseed oil. If you’re a beginner, French artist Florent Farges has a variety of video tutorials on his YouTube channel that will help you get the ball rolling with your oil painting instruction.

Farges follows the teachings of the atelier method from the 19th century. The best place to start is Oil Painting for Beginners, which is free. Here, Florent strives for simplicity. All the questions you may be thinking, such as "Why use oil paint?," "Is oil paint more complicated?," and "Is oil paint more toxic?" are addressed here, as well as a step-by-step painting demonstration.

Once you get comfortable with the basics, there are many more tutorials you can choose from, including specific videos on oil painting, drying time, pigments and palettes, setting up for plein air painting, and of course—tips to up your oil painting game.

Best Paint Mixing: Color Theory & Mixing by Jeanette Jobson

Jeanette Jobson

Jeanette Jobson

Understanding color theory is a critical skill for any artist. Not only does it explain the relationship between colors, but it also is key to understanding their combinations.

When it comes to painting, color theory and paint mixing go hand-in-hand. While there is a vast amount of knowledge available on the subject of color theory itself (see Josef Albers’s fundamental "Interaction of Color"), getting hands-on with your paints in your at-home studio will also open your eyes to how it works on the canvas.

Jeanette Jobson’s free Color Theory & Mixing - The Basics video is a great introduction to mixing, using a split primary palette. This palette uses two shades of each primary color (red, yellow, and blue)—with one warm and one cool shade. Jobson clearly explains many of the terms associated with color and mixing—including color bias.

She walks you through what exactly that means and how each paint shade illustrates that—with the assortment of hues in her palette. Jobson then begins her mixing demonstration: a crash course in the nuance of the process that is sure to set you up for success.

Best Introduction to Gouache: Gouache 101 by Minnie Small

Minnie Small

Minnie Small

Gouache is a water-based media with a heavier pigment load than watercolor, and is thus designed to be more opaque.

In this video, artist Minnie Small breaks down the basics of gouache. This tutorial explores not only what it is and how should you use it, but also which brushes and paper are best suited to the medium. If you have experience with watercolors, gouache may be the next style of painting you want to play with.

As Small explains in the free video, many of the tools you’d use for watercolor, such as the type of brush, will also work for gouache. Minnie illustrates the varying opacity of the paint, as well as its variety of beneficial properties—including its velvet matte finish, quick drying time, and the fact that it can be reactivated with water after drying. So, if you’d like to keep working on a part of a finished painting, you can rework it with ease.

What Will an Online Painting Class Teach Me?

Depending on which discipline you begin with, online painting classes can teach a variety of painting techniques. The classes we selected touch on various areas of the medium. They include stretching and priming a canvas from scratch; understanding color theory and mixing paint colors; learning the foundations of watercolor painting; and mastering how to work with acrylic, oil, and gouache paints. All of these are skills that will build your painting practice. 

How Much Do Online Painting Classes Cost?

All the classes on this list—with the exception of one: Beginners Watercolors on Udemy, which costs around $100—are available for free.

What Materials Will I Need for an Online Painting Class?

The materials you’ll need for your online painting class depend on the type of painting you’ll be studying. But to get started you’ll need paint brushes, the paint of your choice, some form of paint palette, a water cup, and an appropriate surface to apply your paint (e.g., a canvas, watercolor paper, or bristol board). If you’re taking the In the Studio: Postward Abstract Painting history course from the Museum of Modern Art, all you’ll need is your computer. 

What Will I Be Able to Create in an Online Painting Class?

In an online painting class, the sky’s the limit of what you can create. With the Canvas Preparation tutorials from Hunter College, you will be able to make your own prepped and primed canvas surface to paint on. In the classes from Will Kemp Art School, you’ll use acrylics to make landscapes, portrait paintings, and still life works. And with Florent Farges Art’s oil painting tutorials, you’ll be able to create your own plein air painting.