Frédérik Barbeau on his experience as a 3D art student in college vs. at Rebelway and landing his first gig as a VFX artist.
Becoming a self-taught artist can be tough, especially when you have to deal with complex software applications that even advanced digital artist might find confusing at times. Trying to learn something by yourself usually takes very long simply because self-teaching is often intuitive and a bit chaotic.
Luckily, today there are hundreds of online and in-person VFX schools all across the globe where you can learn the art of VFX from the best artists who have been doing FX for movies, games, and animation for decades. We want to help you find the best VFX school for your skillset. So we’ve made a list of the best schools with courses and degrees for aspiring VFX artists.
One of the biggest advantages of online schools is that you don’t need to go through the admission process, submit grades and certificates, or prepare a portfolio. Plus, you can learn from absolutely any part of the world – you just need your computer, access to the Internet, and motivation to learn a lot and work hard.
Here are our top 5 online VFX schools where you can find plenty of options for all budgets, artistic aspirations, and skill levels.
Rebelway is an online school that was created by FX artists for FX artists. Our courses are all about creating world-class visual effects using industry-standard tools. We have courses both for those who are not very familiar with VFX software and for those who can already create pro-level visuals. Our course catalogue features over 30 free and paid courses that cover the essentials of working in Houdini, Nuke, Unreal Engine, and some other applications that are widely used in the industry.
Rebelway’s instructors are experts in the area of VFX who have outstanding portfolios – Urban Bradesko did color grading for Gears of War 5, Floyd Billingy created environments for Diablo II: Resurrected, and Juri Bryan who created CG effects for Marvel’s Avengers.
Rebelway’s courses are 8 to 11 weeks long and start at $698 for paid programs. We also have bulk discounts for institutions and creative studios.
Probably the best thing about our courses is that you get lifetime access to the course materials and get all project files and assets to learn faster. Plus, you can always ask Rebelway’s instructors for advice or send them your demo reel for professional review. Our alumni land jobs at Weta Digital, Framestore, Scanline VFX, ILM, and other big production studios.
We also are giving away free VFX lessons so you can get started at no cost.
If you have been doing VFX for quite some time, you’ve probably heard about Gnomon which is often considered to be the Harvard of digital arts. It is definitely one of the priciest options, especially if you consider choosing an on-campus course, but it is totally worth it.
The school has been training talented artists for almost 25 years, and its graduates work at DNEG, Electronic Arts, Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks, Sony Interactive, and other world-renowned companies. Gnomon’s instructors are skilled creators who have worked on some of the best-known titles in the entertainment industry – Jon Arellano created environments for Call of Duty, David Breaux animated characters for The Hunger Games, Anwei Chen created VFX for Avengers, and the list goes on.
While Gnomon is primarily focused on offline art programs, you can find 12 online courses for digital artists. These include Cinematics Shot Production in Unreal, Visual Effects in Unreal, and Environment Creation for Games. Gnomon’s online courses are 10 weeks long and the price is the same for all of them – $1,323.
CG Spectrum College of Digital Art & Animation is hands down one of the best online schools for digital artists. It offers a great variety of programs both for 2D and 3D creators. The school has courses for all skill levels from beginner to advanced and you can choose either 1-on-1 private lessons or studying in a group of 4.
If you are new to VFX, you can start with Introduction to Houdini FX or Introduction to Nuke Compositing. CG Spectrum’s beginner courses are 3 months long and start at $3,199 depending on your chosen payment plan and whether you opt for private lessons or not.
Students at CG Spectrum get to learn the art of VFX from the best mentors who have been in the industry for years or even decades – Daniel Hourigan who created visuals for Game of Thrones, Gyuri Kiss who worked on visual effects for Avengers, Claire Pegorier who was responsible for digital effects in some of the Harry Potter movies, and many others. CG Spectrum’s alumni go on to create visuals at top animation, VFX, and game studios including Ubisoft, Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation, and Industrial Light & Magic. And of course, as a CG Spectrum student, you get personalized career support which includes CV and portfolio review, help with job applications, and preparation for the interviews.
Computer Graphics Master Academy is a well-known online school that has amazing courses for 2D and 3D artists. It covers nearly everything from basic figure drawing for beginners to world building in Unreal Engine for advanced users.
Whatever your artistic goal is, you will most likely find a program that meets your needs as the school offers over 25 courses for VFX artists. These include Grooming for VFX, Lighting and Shading for Film Production, Python for VFX and Animation in Maya, and many others. If you are looking for all-around fundamental training in VFX, CGMA also offers a VFX track which is a studying program that includes the majority of short courses for FX artists.
The school has a huge team of insanely talented artists who teach students how to create awesome visual effects. You will learn the magic of VFX with Alexander Richter, TD behind Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Behnam Shafiebeik who did compositing for Marvel’s Black Widow, Heather Abels who created set extensions for Disney’s Encanto, and other industry professionals. Needless to say, CGMA’s students get hired by some of the best companies like Google, Naughty Dog, and DreamWorks.
VFX courses at CGMA are 4 to 10 weeks long and the prices start at $399.
When it comes to professional high-quality courses designed specifically for VFX artists, fxphd is one of the best options you can find. It’s a subscription-based online learning platform where you can find over 250 courses for digital artists of all skill levels. There are introductory courses that can help you learn the basics of working in Houdini, Adobe Photoshop, Substance Painter, and other applications as well as advanced lessons that are aimed at professional artists who want to perform more complex tasks using 3D art tools and get the most out of them.
Fxphd has an impressive library of video tutorials from some of the most prominent FX artists – you can find courses taught by ILM’s digital artist Katie Morris who’s worked on Star Wars, Liam Whitehouse, environment artist who created visuals for Suicide Squad, Charles Chorein who did VFX supervision for Doctor Who, and other experienced CG creators. The cost of subscription starts at $79 per month and it gives you access to all of the courses available on fxphd from Introduction to Digital Colour Theory to Advanced VEX & Python for Houdini TDs and everything in between.
We love online training for its accessibility and an incredibly huge variety of options but if you want to build a sound foundation to become a VFX pro, consider on-site education in visual effects production. It is pricier than studying online but it has numerous advantages including visits to production studios and presenting your projects in front of industry professionals.
We almost feel obliged to start with Gnomon once again because at this point it has become the gold standard for digital art education. As good as their online courses are, nothing beats a full hands-on experience. Gnomon has a mind-blowing list of 85 on-campus courses that includes traditional 2D art programs as well as courses for aspiring VFX artists.
The prices for Gnomon’s 10-week courses start at $699 and go up to $2250. For those who want a solid foundation in 3D art, there is a full-time BFA program in Digital Production and a full-time 2-year Certificate program in Digital Production. The first one will prepare you for the role of a 3D Generalist as it covers the entirety of the 3D production pipeline and helps you develop a strong universal skill set that will allow you to land a job in any area you want. The second program is more focused on visual effects so it would be a perfect choice for those who have decided to stick to VFX production.
The total program tuition adds up to $112,801.50 for BFA in Digital Production and $96,253 for the 2-year Certificate program in Digital Production. As competitive and pricey as Gnomon might seem, it provides you with excellent training that is worth the time and money invested in your art education. Plus, the school offers financial aid to all students so you might be eligible for a scholarship or a grant.
When it comes to high-end in-person training, it’s hard to think of too many schools that are better than Think Tank Training Center. Their courses are taught by industry professionals and they have a proven pipeline for helping aspiring VFX artists land their dream job. At Think Tank’s in-person school you can expect to learn concepts like animation, modeling, game design, and more. It’s a fantastic place to go if you want to be a VFX generalist and their location in Vancouver makes it easy to immediately skip into a studio. Their 12-month program costs $50,800 for non-Canadian citizens.
The Lost Boys School of VFX is special because VFX is their primary focus. This in-person school is a fantastic place to learn how to create VFX for film, TV, and games. Their alumni have gone on to work on essentially every major film project. They have two locations, one in Vancouver and one in Montréal. Both cities are hubs for VFX and allow you to easily transition into a full-time job once you complete the program. The cost of tuition is $41,900 for a one-year degree, but with a high job placement rate, it’s a safe bet for any aspiring FX artist.
Barcelona is Spain’s IT capital where you can find dozens of offices of the world’s biggest companies including Amazon, Facebook, HP, Apple, and Microsoft. No wonder it has some really good digital art programs for VFX artists, and the ones offered by FX ANIMATION Barcelona 3D & Film School are probably the most versatile.
The school has 2 amazing Master’s degrees for VFX artists that are taught entirely in English (as well as Spanish of course) – Higher Master’s Degree In VFX and Master’s With Specialization In Visual Effects (VFX) With Houdini. The first program is aimed at those who want to create astonishing movie- or game-ready visuals, and you will learn how to use all the essential tools the industry relies on heavily – Nuke, Houdini, Maya, ZBrush, and others. The second one is a deep dive into Houdini for FX artists where you get to learn the art of creating visuals using Houdini, Nuke, and coding with Python.
FX ANIMATION Barcelona 3D & Film School is a SideFX-certified school and its graduates have worked on some of the most successful titles in the movie industry including Fantastic Beasts and Game of Thrones. Tuition rates range from €10,000 ($11,354) to €13,400 ($15,215) per year depending on the program you choose, your preferred payment method, and the country you come from.
École Supérieure des Métiers Artistiques is without question one of the best places to learn VFX in Europe. The school has a Master’s program in CG Animation & FX that offers its students high-quality training in all steps of animation and FX production from scripting to compositing and rendering. Even though it is a Master’s degree course, the duration of the program is 4 years instead of 2 since the syllabus is literally packed with subjects that will provide you with all the knowledge you might need as an artist. It includes fundamentals of sketching, covers character design, rigging, VFX production, and more.
If this sounds too intimidating or you think you might not be admitted because you have a background in a different field, there is no need to worry as ESMA offers a 1-year preparatory course in CG Animation & FX. It is both a superb standalone program and an ideal base for the 4-year Master’s course.
The school’s alumni have pretty impressive résumés as some of them work at Ubisoft, Rockstar Games, Dreamworks, and other big companies. If you are not convinced yet, let me just mention that studying in Europe is almost always cheaper than studying in Canada or the US – the annual cost of the Master’s program at ESMA is €7380 ($8352).
For those who speak French, these programs are available on all ESMA campuses – Lyon, Toulouse, Nantes, and Montpellier. The English-language programs are taught only in Lyon. There is, however, one more 2-year-long training in 3D Animation and Visual Effects based in Montreal, Canada. It would be perfect if you want a more fast-paced course focused entirely on 3D art rather than long in-depth training in visual arts.
Together with Gnomon, this art school based in Savannah, Georgia, is often mentioned as one of the best schools to learn animation and VFX in the world. What makes this college stand out is that it offers a staggering variety of programs that are related to visual effects, animation, and movie production. Plus, it offers three different levels of training in VFX – Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, and Master of Fine Arts.
The curriculum of the Visual Effects program is a dream – the Bachelor’s course starts with color theory and composition and shifts to procedural modeling and concept development for VFX. The MFA course includes programming for VFX, digital compositing, and lighting. The courses are taught by industry veterans who have been doing animation and VFX since the 90s and have worked at MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures, and other world-famous companies.
The cost of attendance at SCAD is far above the tuition rates at any art school in Europe – $38,340 per year for undergraduate degrees and $39,240 for graduate degrees. There are, however, all sorts of financial aid including student job placements, and 80% of SCAD’s applicants receive scholarships. Plus, Savannah College of Art and Design has an astounding 99% alumni employment rate which makes it worth the splurge.
Pearson College’s Escape Studios offers top-class training in VFX, animation, and game design. The school is ranked 1st in the UK by the Rookies and it is a Houdini Certified School and the only Unreal Engine Authorized Training Center in the United Kingdom. It has plenty of options for undergraduate students, graduates, and those who are looking for short niche courses in the field of VFX.
There is a 3-year Bachelor’s program in VFX where you learn everything an FX artist needs to create magnificent visuals – 3D for VFX, compositing, game art, and animation. This course has been developed in collaboration with MPC and DNEG so you will gain all the skills required to enter the industry.
The school also offers two awesome programs for graduate students – MA in Visual Effects Production (3D) and MA in Visual Effects Production (Compositing). The first one is all about 3D modeling, sculpting, shading, and texturing for FX production. You will learn, for instance, how to create various objects for VFX, use particle solvers, do rendering and compositing. The second program is a Nuke-heavy course that teaches you how to deal with transformations and rotoscoping, how to perform color correction, how to work with projections, how to combine CG and live footage, and more.
On top of that, Escape Studios has short courses for 2D and 3D VFX artists. They are 6 to 18 weeks long and you can choose to study full-time or part-time. The cost of attendance for Master’s programs is £17,995 ($23,803) and the price for the Bachelor’s course is £9,250 ($12,235) per year. Escape Studio’s short courses start at £5,645 ($7,467).
Getting noticed is not impossible and thankfully, you don’t need to be an acclaimed VFX genius to grow a big audience or land a job in the industry, you don’t even need to have an educational background in art. It might be hard to start sharing your works when there are so many incredible artists all over the world and so many mind-blowing, absolutely next-level artworks, but everyone starts somewhere so don’t be afraid to post and don’t compare yourself to those who literally have years of experience and a degree in 3D Art.
And if you feel like you need to improve your skills, there are plenty of awesome online courses for aspiring digital artists. If you are not sure what you might need on your artistic journey, take our Course Quiz. If you are new to VFX, check out our Houdini Fundamentals course for complete beginners where you can learn the basics of creating amazing visuals using SideFX Houdini. You can also fill out the box below to get free lessons from the course.
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Frédérik Barbeau on his experience as a 3D art student in college vs. at Rebelway and landing his first gig as a VFX artist.
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