The 8 Best Online 3D Training Subscriptions and CG Tutorial Sites of 2020

Train online in 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and game development

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Finding quality training in 3D computer graphics online. used to be difficult, but things have changed. Thanks to a few forward-thinking educators, web-based training subscriptions are now the norm and, as a result, it's easier than ever to learn 3D modeling via self-paced video tutorials and classes from some of the industry's most talented artists. These subscriptions go beyond most free tutorials to deliver a quality educational experience. Pair a training subscription with a few well-chosen books, a good anatomy reference, and a whole lot of practice, and you should be well on your way to finding a job in CG.

Our Top Picks

Best for Intermediate Artists: The Gnomon Workshop

Screenshot of the Gnomon Workshop homepage
What We Like
  • Hundreds of hours of training.

  • Free trial options and multiple plan choices.

  • Lots of categories of material.

  • Browse by instructor.

What We Don't Like
  • Not great for absolute beginners.

  • Only a 3-day trial.

The Gnomon Workshop established itself long ago as the gold standard in high-quality video training for computer graphics.

Even though they're no longer the lone choice in CG training, their library is massive, and it strikes a favorable balance between pre-production (design, ideation), production (modeling, texturing, lighting), and post-production (effects, compositing) techniques.

Gnomon's training is often paced for intermediate 3D artists, not beginners, but if you're looking for a subscription that will help you create production-level CG, Gnomon is the way to go.

Best for Beginners: Pluralsight

Screenshot of the PluralSight homepage
What We Like
  • Good for beginners.

  • Wide range of courses with course overviews.

  • 10-day trial and affordable plans.

  • Skill assessment tests.

What We Don't Like
  • Trial requires payment details.

  • Paths model can minimize natural discovery across the platform.

Pluralsight (formerly Digital-Tutors) is well-suited to beginners as well as intermediate 3D artists. The class library is huge and the content covers the whole gamut from traditional design to sculpting, modeling, animation, and mobile game development. 

Classes are grouped in categories called paths. For example, the Maya: Environment Modeling path includes 13 courses for a total of 73 hours, while 3ds Max: Environment Modeling is 10 courses for 33 hours. Many paths and classes include a Skill IQ quiz to rate your skills on a scale from Novice to Expert, so you know where to start.

If you're a beginner who needs to learn a lot of new software quickly, there really isn't a better option than Pluralsight.

Best for Live Training: The Rydan Workshop

Screenshot of the Rydan Workshop homepage
What We Like
  • Live training with ability to rewatch live courses.

  • One-on-one Q&As with instructor.

  • Homework assignments.

  • Detailed course descriptions.

What We Don't Like
  • Limited enrollment.

  • More expensive than similar courses.

  • Videos expire after the course ends.

If you're looking for live online CG training, The Rydan Workshop is the place to go. The entire curriculum is delivered in a live online environment. The sessions are recorded so you can play them back at your convenience. Because the classes are live, enrollment is limited. Each class meets once a week at a specified time with an instructor and teaching assistant. They include demos, critiques, lectures, Q&A with the instructor, and assigned homework.

The topics vary, but past classes included a 10-week workshop on digital character and creature design, an 8-week workshop on creature creation using 3ds Max and Mudbox, and an 8-week workshop on digital environment design.

The Rydan Workshop courses are intensive. Try them for the practical real-world expertise you need to be successful in this highly competitive field.

Best for Free Tutorials: 3Dmotive

Screenshot of the 3dMotive homepage
What We Like
  • Includes free courses.

  • Covers lots of software with new content every week.

  • Mobile access and chat capabilties.

  • Affordable with two ways to purchase content.

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks detailed information about the course chapters.

  • Still a bit game-heavy in terms of content distribution.

3Dmotive content has expanded from catering to the game development crowd to including all the popular 3D software. You can sort classes by your favorite software, subject, and skill level, which makes it easy to zero in on courses that interest you.

A subscription to 3Dmotive gives you immediate access to the website's entire library, or you can buy and download only the classes you need. The website even has a good selection of free tutorials videos you can watch online.

Best for New Content: Fxphd

Screenshot of the fxphd homepage
What We Like
  • New courses every month; 30-minute classes.

  • Hundreds of hours of instructional movies.

  • Member forums.

  • Lots of filtering options.

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey membership fees.

  • Cheaper plan doesn't support video downloads.

Fxphd courses include extensive private forum support for a level of critique and collaboration among peers you probably won't find at other CG course sites.

Subscription-based courses include VFX, production, post-production, and motion graphics. With more than 200 courses, you have over 1,300 hours of training at your fingertips. The website adds new content every month, but you'll have to pay a pricey membership fee to access everything.

Best User-Friendly Site: CGSociety Online Workshops

Screenshot of the CG Society homepage
What We Like
  • Easy-to-use website.

  • Live courses.

  • Live feedback.

  • Detailed course descriptions.

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive classes.

  • The working-pro-instructor model is excellent, although not all working pros are excellent instructors.

CGSociety's workshops are 3- to 8-week courses taught by working professionals—more similar to Fxphd than a training subscription from Gnomon, with the chief difference being that CGS offers a more varied range of courses.

CGS workshops are excellent. These courses are a lot more expensive than most of the subscription sites, but the big advantage is you're in direct communication with skilled working instructors in a private forum. There's no shortage of critique and collaboration, making this a good site for aspiring pros.

Even well-known CG artists are known to show up for the occasional course.

Best for ZBrush Training: ZBrush Workshops

Screenshot of the ZBrush Workshops homepage
What We Like
  • On-demand training.

  • Go at your own pace.

  • Free sculpting brushes.

  • Relatively inexpensive.

What We Don't Like
  • Covers only one digital sculpting tool.

  • Some of the content is so tightly focused it feels like overkill.

ZBrush Workshops is smaller than the rest of the training sites on this list, but it focuses entirely on ZBrush. It isn't the place to go for a generalist CG education, but if you're looking for 50+ hours of focused ZBrush training, this is your best bet. The 50+ hours ZBrush course outline covers Dynamesh, hard surface tools, fibermesh, texturing, rendering, and lighting.

Best for Generalists: Envato Tuts+

Screenshot of the Envato Tuts homepage
What We Like
  • Courses for beginners and experienced artists.

  • Not as pricey as some courses.

  • Covers other topics.

  • Free tutorials.

What We Don't Like
  • Website is hard to navigate.

  • No mobile app access.

Envato Tuts+ classes are not focused entirely on 3D computer graphics, but there are plenty of on-topic classes on the subject. Most are video tutorials that range from one to five hours.

A subscription gives you access to training in fields like photography, web design, audio, and video production, and motion graphics.

Poke around before you throw down your credit card. There may not be a year's worth of solely CG training, but monthly subscriptions are available, and you can probably find enough material to warrant a month or two. If you're interested in some of the other topics, an annual subscription could be worth it.