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10 best online course platforms for creatives (2021)

Painting in progress

There has never been a better time to take creative courses online. There are now tons of online course platforms with courses for everything from Adobe Photoshop and Procreate to sketching and macrame.

But with so many platforms for learning available, how do you know which one to choose?

As a former instructional designer and eLearning junkie for years now, I’ve tried just about every online course platform under the sun. To help you choose, I put together this exhaustive list of the best options available.

In a hurry? Get started with my picks for the best online learning platforms: Domestika, Udemy, Skillshare, and MasterClass.

Affiliate disclosure: Articles on Tiny Workshops may contain affiliate links.

How to choose the best online course platforms

Before we get into the details on each online learning platform, there’s one key detail to keep in mind:

These platforms have been chosen based on their creative courses above all else.

This means that if you’re looking for coding courses, there may be better options out there.

But for art, crafts, photography, marketing, design, and even some creative tech subjects like 3D animation and rendering, these are by far the best places to take online courses.

Each one offers a host of new skills and techniques to learn, often for free!

With that out of the way, let’s get to the list.


Best online course platforms

Here are the 10 best online course platforms for creatives to check out in 2021, starting with my personal favorite.


1. Domestika

Pros:

  • Dedicated to creative courses
  • Professional production
  • Highly qualified teachers
  • Inexpensive (~$10 a course)
  • Lifetime access to courses

Cons:

  • No professional certificates
  • Many courses in Spanish with subtitles
  • Finicky mobile app

Domestika is a relative newcomer when it comes to online course platforms, but it’s quickly become my go-to source for creative courses.

The entire platform is dedicated to creative courses. There are literally thousands of options for crafts, tech skills, illustration, and so much more.

I’ve written a full guide to Domestika that explains everything you need to know, but here’s the lowdown.

A platform for creatives first and foremost

As mentioned above, Domestika is filled with creative courses, but there’s more to it than that. It also serves as a kind of social media platform.

Read also: Domestika review: Great creative courses with a catch

You can think of it as a cross between Behance and LinkedIn. You can share your portfolio, list yourself as open to freelance work, and even search through an integrated job board.

Most of the users are in the Spanish-speaking world (as we’ll get to in a moment), but it’s a great way to connect with other creatives.

Great course selection, with one major setback

Domestika has an incredible selection of creative courses (check out my favorites here), covering a variety of topics. Here’s the full list of categories:

  • Illustration
  • Marketing & Business
  • Photography & Video
  • Design
  • 3D & Animation
  • Craft
  • Architecture & Spaces
  • Technology
  • Calligraphy & Typography

Each course is taught by a qualified professional with the help of Domestika’s in-house production team. Courses run anywhere from two to 12+ hours, and cost around $10 when on sale.

Once purchased, you can watch courses whenever you want, forever. No subscription fee required.

There is an optional subscription service called Domestika Pro, which has a few benefits for avid learners. It’s extremely affordable at just $30 a year, but honestly it’s completely unnecessary to get the most out of the platform.

The catch is that the vast majority of these courses are in Spanish with subtitles in English. There is a growing list of English-language courses, but you will inevitably need to do some reading.

In my experience, this hasn’t been a big deal. Most courses are very visual, so it’s still easy to follow the content. Plus, there’s a fairly generous 14-day refund policy.

If you’re not sure subtitles are for you, check out a few of the rotating free Domestika courses on offer. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

More about Domestika:


2. Udemy

Udemy logo

Pros:

  • Huge quantity of courses
  • Lifetime access to courses
  • Highly qualified teachers
  • Frequent course sales

Cons:

  • No professional certificates
  • Course quality varies
  • High non-sale prices

If you’ve spent any amount of time with online course platforms, odds are you’ve encountered Udemy. It has an astounding amount of courses uploaded by teachers all over the planet.

As one of the largest online course platforms around, it has something for everything. That includes not just creative courses, but also courses for business skills, leadership, programming, and more.

Quantity and quality

When I say that Udemy has an astounding amount of courses, I mean it. The platform boasts more than 130,000 online courses in 2021, with new options added every week.

With that many options, the odds are good you’ll find something that interests you. However, not all categories on the site are directed at creatives. Here’s the basic list:

  • Development
  • Business
  • Finance & Accounting
  • IT & Software
  • Office Productivity
  • Personal Development
  • Design
  • Marketing
  • Lifestyle
  • Photography & Video
  • Heath & Fitness
  • Music
  • Teaching & Academics

Of these, the most popular are related to business and programming. Still, there are plenty of options for creatives if you search for them.

I’m also happy to report that the course quality is overall quite high. Although they’re user uploaded (so technically anyone can create a course), Udemy does run quality control to keep low-effort content off the platform.

That said, it doesn’t quite match up to platforms with in-house production like Domestika.

Confusing price structure

Although Udemy courses and the platform overall are great, there are some issues with the pricing structure in my opinion.

Retail pricing can reach $100 or even $200 per course, but frequent sales and discounts reduce those prices by as much as 90%.

That’s all well and good, but it leaves you with the feeling that anything less than 90% off is overpaying. Even if the price is still perfectly fair for what the course offers.

And to be clear, this isn’t entirely on Udemy. Instructors can set their own pricing, so by listing the price as permanently 90% off it feels like a bargain.

Still, if you do your research before buying you can find some real gems. There are also a variety of free courses available, although they tend to be much worse than their paid counterparts. Treat them as a test of the platform, but not indicative of the overall quality.

More about Udemy:


3. Skillshare

Skillshare logo

Pros:

  • Huge quantity of courses
  • Short, focused courses
  • Some free courses available

Cons:

  • No professional certificates
  • Course quality varies
  • Requires persistent subscription

Skillshare is yet another online course platform that needs little introduction. With about 2000 free classes and tens of thousands more available for a single subscription fee, it’s one of the largest and most popular platforms out there.

Previously Skillshare also had an extremely generous two-month free trial, but now that’s been reduced to a two-week free trial.

That’s still enough time to enjoy a lot of content before shelling out $19 a month (or $99 a year) for a subscription.

I’ve written a full guide to everything you need to know about Skillshare, but here’s the brief version to get you started.

Hit or miss course quality

One of the defining aspects of Skillshare is the fact that courses can be uploaded by just about anyone.

In the past this lead to an overwhelming amount of low-quality content, but nowadays the platform has put more curation into place. It still doesn’t match up to other online course platforms, but overall the experience is much better.

In a way, this is also one of the platform’s strengths. Even if you don’t want to become a teacher, you can watch courses about the same topic from different teachers to gain a bit more perspective and insight.

All you can eat creative courses

The other truly defining element of Skillshare is that everything is unlocked with a single subscription, called Skillshare Premium.

In total, there are about 30,000 courses available covering a variety of topics. These are mostly creative, with a few tech courses and foreign language courses, too.

Here’s the full list of categories:

  • Animation
  • Creative Writing
  • Film & Video
  • Fine Art
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration
  • Music
  • Photography
  • UI/UX Design
  • Web Development
  • Business Analytics
  • Freelance & Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership & Management
  • Marketing
  • Lifestyle
  • Productivity

There’s a lot on offer here, but if you’re looking for just one type of course or topic, you may be better off sticking to single-payment platforms instead of subscription services.

But if you want to learn tons of different skills and become a Jack of all (creative) trades, Skillshare is probably the best subscription there is.

More about Skillshare:


4. MasterClass

Pros:

  • Respected, celebrity teachers
  • Professional production quality
  • Slick platform design

Cons:

  • No professional certificates
  • Fairly limited library
  • Pricey

On the opposite spectrum from Skillshare is another subscription-based online course platform called MasterClass.

As the name implies, each of the classes is taught by a qualified professional, most of whom are celebrities in their own right.

We’re talking people like Serena Williams, Gordon Ramsay, Alicia Keys, Amy Tan, and Neil Gaiman. If that kind of star power doesn’t draw you in, perhaps the exceptional production quality will finish the job.

An online course platform for the modern era

In today’s celebrity-obsessed world, it’s easier than ever to follow your favorite personalities. Now, thanks to MasterClass, you can get far more than selfies and Twitter quips.

You truly will gain insight into the people at the very top of their fields and how they got there. For any aspiring professional, that’s worth its weight in gold.

A slow drip of new classes

Although each course is meticulously crafted and edited, the biggest weakness of MasterClass is the limited catalog.

At the time of writing, there are over 100 classes, each running 3-4 hours in length on average. Classes also include a downloadable class workbook.

Here’s a breakdown of topics, starting with those with the most classes

  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Home & Lifestyle
  • Writing
  • Music
  • Business
  • Food
  • Design & Style
  • Sports & Gaming
  • Wellness
  • Community & Government
  • Science & Tech

The vast majority (60%+) fall into that first category, making MasterClass one of the best online course platforms for creatives. New courses are added every month, so you’ll always have something new to watch.

A subscription to MasterClass runs $200 a year, with no options for monthly payments. That’s expensive, but considering the expertise of the teachers, it’s worth the price of entry.


5. CreativeLive

Best online course platforms: CreativeLive

Pros:

  • Professional instructors
  • Excellent in-house production
  • Free classes 24h a day

Cons:

  • No certificates or accreditation
  • Not as hands-on
  • Individual courses can be expensive

CreativeLive is another platform that recruits well-known professionals as instructors, but with a slightly different angle.

Instead of big-name celebrities, most instructors are more in the line of influencers and artists. That isn’t to say that they aren’t hugely successful in their line of work, just that they might not be household names for most.

Even so, there’s some pedigree here. These are highly qualified professionals, and that’s reflected in the course quality.

Lectures from your favorite personalities

With more than 700 creative instructors on the platform, odds are you’re already familiar with a few.

Some notable personalities include Tim Ferriss, Alex Blumberg, Lisa Congdon, Mel Robbins, and Sir Richard Branson.

Assisting these experts are CreativeLive’s in-house production specialists. Typically courses are filmed in front of an audience, lecture-style. This leads to some interesting Q&A sections, as well as more dynamic instruction than simply speaking to a camera.

Courses vary in length, and are broken into short, digestible lessons.

CreativeLive is, once again, an online course platform for creatives first and foremost. Here are the main categories:

  • Photo & Video
  • Money & Life
  • Art & Design
  • Craft & Maker
  • Music & Audio

Putting the “live” in CreativeLive

If you want to try CreativeLive for free, you’re in luck. As the name implies, the platform streams its courses 24 hours a day, free of charge.

You won’t have as much selection, but it’s a great way to learn more before taking out your wallet.

When you are ready to pay, courses can be purchased individually or as a subscription. Individually, they cost anywhere from $50 to $200, with frequent sales bringing that down to $15-$50 on average.

Another option is the CreativeLive Creator Pass, which unlocks 1500+ courses and a curated learning path for a single fee. This costs $39 if billed monthly, or $15 a month if you commit to a year.

You can also save big by paying for a year upfront, which costs $149. This works out to about $12 a month, which is a great value for what you get.


6. Creativebug

Online course platforms for creatives: Creativebug

Pros:

  • High production values
  • Very inexpensive
  • Perfect for beginners and hobbyists

Cons:

  • No certificates or accreditation
  • Mostly for art and sewing
  • Few advanced classes

Next up is one of the cheapest online course platforms on the entire list: Creativebug.

It offers excellent creative courses taught by some of your favorite personalities from social media. Expect lots of trendy projects and even downloadable patterns.

If you want a deeper dive into the platform, check out the guide below to learn everything you need to know!

Read also: Creativebug: Is it worth it? Review, cost and more

The perfect online course platform for sewing and art tutorials

Creativebug courses are typically short and primarily focused on a single task or project, so at the end of each one, you have something to show for it. This kind of class is usually less than 30 minutes, so perfect for a quick watch.

Other courses are more in-depth fundamentals running several hours long. These cover everything you need to know about a certain craft, and are a great way for beginners to get up to speed.

The main categories on the platform are:

  • Art & Design
  • Sewing
  • Quilting
  • Paper
  • Knitting Crochet
  • Food & Home
  • Jewelry
  • Holiday & Party
  • Kids

However, the vast majority cover sewing and art. Don’t expect too many professional-level design courses or small business topics here.

Low pricing and free access

As mentioned above, Creativebug is incredibly affordable. Like Skillshare or MasterClass, it uses a subscription model, with no way to buy individual classes.

However, that subscription is less than $8 a month. There’s a slightly more expensive plan that includes discounts at JOANN fabric stores and the ability to keep one course per month forever, but it still costs less than $10 a month.

Plus, if you pay for a year upfront, you can get all those perks for what works out to $5.95 a month ($71.40).

But that’s not all. As a special promotion, you can get your first month of the service for just $1.

Even better, there’s a chance you already have free access to the platform through your local library. Many libraries around the globe have signed up for the Creativebug Library program, which offers free access to patrons.

To see if your library is participating, click here and scroll down to View all libraries.


7. Craftsy (formerly Bluprint)

Best online class platforms for creatives : Craftsy

Pros:

  • High production values
  • Variety of purchase options
  • Many patterns available
  • Best for sewing and needlecrafts

Cons:

  • No certificates or accreditation
  • Slightly troubled history
  • Missing community features

If Creativebug sounds interesting to you, Craftsy is also worth a look. It also has a variety of sewing and needlecraft classes, plus patterns and more.

Some of you may know Craftsy by its previous name, Bluprint. It’s since closed and reopened, hopefully this time for good.

The history and revival of Craftsy

The Craftsy platform has been around for more than a decade, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

After being purchased by NBCUniversal in 2017, its courses were slowly integrated into another platform called Bluprint.

However, NBC pulled the plug in 2020, and the platform went dark for several months. Its assets were then purchased by another company called TN Marketing, and the platform was revived a few months later as Craftsy.

It doesn’t have all the community features as before, such as a marketplace and course reviews, but at least most of the content has returned.

Needlecrafts, sewing, quilting, and more

In the past, Craftsy was known for its sewing and needlecraft classes, and that largely remains true today.

However, there’s far more on offer here than that. There are excellent courses for woodworking, cooking, papercraft, and more. These fall into five major categories:

  • Fabric Crafts
  • Yarn Crafts
  • Food
  • Art
  • Living

If you want to try it out, there are tons of free classes available on a variety of topics.

Once you’re ready to pay, you have a few options. For those who don’t like subscriptions, you can purchase classes individually and keep them forever. They run anywhere from $5 to $70.

But the best value is in a Premium subscription. It’s inexpensive at just $8 a month (or $80 a year) and offers access to more than 1500 classes. This isn’t everything on the platform, but it’s more than enough to get your money’s worth.


8. LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda)

LinkedIn Learning logo blue

Pros:

  • Variety of topics
  • High production value
  • Great for career building

Cons:

  • Certificates are LinkedIn-based
  • Limited creative options
  • Expensive

It might sound strange to include a LinkedIn property on a list of online course platforms for creatives, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.

In addition to all of the professional skills you’d expect to find courses for, there are options for illustration, graphic design, and more. Much of this is due to the fact that the Lynda.com courses were integrated into the platform in 2017.

The legacy of Lynda

Lynda.com was one of the very first online course platforms to hit the market, and for years it was the very best.

For that reason, LinkedIn shelled out $1.5 billion to acquire the company in 2015. The following year, Microsoft bought LinkedIn for more than $22 billion.

So suffice it to say, there’s a lot of capital behind the company.

Much like Lynda in its later years, LinkedIn Learning is a mix of courses for job skills, entrepreneurial guidance, and some creative topics.

As a whole, these are divided into three broad categories: Business, Creative, and Technology.

One for the career-oriented

That said, it’s hard to recommend LinkedIn Learning for just creative courses.

There’s only one subscription plan, and it costs $30 a month. There simply aren’t enough illustration and design courses to justify that kind of pricing.

However, if you would also make use of the professional side of the platform, it starts to look a lot more attractive.

Adding course certificates to your LinkedIn profile is an excellent way to attract employers and gain new job prospects.

If you’re unsure, you can take advantage of a 1-month trial at the link below. That might be all it takes to kickstart your creative career.


9. Coursera

Coursera logo

Pros:

  • Alternative to higher education
  • Reputable courses and teachers
  • Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees available
  • Free courses available

Cons:

  • Limited creative topics
  • Not the most engaging instruction
  • Certificates are expensive

For many people looking to gain a legitimate education online, Coursera will tick just about every box.

It offers accredited courses that can lead to diplomas and other professional qualifications.

A true online alternative to higher education

Coursera has ties to several universities around the globe, and with that comes highly reputable courses.

In fact, you can often gain credit towards a college degree or, in some cases, a full Bachelor’s or Master’s degree entirely online.

However, courses have strict enrollment dates, so if you want to learn you have to do it on their schedule. Coursework comes with deadlines, even if there is some flexibility with on-demand video.

Topics are mostly related to traditional education, but there are some humanities options available, too. Still, it’s more art history than hands-on arts and crafts.

Free to participate, expensive to graduate

One of the best things about Coursera is that there are thousands of free courses for anyone to try. In fact, just about everything is free.

However, if you want to come away with a certificate, you’ll have to pay a fee. These can be expensive (thousands of dollars), but there is some financial aid available.

Dedicated learners can save money with a Coursera Plus subscription. It unlocks more than 3000 courses (and their completion certificates) for $399 a year.

That’s expensive, but it’s peanuts compared to what you would pay in most universities, online or otherwise.


10. edX

edX logo

Pros:

  • Mimics university education
  • Reputable courses
  • Most courses are free

Cons:

  • Few creative courses
  • Closed enrollment dates
  • Lack of student support

The final online course platform has a lot in common with Coursera above. edX also seeks to emulate a university education, with certificates and college credit available.

Again you won’t find too many arts and crafts courses, but it’s a viable alternative to attending a four-year university for many.

Fascinating cultural courses from around the globe

While for the most part edX is very similar to Coursera, it has a bit more to offer in some regards.

Personally, I really enjoy the cultural offerings. These include not just language and history lessons, but also more modern options like Euro Noir: Transcultural Identities in European Popular Crime Narratives and Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology.

These are not only unique and interesting, but they also come from some of the most decorated institutions and instructors from around the globe.

Limited support for free users

Nearly every course on edX is available free of charge, but you will need to pay to get an accredited certification.

This may or may not be worth it to you, but either way, paying comes with a few other benefits.

The biggest one is online support. As a free user, you’re largely left to your own devices when it comes to questions and concerns.

edX doesn’t have a subscription plan for individual users, but there is one for businesses. This is a fairly exclusive affair, so for most users, I’d recommend trying some courses out for free at the link below.


That’s it for this list of the best online course platforms for creatives! Did I miss any other great options? Let everyone know in the comments below.

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