Drawing is a skill, not just inherent talent. Anyone can learn how to draw online for free, as these free apps and websites teach you to go from a beginner to an artist.
You don’t have to be born an artist to learn how to draw. Yes, talent does distinguish a Michelangelo from the rest, but the rest is about understanding the fundamentals and practicing repeatedly. No matter what level your drawing skills are at, these apps will help you level up as an artist.
1. Drawabox (Web): Free Online Course to Learn How to Draw
Don’t go by the name, you aren’t going to draw a box all the time. Drawabox is a completely free online course by art student Irshad Karim (a.k.a. Uncomfortable). Unlike a lot of online resources that assume you have a basic understanding of drawing or a “talent” for it, Drawabox starts from scratch. The only thing you need is diligence.
You can watch the Drawabox introductory video to understand the approach here. The course starts from the absolute basic level of which papers and pencils to use, upgrades to teach you how to use your shoulder to draw (instead of your wrist or elbow), and then gives a bunch of exercises as homework. The homework is the diligence, as you are going to have to practice, practice, and practice again. There is no other secret to drawing, as Uncomfortable puts it.
Through a combination of course videos and exquisitely detailed articles, you’ll learn everything there is to know about how to draw. Be warned, Drawabox can seem overwhelming at times, and people are known to quit. This isn’t a quick crash course to success, you’ll have to put in the time and effort, and progress will be slow. But do it right, and you’ll be a better artist than you thought possible.
Uncomfortable has also built a community through Drawabox that will help you at every step. You can get your art reviewed by Karim or his teaching assistants, and you can chat with people learning to draw on the official Discord channel. It’s an incredible resource for free, and one of the best sites to learn how to draw.
2. Artfonica’s How to Draw (Android, iOS): Learn to Draw on Touchscreen Phones and iPads
Artfonica’s How to Draw app is one of the most popular ways to learn how to draw on any touchscreen, be it a phone or a tablet. If you prefer to use a pencil and paper, you can still use the app’s step-by-step instructions to follow along.
Here’s how it works. Start by choosing from a wide selection of figures to learn how to draw. Let’s say you chose the tortoise. Artfonica’s How to Draw then represents the final figure on a graph drawing sheet, so you can replicate it similarly on a real graph paper.
Tap the Next arrow to see the first set of lines you need to draw. You can trace them on the app with your finger or a stylus. The menu options let you change between the brush and the eraser, and the color of the stokes. You can also choose three-layer views: original stencil, your drawing, or both overlaid together.
Go step by step, drawing as instructed on the app, to follow along. It’s best with an iPad and an Apple Pencil, but it works fine with a finger on any phone too.
3. Artist’s Eye (Android): Create Virtual Stencils on Your Phone
Anyone can draw when given a stencil to trace over. How about using your phone’s screen as a stencil? Artist’s Eye turns any photo into a virtual, translucent layer so that you can draw that image on paper.
Here’s how it works. First, select a photo from your camera roll that you want to draw on paper. Next, put your phone in a phone stand and place it between the paper and yourself, such that you are looking at the paper through the phone. Finally, adjust the image on the phone so that it aligns with the paper in terms of size and angle. Then, start drawing on the paper while looking through the screen!
The app lets you edit the image easily to make things easier. You can apply edits like greyscale, emboss, negative, posterize, flatten palette, and rotate. You can resize the image and change its angle, and bring up a virtual grid so it’s easier to draw. Artist’s Eye is an ingenious use of technology to solve a real-world problem.
Download: Artist’s Eye for Android (Free)
If you want a similar app on an iPhone or iPad, try Da Vinci Eye. It’s not free, but it offers more options than Artist’s Eye. It’s also available on Android for a price, if you are looking for more features.
4. Brad’s Art School (YouTube): Learn Art Through Animation
Brad Colbow is more known for his YouTube channel where he reviews tech for creative folks. Recently, he started a second channel to teach people how to draw, using fun animations and skits. Brad’s Art School is great for kids and adults alike to learn the basics of drawing.
The best place to start is Drawing for Beginners – Part 1. You’ll learn how Brad approaches the videos and his general outlook towards art. At several points in the video, he gives exercises like drawing dots and joining them with lines, and how to practice lines before committing pencil to paper. He’ll even tell you to pause the video and finish an exercise before moving on to the next part.
The rest of the lessons follow a similar format but vary in topics. You’ll learn how to draw heads and faces, the basics of perspective, and a whole lot more through a few short videos. Brad keeps it interesting by making animations in between real-world shots demonstrating the skill, so you’ll never be bored.
5. Proko (Web): Detailed Drawing Lessons for Budding Artists
Search for online drawing tutors and tutorials and you’ll often come across the name Stan Prokopenko. His website and YouTube channel Proko are regularly cited as some of the best resources to learn how to draw online for free.
Proko has been uploading drawing videos for a decade on a variety of topics. The website library is a good place to find the lessons in neat categories like Drawing Basics, Figure Drawing, Portrait / Head Drawing, Anatomy of the Human Body for Artists, Caricature, Traditional Painting, and Fun Stuff. Some of the lessons require a fee, but the basic courses and YouTube videos are all free.
As you can surmise, Proko isn’t only for beginners and will help artists take the next step in their skill set through paid courses. As for the free stuff, Proko has other artists and art tutors teaching with him on the YouTube channel, which is hailed as one of the best YouTube channels to learn how to draw.
The Vase/Face Exercise and the Best Book to Learn How to Draw
These free websites and apps will take you from a complete novice to someone decently skilled with a pencil or a paintbrush. But if you really want to dedicate yourself to the art and are willing to put down a few bucks, then grab the best beginner’s guide to learn how to draw, a book or workshop called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.
First published in 1979, the book is the most-recommended resource for anyone wanting to learn how to draw. Edwards introduced a new philosophy of drawing what you see, rather than what your brain tells you to draw. It’s a slight relearning on how to use your intuitive brain to draw, but there’s a reason it has worked for millions over 40 years.