I’ve been using Skillshare for a good 4 years now. Skillshare is a learning platform where you can find tutorials on a huge number of subjects. I’ve found some really useful tutorials which have helped me with coursework at college and university. Some classes on Skillshare are free but you have to pay to access most of the content on the site. Last year I signed up to a 12-month Skillshare Premium plan. I got a great deal, only paying half of the full price.
Looking back over the last year Skillshare has been a really useful resource. I’ve used it to help me with university and personal work. So today I’m going to share all the advantages and disadvantages of Skillshare Premium. This way you can decide if a Skillshare subscription would be of use to you and your creative practice.
It should be noted that I am a graphic designer and as such mostly use the design and fine art classes. However, you can find classes on many more subjects. From business and productivity to technology and lifestyle classes. But for this post, I will focus specifically on the classes I’ve used and how they were useful to me.
WHAT IS SKILLSHARE?
Skillshare is an online learning community where users can learn skills on a number of different topics. Teachers create short video courses where they teach skills that the learners then put into practice through assigned projects.
This makes it a really useful learning tool as you immediately put the skills you’ve been learning into practice. Being able to share projects also means you can get feedback from other students taking the same course. This can help you further your education.
The Skillshare courses are organised into separate topics. Students are able to take classes on topics about design, art, photography, writing and many more creative subjects. The teachers for these classes are a mix of professionals working in the industry, up and coming designers and hobbyists.
The Skillshare tutors are something I will talk more on later in this post. Though Skillshare has many classes taught by leading designers this isn’t true for all their classes. In some cases, this can lead to lower quality classes.
HOW MUCH DOES SKILLSHARE COST?
Though there are some Skillshare classes which can be taken without a Premium subscription. You’ll need to pay to access most of the content on Skillshare. This costs around $15 for a month, which goes down to $8 if you pay for a full year. However, there are many ways to get a Skillshare Premium subscription cheaper than this.
The easiest way if you’ve never used Skillshare before is to get a one-month free trial. This allows you to try out a few of the classes and see if it is something you might find useful. At certain times of the year, Skillshare also runs deals where you can buy twelve month subscriptions at a reduced cost.
If you’re a student with a valid .edu email address you can use this to get a discounted yearly subscription to Skillshare Premium. You can also try looking for referral links from artists who teach classes on Skillshare. Usually, they have referral codes which can give you money off or even a free trial to Skillshare.
Skillshare also sponsors a number of artists on YouTube and this can be a really good way to get a cheap subscription. It should be noted however that you can only use these free or discounted codes once. After that, you will have to pay the full price for a monthly subscription.
You could also sign up to Skillshare with different email addresses each time to reuse discount codes but you didn’t hear that from me.
WHAT HAVE I LEARNED ON SKILLSHARE?
With each class on Skillshare comes a project. This gives you the chance to put into practice the skills you’ve learned within that class. I’m not a huge fan of this social media style aspect of Skillshare. Though I do appreciate how useful it can be to some people. But I have used the skills I’ve learned from some classes in my coursework. So I’m going to share just a few of the classes I’ve tried.
Levelling Up Your Art Game: The Elements & Principles of Design
This is one of the latest Skillshare classes I took as part of a workshop series. I found it particularly useful because it explained in words a process I’ve been using for a while without understanding the reason why.
The class is taught by Dylan Mierzwinski who is a freelance designer and illustrator. Dylan is one of the better tutors on Skillshare and I will be talking about more of her classes later on in this post.
The aim of this class was to learn how to research other artists as a way to find elements you like to incorporate into your own style. I liked this class because this is the same research process I use with every design project. I was taught to work this way but not why.
Dylan clearly explains the basic elements of design, also known as Gestalt principles. These are line, colour, form, shape and pattern. By analysing these elements in a piece of art you can begin to understand why it works. And for this specific class understand what elements you can take inspiration from and integrate into your own art style.
Watercolour Illustration: Developing a Wedding Brand Suite
Last year I was asked to design a set of wedding invitations. Again I found a class on Skillshare which really helped me through the process. Before starting this project I spoke to a designer who said I should treat it as a branding project. I’ve done branding projects before but creating a brand identity for a wedding still proved to be difficult.
This was a very quick little class which helped me figure out what elements I needed for my wedding brand. I didn’t actually create a project for this class. But the skills I learned were extremely useful and helped me figure out where to begin.
Mastering Gradients in Illustrator
For one of my college projects, I had to create a series of posters for films directed by Ridley Scott. For this project, I was massively inspired by the new Stephen Baxter book covers. These featured vibrant gradients in interesting shapes.
After experimenting with this idea on my own through Illustrator I came to the realisation that I didn’t know enough about manipulating gradients to create the vision I had in my mind. This is where I went to Skillshare and a class called ‘Mastering gradients in illustrator’. I was able to quickly learn how to create and manipulate gradients by following along with this class.
The advantage of using Skillshare rather than some other tutorial website was the video lessons. I could watch the videos and follow along in Illustrator. This taught me the concepts behind creating gradients rather than just learning how to create what I was being shown in the tutorial. From this, I was able to apply the skills I had learned in order to create the design I wanted.
Motion Graphics with Kurzgesagt
For a more recent university project, I had to create a 30-second animation. This project was quite daunting as it involved After Effects, a program I had used only once before. I also had to do a huge number of illustrations. Something again which I had very little skill in. For this I used two classes I found on Skillshare, both which proved to be essential for me to finish the project.
In the ideation part of this project, I spent a lot of time researching the YouTube channel Kurzgesagt. Originally I thought I would use a similar animation style for my video, something I eventually didn’t do. In the process, I learned the person who animates the videos for Kurzgesagt has classes on Skillshare. This is where they show students how they animate for the YouTube channel.
This was extremely helpful because Adobe After Effects is a program I have very little experience with. I know just enough to know there are certain effects I can create. However, I don’t know how to create them. This meant it was difficult to find tutorials because I knew what I wanted to do. But I didn’t know the name for the effect I wanted. In this instance being able to see another animator work in After Effects was very useful.
Digitizing Hand Drawn Sketches with Character
The second class I used for this animation project was another one by Dylan Mierzwinski. This was called Digitizing Hand Drawn Sketches with Character. I had sketches which I wanted to animate but didn’t know the best way to go about that. The problem with Photoshop is that its a massive program and has many ways to do the exact same thing.
From this Skillshare class, I was able to learn a new technique for digitising sketches. This class was useful because I learned how to use a new tool and it is something I’ve continued to use for other projects.
IS SKILLSHARE BETTER THAN SIMILAR SITES?
Skillshare isn’t the only online learning platform. There are a number of others such as Udemy, Treehouse, Briefbox and many others. One other platform I’ve used is Lynda, This is owned by LinkedIn and I think has actually become part of LinkedIn now. One of the advantages of Skillshare compared to Lynda is the type of classes they offer. Skillshare has many more fine art type courses, while Lynda is more software based.
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However, I have used Lynda in the past as part of my college work. I was able to find a class on Adobe Muse, where the teacher took you step by step through setting up a website.
One of the advantages to Lynda is it has short quizzes all the way through the class. This way you can check that you are actually learning the material. The length of the class also seemed to be much longer. Around 3 hours compared to one hour for most Skillshare classes.
I think there is one huge advantage Lynda has over Skillshare. I have free access to it through my university. Skillshare only costs £8 per month, about the same as a Netflix subscription. But getting something for free, even though I don’t use it as much is still better than paying.
DID I FIND SKILLSHARE USEFUL?
I think what you have to understand about Skillshare is that on its own it can’t replace a proper art education. There are things I get at university which you just don’t get online. Access to facilities like dark rooms and make space. I get constant, useful feedback from tutors about my work. University also focuses more on the conceptual side of design, how to research and develop an idea.
But that doesn’t mean skillshare isn’t useful. I’ve found it really handy having access to the facilities at my university and the classes through Skillshare. While at university I learn how to come up with ideas, some of the classes on Skillshare teach me techniques to implement those ideas. Think of it as two halves of one overall education.
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There is also the fact that through Skillshare I can learn from world-class industry professionals. Where else can you learn about branding from Aaron Draplin? A graphic designer who created the Field Notes stationery brand. I had seen videos from Aaron Draplin about branding before I really knew what graphic design was.
Skillshare also has a class taught by Paula Scher who is another leading graphic designer and works at one of the top design studios in New York. Admittedly you won’t get feedback on your work from these designers. But when given the chance to learn from them you should take that opportunity. It’s not something you’re likely to get through art school.
WOULD I RECOMMEND SKILLSHARE?
I don’t think I would recommend buying a yearly subscription and I have a few reasons for that. Firstly the quality of the teachers. I know I’ve just said there are classes taught by world-class designers. But not all classes are like that. You want to know you’re learning from someone who is an expert in what they are teaching. And that may not always be the case.
I’ve barely filled out my profile on Skillshare. All it knows is that I have an interest in graphic design and illustration. Until very recently I hadn’t even uploaded any work to the site. For the last year, I have been getting constant emails asking me to become a teacher on Skillshare. At one point I got an email saying out of so many people I was one of the lucky few with an opportunity to learn how to be a teacher.
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Then after uploading two pieces of work, I get an email from a community manager saying they liked my work. Note, one of the projects I uploaded was just a mood board with a few pictures on it. The email went on to say that you have to apply to take a course which would allow you to teach on Skillshare. But because of the work I uploaded I had been pre-approved.
Now I’m not trying to say my work is bad. But Skillshare doesn’t know anything about me other than what I’ve uploaded to the site. For all they know I could be a total newbie. Just learning design and yet they are trying to get me to become a teacher.
Okay, but would I recommend it?
What I’m trying to say is yes, there are some really good classes to be found on Skillshare. But, there are also some not so good classes and you just have to watch out for that. Some classes seem to have unnecessary information in it. As though the teacher is trying to pad out the course, making it longer.
Almost every single art class will start out with information on colour theory and what tools to use. It means that for some classes the amount of useful information you get out of it is very small.
However, it is very easy to get a free or heavily discounted trial to Skillshare Premium so the best thing to do is try it yourself. That way you can decide if there are any worthwhile classes without having to spend much money.
I’m really trying to not be massively negative here. Looking back I did get some use out of my Skillshare Premium subscription. It meant I was able to take a few classes which helped me massively at university.
As an online learning platform, I do have a few problems with Skillshare. I don’t like their aggressive marketing techniques on YouTube. I think it’s very hard to find classes which are of use to me.
But on the other hand, the classes aren’t all bad. I’ve taken more than just art and design classes. I’ve tried a few on productivity and the basics of SEO. Both of which had been very useful. It just isn’t something I’m constantly using. I don’t see the point in paying for a year-long subscription when I use it once or twice a month.
But that’s just my personal opinion on Skillshare. I’m sure you might get some use out of classes that I haven’t taken. Remember there is more to Skillshare than just art and design, that just happens to be what I’m interested in.