Where Can I Find Free Online Computer Graphics Courses?

Learning how to create realistic, life-like computer graphics may seem overwhelming at first, but several universities offer free online materials to help you get started. Tips on rendering images, textures, shadows and more are available for you to study at your own pace, all from the comfort of home. Schools offering 3D Animation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Free online courses in computer graphics are not available for credit, but they can be a good way to hone your skills. In addition to rendering, coloring and shading, you may explore topics like vectors, matrices and radiosity. In order to successfully complete the course, you may be required to have software, such as Microsoft Visual Studio and Java. You may also need special software to extract executable (EXE) and Zip files for Windows, Mac or Linux operating systems. Throughout the course, you may complete readings, optional assignments and voluntary projects. Some classes also recommend prior completion of related coursework in math and computer programming languages.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Originally offered as a for-credit course for undergraduate campus students, MIT's Computer Graphics class provides instruction on algorithms, software and hardware used in the field. Lessons also focus on the use of 3D graphics. Prerequisite coursework in C++, algorithms, linear algebra and basic calculus is recommended.

What Topics Are Included?

The course discusses hardware and software programs used to generate effects, such as ray casting and animation. Graphics pipeline, transformations and acceleration structures are also discussed. You'll also learn how to master global illumination, shadows and texture mapping.

What Materials Will I Need?

The class combines lecture notes, assignments and quizzes in Portable Document Format (PDF), so you will need a program capable of displaying PDF files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. Many documents are also in compressed files, which may require the use of a file extraction program. Four textbooks are listed as recommended, but not required for course completion.

What Assignments Will I Complete?

Course materials include five assignments on topics, such as curves and surfaces, ray casting and ray tracing. You can also take six quizzes and three exams.

Cornell University

An online tutorial called What is Computer Graphics? is made available for free to the general public. The tutorial provides information on a variety of computer graphic effects.

What Topics Are Included?

The tutorial is divided into five categories, which discuss object rendering, ray tracing, shading, color and radiosity. Each technique is outlined with illustrations and examples. The tutorial also includes an archive of images demonstrating advanced effects like discontinuity meshing and two pass rendering.

What Materials Will I Need?

The tutorial uses embedded photos and a series of Web pages. The only thing you'll need is an updated Web browser to access the Internet.

How Will These Materials Help Me?

If you're a student, the information could be used as a quick study guide or reference. However, these materials could benefit anyone interested in learning about graphic design basics.

Central Connecticut State University

This university offers a free tutorial on Vector Math for 3D Computer. The tutorial presents a series of Web pages discussing the elements of vector and matrix algebra used to create computer graphics. The course is also designed for those with previous knowledge in geometry or trigonometry.

What Topics Are Included?

The tutorial is divided into 17 chapters with information on vector addition and length, angles and simple matrix operations. Each chapter's illustrations and examples emphasize how these mathematical equations are used to create effects like three-dimensional landscapes and two-dimensional objects. You can explore the content as a step-by-step guide and answer questions posed at the end of each page.

What Materials Will I Need?

The tutorial uses embedded images and text explanations, so you will need an updated browser and an Internet connection. You will also need Javascript and Java software to access the chapters' interactive content. A computer program used to render images would be helpful while studying the chapters, but is not required.

How Will These Materials Help Me?

The tutorial claims that the materials can elaborate on the vector and matrix appendices found in most collegiate computer graphics text books. They can be used by computer graphics students as well as engineering students.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Full Sail University

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