It is hard to find free courses that offer a complete package to people who are venturing into a new skill—such as art—for the first time.
So when I came across Drawabox, my test-and-review instincts immediately kicked in.
You don’t need to do a lot of digging to realize that Drawabox is an art and design course that promises three important elements that will surely appeal to any newbie to drawing: free training, personalized feedback, and structure.
You can content yourself with those takeaways and head into the platform without a second thought, or you can stick around and read my full review to see why I am convinced as to what Drawabox really is.
Without further ado, let’s get the ball rolling.
Table of Contents
Overview of Drawabox
Drawabox is a library of free learning materials and resources on the fundamentals of drawing. You can hop on their website, sign up and start learning without ever paying a subscription fee or buying anything.
Drawabox’s training system features text-format lessons, audio descriptions, challenges, drills, and homework that you submit to the Discord community for feedback.
There are no live training provisions or video courses as you would expect from a paid course platform, and the website’s UI is a bit cluttered, but then, you remember that it’s a free package, so you are not losing anything.
Drawabox is a platform of humble beginnings. Irshad Karim (also known as Uncomfortable on Reddit), its creator, learned art at the Concept Design Academy before founding Drawabox. The free learning platform started as /r/ArtFundamentals on Reddit before expanding into a full-fledged website.
The New Masters Academy, a major online hub in art and design training, sponsors the Drawabox platform.
What Is The Purpose Of Drawabox?
So while Drawabox is not a complete art and design course, it is meant to provide complete newbies to art a free way of learning the basics—at least for now.
What Is Inside Drawabox?
Drawabox contains the simple skills foundational to learning the more complex parts of art. We are not expecting illustrations in art here nor complex portraiture—those are for the heavy-duty course platforms like NMA.
However, don’t roll your eyes yet, as Drawabox does have something to offer, even if it won’t shoot you to the top of your art career.
Much of what you will learn revolves around lines, curves, sketches, texture, and the right kinds of pens and drawing instruments. Again, nothing special, but if you’ve never used a French curve before, you will see the value of the training.
And now, let’s proceed to everything else that Drawabox contains:
The lessons are grouped into modules that start from the simplest topics. The learning paths go like this:
- Part One: The Basics
Lesson zero is the first you will encounter in the basics section. The lesson aims to help you change to a positive mindset about your drawing skills, learn how to use the course, and finally, show you the recommended drawing instruments such as ballpoint pens, printer paper, fineliners, et cetera.
Lesson one is the other lesson under the basics module. It talks about using different parts of your arm while drawing to experience the least friction. You will also learn how to draw broken and continuous lines from different perspectives. Another focus of the lesson is how to draw objects in 3D
Lesson two, the last in the module, dives deeper into how to create convincing 3D images with the strokes of your pen. It also contains several assignments to test your ability to draw with the appropriate amount of texture and detail. There are many other topics it covers, such as silhouette and construction.
- Part Two: Construction
This module contains seven lessons that discuss the use of construction to draw shapes of animals, everyday objects, and vehicles. The lessons focus on breaking down these complex shapes into simpler forms and working from that up. Elements of geometry and angles are incorporated to better represent the concepts taught in the lessons.
Drawabox has a variety of learning methods that aid comprehension. They are articles, lessons (also in article format), audio descriptions, and some videos.
The articles are a separate section of the website. Irshad writes them and highlights the uncomfortable parts of the learning process, the challenges, handling failure, and having the right mindset.
The comic is exactly what it is—a comic page. But it is more than that. Uncomfortable uses it to teach a lesson about learning any new skill—in this case, drawing.
The comic page features a character that has to choose one of two paths before him in a forest. He hasn’t been on that road before, so it’s entirely new to him. The conflicting paths represent all our options for learning a new skill.
The comic figure can choose a particular path and stick to the end to thoroughly understand it and find out where it helped him. Alternatively, he can remain indecisive, hopping in and out of both paths and eventually getting trapped in an endless search for the best path.
There is a lesson in not waiting to figure out everything—best course, best instructor, best strategy—before picking a choice. Just start with something, and you will figure out the rest along the line.
Pros of Drawabox
Don’t let the seemingly basic nature of Drawabox make you discard the course without a second thought.
Drawabox does have some advantages to offer to its users. Let’s go through them one at a time.
If you are looking for a way to jump into art as an absolute beginner without spending a dime, Drawabox is the way.
You won’t have to pay for lessons, articles, or videos. You only pay a token through the Patreon link if you need the review team, including Uncomfortable himself, to evaluate your work.
Provides Detailed Feedback
When you submit your assignments for review, you don’t get a general summary of how you did and maybe some compliments.
The review team takes their time to analyze every bit of what you did and highlight. Be prepared for some kind but brutal feedback explaining everything you did wrong down to the bits.
It doesn’t take long to get a detailed report on a submitted assignment. It comes in a matter of hours or days, depending on the project size.
Provides Recommended Tools
I like that Drawabox doesn’t just teach you the principles behind accurate and beautiful drawing.
They also list recommended drawing materials such as ink, pens, fine liners, rulers, etc.
They usually include links to buy these materials on Amazon. No doubt, they get a commission, and it’s one way they can keep the course going without users having to pay for it.
Discord has thriving communities on Reddit and Discord.
Remember, the platform started on Reddit as /r/ArtFundamentals, but it has grown bigger and now has a few hundred thousand subscribers, many of whom are active learners on Drawabox.
The Discord community is also booming and is where various learners come together to discuss what they are learning on the platform.
Besides that, Drawabox has an on-site community forum where you submit your assignments and other lessons. There you can critique someone else’s work, and they can do the same for you.
While considering that Drawabox is entirely free, we can’t ignore how detailed the explanations are for a free platform.
Of course, it is missing some seriously crucial aspects of art, such as color and anatomy. Still, the whole purpose of Drawabox is to inject an artist’s mindset into you and teach you the core fundamentals.
You will get much more than just generic advice on learning the fundamentals. You will know how to look at things and get the correct perspective before drawing.
One pain point for absolute beginners is that they know they should start with the fundamentals, but they usually don’t have any idea of what the fundamentals entail.
Where do the fundamentals start, and when do you know to move on? The Drawabox course will teach you what you need to know to learn the deeper things, even if you don’t know what that is.
Provides Coupon codes for New Masters Academy
Drawabox’s creator, Irshad, or Uncomfortable as he is known on Reddit, took a nice initiative to find the perfect sponsor for his newly birthed platform.
Some other course creators genuinely intend to keep their content free but then go the wrong route by displaying ads on their websites.
The result is that users of that website get a frustrating learning experience as they get distracted by the ads and all.
Uncomfortable fixed that problem by partnering with a giant in the art education game, New Masters Academy. Thanks to that partnership, you get a 35% discount for every plan on New Masters Academy if you sign up through Drawabox.
Cons of Drawabox
I didn’t find much to fault Drawabox on. The cost-free route to learning means you can’t really nit-pick since you won’t be making any costly commitments.
Nevertheless, Drawabox doesn’t provide demonstration videos on its platform. That means you don’t have the luxury of watching an instructor draw a figure as he explains the process step-by-step.
That’s all—nothing else to complain about much.
Are Drawabox Lessons Worth It?
I have said before that Drawabox won’t teach you the crucial aspects of art, such as color, and while I hate to sound like a broken record, Drawabox does exceedingly well.
Fine, it won’t make you a professional in any aspect of art. Nevertheless, Drawabox will take you from a complete novice to someone who finally has a sense of direction in the world of art.
You will learn the core concepts you will eventually need to grasp the real deal—the more complex parts of art like anatomy and so on.
A large part of the training is all about developing and maintaining the proper mindset, even amid repeated failures. You will surely need that to power through every challenge, hurdle, or feeling of discouragement.
And since Drawabox is less about hours of learning and more about hours of rigorous practice, you will learn fundamental art skills through repetition. That way, you will build confidence with each challenge you successfully master.
So yes, the course is perfect for complete newbies to art, and it is my top recommendation if you want to learn art skills from scratch and free of charge.
How Much Does Drawabox Cost?
Drawabox has been entirely free since its creation, and it has remained so till now. That said, you have to prepare some spare cash to purchase the recommended drawing materials so that you can always practice the challenges.
The only time you need to pay is when you want the teaching team to critique your work. They will do it for a token.
Right now, the pricing system is based on credits which you get by paying with real money.
The more credits you need, the more money you spend, and the more critiques you get.
First, you must link your Drawabox account with Patreon or directly sign up for Drawabox with your Patreon account.
You will then need to do a monthly $5 or $10 subscription tier, granting you one credit and two credits, respectively, every month. These credits are used up when you receive critiques for your work.
The number of credits you will spend per critique depends on the complexity of the lessons involved. If your work involves, let’s say, lesson one or lesson two, it will use up more credits than work based on lesson six or seven because the latter is more complex.
How Does Drawabox Compare to Alternatives?
While I’ve given Drawabox glowing reviews for its inexpensive and comprehensive learning mode, let’s shift the limelight to its alternatives and see how they compare with Drawabox.
Since Drawabox is all about the core fundamentals, in time, you will have to graduate to more advanced learning platforms. The two platforms I will discuss now are the best alternatives to Drawabox. Now, let’s dive into them.
New Masters Academy
New Masters Academy is a standard online art school in its own right and trumps Drawabox in more or less every way.
While Drawabox caters to absolute beginners, New Masters Academy picks up from where it stops and takes you to a higher level.
That said, New Masters Academy has even more comprehensive courses for beginners, but it’s never a bad idea to start with Drawabox.
While most Drawabox’s lessons consist of text, New Masters Academy has full video lessons and a much more exhaustive curriculum.
All of Drawabox’s content is free, while you have to pay to access 99.99% of what New Masters Academy offers.
Drawabox can’t even compare to a stripped-down version of New Masters Academy.
That’s due largely to the fact that Drawabox cannot replace traditional art training. In addition to that, Drawabox is manned by a single person, whereas New Masters Academy has over 60 world-class artists updating the curriculum every time.
One important thing I noticed on Drawabox is that they source videos from New Masters Academy.
Drawabox also offers coupons that reduce the price of signing up for New Masters Academy.
So therein lies another important difference between New Masters Academy and Drawabox: the former sponsors the latter.
I’d recommend Drawabox for absolute beginners to art and New Masters Academy for those who have at least basic knowledge of art.
Proko is not as highly ranked as New Masters Academy, but it is nothing like Drawabox.
Proko also supersedes Drawabox in nearly every way.
You can revisit everything I said about New Masters Academy above, as much of it applies to Proko.
However, there are other important differences between Proko and Drawabox.
Drawabox’s team reviews your work and provides thorough (and sometimes brutally honest) feedback, whereas you don’t get that with Proko.
Additionally, the learning ideology is way different on both platforms.
Proko heavily invests in teaching, while Drawabox is more exercise-based. In other words, in Drawabox, you learn mostly by doing.
Another thing to know is that Drawabox insists very strongly on doing your drawing exercises with ink rather than with a pencil. The logic is that you shouldn’t waste time erasing your mistakes and trying to perfect your drawing.
With ink, you make mistakes and move on. You will surely make a good number of ugly drawings, but that way, you will fail fast and learn fast.
That said, Proko is still a much more robust platform than Drawabox. But the conclusion is the same here: the latter makes a great stepping stone for beginners.
Is Drawabox good for beginners?
Absolutely! In fact, Drawabox is what beginners should start with.
How many hours does Drawabox take?
Drawabox’s curriculum might seem flimsy compared to the much more comprehensive alternatives.
The truth, you will need to spend a lot of time practicing on Drawabox till you get a concept right. While individual circumstances may differ, it won’t hurt to spend at least one hour every day practicing with Drawabox. And make it consistent.
Does Drawabox cost money?
Drawabox’s curriculum is entirely free. You only need to pay for the critiques, which don’t cost an arm and a leg.
What courses are similar to Drawabox?
New Masters Academy and Proko contain many courses that pick up on some of the concepts taught in Drawabox.
What fundamentals does Drawabox teach?
Growth mindset, lines, shapes, curves, perspective, composition, 3D modeling, and how to use various parts of your arm when drawing.