Discover and develop your distinct visual voice in the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration at University of the Arts. You’ll be trained in technique, image-making, concept development and self-promotion. 

We celebrate the range of career paths for illustrators, from children’s books to concept art, to comics to product design and beyond. Our curriculum encourages you to explore materials, processes and markets/areas, so you can develop a portfolio of deeply personal work. Housed in the School of Design, the Illustration program encourages experimentation and collaboration with students in other majors, including those in Animation, Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Interaction Design and Product Design. Our small class sizes and shared studio spaces create a supportive environment that allows you to inspire, and be inspired by, one another.

Students in the program are trained in industry-standard digital software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and After Effects to digitally paint, design layouts and add motion to illustration. You’ll use technology such as our Cintiq Lab, outfitted with 16 brand-new 22-inch Wacom Cintiqs, as well as tools in our Makerspace, such as a 3-D printer and laser cutter. You’ll also receive training in anatomy, integrating typography, experimenting with traditional painting methods, and developing narratives to give students a well-rounded experience across media.

In 2020, the Illustration program at UArts was named in the top illustration schools in Pennsylvania, the top east coast illustration schools and the top illustration schools in the U.S. by Animation Career Review.

Richard C. von Hess Illustration Gallery

The von Hess Gallery features three exhibitions per year by nationally recognized, award-winning illustrators who visit UArts to speak about their process, technique and the contemporary marketplace. The gallery’s unique mission is to educate our students and community about the profession of illustration and offer an opportunity to closely examine works by leading illustrators.

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Students graduating from the Illustration program will:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of figure study and picture making, along with traditional and digital technical skill development, leading to successful image making as it relates to the ever-changing illustration industry;
  • Discover and develop point of view. This includes acquiring critical drawing and thinking skills and developing intellectual curiosity leading to successful problem solving and meaningful visual communication;
  • Understand the unique aesthetic of the illustrator as a designer and develop knowledge and skills leading to successful design outcomes;
  • Discover the languages, concepts, and practices of contemporary illustration across connected disciplines and have options to further explore those areas in depth;
  • Acquire and demonstrate knowledge of the history of illustration.

Sample Curriculum 
The Illustration curriculum is a blend of: 

  • art and design history
  • creative visual problem-solving
  • digital experiences
  • drawing
  • figure modeling
  • painting
  • picture making
  • self-discovery through targeted projects
  • specialized graphic design courses. 

Courses early on in your college career are geared to developing fundamental skills as a foundation for your career as an illustrator, while later courses focus on professional application. Academic concentrations are made available through additional coursework in fields such as animation movement, game art and graphic design communication. Our curriculum offers its majors a selection of unique elective options to explore related to their field and study interests.

Total Credits: 120
Duration: 4 years, full time

Major Requirements: 61.5–63 credits
Students who major in Illustration will complete 61.5–63 credits; students who declare a concentration within the Illustration major will complete 64.5–66 credits.
Critical Studies: 30 credits
General Electives: 15–16.5 credits
Discipline History: 12 credits

First Year
Fall: 16.5 credits
Drawing as Seeing & Meaning (3c)
Design Process, Theory & Communication (3c)
Digital Design Lab (3c)
Thinking Through Science (3c)
Writing Placement I (3c)
General Elective (1.5)

Spring: 16.5 credits
Drawing as Thinking (3c)
Design Studio (3c)
Natural Forms & Human Figure (3c)
Writing Placement II (3c)
Art History Survey I (3c)
General Elective (1.5c)

Second Year
Fall: 15 credits
Communication Design (3c)
Illustration I: Pictorial Foundation (3c)
Figure Anatomy (3c)
Critical Studies: Art History II (3c)
Critical Studies (3c)

Spring: 15 credits
Illustration II: Illustration Methods (3c)
Responsive Drawing (3c)
History of Illustration (3c)
Words as Pictures (3c)
General Elective (3c)
 

Third Year
Fall: 15 credits
Illustration III: Materials, Concepts & Formats (3c)
Figure Communication OR Words, Images & Ideas (3c)
Discipline History Elective (3c)
Critical Studies (3c)
General Elective (3c)

Spring: 15 credits
Illustration IV: Applications (3c)
Figure Painting OR Designistration (3c)
Critical Studies (3c)
Critical Studies Elective (3c)
General Elective (3c)
 

Fourth Year
Fall: 13.5 credits
Business Communications for Design Professionals or Design Internship (1.5–3c)
Illustration Thesis (3c)
Illustration Portfolio I (3c)
Critical Studies Elective (3c)
General Elective (1.5–3c)

Spring: 13.5 credits
Illustration Thesis II (3c)
Illustration Portfolio II (3c)
Critical Studies Elective (3c)
Critical Studies Elective (3c)
General Elective (1.5c)
 

Explore the full curriculum 

To maintain academic good standing, undergraduate students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0. 

Visit the university catalogue to learn more about degree requirements.

Featured Students

Julia Bianchi Headshot
Julia Bianchi

'20

Illustration (BFA)
Illustrator who studied abroad in Florence, Italy
Asia Blackshear
Asia Blackshear

'20

Illustration (BFA)
Story artist who is interested in illustrating cartoons
John DiMauro
John DiMauro

'20

Illustration (BFA)
One of three finalists for the Society of Illustrators’ 2019 Will Eisner Scholarship
Alexandra Smith
Alexandra Smith

'20

Illustration (BFA)
One of three finalists for the Society of Illustrators' 2019 Zankel Scholarship

Featured Faculty

Our program boasts a faculty of successful industry professionals, including Harvey Award–nominated cartoonist and illustrator Christine Larsen, whose client list includes Boom! Studios, Image Comics, Saatchi & Saatchi and Simon Pulse. Our top-notch instruction has positioned our graduates as industry leaders.

Adam Osgood
Adam Osgood

Illustration (BFA)
Illustrator and motion designer who has worked with clients including Lionsgate, Yahoo and Hyundai
Matt Curtius
Matt Curtius

Illustration (BFA)
Illustrator who has worked for clients including Target, Chronicle Books and Leo Burnett
Tara Jacoby
Tara Jacoby

Illustration (BFA)
Illustrator who has worked for clients including The Washington Post, The New York Times and VICE
a headshot of Christine Larsen.
Christine Larsen

Illustration (BFA)
Cartoonist and illustrator who has created work for Boom! Studios, Image Comics and Saatchi & Saatchi
Jon Reinfurt
Jon Reinfurt

Illustration (BFA)
Illustrator who has worked for clients including The New York Times, NPR and the Smithsonian

Featured Alumni

Our program boasts a number of talented alumni working in the field. 

  • Loveis Wise BFA ’18, was commissioned to illustrate the cover of The New Yorker magazine. Wise was recognized with the UArts’ President’s Award, and commissioned work for Vice, Cartoon Network, Buzzfeed, Penguin/Random House and Planned Parenthood. 
  • Regina Flath BFA ’09, was awarded first place in the New York Book Show for her design and art direction on L.J. Smith’s Night World. Flath’s art has appeared on several books on The New York Times bestsellers list, and she was invited to speak at New York Comic Con in 2017. 

Alumni recognized by American Illustration 37:

  • Shannon Ryan BFA ’18
  • William Beveridge BFA ’14
  • Meredith Jensen BFA '14
  • Heather Vaughan BFA ’13
  • Jim Tierney BFA ’10
  • Dan Hughes BFA ’09
  • Jonathan Bartlett BFA ’06
  • Megan Berkheiser BFA '95

Julia Barnes sitting at a table working
Julia Barnes

BFA ’19

Illustration (BFA)
Named finalist for top college junior in the U.S. by Society of Illustrators, 2018
Headshot of Loveis Wise in jungle
Loveis Wise

BFA '18

Illustration (BFA)
Illustrated cover of The New Yorker; clients include The New York Times, Vice, Buzzfeed and others
Noa Denmon Headshot
Noa Denmon

BFA '18

Illustration (BFA)
Worked with clients such as The Washington Post, Macmillan Publishers and the University of Pennsylvania
Illustration student Shannon Ryan in front of brick wall covered with framed illustrations, black hair, smiling, brown dress with white circles, holding glass with red straw
Shannon Ryan

BFA '18

Illustration (BFA)
Named top college junior in U.S. by the Society of Illustrators, 2017; Zankel Award Scholarship winner
Lizzy O'Donnell
Lizzy O'Donnell

BFA '17

Illustration (BFA)
Named top college junior in U.S. by Society of Illustrators, 2016; Zankel Award Scholarship winner
Corey Brickley
Corey Brickley

BFA '15

Illustration (BFA)
Editorial and publishing illustrator who was lead animator for the hit Netflix documentary "Wild, Wild Country"
Headshot of Alex Dos Diaz
Alex Dos Diaz 

BFA '14

Illustration (BFA)
Illustrator for numerous New York Times articles, such as “At a Therapeutic Ranch”
A picture of Kayla Miller in front of a floral background
Kayla Miller

BFA '13

Illustration (BFA)
Author and illustrator of the best selling Click graphic novels published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
David Curtis
David Curtis

BFA '13

Illustration (BFA)
Award-winning book designer and illustrator, and Senior Designer for HarperCollins Children's Books
Jason Piperberg Headshot
Jason Piperberg

BFA '12

Illustration (BFA)
Illustrator, comic artist and storyteller who worked on comics such as Raising Dion, Sonic and Mega Man
Regina Flath Illustration alumi headshot
Regina Flath

BFA '09

Illustration (BFA)
Senior Designer at Random House Children's Books; New York ComicCon speaker
Jonathan Bartlett headshot
Jonathan Bartlett

BFA '07

Illustration (BFA)
Created work for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, many other publications

Learn about UArts alumni Leanne Biank, Leah Greenberg, Grace Hirsch and Natalie Jablonski, illustrators, art directors, and designers at Printfresh Studio in Philadelphia.

Internships & Careers

With faculty guidance for career preparation, students can intern at professional venues ranging from individual artist studios to large branding firms, including Anthropologie (Urban Outfitters), Cartoon Network, and Sterling Publishing (Barnes & Noble).

UArts’ Illustration program also positions students for professional success through portfolio development opportunities, career prep from faculty and guest speakers, and internships. 

Publishing is the biggest area for UArts alumni, as many of our most successful students go to New York City and end up working for publishing companies or media outlets, making children’s books or freelancing.

Our students and alumni have worked for

20th Century Fox · American Museum of Natural History · Blizzard Entertainment · Cartoon Network · Disney · DreamWorks · ESPN · Facebook · Fisher Price · Hallmark · Harper-Collins · Hasbro · Houghton Mifflin Harcourt · Knopf · Little Brown · Major League Baseball · Martha Stewart · Marvel Comics · Mattel · MTV · NASA · National Geographic · Newsweek · Nickelodeon · NPR · Oprah · PBS · Penguin Group Publishing · Random House · Reader’s Digest · Scholastic · Simon & Schuster · The New York Times · The New Yorker · The Wall Street Journal · Time Magazine · US Postal Service · Warner Brothers · Wizards of the Coast

UArts recognizes the extraordinary talent of our students through a range of merit-based scholarships. All applicants are automatically considered for such scholarships—no special application is necessary.

Nearly 80 percent of UArts’ undergraduate students enrolled on a full-time basis are eligible for some type of need-based aid. Additionally, some scholarship opportunities take need-based criteria into account. All students who are U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens and are enrolled in a degree program are encouraged to apply by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

There are a variety of scholarships and financial aid available to incoming students. In addition to general scholarships, there are several scholarships available to students pursuing their BFA in Illustration.

Society of Illustrators Zankel Scholarship

Each year, the Society of Illustrators invites directors of the nation’s illustration programs to recommend their top juniors for consideration for the Zankel Scholarship. The process requires a portfolio submission, an essay and an in-person interview. UArts Illustration students have consistently won or been finalists for the past several years. 

Zankel Scholarship winners & finalists from UArts

Alex Smith ’20 (finalist)
Julia Barnes ’19 (finalist)
Shannon Ryan ’18 (winner)
Lizzie O’Donnell ’17 (winner)
James Firnhaber ’16 (finalist)

Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition

The Society of Illustrators has held the Student Scholarship Competition every year since 1981. Professors of Illustration programs nationwide nominate their students for consideration. Scholarship awards are granted to about 25 students whose work is deemed the best of the best.

In 2020, UArts had 12 students and alumni accepted into the show. Mae Krasniewicz BFA '19 was awarded the $1,000 Carol and Murray Tinkelman Scholarship Award.

'The Barnes Foundation' by Mae Krasniewicz BFA '19
by Mae Krasniewicz BFA '19

Admissions Deadline: There is no set deadline. UArts operates on rolling admissions basis, which means we will receive and process applications throughout the year as space remains available in each program. 

The following materials are required for your application. 

  • A completed application for admission
  • A nonrefundable $60 application fee
  • A writing sample
    • Your writing sample should address one of the following questions, interpreted as you wish. There is no right or wrong answer.
      1. When and how did you discover your creativity?
      2. How will University of the Arts help you achieve your creative and professional goals?
      3. How do you want your creativity to impact the future?
      4. Submit an existing piece of writing, such as an essay or class assignment, on any topic.
    • Pay attention to grammar, spelling and punctuation. There is no required word count, but we recommend a 250-word statement, which is about one double-spaced page. You can upload your sample with your application for admission, or email it to undergradcredentials@uarts.edu.
  • Official transcripts
    • Official transcripts from the high school(s) you have attended are required. For transfer students, transcripts from each college you have attended are required. They must be mailed directly by your school in a sealed envelope to the Office of Admissions, emailed directly from your school, or sent through a secure electronic transcript delivery service. Transcripts sent or emailed by students are not considered official. They should be sent to the Office of Admissions, University of the Arts, 320 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102 or via email to undergradcredentials@uarts.edu.
    • For transcripts from outside the U.S., refer to the instructions for international undergraduate students.
  • Your portfolio 
    • All students applying to visual arts programs—those in the schools of Art, Film and Design—are required to submit 15–20 examples of original artwork. You may choose to include work from a variety of media or select one area of focus you want to highlight. Your portfolio should demonstrate your creativity, showcase your skills, represent the art forms you have studied and highlight your ability to communicate ideas. Get more tips about submitting your portfolio
  • International applicants must submit proof of English proficiency
  • Optional Materials 

Visit our first-year application checklist and transfer checklist for more information. 

Visit our Art, Design & Film Portfolio page to see portfolio requirements. 

Apply now.

Annual Events

NC Wyeth Studio at the Brandywine River Museum

In May 2019, six rising seniors in the UArts Illustration program were granted exclusive access to the NC Wyeth Studio, in order to spend a week making art in the space of a great master. 

NC Wyeth was one of the greatest illustrators in the U.S. and originally had his studio built with the profits from his classic, Treasure Island. The studio overlooks the house where Wyeth raised his family, including his son Andrew Wyeth, who is also a revered visual artist. The studio and house are now a part of the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Our students were given free rein to spend days in the studio creating work inspired by Wyeth’s space and legacy. 

Julia Davis '20 at work, left. Inside the NC Wyeth Studio, right.
Julia Davis '20 at work, left. Inside the NC Wyeth Studio, right.

Liftoff! 2019 

Liftoff! 2019 Poster
Liftoff! 2019 Poster

Liftoff! is the School of Design’s spring exhibition. This aptly titled launch showcases student work from our four programs: Graphic Design, Illustration, Industrial Design and MDes Product Design. With the help and expert guidance of faculty and staff, our students have created work that distinguishes them as artists and designers of the highest caliber. This exhibition marks not the end of their academic years, but the beginning of their professional careers.

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