Illustration (BFA)

Illustration BFA Degree

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. 

Receive A Diversified and Highly Collaborative Education

We celebrate the range of career paths for illustrators, from children’s books to concept art, to comics to packaging and beyond. Our curriculum encourages you to explore new technologies and markets so you can develop a meaningful and professional portfolio. 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.

Become A Master of Digital and Traditional Methods

Students in the Illustration 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 create work in our Cintiq Lab and Makerspace and explore Virtual and Augmented Reality in our Center for Immersive Media. You’ll also receive training in anatomy, integrating typography, experimenting with traditional and digital painting methods and developing narratives that give you a well-rounded experience across media.

We're the Best in the State

UArts consistently ranks among the top schools for Illustration in Pennsylvania, the East Coast and the U.S. by Animation Career Review.

Illustrators are the Imaginers of Society

Learn about Illustration at UArts from Program Director Rosae Reeder.


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.

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, and

  • 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.

Sample Curriculum

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

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First Year

Fall: 16.5 credits
Design Process, Theory & Communication (3c)
Drawing as Seeing (3c)
Digital Design Lab (3c)
Thinking Through Science (3c)
Writing I Placement (3c)
Free elective (1.5c)

Spring: 16.5 credits
Drawing as Thinking (3c)
Design Studio (3c)
Figure Painting (1.5c)
Introduction to Printmaking (1.5c)
Writing II Placement (3c)
Art History Survey I (3c)
General elective (1.5c)

Second Year

Fall: 15 credits
Design for Persuasive Visual Communication (3c)
Illustration with Traditional Media (3c)
Anatomy & the Human Figure (3c)
Art History Survey II (3c)
Critical Studies (3c)

Spring: 15 credits
Illustration with Digital Media (3c)
Object & World Building (3c)
History of Illustration (3c)
ODR selection (3c)*
Critical Studies (3c)

Third Year

Fall: 15 credits
Conceptual Problem Solving & Narrative Development (3c)
Figurative Interpretation & Personal Voice (3c)
Design History (3c)
Business & Preparation for Design Practice (3c)
Free elective (3c)

Spring: 15 credits
Illustration Markets & Promotion (3c)
New Media Illustration (3c)
Critical Studies (3c)
Critical Studies (3c)
ODR* selection

Fourth Year

Fall: 13.5 credits
Professional Practice Option or Design Internship (1.5–3c)
Illustration Thesis Studio I (3c)
ODR* selection (3c)
Critical Studies (3c)
Free elective (1.5–3c)

Spring: 13.5 credits
Illustration Thesis II (3c)
Illustration Portfolio Builder selection (3c)
Critical Studies (3c)
Critical Studies (3c)
Free elective (1.5c)

Explore the Full Curriculum

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.

Learn More

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! 2022

Liftoff! is the spring exhibition for the School of Design. It showcases student work from Graphic Design, Illustration, Product Design, and Museum Exhibition Planning and Design.

Explore Liftoff!

Student Profiles

Julia Bianchi Headshot
Julia Bianchi


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


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


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


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

Faculty Spotlight

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.

Mark Tocchet
Mark Tocchet

Dean, School of Design; interim program director, Illustration (BFA)
A closeup of Matt Curtius in a dark shirt against a white background
Matt Curtius

Illustration (BFA)
Illustrator who has worked for clients including Target, Chronicle Books and Leo Burnett
A man in glasses and hat
Joe DiDomenico

BFA '93 (Illustration)

Illustrator and designer who has worked for companies such as DC Comics, the NFL and Running Press Book Publishing.
A closeup of C. Larsen drawing on paper with a pencil and wearing a black tank top
Christine Larsen

Cartoonist and illustrator who has created work for Boom! Studios, Image Comics and Saatchi & Saatchi
A headshot of Kevin Mercer against a neutral background
Kevin Mercer

Illustration (BFA)
Designer and printer of limited-edition concert posters; freelance illustrator and designer
Jon Reinfurt
Jon Reinfurt

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

Alumni & Careers

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 ’0; 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 in a blue denim jacket and a leopard print scarf leaning against a brick wall and smiling
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
A headshot of Jason Piperberg while he's drawing on a tablet.
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

Joseph Game BFA ’07 (Illustration) AKA CHOGRIN

School of Design Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Chat

Molly Egan BFA ’15 (Illustration) chats about the importance of design, how Illustration at UArts shaped her as a person, and what students can do to prepare for life as an illustrator.

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

Alumni Profile: Illustrators at Printfresh Studio

Scholarships & Aid

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

How to Apply

The following materials are required for your application.

UArts offers recommended priority deadlines; students who apply and submit all required materials by the priority deadline will receive first consideration for scholarship aid from UArts. Applications received after the priority deadline will be reviewed on a rolling, space-available basis. 

International students requiring an F-1 visa for study in the U.S. might be subject to earlier deadlines to provide time for completion of the visa process. Contact Admissions for guidance if you are an international student who wishes to apply after the priority deadline.

Spring 2023 priority deadline: Oct. 15, 2022

Fall 2023 priority deadline: Feb. 15, 2023

We cannot accept spring 2023 applications after Jan. 9, 2023, and cannot accept fall 2023 applications after Aug. 11, 2023.

The following materials are required for your application.

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A completed application for admission


$60 application fee
  • If you qualify for a fee waiver from NACAC, CollegeBoard, UArts or another source, indicate that on your application. If the cost of the application fee is a barrier, contact Admissions to request a fee waiver code.

Official high school transcripts
  • Official transcripts must be sent directly from your school by mail, email or a secure electronic document-delivery service. 

  • International transcript requirements 

  • Transfer student transcript requirements

    • High school transcripts may be waived for transfer applicants who have completed a minimum of 24 credits of college-level coursework, including a minimum of 18 academic, non-studio credits.

    • Official college transcript(s)

      • Official transcripts must be sent directly from all the colleges you have attended by mail, email or a secure electronic document-delivery service. 

      • If you’ve attended college outside the U.S., you are required to have an official course-by-course evaluation of your college coursework sent to UArts. Additional guidelines for international transcripts are available.

Your Portfolio
  • A portfolio is required for all Art, Design, Film and Writing programs. Your portfolio may be uploaded during the application process or via your applicant status portal after submission. You must confirm when your submission is complete via the linked electronic form before your portfolio can be reviewed for admission. View a full list of portfolio requirements by program.

International applicants must submit proof of English proficiency.
Optional letters of recommendation
  • Letters of recommendation from teachers or mentors are optional and may be submitted by the recommender via email to or by your high school through a secure electronic document-delivery service. 


Apply Now

About the School of Design

University of the Arts’ School of Design redefines what it means to educate a 21st century designer. We celebrate the reality that the boundaries between all sorts of contemporary design practices are more open than ever before and that a modern designer needs a greatly expanded skill set at their disposal. With this new reality in mind, the School of Design initiates innovation and empowers you to pursue your passions, build core values, broaden your design exposure and become a design leader of the future.

The School of Design strongly believes in collaboration, self-expression and professional preparation through its undergraduate programs in Graphic Design and Illustration, with Product Design and Interaction Design launching in 2023. The School of Design consists of programs that work together, providing depth in your discipline while expanding your understanding of design. This academic model best prepares you to respond flexibly to change and future career opportunities.

Learn more about the School of Design.

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