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

In 2024, UArts was named the best school for Illustration in Pennsylvania and among the top 10 on the East Coast by Animation Career Review.

Joseph Game BFA ’07 (Illustration) AKA CHOGRIN

School of Design Alumni Spotlight


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

What You’ll Do First 

In our first-year Design Core, you’ll be creating, designing, illustrating and making from day one–unlike many other art schools–and you’ll be taking a series of courses taken by every first-year Design student. These courses provide a solid foundation in design theory, critical thinking, visual communication, design technology and working together. You’ll also explore innovation in UArts’ Makerspace and Center for Immersive Media.

Learn more about the first-year Design Core. 

Learn more about UArts’ Makerspace.

Learn more about the Center for Immersive Media.

Illustrators are the Imaginers of Society

Learn about Illustration at UArts from Program Director Rosae Reeder.

Student Spotlights

Julia Bianchi Headshot
Julia Bianchi


Illustration (BFA)
Illustrator who studied abroad in Florence, Italy
Alexandra Smith
Alexandra Smith


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


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

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.

Liftoff! 2023

Liftoff! is the spring exhibition for the School of Design, showcases student work from our four programs: Graphic Design, Illustration, MDes in Product Design, and MFA in Museum Exhibition Planning and Design. Each year, it takes place in Philadelphia’s Center for Architecture. 

With support, expert knowledge and instruction provided by exceptional faculty and staff, UArts School of Design students create work that distinguishes them as artists and designers of the highest caliber. This online exhibition marks not the end of our students’ academic years but the beginning of their professional careers.

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

Sean Gibson ’23 (Graphic Design) recalls his experience as the first recipient of the new Crayola Creative Arts/Lee Volpe Internship.

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).

We encourage students to complete the FAFSA by March 15, if possible.

Many students and families have encountered technical challenges while trying to complete the FAFSA this year. If this is the case for you, continue to utilize the FAFSA support resources until your issue is resolved. UArts will ensure that all admitted students who file the FAFSA are eligible for the same institutional funding to support your costs.

Learn more

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.

Learn more about financial aid. 

Learn more about tuition and fees.

Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition

The Society of Illustrators has held the Student Scholarship Competition every year since 1981. The best 150 illustration students nationwide are recognized by the society and about 25 students are granted scholarships. UArts illustration students have consistently been selected for this prestigious competition.

four images laid out on a black background, with a top row of three in portrait orientation, featuring a green creepy dilapidated interiors and a central image of a traffic light against a red-hued natural world, and a lower single landscape of philadelphia

Top row (left to right): Lexi Hagelmans ‘22 (Illustration), Holly Jansen ‘23 (Illustration), Lexi Hagelmans ‘22 (Illustration)

Bottom row: Erin Baker ‘22 (Illustration)

Creative Quarterly Student Competition

UArts students Kait Waldman ’24 (Illustration), Liz Hassell ’26 (Fine Art) were recently selected for the Creative Quarterly 70, an international competition featuring the best work in graphic design, illustration, photography and fine art.

on the left, a sabertooth tiger skull comprised of realistically rendered dangerous objects such as lighters, a match and knives; on the right, a portrait from the shoulders up of pair of children rendered in grayscale with dramatic shadows

Kait Waldman ’24 (Illustration) and Liz Hassell ’26 (Fine Art)

How to Apply

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 (Feb. 15, 2023).

Spring 2024 priority deadline: Oct. 15, 2023

Fall 2024 priority deadline: Feb. 15, 2024

We cannot accept spring 2024 applications after Jan. 8, 2024, and cannot accept fall 2024 applications after Aug. 16, 2024.

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


Frequently asked questions about the Illustration BFA program

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What can you do with an Illustration degree?

With an Illustration degree, you can pursue various career paths in the field of visual arts and communication. You can work as a professional illustrator, children’s book illustrator, editorial illustrator, concept artist, storyboard artist, character designer, surface pattern designer or in fields related to advertising, publishing, animation and gaming. An Illustration degree is also beneficial and in demand in other fields: digital media, graphic design, product design and other areas.

Is an Illustration degree worth it?
The worth of an Illustration degree depends on your passion for the field and your career goals. An Illustration degree can provide you with specialized skills in drawing, painting, digital illustration, storytelling and visual communication, which are valuable for pursuing a career in the Illustration industry. However, success in the field also relies on building a strong portfolio, developing a unique style, networking and actively seeking opportunities.

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