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The Best U.S. Schools for Illustration and Drawing 2017

Good illustrations and drawings are often beautiful artistic representations of people, places, and things. Some invoke feelings of happiness, sadness, awe, fear, or nostalgia.

There are a number of different types of illustrations that we as humans might have the pleasure of feasting our eyes upon. Pen and pencil illustrations usually consist of clearly defined lines, while charcoal and pastel illustrations consist of thick lines and smudged areas of shading. These illustrations might grace publications like books, newspapers, or magazines, or they can be admired as they hang on a wall in an art gallery, business, or home.

Drawing and illustration typically requires a great deal of skill to create attractive and dynamic pieces of art. Most people admit that drawing is a skill that a person either has or doesn’t have. For instance, some people can create an artistic masterpiece with nothing more than a piece of paper and a #2 pencil in a short period of time. Others, however, have trouble drawing simple stick figures.

Nevertheless, even those with talent need education and guidance to make the most of their skills. Illustration schools are often just the thing for individuals looking to develop their talents and pursue an illustration career.

  • School Name

    32 schools ranked

  • Educating students since 1970, Newsweek Magazine and The Daily Beast have ranked CalArts as the nation’s top college of the arts. Its six schools offer rigorous graduate and undergraduate degree programs.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,448
  • Founded in 1931, Ringling College excels in propelling students into the real world of art through substantive internships, national competitions, cutting-edge technology, and client projects (to name a few).

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1262
  • Embracing a forward-looking approach to artistic academia, SCAD is a student-centered institution determined to provide educational excellence within the context of a positive learning environment. Students learn to create art, as well as live creatively artistic lives.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 11,861
  • Nestled amidst the picturesque New England seaboard, Rhode Island School of Design has long been one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious colleges offering rigorous art programs at both an undergraduate and graduate level.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,481
  • Founded in 197, SVA is a for-profit art and design educational institution located in New York offering 11 bachelor’s programs & 22 graduate options. SVA emphasizes excellence in expression and responsible industry participation.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 4,408
  • Hailing as the oldest school of art in Southern California, USC’s Roski was established in 1883. It grants two undergraduate degrees and three master’s degrees ( BA, BFA, MA, MFA, MPAS).

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 43,401
  • Located in the heart of one of the world’s cultural centers, the UCLA School of Art emphasizes the necessity of a profound interdependence between the creative arts and academic scholarship. Drawing from the richness of the surrounding culture, the School hosts a distinguished, world-famous faculty who effectively combine studio-based experience with critical studies and liberal arts. As part of a leading research university, students are guaranteed an exclusive and empowering education.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 41,908
  • CMU is a place for passion to call home. A global research university, the college isone of the world’s greatest institutions. CMU challenges students with leading-edge brain science to create work that matters.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 12,963
  • RIT is a private college whose fine arts programs are consistently ranked in the “Top 10” by US News. Conferring associates, undergraduate and graduate degrees, it has 4 galleries and a Center for Design.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 16,639
  • Pratt Institute utilizes the city of New York as a literal classroom by engaging students in real life experiences including public critiques and internships with top design companies like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and more.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 4,784
  • Established in 1906, the College for Creative Studies is a small, private, fully-accredited institution of higher learning. Diversity and inclusion characterize the student body: undergraduates hail from 35 states and 24 countries; while the graduate population is comprised of 81% international enrollees from 8 countries. Located in Midtown Detroit, students enjoy the long-established, rich culture of the city. From the Detroit Film Theatre and the Detroit Institute of Arts; to the libraries, galleries and famous restaurants; both college and students can leverage the educational opportunities provided by the urban community.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,487
  • Tisch School of the Arts at NYU is famous not only for its ability to develop scholars, artists and entrepreneurs, but also for the well-known success of its graduates. The accomplishments of alumni are annually recognized by world-renowned achievement at festivals, awards and via fellowships.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 50,027
  • PennDesign hosts a community of scholars, rich in diversity and talent. Emphasizing thoughtful inquiry, innovation and creative expression; the college is committed to local and global well-being in design, art, preservation and planning.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 24,876
  • With 30 distinct areas of study, Academy of Art University is America's largest private accredited art university. Markedly exceptional is their “No-Barrier to Admissions” policy. Applicants need only possess passion coupled with the ability to concretize it.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 13,800
  • With 4 departments and 3 schools dedicated to the arts, BYU offers everything a student could imagine. There are 11 art galleries, 55 practice rooms & performance groups annually tour 8 countries/140 cities.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 33,469
  • Offering online and on-campus undergraduate and graduate degrees, Full Sail’s game design program was named a "Top Graduate & Undergraduate School to Study Game Design" in 2016 by The Princeton Review and Electronic Gaming Monthly.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 20,025
  • Founded by an animator, producer and recruiter in the industry, the DAVE school excels in providing an education steeped in the reality of the career-treks offered. Two online BA’s have recently been added.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
  • In response to the widespread growth of imaging, media systems and high technology information; Texas A&M developed its Visualization Laboratory and the Visualization Academic Program. Degrees available are BS, MA, MFA-V and PhD.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 12,928
  • Renowned for its excellence in the BA and MA programs; OSU maintains its core values of creative examination and intellectual freedom, while providing students with a rich, people-centered educational environment.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 58,663
  • Founded in Baltimore in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is one of the oldest art colleges in the U.S. For undergraduate education in the fine arts and its MFA programs, U.S. News & World Report has ranked MICA as one of the top colleges in the nation. Parade Magazine has ranked it in the Top 2 Studio Arts Programs in the U.S.; and The Princeton Review consistently names it a “Best Northeastern College.”

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,197
  • LCAD offers students a variety of opportunities by conferring BFAs in 7 areas and MFAs in 4 distinct categories. Its affiliation with the Florence Academy of Art allows for summer study in Italy.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 607
  • UCF’s SVAD offers 13 bachelor level degrees and 2 masters level programs. Their amazing gallery presents works in the areas of Film, Photography, Sculpture, Painting, Digital Media and Illustration.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 62,953
  • The School of Fine and Performing Arts upholds that living a creative life is a calling to be answered with driving force. To that end they offer over 50 programs upon which to build success.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 8,961
  • UT at Dallas gives students nonpareil opportunities to immerse themselves in innovative Art & Performance programs providing a unique interdisciplinary context for the study of the visual arts.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 24,554
  • Unique in its educational approach, Parsons prioritizes humanity and culture; ever-seeking a connection to global urban centers with project-based learning. Founded in 1896, Parsons confers both undergraduate and graduate degrees at 5

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 10,344
  • DigiPen is a committed leader in education & research in the field of computer interactive technologies. They offer undergraduate and graduate degrees; as well as high school programs, continuing education & international opportunities.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private, For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 1,076
  • Gnomon offers superior educational opportunities whether you are getting a bachelor’s degree or participating in a vocational program, either on-campus or online. Its 96% placement rate proves, graduates are ready for the world.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : For Profit
    • imgEnrollment : 442
  • Since 1866, School of the Art Institute of Chicago has been committed to academic excellence, interdisciplinary exploration and the enrichment of each student’s artistic inquiry and experimentation.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 3,591
  • At DePaul University teaching comes first. Students are taught by esteemed faculty, not graduate students. DePaul raises artistic awareness in its student body and community by emphasizing knowledge and critical thinking skills.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 23,539
  • Woodbury’s School of Media, Culture & Design provides an innovative learning experience within an interdisciplinary environment. Undergraduates can choose from 8 degree programs: animation, communication, filmmaking, game art/design, graphic design, psychology and media technology.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,457
  • Striving for excellence in academia; social justice and transformative education; students enjoy dedicated lab spaces for theatre, art, dance and music; as well as Strub Theatre, Murphy Recital Hall and 2 galleries.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 9,392
  • With a tradition of learning to create and influence change; the Center impacts its community as well as global society. Its visionary methodology regarding art and design reflects the conservatory approach it embraces.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,133

What Are Illustration Schools?

Illustration schools are educational facilities that offer training and education in drawing and illustration. These types of art schools allow students to hone their existing talents and learn new drawing techniques. Although it isn’t always necessary, an illustration school can help prepare artists for satisfying careers in illustration.

In today’s modern world, teeming with technology and computers, finding a true illustration job can be rather difficult. Many illustrators have been replaced by computer imaging programs, which are much faster at churning out graphics. Computer imaging programs lack some very important things, however, such as passion and originality.

Because there are so few illustrator jobs available, this is a very competitive field. Only the most talented will usually be able to make a decent living at illustrating. This is where illustration schools come in handy. They allow students to develop and improve their talents, making them invaluable assets for the right employers.

What Are the Different Types of Illustration Schools?

Reputable and accredited illustration schools typically aren’t true schools in the traditional sense. Most are generally “schools within schools”, meaning that they are just parts of larger educational facilities. Some traditional universities and colleges, for instance, have art departments that offer drawing or illustration degrees.

The majority of students who are pursuing illustration careers, however, will usually attend art institutes. These types of schools usually offer excellent illustration degree programs, and they are more focused on turning out graduates who are serious about illustration careers. The classes in art schools are often taught by professional, passionate, and successful artists who are very familiar with working in the art industry. Art institutes also enable students to connect with and learn alongside other passionate artists who share similar goals and interests.

Modern technology can be very useful when it comes to becoming a traditional illustrator. Some illustration schools, for example, offer degree programs online. These enable students to earn degrees in illustration in their own time while still attending to important obligations, like families and jobs.

What Are the Requirements for Illustration Schools?

Obviously, talent is the number one requirement for being accepted at an illustration school. Individuals who wish to attend these schools should be able to draw relatively well.

Future illustration school students should also take drawing, illustration, and art classes while attending high school. If these are not available, they should take private drawing classes or tutoring.

An impressive portfolio is also usually another common requirement for most illustration schools. Illustrators’ portfolios usually consist of the best pieces of their artwork. Many schools will require several different types of drawings. Some may prefer tangible portfolios drawn on paper, while others may prefer scanned digital copies of applicants’ artwork. The portfolio requirements will vary, depending on the school, however, so it is important to check the requirements of each school you apply to and follow the directions precisely.

What Are the Different Degrees Offered by Illustration Schools?

Illustration schools might offer a few different types of certificates or degrees. A few schools, for instance, offer certificate programs in illustration. These usually take a year or less to complete, and they only cover the basics of illustration.

Associate in Art and Bachelor in Art degree programs are more common, however, and these usually take two and four years to complete, respectively. These types of illustration degrees typically cover more in depth aspects of this field. Online illustration programs are available as well.

What Are Some Courses Offered By Illustration Schools?

Not surprisingly, illustration school students will take a number of courses in drawing and illustration. They will take courses in drawing techniques and mediums, for instance. They will also learn to use several different types of drawing tools, such as pencils, pens, pastels, and charcoal. Aspiring illustrators will also learn about the different types of paper used for drawing and how to preserve illustrations when they are complete.

Depending on an illustrator’s career goals, most illustration schools also offer courses in several different types of drawing. This can include courses in portrait drawing, landscape drawing, and life drawing. Some careers might also require special courses as well. Medical illustrators, for instance, will often need to take several anatomy, medical, and science courses.

What Are the Different Types of Illustration Careers?

Although it may seem extremely difficult, there are illustration jobs to be found. You just need to know where to look.

Publishing houses and magazines often hire illustrators to create drawings and graphics for books and magazines, for instance. Hospitals and medical journals also often hire illustrators to create medical illustrations and diagrams that are easy for people to comprehend. Illustrators with interesting senses of humor can work as cartoonists or comic book artists.

The majority of illustrators, however, work as freelancers. Some may draw portraits of people on the street or at craft fairs, and a few select few may have their artwork displayed in museums and art galleries. Authors will also often hire freelance illustrators to create artwork for their books, especially children’s books.

Do I Need a Degree From an Illustration School?

A degree from an accredited illustration school is not always required, but it certainly can’t hurt. As mentioned above, the illustration field today is extremely competitive, especially considering many illustrators have been replaced by computer software.

Illustration schools enable students to hone their skills and work on strengthening their weaknesses in this area. By doing so, many illustration school graduates will have a better chance of securing illustration jobs and pursuing satisfying careers in this field.