College Unfold

Unveiling the Best Illustration Schools: Rankings and Insights

Illustration is an art form that has been around for centuries, yet its importance is often overlooked by the average person. While many people may view illustration simply as drawing or creating visually appealing images, there is much more to it than meets the eye.

In this article, we will explore the world of illustration, delving into its rich history and shedding light on the essential pieces that make up this art form. We will also discuss the importance of illustration schools in honing the technical skills of aspiring illustrators and providing them with opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals in the industry.

Additionally, we will provide a comprehensive ranking of the top illustration schools to assist students in making informed decisions about their education and future career paths. Layperson’s understanding vs educated understanding of illustration

When many people think of illustration, they likely envision a simple drawing or a colorful picture in a children’s book.

However, illustration encompasses much more than that. It is a form of visual communication that combines artistry with storytelling, conveying complex ideas and emotions through images.

Professional illustrators possess a deep understanding of composition, color theory, perspective, and the principles of design, allowing them to create engaging and visually striking works. The history of illustration is steeped in tradition and has played a vital role in human communication for centuries.

From the cave paintings of ancient civilizations to the intricate manuscripts of the Middle Ages, illustrations have been used to convey religious, cultural, and historical narratives. Today, illustrations can be found in books, magazines, advertisements, and even digital media, enriching our visual experiences and enhancing our understanding of the world around us.

Importance of illustration schools

While some individuals may have a natural talent for drawing, formal education in illustration can significantly enhance an artist’s skills and provide them with opportunities for growth and professional development. Illustration schools offer structured curricula that cover a wide range of topics, including figure drawing, digital illustration, concept development, and visual storytelling.

These programs help students hone their technical skills and develop their unique artistic styles. One of the significant benefits of attending an illustration school is the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals who share a passion for the art form.

Students can collaborate on projects, exchange ideas, and provide constructive feedback, fostering a supportive and creative community. Additionally, illustration schools often invite industry professionals as guest speakers and host networking events, enabling students to build valuable connections within the field.

Moreover, a degree from a reputable illustration school can significantly enhance employment prospects for aspiring illustrators. Graduates often find themselves well-positioned for a variety of career paths, including freelance illustration, graphic design, animation, and children’s book illustration.

The rigorous training and portfolio development provided by illustration schools give graduates a competitive edge in the job market, increasing their chances of securing well-paying and fulfilling positions.

Rankings of Top Illustration Schools

Pratt Institute School of Art

Ranked among the top illustration schools globally, the Pratt Institute School of Art has a long-standing reputation for producing successful and influential illustrators. Founded in 1887 by industrialist Charles Pratt, the school has since become a respected institution known for its dedication to artistic excellence and innovation.

Pratt Institute offers an extensive range of programs within the field of art and design, including graphic design and illustration. Students enrolled in the illustration program benefit from a comprehensive curriculum that covers traditional and digital illustration techniques, as well as courses in art history and critical thinking.

Through hands-on projects and portfolio development, students gain practical experience and develop a strong foundation in their craft. Upon graduation, Pratt students have a multitude of career options available to them.

Many alumni have gone on to work as freelance illustrators, while others have found success in areas such as publishing, advertising, and animation. The school’s location in New York City provides students with unparalleled access to industry professionals and networking opportunities, further enhancing their career prospects.

Rochester Institute of Technology


Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is another top-ranking institution renowned for its illustration program. RIT stands out for its focus on the fusion of traditional drawing skills with cutting-edge digital imaging technologies, preparing students for the rapidly evolving world of illustration.

At RIT, students learn the fundamentals of drawing, painting, and visual storytelling before delving into digital illustration techniques. The curriculum includes courses in anatomy, perspective, and media exploration, providing students with a well-rounded education in the field.

The faculty consists of experienced professionals who bring their expertise and industry connections to the classroom. The school’s emphasis on technological innovation is particularly relevant in today’s digital age.

With the rise of the video game industry and the increasing demand for visually captivating content, illustrators with digital skills are in high demand. RIT’s program equips students with the necessary technical expertise to succeed in these competitive fields, opening up exciting career opportunities.

In conclusion, illustration is an intricate and multifaceted art form that goes beyond mere drawing. Attending an illustration school can significantly enhance an artist’s skills and provide them with invaluable networking opportunities.

Schools such as the Pratt Institute and the

Rochester Institute of Technology are renowned for their commitment to excellence and have produced successful illustrators who continue to shape the industry. By pursuing a formal education in illustration, aspiring artists can elevate their creativity, expand their professional network, and embark on rewarding careers in this thriving field.

More Rankings of Top Illustration Schools

Maryland Institute College of Art

Among the top illustration schools in the United States, the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) stands out as the oldest independent art school in the country. With a history spanning more than 185 years, MICA has cultivated a reputation for excellence in the arts and continues to produce talented illustrators.

At MICA, students have the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration, where they can choose from various concentration tracks that cater to their specific interests. These tracks include areas such as concept art, editorial and publishing, or even experimental illustration, allowing students to explore different aspects of the field.

This flexibility ensures that students can tailor their education to align with their individual career goals. The curriculum at MICA is designed to equip students with the technical skills necessary to succeed in the industry.

Courses in technical drawing, digital illustration, and visual storytelling form the foundation of the program. Additionally, MICA offers specialized courses in book arts and sequential art, which provide students with unique insights into these specific areas of illustration.

By combining traditional and contemporary techniques, students develop a diverse skill set that prepares them for a wide range of artistic endeavors. Graduates of MICA’s illustration program have gone on to have successful careers as freelance illustrators, graphic designers, and art directors, among other professions.

The school’s emphasis on both technical proficiency and conceptual thinking enables students to approach illustration from a well-rounded perspective. Furthermore, MICA’s location in Baltimore offers students exposure to a vibrant arts community, as well as access to internships and networking opportunities in nearby cities such as Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts

Located in upstate New York, Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) offers a highly regarded illustration program that integrates the arts with a strong foundation in liberal arts education. This unique approach ensures that students not only develop their artistic skills but also cultivate critical thinking abilities, which are essential for successful careers in illustration.

The curriculum at VPA is designed to expose students to various forms of media, including digital illustration, traditional drawing, and painting. Alongside technical skills, students are encouraged to develop their storytelling abilities, as illustration is ultimately about effectively conveying narratives through visual means.

Through coursework in art history, visual culture, and critical theory, students gain a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of illustration. This broad knowledge base allows them to approach their work with a more informed and sophisticated perspective.

Syracuse University places a strong emphasis on encouraging students to think critically, pushing them to explore new ideas and challenge conventions within the field of illustration. The faculty consists of accomplished artists and industry professionals who guide students in honing their skills and developing their unique voices as illustrators.

This supportive environment allows students to grow both artistically and intellectually. Upon graduating from VPA’s illustration program, students are well-prepared for careers in various creative industries, such as advertising, animation, and publishing.

The program’s emphasis on critical thinking and storytelling equips students with the ability to adapt their skills to different mediums and contexts. Whether creating illustrations for print media or digital platforms, VPA alumni consistently demonstrate their versatility and innovative approaches to visual communication.

More Rankings of Top Illustration Schools

Savannah College of Art and Design

The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is renowned for its comprehensive illustration program and its wide range of degree options within the field. With campuses in Savannah, Georgia, and other global locations, as well as an online education program, SCAD provides accessibility and flexibility to aspiring illustrators worldwide.

SCAD offers several degree options in illustration, including a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Fine Arts, and even a minor in illustration. This range of programs caters to students at different stages of their education and allows them to deep-dive into their chosen area of study.

Additionally, SCAD offers unique elements within its illustration program, such as specialized coursework in areas like interior design and art history. These additional concentrations allow students to explore interdisciplinary approaches to illustration and develop a broader skill set.

The online education program at SCAD provides an excellent opportunity for aspiring illustrators who may not be able to attend an on-campus program due to geographical constraints. SCAD’s online platform offers the same quality education and resources as their physical campuses, allowing students to learn at their own pace while receiving personalized feedback and guidance from experienced faculty members.

SCAD graduates have found success in various creative industries, with many working as illustrators in fields such as publishing, advertising, and entertainment. The comprehensive education they receive at SCAD, combined with the school’s emphasis on professional development, equips students with the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in a competitive job market.

Fashion Institute of Technology

For those interested in the intersection of fashion and illustration, the

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City offers an exceptional illustration program that prepares students for careers in the fashion industry. FIT’s illustration curriculum focuses on fashion illustration, providing students with the skills to translate their ideas and designs into visually compelling illustrations.

The program combines traditional drawing techniques with contemporary digital tools, allowing students to create future sketches that capture the essence of garments and accessories. FIT’s dedication to staying at the cutting edge of fashion trends ensures that students are equipped with the latest techniques and industry practices.

A unique feature of FIT is the FIT Museum, which houses an extensive collection of fashion-related artifacts. This resource provides students with firsthand access to historical garments, textiles, and fashion illustrations, serving as a source of inspiration and promoting a deeper understanding of the fashion industry’s past and future.

Regular visits to the museum and exposure to exhibitions further enrich students’ education and artistic development. Upon completion of FIT’s illustration program, graduates often find employment as fashion illustrators, in-house designers, or freelance artists.

The program’s highly specialized focus on fashion illustration gives students a competitive edge in this niche field. Furthermore, FIT’s location in New York City offers unparalleled opportunities for internships, networking, and exposure to the vibrant fashion scene, providing students with a head start in their careers.

In conclusion, the field of illustration offers diverse educational opportunities for aspiring artists to develop their skills and pursue fulfilling careers. Schools such as the Maryland Institute College of Art,

Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts, Savannah College of Art and Design, and the

Fashion Institute of Technology provide students with a comprehensive education in various aspects of illustration.

Whether it’s through historical contexts, interdisciplinary approaches, or specialized focus areas, these schools equip students with the technical proficiency, critical thinking abilities, and industry connections necessary for success in the world of illustration.

More Rankings of Top Illustration Schools

ArtCenter College of Design

The ArtCenter College of Design, located in Pasadena, California, offers a highly regarded illustration program that emphasizes practical thinking, problem-solving, and the development of versatile skills applicable to both traditional and commercial fields. ArtCenter’s illustration program provides students with a strong foundation in drawing and painting techniques, ensuring that they possess the necessary technical skills to excel in their chosen paths.

However, the curriculum goes beyond technique, focusing on the application of visual communication in various contexts. Students are encouraged to think critically and explore ways of solving problems through visual solutions.

One of the unique aspects of ArtCenter’s illustration program is its offering of specialized courses that cater to students’ specific interests and career goals. These courses cover diverse topics such as character design, storyboarding, and concept art.

Additionally, ArtCenter has established partnerships with luxury brands, providing students with opportunities to work on real-world projects and gain industry experience. Graduates of ArtCenter’s illustration program have found success in a range of creative industries, from freelance illustration and gallery work to concept art and animation.

The program’s emphasis on practical skills and problem-solving equips students with the ability to adapt their skills to various professional contexts. Moreover, the school’s location in Southern California provides students with access to a thriving creative community, internship opportunities, and exposure to industry professionals.

School of Visual Arts

Located in the heart of New York City, the

School of Visual Arts (SVA) offers a dynamic and highly regarded illustration program that prepares students for careers in a rapidly evolving creative landscape. At SVA, students engage with illustration as a means of interacting with audiences and exploring the power of visual communication.

The program emphasizes the relationship between illustration and storytelling, with coursework focusing on narrative development and the exploration of the human experience. Through diverse projects, students develop their artistic voice and tackle societal themes such as the nature of good and evil or complex social issues.

Beyond the classroom, SVA provides students with numerous opportunities for public interaction and exhibition. The school’s gallery spaces host regular exhibitions and events, showcasing students’ work and encouraging dialogue within the artistic community.

This exposure to real-world settings allows students to refine their storytelling abilities and develop a deeper understanding of the impact of their illustrations. SVA’s faculty consists of accomplished professional artists who bring their industry experience and expertise into the classroom.

Their guidance and mentorship support students in honing their skills and developing their artistic vision. Alumni of SVA’s illustration program have achieved success in diverse fields such as editorial illustration, graphic novels, and advertising campaigns.

The program’s emphasis on creativity, critical thinking, and engagement with audiences prepares students for impactful careers as illustrators.

More Rankings of Top Illustration Schools

Ringling College of Art and Design

Ringling College of Art and Design, located in Sarasota, Florida, offers a comprehensive illustration program that focuses on practical skills and prepares students for careers in both traditional and entertainment industry fields. The curriculum at Ringling combines foundational courses in drawing, color theory, and composition with specialized tracks in general illustration and visual development.

These tracks allow students to tailor their education to their specific interests and career goals. The general illustration track covers a broad spectrum of illustration applications, from publishing and advertising to gallery work and editorial illustration.

The visual development track focuses on concept art for the entertainment industry, with an emphasis on character design and storytelling for animation and games. One of the key advantages of Ringling’s illustration program is its faculty, which consists of experienced professionals who are accomplished in their respective fields.

Their industry knowledge and connections provide valuable insights and networking opportunities for students. Additionally, Ringling’s location in the heart of Florida’s entertainment industry hub offers students access to internships, studio visits, and collaborations with industry professionals.

Graduates of Ringling’s illustration program have enjoyed successful careers as freelance illustrators, character designers, and storyboard artists, among other roles. The program’s emphasis on practical skills and real-world application ensures that students are well-prepared for the demands of the industry upon graduation.

Rhode Island School of Design


Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) consistently ranks among the top art schools globally and offers a highly regarded illustration program that provides students with a well-rounded education in the field. In RISD’s illustration program, students have access to a wide range of resources, including dedicated studio space, professional printmaking studios, and state-of-the-art digital labs.

The school’s commitment to offering students the necessary tools and space for exploration fosters an environment conducive to creativity and innovation. RISD’s illustration program also places a strong emphasis on networking and professional development.

The school regularly invites industry professionals as guest speakers and hosts workshops and events to facilitate connections between students and professionals in the field. These networking opportunities are invaluable for aspiring illustrators, providing them with a platform to showcase their work, receive feedback, and make connections that can lead to future career opportunities.

Graduates of RISD’s illustration program have achieved success in various creative industries, including editorial illustration, advertising, and publishing. The program’s rigorous curriculum, combined with the school’s reputation for academic excellence, equips students with the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in the competitive field of illustration.

In conclusion, the commitment to excellence and innovative approaches to education at schools such as the ArtCenter College of Design, the

School of Visual Arts, Ringling College of Art and Design, and the

Rhode Island School of Design make them standouts among top illustration schools. These institutions provide students with a strong foundation in technical skills, foster critical thinking and creativity, and offer various networking opportunities.

Graduates of these programs are well-prepared for successful careers as illustrators in a wide range of industries.

Sources for the Aggregate Ranking

Animation Career Review

When it comes to finding reliable rankings of top illustration schools, Animation Career Review is an excellent resource. The website specializes in providing comprehensive information about careers in animation, game design, and related fields.

They also publish annual rankings of the top schools for various disciplines, including illustration. Animation Career Review’s rankings are based on a variety of factors, such as academic reputation, graduate outcomes, faculty expertise, and the quality of facilities and resources.

These rankings provide students with a holistic view of each school’s strengths and weaknesses, helping them make informed decisions about their education. In their most recent rankings of top illustration schools, Animation Career Review listed the top 40 programs in the United States.

They evaluated schools based on criteria such as the reputation of the program and faculty, the quality of coursework and curriculum, and the success of alumni in the industry. The rankings offer a breakdown of each school’s program highlights, faculty profiles, and information on scholarships and financial aid opportunities.

College Factual

College Factual is a website that provides data-driven insights and rankings to help students find the best colleges for their chosen fields of study. Their rankings are based on key factors such as program quality, student retention rates, and post-graduation outcomes.

They offer rankings specific to visual and performing arts, including illustration programs. Through their methodology,

College Factual analyzes factors such as graduation rates, student-faculty ratios, and overall program quality to determine the rankings.

They also consider factors like student satisfaction and post-graduation salary potential.

College Factual’s rankings provide a comprehensive overview of each school’s strengths, weaknesses, and overall value for aspiring illustration students.

The Art Career Project

The Art Career Project is a comprehensive online resource dedicated to helping individuals pursue successful careers in the arts. They provide valuable information on various art and design fields, including illustration.

The website also offers a ranking of top illustration schools, which serves as a useful tool for students considering their educational options. The ranking on

The Art Career Project website takes into account several factors, such as the program’s reputation, faculty qualifications, alumni success, and the range of courses offered.

They strive to provide information that is relevant, accurate, and up-to-date to help students make well-informed decisions about their education.

The Art Career Project’s ranking of top illustration schools serves as a starting point for students in their search for suitable programs. They provide in-depth profiles of each school, highlighting important information such as the curriculum, faculty, and available resources.

This allows students to compare schools and find the best fit for their individual needs and goals.


Prepler is an educational resource platform that offers information on various colleges and universities, including their programs and rankings. They provide insights into the best colleges for specific fields of study, including illustration.

Prepler offers a ranking of the best colleges for illustration based on factors such as affordability, graduation rates, and the quality of the program. The ranking is designed to help students find schools that offer a balance of academic excellence and affordability.

In addition to rankings,

Prepler provides detailed profiles of each school, including information on faculty, curriculum, and available resources. This allows students to gain a comprehensive understanding of each program and make educated decisions about their education.

College Raptor

College Raptor is a website that provides resources and tools to help students find the right college. They offer insights into various aspects of college education, including rankings of bachelor’s degree programs in different fields, such as illustration.

College Raptor’s rankings of illustration bachelor’s degree programs are based on factors such as graduation rates, student satisfaction, and post-graduation earnings. They aim to provide information that helps students not only choose a program that aligns with their interests but also offers good value and career prospects.

College Raptor’s rankings assist students in narrowing down their options by providing an overview of each program’s strengths and areas of expertise. They also offer information on faculty, curriculum, and available resources, helping students make informed decisions about their education and future careers.

In conclusion, several reputable sources provide rankings of top illustration schools, serving as valuable resources for aspiring illustrators. Animation Career Review,

College Factual,

The Art Career Project,

Prepler, and

College Raptor offer comprehensive and objective rankings that take into account various factors such as program quality, faculty expertise, student satisfaction, and post-graduation outcomes.

These sources provide students with valuable insights and information to aid in their decision-making process when choosing the best illustration program for their educational and career goals. In conclusion, the rankings of top illustration schools provide aspiring artists with valuable insights and guidance when choosing an educational path.

From Animation Career Review to

College Factual, these sources assess factors like program quality, faculty expertise, and student outcomes to compile comprehensive and reliable rankings. Schools such as the ArtCenter College of Design, the

School of Visual Arts, Ringling College of Art and Design, and the

Rhode Island School of Design consistently rank high, offering robust illustration programs that equip students with technical skills and critical thinking abilities.

The importance of illustration schools cannot be underestimated, as they provide a supportive and creative environment, networking opportunities, and the necessary education to excel in a competitive field. Through these rankings, students can make informed choices that lead to successful and fulfilling careers in the world of illustration.

Popular Posts