What are the top illustration schools in the South for 2023?

Top 10 Illustration Schools in the South - 2023 College Rankings
1Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
2Ringling College of Art and DesignFlorida
3University of Central FloridaFlorida
4University of North Carolina at CharlotteNorth Carolina
5University of GeorgiaGeorgia
6East Carolina UniversityNorth Carolina
7University of MiamiFlorida
8Belmont UniversityTennessee
9Kennesaw State UniversityGeorgia
10Nossi College of ArtTennessee

Our 2023 ranking of the Top 10 Illustration School Programs in the South. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.

We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas.

1. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah College of Art and Design has BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degree options for students who would like to study Illustration. All programs provide the opportunity to declare a Minor and/or take courses in other disciplines such as Visual Effects, Interactive Design, Architecture, Animation, Graphic Design, and Game Development. Minor examples include Animated Illustration and Publication Design, Storyboarding, Illustration for Surface Design, Advertising and Branding, Scientific Illustration, and Illustration for Entertainment.

For Illustrators who would like to add Publishing and Design to their skill set, SCAD has an undergraduate Digital Publishing Certificate that consists of 30 credit hours. The Program explores Graphic Design, Interactive Design and Web Design, Print Production and Digital Environments, and Media Management. Students in this program may focus in Pre-Press or Web Publishing. For further specialization, Digital Publishing students have the opportunity to complete both the Web Design and Production Design courses.

Degree-seeking students at SCAD have the following degree options: the Visual Communication BA with an Illustration Concentration available at the Atlanta and Savannah campuses; the BFA in Illustration (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah); an Illustration MA (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning); and the Illustration MFA Program (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning).

All BA and BFA students will complete the SCAD Core before entering the Major. Consisting of general education coursework and foundation studies, the SCAD Core includes courses such as Digital Communication, Color: Theory and Application, Drawing I/II (Form and Space/ Composition and Media), Design I/II/III (Elements and Organization/3-D Form in Space/Time), Speaking of Ideas, Applied Physics, Visual Culture in Context: Making Modernites, Creative Thinking Theories and Processes, Psychology of Group Processes, and The Geometry of Physical Space. 

Course examples across programs include Illustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience, Digital Illustration, Speaking of Ideas, Creative Concepting for World Building, Book Illustration, Illustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience, Materials and Techniques, Animated Illustration, Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship, Advertising Illustration, Contextual Character Design, and Editorial Illustration.

The SCAD Illustration BFA has four Concentration options including Animated Illustration and Publication Design; Concept Design for Animation and Games; Illustration for Entertainment; and Illustration for Surface Design. This professional degree program includes 10 hours of free electives and advanced courses such as Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship, Career Strategies for Illustration, and Professional Portfolio for Illustrators.

Both programs require 180 credit hours to graduate, including 20 credit hours of free electives for the BA Program. Students in both pathways may participate in the SCAD internship program.

The Illustration MA at Savannah College of Art and Design features a Graduate Internship, Directed Projects in Illustration, and the Illustration Final MA Project. The program requires 45 credit hours to graduate. The SCAD Illustration MFA consists of 90 credit hours and features two Graduate Internships, Directed Projects in Illustration, Advanced Studio Techniques, Illustration for Publications, Professional Practices in Illustration, and Illustration Markets. Students in this terminal degree program may develop additional skills in a specific area through the program’s four required electives at the 500 to 700 level.

All SCAD students may spend a quarter abroad at SCAD Lacoste or other study abroad locations. Other SCAD features include access to studio classrooms, state-of-the-art labs, production studios, drawing rooms, cutting tables, and Adobe Creative Cloud; creative collaborations between departments and with global brands; master classes; participation competitions and exhibits; visiting artists and speakers; panel discussions; and the annual Sidewalk Arts Festival. 

Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Savannah College of Art and Design have been recruited by  a variety of brands, studios, publications, and companies. Examples include A&E, The New York Times, Converse, Walt Disney Imagineering, Comedy Central, ImagineFX, Bento Box Entertainment, Game Informer, and Revolver Studios.

Providing more than 100 degree programs and over 75 minor options and certificates, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has more programs and specializations than any other art and design college in the U.S. Founded in 1978, the school opened in 1979 with just 71 students, one classroom, and an administration building. Today, SCAD serves more than 15,000 students across campuses in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, and Lacoste, France. Savannah College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

2. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design

Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) houses the Illustration Department, which has an Illustration BFA with a General Illustration or Visual Development Emphasis. Program features include a rigorous studio-based curriculum with a liberal arts foundation; participation in real-world projects with local businesses; networking opportunities with visiting artists from major studios such as DreamWorks; and internships at Pixar, Disney, and Hasbro, among others.

The RCAD Illustration BFA also provides access to painting and drawing studios, two Cintiq labs exclusively for illustration, and three additional Cintiq labs with 24-hour access. Every RCAD Illustration student receives a laptop fully equipped with the latest Adobe Creative Suite software.

The General Illustration Emphasis explores illustration as it relates to traditional and digital media, 2D and 3D, and techniques used in the industry. The program also explores the fundamentals of anatomy, composition, and color theory. Course examples include History of Illustration, 2D Design, Illustration Media, Development of Art & Ideas, Advanced Illustration, Figure Drawing, and Professional Practices.

The Visual Development Emphasis explores illustration as it relates to comics, games, and animated and live-action productions for film, TV, themed entertainment, advertising, publishing, graphic novels, and toy design. Course examples include 3D Design for Illustration, Film & Narrative, Visual Development I-IV, Figure Anatomy, Painting I-II, and  Writing Studio.

To enhance either emphasis area, RCAD offers 10 Minor options consisting of 15 credit hours taken outside the BFA degree program. Examples include Graphic Design, Realistic Painting, Business of Art + Design, Visual Development, Creative Writing, and Film Studies.

In addition to the internship program, Illustration BFA students have the opportunity to participate in RCAD’s semester-long exchange program or a four to five week summer program in Florence, Italy at Studio Arts Center International (SACI). Students may also participate in RCAD’s Annual Illustration show Illest of the Ill.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Ringling College of Art and Design have been hired at major studios and companies such as Marvel Comics, United Airlines, Google, Hallmark, EA Games, Cartoon Network, Apple, Walt Disney, Lucasfilm, GM, Zynga, American Greetings, and Riot Games. 

Ringling College of Art and Design is a private, not-for-profit college that serves more than 1,600 students enrolled in eleven majors leading to a BFA degree, two majors leading to a BA, and minor options in 10 areas. Founded more than 130 years ago by circus magnate John Ringling, RCAD is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

3. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida

The College of Arts and Humanities at University of Central Florida (UCF) houses the School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD), which has two paths to study Illustration. Options include the Art BA with a Studio Track and the Studio Art BFA. Both Programs allow students to Specialize in Illustration, Book Arts, Drawing, or Drawing + Illustration. BFA students may choose one Specialization, while BA students may select several. Other options include Type and Design, Painting, Photography, and Sculpture.

Course examples across programs include Intermediate Illustration I, Computer Art, Image, Culture, and Society, Art as Interface, The Illuminated Book, Design Theory and Methods, Visual Storytelling & Visual Development Workshop, The Professional Environment, Type and Design, Advanced Illustration, History of Illustration, Art of Walt Disney, Book Binding, Experimental Painting, Photography and Art, Procedural Animation, and Drawing Intensive.

Both the Studio Art BFA and Art BFA provide the opportunity to compete an internship and/or participate in the UCF Study Abroad Program.

The Studio Art BFA culminates with the BFA Exhibit/Seminar course. BA students will complete a professional portfolio of their best work.

Graduates of the Art and Studio Art Programs at University of Central Florida are prepared to pursue careers such as Illustrator for Animation, Film, and Games, Storyboard Artist, Fine Artist, Advertising Illustrator, and Comic Book Illustrator. University of Central Florida alumni have gone on to establish careers at places such as Google, Apple, YouTube, and Amazon, Google.

University of Central Florida opened in 1968 as Florida Technological University. On the first day of classes, the school had less than 2,000 students. Today, UCF serves around 70,400 students, making it the largest university by enrollment in the state of Florida, and one of the nation’s largest universities. The school provides 240 bachelor’s degrees, 214 master’s degrees, and 81 doctorate degrees across 13 colleges. University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

4. University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte), houses the College of Arts + Architecture (COA+A). Serving more than 1,000 students, the COA+A provides 33 degrees and concentrations across the Departments of Art and Art History; Music; Dance; and Theatre. The Department of Art and Art History has four undergraduate degree programs, three major options, and an Art History Minor. At the graduate level, the Department has a Graduate Certificate Program in Teaching for Art Education. 

Housed in the Rowe Arts Building, the Department of Art and Art History provides access to three exhibition spaces including Rowe Lower Gallery, Side Gallery, and Upper Gallery. Students in the Department also have access to Rowe 3D Studio; Macy Graphic Design Computer Lab; Rowe Digital Fabrication Lab (RoFL); Lighting, Painting, and Ceramics Studios; Rowe Recital Hall; the Print Media Lab; and performance spaces.

All UNC Charlotte Art and Art History students have the opportunity to join on-campus organizations such as Cerama, Art & Mindfulness, and the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Student Chapter. UNC Charlotte and the Department also lead a recurring Study Abroad Summer Program in Rome as well as paid internship opportunities at local museums and performing arts centers.

Program options for students seeking a degree in Illustration include an Art BFA with a Concentration in Illustration. accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the Art BFA Program requires 120 credit hours, with 79 credit hours of required courses within the Department of Art and Art History. The Illustration Concentration consists of 33 credit hours, with the remaining credits consisting of electives.

Course examples for the Program Illustration: Media/Method, Digital Foundations, Children’s Book Illustration, Mixed Media Painting, The Figure in Illustration, Drawing I-II, Illustration Sequence/Story, Figure and Anatomy, Topics in Illustration, and 2D and 3D Design.

In the final year of the program, students will complete the Senior Seminar, the Illustration Projects course, and BFA Portfolio Review. Final projects will be presented at the BFA Illustration Exhibition. Graduates are prepared for careers in areas such as Magazine Illustration, Book Cover Art, Graphic Novels, Illustration for Animation and Games, Comics, Storyboard Art, Scientific and Medical Illustration, and Poster Art.

Founded in 1946, University of North Carolina at Charlotte serves approximately 29,550, making it the third largest school in the 16-campus UNC System. This public research university provides more than 200 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs across nine colleges. University of North Carolina at Charlotte is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

5. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
University of Georgia

University of Georgia (UGA) is home to Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, which houses Lamar Dodd School of Art. This academic unit within Franklin College provides the opportunity to study and live in New York City for three weeks during the month of May through the UGA New York MAYmester Program. All Lamar Dodd students also have the opportunity to participate in the UGA Study Abroad Program, which has more than 100 options in 75 overseas locations. Examples include Ghana, West Africa; Tuscany, Italy; and Costa Rica.

Other School of Art features include access to state-of-the-art facilities and labs; the opportunity to work and learn in dedicated classrooms and studio spaces; and hands-on experience through the Internship Program. The School also has an Art BFA Program with a Concentration in Scientific Illustration that prepares students for careers in Traditional, Biological, and Medical Illustration.

Students may select nine credit hours or more in electives from areas such as Communications & Media, Studio Art & Design, and Interaction & Computing. Course examples Illustration, Design Drawing Techniques, Digital Narrative Systems, Photography & Image Culture, Special Problems in Graphic Design, Advanced Drawing, and Painting. With instructor approval, Art BFA students may take courses from the Printmaking & Book Arts Area. Examples include Drawing and Visuality, Letterpress, Introduction to Book Arts, Digital Printmaking, and Advanced Book Studio.

In addition to courses such as Techniques and Topics in Science Illustration, Design in Scientific Illustration, Color Techniques in Scientific Illustration, and Directed Study in Scientific Illustration, the Scientific Illustration Concentration requires Art History coursework, and 27 credit hours of Studio Art courses. This provides additional opportunities for students to develop skills in Traditional Illustration. Examples of Studio courses include Figure Drawing/Anatomy, Figure Drawing, and Digital Imaging.

The Art BFA-Scientific Illustration Program at University of Georgia culminates with the Senior Exit course, which consists of a Critique, Portfolio, Evaluation, and participation in the BFA Exit Show: Scientific Illustration. Graduates of the program work in just about every industry. They have been hired at advertising agencies, publishers (books, journals, magazines), animation studios, software and app developers, studios that produce serious games, medical education companies, science communication studios, hospitals and clinics, medical practices, veterinary schools, medical and legal firms, device and biotech companies, research institutions, and the U.S. Military.

Chartered by the State of Georgia in 1785, University of Georgia is the nation’s first state university. The school serves more than 40,000 students enrolled in 379 degree programs across 17 colleges and schools. Established in 1910, the Graduate School houses 250 of UGA’s 379 degree programs. University of Georgia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

6. East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
East Carolina University

East Carolina University (ECU) houses the College of Fine Arts & Communication, home to the School of Art and Design (SoAD). Housed in the Leo W. Jenkins Fine Arts Center (Jenkins Center), SoAD provides access to dedicated graduate and undergraduate studios, the Wellington B. Gray Gallery, computer labs, seminar and lecture classrooms, and the Burroughs Wellcome Senior Gallery. The Jenkins Center also houses specialized production equipment for projects across all disciplines.

The SoAD at ECU has an Art BFA Program with a 30 credit-hour Concentration in Illustration. Before entering the Concentration, students must complete the Common Core, along with courses such as Narrative Art and Design, Drawing, and Process in Studio Arts. Common Courses include Form, Space, and Color, Visual Organization, Translation as Making, Topics in Multidisciplinary Art, and the Art and Design Capstone.

Course examples for the Concentration  include Illustration I: Survey, Illustration II: Concepts and Metaphors, Illustration III: Illustration Principles, Illustration IV: Professional Practice, and Illustration V: Portfolio. In addition the Concentration, ECU’s School of Art and Design provides interdisciplinary studios and coursework in Book Arts, Letterpress, and Community Arts. Other Program features include internships with local, regional and national companies; study abroad experiences in places such as Tuscany, Poland, and Abu Dhabi; and participation in the Senior Exhibition.

Graduates of the Art BFA Program at East Carolina University will enter the job market with a portfolio of their best work. Program alumni are prepared to pursue careers such as Children’s Book Illustrator, Concept Artist, Exhbition Designer, Advertising Illustrator, Graphic Novelist, Textile Designer, Printmaker, Comic Book Artist, Muralist, Surface Designer, Exhibition Designer, Game Artist, Fine Artist, Storyboard Artist, Educator, and Freelance Illustrator.

Founded as a teacher training school in 1907, East Carolina University serves approximately 27,150 students, making it the fourth largest institution in the University of North Carolina System. ECU offers more than 300 degree, minor, and certificate programs across 12 colleges and schools. East Carolina University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

7. University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida
University of Miami

The College of Arts and Sciences (C&S) at University of Miami (UofM) employs 450 full-time faculty that serve approximately 4,840 students. The largest academic unit at UofM, the College provides more than 2,500 course options across 38 Majors, 46 Minors, and dozens of graduate programs. The C&S also houses the Department of Art & Art History, home to the Studio Art MFA Program.

This three-year program has five Concentrations including Digital Imaging-Illustration/Photography, Printmaking, Painting, Sculpture, and Ceramics. All Studio Art MFA students will take 24 credits in their chosen Concentration, as well as 12 elective credits, and nine Art History credits.  Students in the Digital Imaging-Illustration/Photography Concentration have access to courses such as Experimental Illustration for Print and Interactive Media, Seminar in Studio Art, Graduate Digital Photography, Multimedia, Graphic Design, Lithography, Computer Assisted Printmaking, and Graduate Painting. In the Special Projects/Multimedia/Portfolio course, students will prepare their Illustration Portfolios for presentation and critique.

The Studio Art MFA Program at University of Miami culminates with the Thesis and Exhibition. Graduates are prepared for advanced level positions in areas such as Fine Art, Animation, Advertising, Television and Film, Publishing, Game Development, and Graphic Design. Program alumni are also prepared to pursue positions at Art Galleries, Museums, and Theaters, as well as in Consulting and Teaching.

Founded in 1925, University of Miami opened its doors with 646 full-time students enrolled in programs across the College of Liberal Arts, the School of Music, and the Evening Division. Today, this private research university serves more than 19,000 students enrolled in nearly 350 majors and programs across 12 colleges and schools. University of Miami is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

8. Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee
Belmont University

Belmont University (Belmont) is home to Watkins College of Art. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), Watkins has a studio-based Illustration Program that includes the University’s General Education Program known as the Belmont Experience Learning Life (BELL) Core. Courses in the Core cover the Arts, Humanities, Religion, Science, Quantitative Reasoning, Social Sciences, and Wellness.

Leading to a BFA, the Illustration Major explores the illustration process, traditional and digital media, visual storytelling, graphic design and typography, technical and conceptual development, service learning, and professional practices. The program is also multidisciplinary, allowing students to develop projects and portfolios in areas such as Book Illustration, Editorial Illustration, Sequential Art, Advertising Illustration, Character Design, Art Licensing , Illustration Design, and Surface Design.

Other BFA Program features include access to fully equipped, state-of-the-art computer, drawing, and printmaking labs; the Belmont University Study Abroad Program with experiences in places such as Spain, Hong Kong, China, England, Italy, Japan, Ireland, and Greece; artist workshops; and faculty and guest exhibits. BFA students also have the opportunity to enroll in the Belmont USA program, which consists of semester-long experiences in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., and up to two internships. Through Belmont USA, Watkins BFA students have gained experience at places such as Warner Bros., The Buntin Group, Anderson Design Group, Prosper Press, Advent, and Vanderbilt University Creative Services,.

The Watkins Illustration BFA Program at Belmont University culminates with the Senior Project and Professional Portfolio of the student’s best work. Projects will be presented at the Watkins Senior Exhibition.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Belmont University are currently employed as Comic Book Artists, Animators, Children’s Book Illustrators, Graphic Novelists, Brand Identity Designers, Character Designers, Creative Directors and Partners, Designers-Illustrators, Owners of Design Agencies, Illustrators with National Agents, Creative Entrepreneurs, Illustrators at Design/Illustration Firms, and Art Educators.

Belmont University opened in 1890 as Belmont College for Young Women. Today, the school serves a co-ed population of 9,000 students from every state and more than 30 countries. Belmont provides more than 110 programs at all degree levels across 13 academic colleges. Belmont University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

9. Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia
Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State University (KSU) is home to the School of Art and Design (SOAAD), which provides 12 undergraduate degree programs, two minors, and four graduate programs to more than 1,200 students. As part of the SOAAD, all programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Options for Illustrators include the Art BFA with a Concentrations in Illustration or Sequential Art and Comics. Across programs, students benefit from summer art intensives; visiting artists; internship opportunities; and KSU’s partnership with ESA Saint-Luc in Bruxells, Belgium. This long-running Study Abroad Program provides unique opportunities such as the Comics curriculum at ESA St. Luc Brussels.

Consisting of 120 credit hours, both interdisciplinary BFA Programs emphasize Studio Art Practice and Fine Arts. Students in both Programs will complete general education and beginning courses such as English Composition, Renaissance Through Modern Art, Drawing I-II, and Computer Applications in Art. Students may enhance the degree by adding an additional Concentration in an area such as Graphic Communications, Painting and Drawing, Art History, Sequential Art, Photography and Video, Printmaking, and Textile and Surface Design.

Course examples for the Illustration Concentration include Electronic Illustration, (Concept, Creativity, and Studio Practice, Advanced Figure, Illustration I-II, 2D Design and Color Theory, Aqueous Media, Computer Applications in Art, Advanced Illustration, Printmaking, and 3D Design. Course examples for the Comic and Sequential Art concentration include Storyboarding and Composition, Electronic Illustration, Sequential Art I-II, Illustration I, Figure Drawing, and 3D Design.

The Art BFA Programs at Kennesaw State University culminate with the Senior Exhibition. Graduates of go on to establish careers as Illustrators for Animation, Television, and Film; Multimedia Artists; Advertising Illustrators; Storyboard Artists for Animation and Games; Book Designers; Product and Packaging Illustrators; and Art Directors.

Founded in 1963 as a junior college, Kennesaw State University is part of the University System of Georgia. The school serves 39,005 students, making it one of top 50 largest public colleges in the U.S. More than 170 degree programs in Arts, Business, Nursing, STEM fields, Cybersecurity, and more are provided across two campuses in Kennesaw and Marietta, Georgia, 11 colleges, and KSU Journey Honors College. Kennesaw State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

10. Nossi College of Art, Nashville, Tennessee
Nossi College of Art

The only college in Tennessee designed specifically as an art school, Nossi College of Art (Nossi) has a Bachelor of Graphic Arts (BGA) in Illustration Technology Program that requires 133 credits to graduate. The curriculum for this four-year program consists of courses such as Book Publishing Illustration, Advanced 3D Technologies, Production Art, Illustration for Stock Art, Graphic Design Processes, Alternative Mediums, Adobe for Illustrators, Illustration Environments, Sequential Art, Motion Graphics, Advanced Photoshop, Advertising and Editorial Illustration, Advanced Typography, 3D Animation, and Success Strategies.

During the last semester of the program, students will compete an internship. This goal of this program completion requirement is to help students gain valuable work experience before graduating. Nossi students will work part-time with cooperating employers for class credit.

Also during the final year of the Illustration Technology BGA Program, students will complete the Independent Study, Portfolio and Promotion, and Capstone courses. In the Capstone course, students will have the opportunity to create a body of illustrations that can be used in a promotional campaign.

Graduates of the Illustration Technology BGA Program at Nossi College of Art will be prepared to pursue positions such as Editorial Illustrator, Political Cartoonist, Children’s Book Illustrator, Concept Artist, Animator, Fashion Illustrator, Game Artist, Sketch Artist, Comic Illustrator, Storyboard Artist, Multimedia Artist, Advertising Illustrator, Exhibition Designer or Illustrator, 3D Modeling Artist, Package Designer, and Sequential Artist.

Nossi College of Art was established in 1973 by Nossi Vatandoost, an artist listed in Who’s Who of American Women and Who’s Who in America. Nossi launched as a Fine Art School in Madison, Tennessee with Painting, Airbrush, and Photography. Today, Nossi College of Art provides programs in Illustration, Graphic Design, Photography, Filmmaking, and Culinary Arts to approximately 300 students each year. Nossi College of Art is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).