What are the top illustration schools in the southwest for 2022?

Top 10 Illustration Schools in the Southwest - 2022 College Rankings
1Brigham Young UniversityUtah
2Rocky Mountain College of Art and DesignColorado
3University of Colorado, DenverColorado
4University of ArizonaArizona
5Texas State University, San MarcosTexas
6Utah Valley UniversityUtah
7Southern Utah UniversityUtah
8Oklahoma Baptist UniversityOklahoma
9University of Central OklahomaOklahoma
10Oklahoma Christian UniversityOklahoma

Our 2022 rankings of the top illustration programs in the Southwest US. 

We define the Southwest as Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Brigham Young University

The Department of Design at Brigham Young University (BYU) is part of the College of Fine Arts and Communications (CFAC), which provides a number of unique opportunities for all majors CFAC majors. Serving close to 5,700 students, the College of Fine Arts and Communications hosts hundreds of performances and student and faculty presentations each year. CFAC students have opportunities to engage in research projects, participate in experiential learning activities in the U.S. and abroad, pursue internships, and exhibit at or access collections in the Brigham Young University Museum of Art (MOA). 

The BYU Illustration BFA is a Limited Enrollment Program (LEP) that accepts just 40 students per academic year. Courses for the program are led by industry professionals and include titles such as Design Theory and Visual Culture, Painting the Human Head, Sketchbook, Interdisciplinary Motion, Three-Dimensional Design Illustration, Character Design for illustrators, Basic Storyboarding, Narrative Illustration, Advanced Life Drawing, Design Lecture Series, Typography, and Special Topics. 

In the final year of the BYU Illustration BFA Program, students will complete Senior Illustration Studio 1 and 2, Professional Practices for Illustrators, BFA Illustration Capstone Project: Research, and BFA Illustration Capstone Project: Implementation.

Graduates of the Brigham Young University Illustration BFA Program work in Advertising, Publishing (books and magazines), Entertainment (animation, games, television and film), Corporate Publications, News Media, Fashion Design, Toy Design and Production, Museums, Murals, and Exhibitions, Architecture, and Medical and Scientific Illustration. Some graduates have launched their own design studios or successful freelance careers.

Brigham Young University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The school was founded by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Brigham Young in 1875. The school opened as Brigham Young Academy (BYA). Today, Brigham Young University  serves nearly 35,000 students, making it the largest church-sponsored university in the United States. BYU provides 400 degree program options and minors across 15 divisions, colleges, and schools.

2. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

The Illustration Program at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) has Illustration and Illustrative Design options leading to a BFA. The Illustration BFA Program has Concentrations in Children’s Books and Sequential Art. An Emphasis in Concept Art is also available. BFA Program features include small class sizes, access to state-of-the-art facilities and software, collaboration with professional Illustrators, focused one-on-one instruction, and self-promotion and portfolio development courses.

Graduates of the RMCAD Illustration BFA Program are prepared for careers in Editorial Illustration, Comic Books and Graphic Novels, Concept Art for Games & Animations, Product Design & Licensing, Children’s Book Illustration, and even Technical & Medical Illustration.

Illustrative Design BFA explores storytelling, communication design problems, sustainable practice, design, typography, digital media, and portfolio development. Students in this program enjoy small class sizes, hands-on training, a combination of both online and on-campus coursework, personalized instruction, and portfolio development. Classroom tools include Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and After Effects.

Graduates of RMCAD’s Illustrative Design BFA Program are prepared positions such as Illustrator, Art Director, Package Designer, Graphic Designer, Motion Designer, Typographer, and Creative Director.

Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). The school is also an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Launched in 1963 as Rocky Mountain School of Art, RMCAD serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in more than a dozen degree and certificate programs.

3. University of Colorado-Denver, Denver, Colorado
University of Colorado Denver

Illustration at the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) is offered as a BFA and a Minor. The Illustration Minor requires 18 credit hours including 12 credits of required courses and six elective credits. Course examples for this program include Drawing I, Two Dimensional Design, Illustration I: Image Making, and Digital Painting.

Housed in the College of Arts & Media and delivered on-campus only, the BFA Program explores conceptual illustration, digital illustration, painting, exhibition preparation, rendering, perspective, professional practices, and a variety of artistic and illustration techniques. Coursework allows students to master digital tools such as Adobe software.

Other program features include access to state-of-the art digital labs, industrial equipment, and sculpture studios, and opportunities to work on projects for the Denver Art Museum, art galleries and studios such as Pixar.

Course examples for the BFA Program include Illustration I; Image Making, Illustration II: Digital Media, Illustration III: Investigative Methods, Illustration IV: Thesis Development, Digital Painting, The Graphic Novel Workshop, Painting, Drawing and the Printed Image, and The Business of Art. The Illustration BFA Program culminates with the Illustration BFA Thesis course worth three credits.

Graduates of the at Illustration BFA Program at CU Denver are prepared to pursue positions in advertising, publishing, animation and games, engineering, illustration/medical/scientific, graphic design, entertainment film and television, healthcare, and marketing, among others.

University of Colorado Denver began in 1912 as an extension of the University of Colorado Boulder. The school became CU Denver in 1973 making it an independent campus. Organized into eight colleges and schools, CU Denver serves a population of 15,000 students enrolled in more than 110 academic degrees. University of Colorado Denver is accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

4. University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
University of Arizona

University of Arizona (UArizona or UA) houses the College of Fine Arts, home to the School of Art, which has BFA and MFA degrees in Studio Art with an Illustration + Design Emphasis (I+D).

Students in all School of Art programs have access to studio spaces, the Center for Creative Photography, computer labs with Wacom Cintiq Touch screens and animation stations, the Learning Games Initiative Research Archive, a digital imaging lab with large format printing, mounting and other services, the University of Arizona Museum of Art, letterpress and photopolymer platemaking equipment, metal and wood type collections, an extensive book art collection through the University Libraries, binding equipment, darkrooms, ceramics labs, wood and metal shops, and the sculpture foundry.

Other School of Art features include team projects with local clients, internships, study abroad experiences, field trips, and the opportunity to join the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) student chapter, the Book Art Collective, or the College Book Arts Association.

The Studio Art BFA requires 125 units, including 42 in upper division coursework and 24 units of upper division coursework in the I+D Emphasis. Students will graduate from the program with a professional portfolio. The Studio Art MFA is a 60 credit hour program including 33 units in I+D Studio Art courses. Students in this program will participate in interdisciplinary, graphic design and illustration courses and seminars, independent studies and workshops, and studio critiques with visiting artists and alumni. The MFA program at UArizona culminates with the MFA Thesis and Project.

Graduates of the Studio Art I+D Programs at University of Arizona are prepares for careers in advertising, animation, television, and film, book publishing, game art and design, children’s books, graphic novels, comic books, magazine publishing, and editorial, among others.

The University of Arizona has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1917. Established in 1885, the school opened as Arizona’s first university. Serving close to 49,500 students, UArizona has more than 250 majors at the undergraduate level, and graduate programs in more than 150 areas of study. Programs at the University of Arizona are housed in 20 colleges, each with its own schools and departments.

5. Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas
Texas State University

Texas State University (Texas State) houses the College of Fine Arts and Communication, home to the School of Art and Design, which has a Studio BFA Program with a Specialization in Drawing. This 120 credit hour interdisciplinary program emphasizes experimentation and allows students to study various areas of Illustration and other creative disciplines. Course examples for the program Character Development for Illustration, Drawing I-V, Color Theory, Digital Illustration, Editorial Illustration, Graphic Novels and Zines, Illustration Techniques and Materials, Drawing Special Problems, Digitally Handmade for Artists and Designers, and Watercolor I-II.

A major component of the Studio BFA Program is the Summer Program in Italy, which consists of the 4000-level course Disegno a Firenze: Drawing in Florence. Throughout this experience, students will focus on drawing from various subjects in and around Florence. Other program features include the Art and Design Lecture Series, workshops, access to more than 400 student organizations such as AIGA Texas State, Design for American, and the National Art Education Association, and access to Texas State Galleries—more than 3,000 square feet of space for individual and combined exhibitions. 

The Texas State Studio BFA Program with a Specialization in Drawing culminates with the Drawing Thesis, completed across two courses (Drawing VI: Thesis I and Drawing VII: Thesis II), the BFA Portfolio and BFA Thesis Exhibition. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek careers in all industries and positions that require drawing and illustration skills.

Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Texas State University is the only university in Texas to have graduated a U.S. President—Lyndon B. Johnson. Founded in 1899 as Southwest Texas State Normal School , Texas State serves more than 38,000 students enrolled in more than 200 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs across nine academic colleges.

6. Utah Valley University, Orem, Utah
Utah Valley University

Utah Valley University’s (UVU) School of the Arts is home to the Department of Art and Design, which has two pathways for students interested in studying Illustration. The first option—the Art and Design AAS Program—has a Design/Illustration Emphasis that requires 63 credit hours to graduate. Students will take courses such as Illustrative Media and Techniques (I-II), 3D Computer Modeling, Digital Painting for Illustration, Spatial Drawing, Graphic Computer Applications, 2D and 3D Design, and Gestural Drawing.

This two-year degree program prepares students for entry level jobs in Advertising Illustration, Illustration for Design Studios and In-House Design Departments, Publishing and Printing Firms, and Freelance Consulting, among others.

The second pathway option for Illustrators is the UVU Art and Design BFA with an Illustration Emphasis. Consisting of 120 credit hours, the BFA Program is designed for students who would like to pursue careers in Traditional Illustration, Digital Illustration, and Animation. Electives options allow students to focus in an area of interest within Illustration. Course examples for the program include Children's Book Illustration, Environmental Design and Painting, Conceptual Illustration, 2D Animation for Illustration, Graphic Design, Graphic Computer Applications, Advanced illustration, Advanced Rendering of Forms and Spaces, Narrative Illustration, and Sequential Illustration.

Of the projects students will complete, two include the BFA Project and Senior Studio. The BFA Project will be completed over the course of two consecutive semesters, and focuses on the development and execution of a gallery exhibition or professional portfolio and includes collaborative work with a gallery/museum professional in preparation of the exhibition's public viewing.

Graduates of Art and Design BFA Program at Utah Valley University are prepared for mid- to upper-level positions at Film and Animation Studios, Game Design Companies, Graphic Design Studios, Advertising Agencies, Design Departments, Magazines, Publishing Firms, and Printing Companies, among others. Some graduates go on to graduate study, freelance careers or to launch their own studios.

Utah Valley University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The school opened as Central Utah Vocational School (CUVS) in 1941 with the primary function of providing war production training. Today, UVU serves nearly 41,000 students, making it the largest public university in the State of Utah. Utah Valley University offers more than 200 degree and certificate programs across five campuses and eight colleges and schools.

7. Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah
Southern Utah University

The College of Performing and Visual Arts (CVPA) at Southern Utah University (SUU) houses the Department of Art & Design, which has a 19.5 credit hour Illustration Minor and a Studio Art BFA Program (Illustration Emphasis). The Minor explores 2D design, color theory and applications, drawing, narrative and conceptual illustration, and art history. Program features include participation in critiques and discussions, and the opportunity to exhibit student work. Graduates of this program are prepared for entry-level positions in the field or to enroll in a BFA program, such as the SUU Studio Art BFA.

The Studio Art BFA (Illustration Emphasis) requires 120 credit hours to graduate, including 51 credits in Illustration and Illustration electives. Students in this program have the same opportunities as students in the Minor have, as well as internship and study abroad opportunities, and participation in workshops and seminars. Course examples for the Studio Art BFA include Digital Tools, 2D and 3D Design, Art Insights, Art History Survey I-II, History of Graphic Design, Visual Development, 3D Illustration, Narrative Illustration, Conceptual Illustration, Painting I-III, Aqueous Media, Materials and techniques, Drawing I-III, and American Art.

SUU Studio Art BFA students will have the opportunity to focus in an area within Illustration or other creative area through required free electives. Students may choose up to 14 credit hours of free electives to include upper level courses numbered 3000-4999. In the final year of the program, students will also complete Senior Seminar – Specific Area of Study, which provides the opportunity to engage in advanced supervised work in one of 12 areas. Examples include Illustration, Graphic Design, Experimental Media, Drawing, and Printmaking.

The SUU Studio Art BFA culminates with two courses: Senior BFA Studio I: Professional Practices and Portfolio Systems and Senior BFA Studio II: BFA Exhibition and Portfolio Completion.

Graduates of the Southern Utah University Studio Art BFA (Illustration Emphasis) are prepared for careers in animation, film, cartooning, and video games; publishing, including children’s books, comics, book cover art, and graphic novels; editorial, such as printed or online magazines and newspapers; licensing, artwork for products and merchandise; advertising; self-publishing; and consulting. Some graduates go on to establish successful freelance careers and others launch their own studios. Program alumni have also continued their education by enrolling in an MFA program.

Southern Utah University has been continually accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) since 1933. Founded in 1897, SUU serves more than 13,000 students enrolled in over 140 majors, minors, certificates, and graduate degree programs across seven colleges and schools.

8. Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma
Oklahoma Baptist University

The Warren M. Angell School of Visual and Performing Arts at Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) is home to the Art and Design Department, which has a Studio Art Program that requires 128-129 credit hours to graduate. Leading to a BFA, the program allows students to focus in a particular area such as Illustration, Applied Design, or Painting. The Studio Art BA also offers opportunities to study Illustration through required courses and electives.

Across programs, features include field trips every other year to New York City to meet with professional artists and designers, participation in the Student Art Club beginning in the first semester, and art scholarships for qualifying students.

Course examples for the Studio Art BFA include Illustration I-II, Figure Drawing, Printmaking, 3D Design, Color Theory, Design Basics, Advanced Drawing, and Painting I-II. Students may take up to 21 elective credits, which provides additional opportunities to study Illustration and other areas. The OBU Studio Art BFA culminates with the Senior Project and Exhibition, worth nine credits.

Graduates of the Art Programs at Oklahoma Baptist University are Illustrators, Advertising Designers, Graphic Designers, and Art Educators, among others.

Oklahoma Baptist University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and is a member of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Founded in 1910, the school serves 1,510 students from 37 states and 26 other countries. Program offerings include nine bachelor's degrees in 80 areas of study, and four master’s degree programs in Business Administration, Christian Studies, Intercultural Studies, and Marriage and Family Therapy.

9. University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma
University of Central Oklahoma

The Jackson College of Graduate Studies at University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) and the School of Design offer an Illustration MFA Program consisting of 60 credit hours of study. This competitive program is designed for students interested in Illustration for commercial application or teaching Illustration. The program also explores storytelling and advanced practice in branding, marketing, and business.

Course examples for the program include Graduate Illustration I-IV, History of Illustration, Business of Illustration, Design Theory, ClockTower Studio, Contemporary Illustration Practice, Criticism Seminar, and Teaching Practicum Design. In the final year of the program, students will complete the Portfolio Development, Thesis Development, and Thesis Exhibition courses.

Graduates of the UCO Illustration MFA Program are prepared to for positions such as Art Director, Print Designer, Advertising Designer, Creative Director, Package Designer, and Web Designer, among others.

University of Central Oklahoma does not have an undergraduate Illustration option. However, through design electives and the required Professional Preparation courses (18 credit hours), Design BFA (Major Graphic Design) students can develop solid skills in Illustration. 

Housed in the School of Design, the Design BFA Program with a Graphic Design Major requires 124 credit hours or study, with 80 in the Major. Course options include Illustration I-III, Sequential Illustration, Environmental Illustration, History of Illustration, Design Foundations I-IV, Bookmaking & Prototyping, Character Design, Advertising Design, Advanced Bookmaking, and Design Entrepreneurship. Opportunities include Advanced Portfolio Development, the Study Tour in Design, and an Internship.

The School of Design is housed in the College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD) and it is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Design graduates have career opportunities in all industries that utilize Illustration. Entertainment, Print, Web Design, Advertising, and Package Design are just a few.

University of Central Oklahoma is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). In addition to the main campus in Edmond, Oklahoma and the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, UCO has downtown locations at Carnegie Center and Santa Fe Plaza. Founded in 1890 as the Territorial Normal School, University of Central Oklahoma is home to 15,000 students served by 450 full-time faculty and 500 adjunct faculty. Around 119 undergraduate areas of study are available along with and 80 graduate programs.

10. Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma Christian University

The Division of Fine and Performing Arts at Oklahoma Christian University (OC) houses the College of Humanities and Bible, home to the Graphic Design Program. While most of the Art and Design Programs offer opportunities to study Illustration, Graphic Design is the only OC program with an Illustration and Fine Arts Emphasis.

Consisting of 126 credit hours, the Graphic Design Program consists of courses and elective options such as Illustration I-II, Visual Storytelling, Conceptual Illustration, Figure Drawing, Print + Digital Delivery Design, Typography Visual Language, Graphic Arts Production, Motion Graphics, Digital Imaging I-II, Advanced Media Production, Interactive Media Design I-II, and Elements of Visual Thinking. Students may choose an additional 15 credit hours of electives from any Art and Design courses.

Other program features include field trips, guest speakers, internship opportunities, and access to a state-of-the-art computer lab equipped with programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign & After Effects. Graphic Design (Illustration and Fine Arts Emphasis) graduates will leave the program with a  portfolio experience and work in Illustration, Advertising, Graphic Design, Motion Graphics or Web Design.

Oklahoma Christian University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Established in 1950 as Central Christian College, OC opened as a Junior college in Bartlesville. On the first day of classes, the school had 97 students. Today, Oklahoma Christian University is a four-year university that serves more than 2,250 students enrolled in nearly 100 programs and areas of study across 10 colleges and divisions.