What are the top illustration schools in the southwest for 2024?

Top 10 Illustration Schools and Colleges in the Southwest - 2024 College Rankings
1Brigham Young UniversityUtah
2Rocky Mountain College of Art and DesignColorado
3University of Colorado, DenverColorado
4University of ArizonaArizona
5University of UtahUtah
6Southern Utah UniversityUtah
7Utah Valley UniversityUtah
8University of Central OklahomaOklahoma
9Oklahoma Baptist UniversityOklahoma
10Oklahoma Christian UniversityOklahoma

Our 2024 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 College of Fine Arts and Communications (CFAC) at Brigham Young University (BYU) provides a number of opportunities and experiences for all CFAC majors. Serving nearly 5,700 students, the CFAC hosts hundreds of performances, faculty presentations, and student events each year. CFAC students also have opportunities to engage in research projects; participate in experiential learning activities in the U.S. and abroad; exhibit at Brigham Young University Museum of Art (MOA); and pursue a professional internship. 

BYU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications also houses the Department of Design. Within the Department is an Illustration BFA program that accepts just 40 students per academic year. This Limited Enrollment Program (LEP) requires 120 credit hours, with 72 credits in the major. Courses are led by industry professionals with years of experience in their respective fields.  

Course examples for the program include 3D Digital Illustration; Narrative Illustration; Environment Design; Survey of Illustration History; Game Design; Analog Motion; Character Design; Sketchbook; Directed Studies in Illustration; Basic Storyboarding; Marketing Management; and Career Strategies. 

In the final year of the BYU Illustration BFA program, students will complete Senior Illustration Studio 1; BFA Illustration Capstone Project: Research, and BFA Illustration Capstone Project: Implementation. 

Graduates of the Illustration BFA program at Brigham Young University work in a wide variety of fields such as publishing, exhibition design, medical and scientific illustration, advertising, entertainment, architecture, mural production, and fashion design. Some program alumni have gone on to launch their own studios and freelance businesses. 

Brigham Young University was founded as Brigham Young Academy (BYA) in 1875 by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Brigham Young. With more than 35,000 students from 105 countries, BYU is the one of the largest private universities in the U.S. The school provides approximately 435 programs across more than a dozen colleges and departments. Campuses include BYU-Utah, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, BYU Pathway Worldwide, and Ensign College. 

Brigham Young University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

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

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) has several Illustration program options. Within the Illustration BFA program concentrations in Children’s Book and Sequential Art, and an emphasis in Concept Art. Students in this program also have the option to select the Illustration curriculum without an emphasis or concentration. In addition to the Illustration BFA, RMCAD has an Illustrative Design BFA that explores technology, design thinking, graphic design, and illustration. 

The Illustration BFA consists of 123 credit hours, including 45 liberal arts credits and 24 foundations credits for each option. Children’s Book, Sequential Arts, and Illustration (no focus area) students will complete 48 credits in Illustration. Concept Art students will complete 36 Illustration credits. Illustration students (no focus area) will select six studio elective credits, while Children’s Book students will take six credits in the concentration. Sequential Arts requires six credits in the concentration, while Concept Art requires 15 credits in the emphasis and three studio elective credits. 

Course examples across programs include 3D Design: Space + Materiality; Illustration I-III; Landscape Painting; Digital Illustration I-II; Sequential Art; Life Drawing I-IV; Children’s Book Illustration; Illustration Media; Character Design; Typography for Illustration; Topics in Illustration; and Illustration Marketing. 

All RMCAD Illustration students benefit from small class sizes with individual instruction; access to industry standard software and facilities; and the opportunity to collaborate with professional Illustrators. Students will also have the opportunity to complete the Illustration Internship, worth three credits. 

The Illustration BFA program at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design culminates with the Illustration Graduation Portfolio, completed across two courses. Graduates are prepared to pursue titles such as Children’s Book Illustrator, Concept Artist for Games and Animation, Comic Book Illustrator, Technical Illustrator, Editorial Illustrator, Product Designer, Graphic Novelist, and Scientific or Medical Illustrator. 

The Illustrative Design BFA at RMCAD is a hybrid degree that requires 123 credit hours. Students will complete 27 credits in Graphic Design, 21 credits in Illustration and nine credits in Illustrative Design. The remaining credits are in foundations, liberal arts, and art/design history. Course examples for the program include Vector Illustration; Raster Image Processing; Illustration I-III; Sequential Art; Visual Sequencing; Motion Design; Digital Illustration; Character Design; and Information Visualization.

Other program features include small class sizes with personalized instruction; year-round classes; hands-on training; a combination of online and on-campus coursework; and portfolio development. Classroom tools include Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and After Effects. 

The culminating experiences for the Illustrative Design BFA at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design include the Senior Illustrative Design Seminar and the Illustrative Design Graduation Portfolio. 

Graduates are prepared to pursue titles such as Illustrator, Graphic Designer, Motion Designer, Print Designer, Typographer, Information Designer, Package Designer, and Art Director. 

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design began in 1963 as Rocky Mountain School of Art. Serving more than 1,000 students, RMCAD offers 16 degree and certificate programs offered in campus/hybrid and online formats. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and it is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

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

The College of Arts & Media (CAM) at University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) has a has an Illustration BFA program that prepares students for careers as independent artists or full-time, salaried positions within a wide range of creative fields and other fields. An Illustration minor is available for students in other majors such as Digital Design, 3D Graphics and Animation, or Architecture. 

Consisting of 18 credit hours, the Illustration minor requires Drawing I; Two Dimensional Design; and Illustration I: Image Making. For the remaining credits, students may select from a variety of lower division Visual Arts courses and electives. Examples include Introduction to Digital Design; The Graphic Novel Workshop; Illustration II: Digital Media; Digital Painting; and The Business of Art. Students in this program may also use up to six credit hours to fulfill both major and minor requirements.  

The Illustration BFA at University of Colorado Denver is a 120 credit hour program that provides opportunities to work on projects for Pixar, the Denver Art Museum, and local galleries and studios. BFA students also have access to state-of-the art digital labs, industrial equipment, and sculpture studios, as well as the CU Denver internship and study abroad programs. 

Course examples for the program include Illustration I: Image Making; Illustration II: Digital Media; Illustration III: Investigative Methods; Drawing I-II; Three-Dimensional Design; The Graphic Novel Workshop; Media of Drawing; Digital Painting; Life Drawing; and The Business of Art. Students may select up to 12 semester hours of Visual Arts electives to enhance the degree or create a focus area. 

The Illustration BFA program at CU Denver culminates with the Illustration BFA Thesis course (Illustration IV) worth three credits. Projects will be presented at an exhibition and students will also create a professional Illustration portfolio. 

Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue positions in areas such as children’s books, comic books, interactive illustration, graphic novels, animation, editorial, game art and design, advertising, graphic design, medical illustration, architecture, and scientific illustration. 

University of Colorado Denver opened in 1912 as an extension of the University of Colorado Boulder. The school became the University of Colorado Denver Center in 1965, and CU Denver in 1973, making it an independent campus. Organized into seven colleges and schools, University of Colorado Denver serves more than 15,000 students enrolled in approximately 115 degree programs. University of Colorado Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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

The College of Fine Arts at University of Arizona (UArizona) is home to the School of Art, which houses multidisciplinary Studio Art BFA and MFA degrees. Both programs provide an Illustration, Design, and Animation (IDA) emphasis. Other program features include courses taught by professionals in illustration, book arts, motion graphics, and more; workshops; visiting artists, designers, and illustrators; and access to a studio spaces, labs, museums, and state-of-the-art facilities production facilities. 

Examples include the digital imaging lab with large format printing; computer labs with Wacom Cintiq Touch screens and animation stations; University Libraries extensive book art collection; letterpress, binding, and photopolymer platemaking equipment; the Center for Creative Photography; and University of Arizona Museum of Art. 

Students also benefit from team projects with local clients; participation in the Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Student Chapter, the Book Art Collective, or UA Illustration + Design, among others; internship opportunities; field trips; and study abroad experiences. 

The Studio Art BFA with an IDA emphasis requires 125 units, including 42 in upper division coursework and 24 units of upper division coursework in IDA. All Studio Art majors will complete the First Year Experience (FYE), which consists of a range of workshop modules. Titles with descriptions include Amalgam (Mixed-Media); Surface (Painting and Color Theory); Propaganda (Design); Experience (Sound, Video, and Performance); Gaze (Digital Photography); and Mapping (Drawing from Observation). 

Upon completion of the FYE, students will begin taking a combination of general education, art, IDA, and elective courses. Examples include Illustration Studio I-III; Picture Book Art and Design; Comics and Sequential Art; Storyboarding; Publication Design; Interactivity; Design Studio; Process and Play; Animation; Digital Illustration/Painting; Visual Narrative and the Artists Book; and Motion. 

The Studio Art BFA program at University of Arizona culminates with the BFA Exhibition. 

The UArizona Studio Art MFA consists of 60 credit hours. Students can expect to take courses such as Ideation; Contemporary Art: Concepts and Issues; Studio Introduction to Contemporary Art; Critical Methods; Studio Art; and Professional Practice. The program culminates with a written thesis or an original group of works presented to the public in the form of a Thesis Exhibition in the Galleries at the School of Art. 

Graduates of the Studio Art programs at University of Arizona are prepared for careers in areas such as traditional book publishing, advertising, animation, game art and design, graphic novels, comic books, children’s books, television & film, editorial, advertising, graphic design, and product design. 

University of Arizona is the state’s first university. Established in 1885, this land-grant institution opened with just a few students. Today, UA serves approximately 46,930 students, making it one of the state’s largest post-secondary institutions. UArizona offers more than 300 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in 150+ areas of study. Programs are provided across 21 colleges and nearly two dozen specialized schools. University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

5. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
University of Utah

The College of Fine Arts at University of Utah (The U) is home to the Department of Art & Art History, which houses an Art BFA program with an emphasis in Illustration. Program features include hands-on courses and projects; summer study abroad programs that focus on education in drawing and printmaking; and access to the ArtsForce program—a workshop- and events-based initiative that connects students to mentors, peers, and faculty members for professional development and networking.

Students in all majors are required to complete the First Year Studio Foundations Program, which includes courses such as Introduction to Visual Language and Introduction to Art History. After the first year, students have the opportunity to customize their own path within their chosen emphasis and select projects that support their academic and career goals. 

In the Illustration emphasis consists of 56-62 credit hours. Students will explore concept development strategies, Illustration industry practices, and narrative techniques. Course examples include Illustration: World and Voice; Life Drawing; Illustration: Narrative Approaches; Typography 1: Form and Space; Intaglio I; History of Film and Media Arts; Figure Painting; and History of Graphic Design. 

The Art BFA with an Illustration emphasis culminates with the Illustration Capstone. By the end of this course, students will have a website with a portfolio of work and marketing materials such as business cards, postcards, and other promotional materials. 

Graduates are prepared to pursue titles such as Illustrator, Children’s Book Illustrator, Fine Artist, Comic Book Artist, Advertising Illustrator, Storyboard Artist, Scientific Illustrator, Art Director, Concept Artist, Gallery and Exhibition Designer, Editorial Illustrator, Book Illustrator, Character Designer, Fashion Illustrator, Art Journalist, Surface Designer, Visual Artist, Printmaker, and Art Professor. 

Founded in 1850, University of Utah is the state’s public flagship institution. A top-tier research university, The U serves 35,000+ students enrolled in more than 200 programs across 17 colleges and schools. University of Utah is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

6. Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah
Southern Utah University

Southern Utah University (SUU) is home to the College of Performing and Visual Arts (CVPA), which houses the Department of Filmmaking, Art & Design. Within the department is a Studio Art BFA with an Illustration emphasis, and an Illustration minor. Across programs, students benefit from participation in critiques and discussions; workshops and seminars; opportunities to exhibit works; and the opportunity to complete an internship and/or study abroad experience. 

The Studio Arts BFA requires 120 credit hours, including 51 credits in Illustration and Illustration electives. The Illustration minor requires 19.5 credit hours. Course examples for this program include Visual Development Studio; American Art; 2D Design; Drawing I-II; Narrative Illustration; Conceptual Illustration. Upon completion of the Illustration minor, students are prepared to pursue entry-level positions in the field or enroll in a BFA program, such as the SUU Studio Arts BFA. 

SUU Studio Arts BFA students may 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. Course examples for the Program include Art Insights; Narrative Illustration; Painting I-III; Visual Development Studio; 3D Digital Illustration; Motion Graphics; Conceptual Illustration; and Aqueous Media. 

In the final year of the Studio Arts BFA Program at Southern Utah University, students will complete Senior BFA Studio I: Professional Practices and Portfolio Systems, and Senior BFA Studio II: BFA Exhibition and Portfolio Completion. This is the culminating experience for the program. 

Graduates of the Studio Arts/Illustration BFA Program at Southern Utah University are prepared for careers in areas such as traditional book publishing, animation, comic books, game art and design, graphic design, film and television, toy design, advertising, architecture, fine arts, and education. 

Some Studio Arts alumni go on to launch their own studios or freelance careers. Program alumni go on to enroll in a graduate at Southern Utah University and other top universities across the U.S. 

Founded in 1897, Southern Utah University serves more than 15,000 students enrolled 180+ degree and certificate programs. SUU also provides a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology—the only Psy.D. program in the state of Utah. The academic programs at SUU are housed across seven colleges and dozens of departments. Southern Utah University has been continually accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) since 1933. The school is also an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

7. Utah Valley University, Orem, Utah
Utah Valley University

The School of the Arts (SOA) at Utah Valley University (UVU) serves more than 1,800 students making it one of the largest art schools in the state. More than 20 SOA programs are housed across four departments including Art & Design; Music; Theatrical Arts for the Stage and Screen; and Dance. 

Across departments, students have opportunities to intern at place such as Paramount Pictures Studio; The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), New York Public Theater; National Gallery of Art, Washington; and Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (Utah MOCA). Students also have opportunities to complete an international internship in places such as the UK, Italy, South Korea, and Germany. 

The SOA Department of Art and Design at Utah Valley University has two paths to study Illustration: the Art and Design AAS and the Art and Design BFA. The Art and Design AAS is a two-year degree that provides an emphasis in Design/Illustration. Course examples include Illustrative Media Techniques I-II; Observational Drawing; 3D Modeling; Imagination and Visual Literacy; and Digital Painting. Students will complete 63 credit hours to graduate. 

Graduates are prepared for entry-level jobs in Illustration for publishing firms, film studios, animation studios, advertising agencies, game design studios, design firms, and graphic design studios. Program alumni are also prepared for entry into UVU’s Art and Design BFA program. 

Consisting of 120 credit hours, the Art and Design BFA at Utah Valley University is a professional program that provides an emphasis in Illustration. Areas explored include Traditional Illustration, Digital Illustration, and Animation. Course examples include Narrative Illustration; 2D and 3D Design; Illustrative Media I-II; Computer Graphics Applications; Conceptual illustration; 3D Modeling; Advanced Illustration; Figure Drawing I-III; Digital Painting; and The History of Illustration. 

Electives allow students to focus in an area of interest within Illustration. Elective examples include Children’s Book Illustration; 2D Animation for Illustration; Sequential Illustration; Digital Painting II; Character Design; 3D Texturing and Rendering; Environment Design; and 3D Sculpting. 

The Art and Design BFA culminates with the BFA Project, which focuses on the development and execution of a gallery exhibition or professional portfolio. This includes collaborative work with a gallery or museum professional in preparation of the exhibition's public viewing.

Graduates of Art and Design BFA program at Utah Valley University are prepared to pursue advanced roles at publishing companies, animation studios, printing companies, graphic design studios, toy design and development companies, game design studios, newspapers and magazines, film studios, and advertising agencies. Some UVU Art and Design alumni go on to launch their own studios or freelance businesses, while others continue on to graduate school. 

Utah Valley University was established in 1941 as Central Utah Vocational School (CUVS). The school’s primary function was to provide war production training. Today, UVU serves a record 44,653 students making it the largest public university in the state. The school provides more than 200 degree and certificate programs across eight colleges and schools. Utah Valley University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

8. University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma
University of Central Oklahoma

The College of Fine Arts and Design as University of Central Oklahoma (UCO is home to the School of Design (UCO Design). Within the school is an Illustration MFA program provided in collaboration with the Jackson College of Graduate Studies. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), UCO Design provides the opportunity to join the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA); access to state-of-the-art labs, studios, and production facilities; and internship opportunities. 

The competitive 60 credit-hour MFA is a terminal degree designed for students interested in commercial illustration or teaching. Students in the program will explore illustration, branding, design history, storytelling, marketing, illustration history, and teaching methods. Course examples include Graduate Illustration I-IV; Contemporary Illustration Practice; History of Illustration; Design Theory; Criticism Seminar; History of Design; Clocktower; Business of Illustration; and Teaching Practicum Design.

In the final year of the program, students will complete the Portfolio Development and Thesis Development courses. The UCO Design Illustration MFA culminates a Thesis Exhibition. 

Graduates are prepared to pursue leadership roles such as Senior Illustrator, Lead Exhibition Designer, Creative Director, Production Manager, Art Educator, Creative Consultant, and Advertising Manager.  Some program alumni go on to launch their own studios or freelance businesses. 

Founded in 1890 as the Territorial Normal School, University of Central Oklahoma serves 10,975 students enrolled in more than 170 areas of study at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Programs are housed across six colleges and the W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute. UCO also houses the Academy of Contemporary Music in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; downtown campuses at Carnegie Center and Santa Fe Plaza; and the UCO Connected Campus, which provides a variety of online degree programs. University of Central Oklahoma is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

9. Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma
Oklahoma Baptist University

The Warren M. Angell School of Visual and Performing Arts at Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) houses the Division of Art and Design. Within the division is a BA in Fine Arts and an Art BA that provide opportunities to study Illustration through core and elective courses. Both programs require 12 credits in the Foundations areas. Courses include Drawing Basics; Design Basics; Color Theory; and Three-Dimensional Design. Students will also take common courses such as Illustration I-II; Painting I-II; and Advanced Drawing; and Figure Drawing. 

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

The Art BA program at Oklahoma Baptist University culminates with the Senior Exhibition/Senior Seminar. The Fine Arts BA culminates with the Fine Arts Capstone. Graduates of the programs go on to establish careers as designers and illustrators in areas such as publishing, film and animation, game design, television production, advertising, news media, graphic design, science and medicine, architecture, and web design. 

Founded in 1910, Oklahoma Baptist University serves approximately 1,525 students from Oklahoma, 31 other states, and 14 countries. The school provides more than 80 majors, minors, and concentrations across degrees at all levels. Oklahoma Baptist University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).

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

Oklahoma Christian University (OC) is home to the School of Visual Art and Design, which provides seven majors and five minors. Across programs students benefit from access to state-of-the-art computer labs equipped with industry-standard programs such as Adobe After Effects, InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop; 25 different field trip options; study abroad programs in places such as Japan, Austria, and New Zealand; guest speakers; and 14 internship options with opportunities to complete multiple experiences throughout the program. 

For students interested in studying Illustration, the OC School of Visual Art and Design has a Graphic Design BS, A Graphic Design BFA, and a Fine + Digital Art BFA. Examples of courses in common include Conceptual Illustration; Fundamentals of Drawing; Visual Storytelling; Figure Drawing; Digital Imaging I-II; Interactive Media Design; Painting I-II; Print and Digital Delivery Design; and Elements of Visual Thinking. 

To enhance the degree, Graphic Design BA students can choose a specialized area such as Visual Arts; Gaming and Animation; or Photography and Videography. Graphic Design BS students can add a minor in Gaming and Animation; Marketing; Photography and Videography; or Writing (content writing and copywriting). Both programs culminate with the Senior Capstone.  

The Fine + Digital Art BFA program allows students to select an emphasis. Options that complement Illustration coursework include Communication Design; Gaming + Animation; and Art History. The Fine + Digital Art BFA culminates with the Business Branding Capstone and the Senior Capstone. 

Upon completion of all programs, students will have a professional portfolio of their best work. Final portfolios will also include the students various internships.   

Graduates of the Graphic Design and Fine + Digital Art programs at Oklahoma Christian University are prepared to pursue positions in areas such as traditional book publishing, animation, comic book publishing, game art and design, graphic design storyboard art, gallery and exhibition design, concept art, magazine and newspaper publishing, advertising, fashion design, textile design, branding and packaging design, medical and scientific illustration, architecture, motion design, and art education.   

Established in 1950 as Central Christian College, Oklahoma Christian University opened as a Junior college in Bartlesville with just 97 students. Today, OC is a four-year university that serves 2,200 students enrolled in nearly 100 programs and areas of study across 10 colleges and divisions. Oklahoma Christian University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).