What are the top illustration schools in New York for 2023?

Top 5 New York Illustration Schools - 2023 College Rankings
1School of Visual ArtsNew York
2Pratt InstituteBrooklyn
3The New School’s Parsons School of DesignNew York
4Fashion Institute of TechnologyNew York
5Syracuse UniversitySyracuse

Our 2023 ranking of the top illustration schools in New York. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York

School of Visual Arts (SVA) has a number of paths to study Illustration. Students interested in developing illustration skills in s short period may enroll in a single course or workshops. Both options can last anywhere from a few days to several months, and some options can be completed entirely online. Examples of single courses and workshops include Animals and Creatures in Illustration, Comics Poetry: Experimenting with Text and Image, Crash Course for Artists, Illustrators and Cartoonists, Accordion Book Workshop, Illustration as Design as Illustration, Etching: Illustrating Books with Prints, Careers in Illustration: A Drawing Workshop.

For degree-seeking artists, School of Visual Arts has an Illustration BFA Program and an Illustration as Visual Essay MFA Program. Housed in the Illustration Department, the Illustration BFA provides access to faculty and mentors who are professionals in the industry; opportunities to gain hands-on experience through internships and other experiential learning programs; and a senior portfolio curriculum that allow students to develop professional works in an area of focus.

Illustration BFA students will complete 120 credit hours, including 72 credits in studio art courses. Coursework explores drawing and illustration, painting, storytelling, writing, comics, books and zines, digital coloring, and visual computing. Elective studio courses allow students to explore areas such as motion graphics, web design, and stop-motion animation. Course examples for the program include Creating Unforgettable Characters, Pictorial Projects I-II: Illustration, Cool Books, Digital Collage Illustration: Telling Stories in Layers, Still and Moving: Low-Tech Animation, and Motion Graphics Techniques I-II.

Before graduating from SVA, students have plenty of opportunities to compete in competitions and work for  places such as The New Yorker and The Village Voice. SVA Illustration graduates go on to establish successful careers in fields such as Advertising, Textile Design, VFX Art, Animation, Fashion Design, Book Publishing, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Printmaking, Film, Packaging, and Greeting Card Design.

Note that for students seeking a degree in a specialized area of Illustration, SVA has a Comic BFA Program. The curriculum for this program is similar to the Illustration BFA Program curriculum. Students will also take other courses such as Principles of Cartooning I-II, Lettering Comics, Graphic Design Solutions for Illustrators and Cartoonists, Comic Book Superheroes and American Society, and Pictorial Projects I-II: Cartooning.

SVA’s MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Department was established in 1984. The Department’s MFA is a competitive program that accepts just 20 students per year. Program features include a classroom-based curriculum; 24/7 access to personal workspaces; guest lecturers, speakers, and mentors; the Illustration Business Boot Camp, internship opportunities; and participation in exhibits and gallery shows.

Students in all SVA programs have access to the school’s study abroad program as well as SVA offices in Seoul, South Korea, and Shanghai, China, where students can collaborate, network, participate in workshops, and attend lectures.

In addition to coursework and projects in computer illustration, creative writing, storytelling, and visual essay, SVA MFA students have the opportunity to audit classes in Animation, Film, and Fine Arts. Students in this 60 credit-hour, two-year MFA Program will complete four workshops, Book Seminar (course 5040), Computer Illustration Portfolio (course 5090), and a Thesis Project completed over two courses. Illustration Boot Camp and courses such as The Digital Book, History of Storytelling, and Perceptual Appetizers are also part of the program.

School of Visual Arts alumni have worked for brands such as Prada and Van’s, and on major productions such as Sleepy Hollow.

School of Visual Arts opened in 1947 as the Cartoonists and Illustrators school. Classes began with just three teachers and 35 students. Today, School of Visual Arts serves approximately 4,110 students enrolled in dozens of BFA, MA, MFA, and MPS programs. SVA is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), with individual program accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).

2. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Pratt Institute

Pratt Institute (Pratt) has several paths to study Illustration for individuals seeking a shorter program and those seeking a four-year degree. Established in 2014, Pratt’s School of Design has a four-year Communications Design BFA Program with an Illustration Emphasis that features project-based coursework in a collaborative studio environment. The Emphasis explores advanced level storytelling, authoring, image-based communication, and socio-political commentary.

This 126 credit-hour program encourages experimentation and elective coursework that allows students to develop skills in focused areas. Available topics include Graphic Novels, Editorial Illustration, Children’s Books, 3D Modeling, Illustrated Typography, Independent Publishing, and Concept Art, and Animation. Course examples for the program include Visualization/Representation, Digital Prototyping, Typography and Information Design, Dynamic Imagery, Branding and Messaging, Space, Form & Process, Time and Movement, Integrated VisCom, Illustration Intensive 1-3, and Professional Practice.

The Communications Design BFA Program at Pratt Institute culminates with the Illustration Senior Thesis.

For students seeking a shorter program, the School of Art at Pratt Institute has a two-year Associates of Occupational Studies (AOS) and an AAS Program. The Illustration AOS is a 69 credit hour program that emphasizes hands-on learning and experience through the internship program, courses taught by industry professionals, and intensive portfolio development courses.

Also consisting of 69 credit hours is the Graphic/Illustration AAS features a Liberal Arts component that allows students to transfer into Pratt’s Fine Arts or Communication Design BFA Programs. Both options explore Illustration for print and web, drawing, advertising and editorial, visualization, professional practices, traditional and digital methods, and industry software.

Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Pratt Institute have been hired at places such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Digital Domain, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks, Gameloft, and Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Founded in 1887, Pratt Institute is the only New York City Art and Design school with a traditional campus. One of the nation’s first colleges to welcome students without regard to color, gender, or class, the school serves approximately 5,140 students across campuses in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Utica, New York. Nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered across six schools and The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. Pratt Institute is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

3. The New School’s Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
The New School’s Parsons School of Design

The New School’s Parsons School of Design (The New School Parsons or Parsons School of Design) houses the School of Art, Media, & Technology (AMT), which provides the opportunity to create an interdisciplinary path of study around any degree program. For students in the Illustration BFA Program, examples include adding a Minor in Comics and Graphic Narrative, Journalism and Design, or Data Visualization. A BA/BFA Dual Degree is also an option.

Other program features include internships with Parsons partners such as Nickelodeon, AIGA, Moleskine, Toon Books, The New York Times, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Red Cross, Brooklyn Industries, and Eyebeam; access to The New School libraries, studios, computer labs, archives, and the state-of-the-art Making Center; Collaboration Studio courses and other collaborative projects with peers; participation in events such as Comic Arts Brooklyn, MoCCA Fest, and Pictoplasma; and study abroad opportunities in London, Paris, and Florence.

The Illustration Program at Parsons School of Design also provides access to New York–based professional organizations such as American Illustration and the Society of Illustrators, which helps students connect with professional illustrators, publishers, and artists.

Consisting of 120 credit hours, the Illustration BFA Program begins with Parsons’ first year curriculum, which explores art and design concepts, 2D and 3D processes, digital design, drawing, and critical practices. Course examples include Language & Letterform, Objects as History, Time, Drawing/Imaging, Sustainable Systems, Advanced Research Seminar, and Professional Practices.

Students will also complete a number of Illustration Studios and Seminars, as well as a Thesis, completed over two courses during the final year of the program.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Parsons School of Design are prepared to pursue careers in illustration, publishing, installation design, comics, surface design, motion graphics, toy design, advertising, animation, graphic novels, product design, and fine art. Program alumni have been hired at companies and organizations such as Urban Outfitters, Viking Books, Rockstar Games, The New York Times, LAIKA, The Society of Illustrators, Amplify, Brooklyn Print House, Tiffany & Company, Vice Media, Manhattan Youth, and Curriculum Concepts.

The New School Parsons was founded in 1896 as The Chase School. The school serves approximately 10,815 students enrolled more than 120 degree and diploma programs across six colleges and schools, including Parsons Paris. The New School Parsons is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

4. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, New York
Fashion Institute of Technology

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) has nearly 50 programs leading to a degree, more than 700 online courses, and two online degrees. Within FIT is the School of Art and Design, which provides 17 undergraduate majors in Art, Fashion, and Design. The Illustration Major has both AAS and BFA pathways. The BFA has two options: the Traditional Daytime BFA and the Evening/Weekend BFA.

Across programs students benefit from real-world classes; participation in student art exhibitions; mentoring workshops led by art directors and professional illustrators; and access to the Society of Illustrators—the industry's top professional organization. Students in the BFA Program also have the opportunity to participate in the FIT Internship Program, take a study abroad course in Italy, and/or study abroad in Florence.

Course examples across programs include Illustrating for Moving Image I: Storyboard, Advanced Visual Story Studio, Sculpture Studio: Visual Expression of Form and Space, Illustrating for the Moving Image II: Concept Art and Character Design, Illustration Workshop, The Essence of Comic Art, Illustration Rendering Techniques, Illustration Process I-II, Visual Interpretation, Computer Typesetting and Design, Watercolor Comps and Illustrations, Comic Book Illustration, and Illustrating the Male Figure.

The FIT Illustration BFA culminates with the Illustration Portfolio Thesis, that will be presented before faculty and peers. Graduates of the AAS are eligible to apply for admission to the BFA Programs in Animation, Interactive Media & Game Design, Textile/Surface Design, Toy Design, and of course, Illustration.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program are prepared for immediate entry into the field or a graduate program, such as the 60 credit hour Illustration MFA. Housed in the FIT School of Graduate Studies, the MFA features field trips to studios in LA and New York, real-world projects, guest lecturers, and internship opportunities. Course examples for the program include The History of American Illustration, Sequential Storytelling, Art is Where You Look For It: Diversifying Illustration's Application, Digital Boot Camp, Survey of Digital Illustration, Exploring Media, and Drawing for Illustration.

In the Senior year of the MFA Illustration Program at FIT, students will take Business Practices and Self Promotion Strategies and Visual Thesis Studio. The program culminates with a Visual Thesis Exhibition at a gallery. Past projects have included animation, murals, children’s books, reportage drawings, graphic novels, installations, and concept art.

FIT Illustration alumni have found freelance work and full-time employment with a wide variety of companies, agencies, studios, and publications. Examples include Revlon, Young & Rubicam, Vogue, DreamWorks, American Greetings, Harper’s Bazaar, Disney, BBDO Worldwide, Warner Bros., DDB, Hallmark, Ogilvy, and LucasArts Entertainment.

Part of the State University of New York (SUNY) System, Fashion Institute of Technology opened in 1944 inside the High School of Needles Trades. On the first day of class, the school had 100 students. Today, FIT spans an entire city block and serves 8,150 students, according to the most recent available figures. Programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels across five academic divisions. Fashion Institute of Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).

5. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
Syracuse University

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) at Syracuse University (SU) houses the School of Art, home to the Illustration Program. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the Program has BFA and MFA options. BFA students have the opportunity to explore one or more focus areas. Options include Visual Development, Product, Editorial and Sequential.

The Visual Development Focus is designed for students with an interest in character development for animation and gaming. In the Product Focus, students will explore illustrating as it relates to packaging, patterning, and products. The Editorial Focus is for students who would like to specialize in illustrating for magazines, book covers, newspapers, and online publishing. Students in the Sequential Focus will learn to illustrate for comics, graphic novels, and children’s books.

In addition to the opportunity to focus in one or more in-demand areas of Illustration, BFA students have opportunities to participate in on-campus workshops and lectures, as well as off-campus trips to New York City to visit the Society of Illustrators and participate in MoCCAFest. Other program features include travel to LA for a two-week industry immersion in animation and film; access to state-of-the-art studios and production facilities; participation in the Syracuse University Internship Program; and the chance to study overseas through the College of VPA Study Abroad Program (Italy) or Syracuse University Study Abroad (SU Study Abroad), which provides more than 100 programs in 60 countries.

The SU Illustration BFA Program culminates with a final portfolio that students will present to Art Directors and professional Illustrators.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Syracuse University work in fields such as Advertising, Editorial Illustration, Graphic Novels and Comics, Greeting Card Design, Children’s Book Publishing, Licensing, and Visual Development for Games, Animated Films, and Television Productions.

The Illustration MFA at Syracuse University is a cross-disciplinary, experimental, and research-focused program that requires 60 credit hours, including 27 credits of studio electives. Course examples include Creative Strategy, Play Matters, Story Lab, Visual Voice I-II, Visual Integration, and Entrepreneur.

Other program benefits include opportunities to interact with professionals at New York studios and within the arts and publishing industries, and elective travel courses during MAYmester and the Summer Program. During the two-week long MAYmester, students take an intensive three-credit course for four hours Monday through Friday.

The culminating experience for the SU Illustration MFA is the 12 credit-hour Thesis. Graduates are prepared for advancement opportunities in their current careers, as well as leadership positions in fields such as Advertising, Book Publishing, Comic Book Publishing, Architecture, Magazine Publishing, Entertainment, News Media, and Animation.

Founded in 1870, Syracuse University serves approximately 21,320 students from all 50 states and 120 countries. More than 200 majors, 100 minors, and 200 advanced degree programs are offered across SU’s 13 colleges and schools. In addition to campuses in Syracuse, and Manhattan, New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles, Syracuse University operates overseas centers in France, Italy, London, Poland, Chile, and Spain. Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).