What are the top illustration schools in Pennsylvania for 2023?

Top 5 Pennsylvania Illustration Schools - 2023 College Rankings
1University of Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine ArtsPhiladelphia
2University of the ArtsPhiladelphia
3Pennsylvania College of Art and DesignLancaster
4Moore College of Art & DesignPhiladelphia
5Marywood UniversityScranton

Our 2023 ranking of the top 5 illustration schools in Pennsylvania. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania (Penn or UPenn) and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) work in partnership to provide a Coordinated BFA Program that combines Fine Arts training at PAFA with UPenn’s Liberal Arts curriculum. This Dual Degree Program begins with the First-Year Foundation experience, where students will study traditional and contemporary art-forms. After the first year, students will select a Studio Art Focus from six different Concentrations including Illustration, Drawing, Printmaking, Painting, Animation, and Sculpture. All Studio Art courses are taken at PAFA.

In the second and third years of the Penn/PAFA BFA Program, students will complete a combination of Liberal Arts and studio classes. During this time, students are assigned to individual, private studios with 24/7 access. In the final year of the Program, students complete the Liberal Arts curriculum consisting of 16 courses taken at UPenn’s College of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies. Once enrolled full-time, students gain access to Penn’s Fischer Fine Arts Library and Van Pelt Library. Students will also have opportunities to attend and participate in talks, exhibits, lectures, and performances on the UPenn campus.

Led by the Illustration Department at PAFA, PAFA/Penn BFA students will take courses such as Illustration I-II, Visual Narration, Letter Press and Book Arts, Digital Imaging, Illustration Methods, Digital Print & Web Design, Narrative and Sequential Drawing, Narrative Projects, Business Practices of Art, and History of Illustration. To graduate, students will compete a Thesis, the Illustration Projects course, and a Portfolio course.

The PAFA/Penn BFA is a very competitive program. Students who are not selected for the program may enroll in the four-year BFA Program at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Like PAFA/Penn students, upper-level PAFA BFA students will gain 24/7 access to private studios. Students will have the opportunity to invite faculty and Artists from the PAFA Visiting Artist Program to their studios to critique their work as they prepare for the Annual Student Exhibition at PAFA. The Exhibition allows students to organize, install, present, and sell their work in the PAFA Museum Galleries.

Graduates of the PAFA/Penn BFA and the PAFA BFA are prepared to launch careers in areas such as Magazine Illustration, Storyboard Art, Graphic Novels, Comics, Book Cover Art, Poster Art, Illustration for Animation and Games, Scientific and Medical Illustration, Art Direction, and Fine Art. 

Established in 1740, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is one of the nation’s oldest universities. The school, which houses 189 research centers and institutes, provides more than 400 programs to approximately 28,040 students from across the U.S. and just about every continent. Programs at UPenn are housed across 16 colleges and schools. The University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Since 1929, Penn has partnered with Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). Founded in 1805, PAFA is the first art school and museum in the United States. This private, non-profit school serves several hundred students enrolled in BFA, MFA, and certificate programs. PAFA is accredited through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). PAFA is also member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) and The Common Application.

2. University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of the Arts

University of the Arts (UArts) houses the School of Design. Serving 200 students, the School has an Illustration Program with BFA and Minor options. The Illustration BFA Program features opportunities to experiment and collaborate with students in other School of Design Majors such as Product Design, Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Fine Arts, and Animation. Students in this 120 credit hour program also work and learn in shared studio spaces and facilities such as Makerspace and the Cintiq Lab.

The Illustration BFA Program consists of intense training in the latest industry software including After Effects, InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, and Illustrator. Course examples for the program include Digital Design Lab, Figurative Interpretation & Personal Voice, New Media Illustration, Comic Creation, Illustration with Digital Media, Conceptual Problem Solving & Narrative Development, Children’s Book Illustration, Object & Worldbuilding, History of Illustration, Art, Design & Moving Image I-II, Illustration Workshop: Personal Viewpoints, and Illustration Markets & Promotion.

Although it is not required, Illustration BFA students have the opportunity to complete a Design Internship at an individual Artist Studio or places such a Cartoon Network, Anthropologie, and Barnes & Noble. The Program culminates with the Thesis completed across two courses: Illustration Thesis Studio I and Illustration Thesis Studio II.

Consisting of 15 credit hours of study, the UArts Figurative Illustration Minor focuses on skills development related to Painting, Figurative Drawing, and Imagemaking. Courses Illustration I: Pictorial Foundation, Illustration II: Illustration Methods, Figure Anatomy, Responsive Drawing, and Figure Communication or Figure Painting.

Graduates of the Illustration Programs at University of the Arts have been hired at or worked with a wide variety of companies, studios, brands, magazines, newspapers, networks, publishers, and agencies. Examples include Blizzard Entertainment, Mattel, Hallmark, The Wall Street Journal, NASA, Ralph Lauren, PBS, Harper-Collins, Random House, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Marvel Comics, Time, NASA, Penguin Group Publishing, MTV, Cartoon Network, Disney, Martha Stewart, Simon & Schuster, ESPN, Facebook, Nickelodeon, Fortune, 20th Century Fox, Rolling Stone, Fisher Price, Major League Baseball, National Geographic Magazine (Nat Geo), The New York Times, Hasbro, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, and Warner Bros.

Founded in 1876 as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, University of the Arts serves approximately 1,300 students enrolled in more than 40 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Fine Arts, Design, Media Arts, Dance, Music, Theater, and Crafts. More than 20 minors are available and open to all students. Programs at UArts are housed in the Schools of Art, Dance, Design, Film, Music, Theater Arts, and Graduate and Professional Studies. University of the Arts is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

3. Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania College of Art and Design

Pennsylvania College of Art and Design (PCA&D) has an Illustration BFA Program that allows students to incorporate a Certificate or Minor into the Major. An 18 credit hour Illustration Minor can also be added to any PCA&D program as a specialization. Certificate options consist of four or more courses. Examples that complement the Illustration BFA include Packaging Design, Game Art, UX/UI Design, Animation, and Communication Design. PCA&D Minors are 18-24 credits. Examples that complement the Illustration BFA Animation & Game Art, Graphic Design, and Fine Art.

Within the BFA Program, students also have the opportunity to declare a Classical or a Contemporary Concentration. The Classical Concentration focuses on traditional and digital painting techniques, visual and written storytelling, and narrative Imagemaking. Students in this Track might work on projects such as book covers, comic books, or illustrations for publishers and other clients. The Contemporary Concentration explores current and emerging trends in the Illustration Industry. Students in this Track might work on projects such as design for products or editorial publishing. 

Other Illustration BFA Program features include participation in the PCA&D mentorship program; online community projects; the opportunity to create entrepreneur-based projects; and a required internship. The internship component can be completed off-campus for local clients and studios or on-campus through PCA&D’s in-house internship program, The Agency.

The Illustration BFA Program at PCA&D culminates with the Senior Project, presented at the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design Senior Exhibition. Graduates are prepared for careers as Editorial Illustrators, Comic Book Artists, Commercial Illustrators, Concept Artists, Toy Designers, Scientific Illustrators, Courtroom Sketch Artists, Fashion Illustrators, Storyboard Artists, Printmakers, and Educators.

Program alumni have worked for clients such as Hasbro, A&E Network, The Wall Street Journal, Adidas, Disney, Time Warner Cable, ESPN, Fox Interactive, HBO, and PBS Kids.

Founded in 1982 by working artists, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design is a private, non-profit, professional art college that serves more than 200 students enrolled in six major programs leading to a BFA, 12 minor programs, and 11 certificate programs. Pennsylvania College of Art and Design is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

4. Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Moore College of Art & Design

Moore College of Art & Design (Moore) has an Illustration BFA Program that consists of studio tours; workshops and critiques; mentorship experiences with leading design professionals; and access to state-of-the-art computer labs and production other facilities.

A major component of all programs at Moore College of Art & Design is the internship opportunity. Moore is the only art and design college that provides a $1,000 paid internship for every single student. Many of these internships lead to offers for full-time employment.

Course examples for the Illustration BFA Program include Visual Thinking, Digital Imagemaking, Typography, Illustration Concepts and Practices, Cultural Collisions and Transformations, Life Drawing for Illustrators, Digital Painting for Illustrators, Business for Illustration, Writing Workshop, and Professional Development. Students may also take a number of studios and open electives to enhance the degree. In the final year of the program, students will complete the Senior Studio course and the Senior Thesis.

Around 97% of BFA Program alumni at Moore College of Art & Design are employed or in graduate school within one year of graduating. Examples of companies that have hired Moore graduates include Nickelodeon, Tyco Toys, Smithsonian Institution, Penguin Group, Super Signs, mock5 design, Bust Magazine, Carter’s, and Dynamite Entertainment.

Founded in 1848, Moore College of Art & Design is the nation’s first and only historically all-women’s visual arts college. This private, non-profit college serves approximately 370 students enrolled more than 20 programs leading to a degree. Moore College of Art & Design is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

5. Marywood University, Scranton, Pennsylvania
Marywood University

Marywood University houses Insalaco College of Arts and Sciences, home to the Department of Art. Within the Department is a Studio Arts BFA Program with an Illustration Track that explores digital design, printmaking, painting, animation, typography, graphic design, and digital illustration. The program requires successful completion of the Foundation Year, which consists of field trips, attending exhibits and visiting artist talks, and participation in the Foundation Portfolio Review.

Other program features include independent study programs; participation in student clubs and organizations such as the Art History Club and Zeta Omicron; practicums and internship opportunities; and study abroad experiences in places such as Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, England, and Scotland.

At the graduate level, the Department of Art at Marywood University has a low-residency MFA Program designed for working Illustrators, Designers, New Media Artists, Creative Directors, and Art Educators. Tracks within the Program include Sequential Art and Children’s Books. Other program features include one-on-one projects with prominent artists; independent study; and four two-week residential summer sessions. Marywood MFA students will also participate in a number of study tours in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and other major cities to visit museums, advertising agencies, professional organizations, and well-known designers and illustrator’s studios.

Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Marywood University are prepared to pursue positions such as 3D Illustrator, Caricaturist, Educator, Comic Book/Strip Artist, Courtroom Sketcher, Curator, Children’s Book Illustrator, Fashion Illustrator, Multimedia Artist, Art Director, Game Designer, Greeting Card Illustrator, Illustrator for Graphic Novels, Editorial Illustrator, Medical Illustrator, Muralist, Political Cartoonist, Book Cover Artist, Graphic Designer, Stamp Illustrator, Storyboard Artist, and Technical Illustrator.

Founded in 1915, Marywood University was the first college for women in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the first Catholic college for women in the state. Today, Marywood serves a co-ed population of approximately 2,675 students. More than 80 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees are offered in the College of Arts and Sciences; the College of Health and Human Services; and Reap College of Professional Studies.

Marywood University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).