What are the top illustration schools in Florida for 2021?

Top Florida Illustration Schools - 2021 College Rankings
1Ringling College of Art and DesignSarasota
2University of Central FloridaOrlando
3University of MiamiCoral Gables

Our 2021 ranking of the top illustration schools in Florida. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

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

Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was founded in 1931 by Dr. Ludd M. Spivey, president of Southern College (now Florida Southern College) and circus baron, John Ringling. When it opened, the school had just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, RCAD serves more than 1,600 students from 45 states, 60 countries, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.

This private, not-for-profit college offers BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two. Students in all programs benefit from RCAD’s “rigorous curriculum” that the school says “employs the studio model of teaching and immediately engages students through a comprehensive program that is both specific to the major of study and focused on the liberal arts.” Students also benefit from visiting artists from major studios such as DreamWorks and Blue Sky Studios, focused internship opportunities, and the chance to work with local businesses on real-world projects.

Program options for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration with a General Illustration or Visual Development Emphasis. The General Illustration Emphasis covers the fundamentals of color theory, composition, anatomy, and digital and traditional media. Offered in the Illustration Department, the program introduces and familiarizes students with professional industry techniques through exercises, demonstrations, guest speakers, critiques, collaborative projects, internships, recruiter workshops, and interactions with real clients in the area.

The Visual Development Emphasis “focuses on concept art, used by illustrators to convey ideas across the entertainment spectrum in industries including gaming, comics, and graphic novels, film, television (live-action and animated), video, toy design, themed entertainment, publishing, and advertising,” says the school. “Students will learn to visualize and create the art for characters and environments that is later used by modelers, animators, designers, visual effects artists, and other creatives to bring the ideas to life through production.”

Course highlights for the General Illustration Emphasis include 3D Design for IL, Advanced Illustration, Design & Typography, Digital Illustration, Figure Anatomy, Illustration Media, Professional Practices, and Visual Development I-IV. Course highlights for the Visual Development Emphasis include 2D Design, Development of Art and Ideas, Film & Narrative, Professional Practices, Visual Development I-IV, and Writing Studio.

Other highlights for the programs include the opportunity to enter a semester-long exchange program or a four-five week summer program at Studio Arts Center International (SACI), located in Florence, Italy, internship opportunities at major companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Blue Sky Studios, Disney, Hasbro, and Pixar, and participation in The Annual Illustration show, Illest of the Ill—a department juried exhibition curated and coordinated entirely by students.

Students in the programs also have access to two Cintiq labs solely for Illustration, access to three 24-hour Cintiq labs, painting and drawing studios, and a laptop for every student, fully equipped with the latest Adobe Creative Suite software.

Ringling College students have won more wards in the 40-year history of the Society of Illustrators than any other college, and comprise the highest number of accepted entries into the Society’s annual Student Scholarship Competition. Graduates leave the programs with a “comprehensive, cohesive portfolio” that showcases their work.  

Employment opportunities include Advertising Illustration, Animation, Children’s Books, Editorial (book cover art, magazine, and newspaper), Interactive Web Illustration, Medical Manuals, Surface Design for Fashion, Medical Manuals, Technical Art, and Visual Effects.

Graduates of the programs have been hired by American Greetings, Apple, Blue Sky Studios, Cartoon Network, Disney, EA Games, GM, Google, Hallmark, Marvel Comics/Lucasfilm, Riot Games, United Airlines, Walt Disney, Zynga, and many others.

2. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida

In 1968, University of Central Florida (UCF) opened in as Florida Technological University with less than 2,000 students. The first graduating class consisted of 423 students, and the school granted its first doctoral degree in 1977. Today, UCF leads all universities in Florida in conferring more than 17,000 degrees a year. Serving nearly 72,000 students, the school is also the largest university by enrollment in Florida and one of the largest universities in the nation.

UCF offers 103 bachelors and 91 master’s degrees, 31 research doctorates, three professional doctorates, and three specialist degree programs in 13 colleges. The College of Arts and Humanities at UCF houses the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD), which offers a BA with a Studio Track, a Studio Art BFA, and an MFA Program in Studio Art. UCF also offers a 24 credit hour Minor in Studio Art.

Specializations for the BA and BFA degree programs include Book Arts, Ceramics, Drawing and Illustration, Drawing and Printmaking, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, and Type and Design. The Studio Art BFA with a Specialization in Drawing and Illustration requires more credit hours than the BA with a Studio Track. The BFA is recommended for aspiring illustrators seeking immediate employment in the field or for students who plan to attend graduate school.

“The degree provides a solid foundation in techniques and theory in focused areas of competence,” says the school. BFA students must complete the Portfolio and Exhibit/Seminar courses and BA students must pass the Studio Art Portfolio Review.

Course highlights for the Illustration Programs include Advanced Drawing, Advanced Illustration, Art as Interface, Design Fundamentals-Three Dimensional, Intermediate Illustration, and Screenprinting. Students in all programs have the opportunity to complete an internship and participate in both local and international study experiences.

The MFA program requires 60 credit hours and students will have the opportunity to experiment with Traditional and New Media. Graduates are prepared for leadership positions in Art and Design, Education, Media, Publishing, and more.

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

Founded in 1925, University of Miami is a private research university that serves more than 17,000 students from around the world. More than 100 majors and programs are offered in 11 colleges and schools. Founded in 1926, the College of Arts and Sciences is the largest academic unit within the University of Miami, home to over 4,200 undergraduate students, 640 graduate students, and 450 full-time faculty. The College houses the Department of Art and Art History, which offers an MFA in Studio Art.

The MFA degree in the professional practice of studio art is a three-year program that offers the opportunity to Specialize in one of five Concentrations including Ceramics, Digital Imaging-Illustration/Photography, Painting, Printmaking, and Sculpture.

Students will take 24 credits in the Concentration, 12 elective credits, and nine in Art History. Several seminars are part of the program as well as an Exhibition Preparation course and the Master’s Thesis. “Each student's MFA thesis exhibition will be a solo show at the off-campus departmental gallery in Wynwood,” says the school, or at an alternative location, such as an art space or “commercial gallery that has been arranged by the student and approved by the Thesis Committee.”

Graduates will leave the MFA program with a polished portfolio of their work, which will allow them to seek positions in the professional, studio art world or teach in academic and other environments.