Home Illustration Visualize Your Career: Illustration Degree Courses to Develop Your Skills

Visualize Your Career: Illustration Degree Courses to Develop Your Skills

by Academy Contributor

To create an amazing illustration, you need many skills under your belt. Find out more about what kinds of illustration degree courses will teach you those skills.

For many of us, children’s storybooks are our first experience with the magic and potential of illustration. However, illustrators work on more than children’s storybooks.

As an illustrator, your goal is to bring visual concepts and stories to life. This means that you’ll have opportunities to work on products ranging from video games and mobile apps to comics.

This also means that most illustration degree programs will teach you the basic skills required to survive in any of these industries.

Art by Illustration student Ryan Ferriera
Art by School of Illustration BFA student Ryan Ferriera

Preparing for the Industry With Illustration Degree Courses

While you’ll have the chance to focus on areas that you’re more interested in, an illustration degree program will have required courses that everyone must take.

As a result, we’ve compiled a list of five classes that you’ll probably encounter at some point in your journey.

Understanding the Human Figure

Knowing how to draw the human figure is one of the core parts of illustration. Hence, whether you’re into photorealistic art or stylized cartoons, you’ll need experience with figure drawing, gesture drawing, and human anatomy.

Using Perspective to Tell a Story

“Perspective is basically creating the illusion of depth and space on a page,” says School of Illustration graduate and Marvel Comics artist Alexandria Huntington. “It’s especially important for buildings and mechanical objects, to create dimension and help your eye go back in space in a convincing manner.”

In your perspective classes, you’ll learn how to portray environments, figures, buildings, and more from different angles. You’ll also learn how to use perspective to create certain moods, atmospheres, and impressions.

More advanced classes in perspective might focus on concept art for games and movies, teaching you about various types of camera angles and how to use them in your artwork.

Concept art by Illustration student Marius Millar
Concept art by School of Illustration BFA student Marius Millar

Painting and Working with Digital Media

In the digital age, learning how to illustrate with digital tools is a must.

Your digital painting classes will have you drawing environmental elements, such as pieces of wood or metal, and human elements, such as hair and skin, with different programs used in the industry. In addition, you’ll gain insight into various techniques and the differences between traditional and digital media.

Concept art by Illustration student Weile Zhang
Concept art by School of Illustration MFA student Weile Zhang

Creating Illustration Projects for the Web

When you’ve learned the basics of illustration, you can expect to start working on pieces for your portfolio. Some of these pieces might be interactive illustrations—a major trend in the current illustration industry.

Your illustration degree courses will teach you how to combine animation, sound, and other elements with your art. A welcome addition to many portfolios, these interactive illustrations can be used in digital publications as well as website and mobile interfaces.

Editorial illustration by Illustration student Mei Hsuan Chiang
Editorial illustration by School of Illustration MFA student Mei Hsuan Chiang

Learning How to Promote Your Work

Like any other career, getting a job in illustration involves more than illustrating. Before you graduate, you should learn how to promote your work.

Luckily, classes in self-promotion and portfolio preparation will help you develop these skills, so you’ll be ready to market your creations. With these classes, you’ll also learn about business and financial matters to help you support yourself.


If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in illustration, request more information about the School of Illustration at Academy of Art University. Or get started on your application today if you’re ready to join our community!


Header image by School of Illustration BFA student Julia Blattman.

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