Illustrators harness the imagination, making ideas visible. Skilled in visual problem solving, illustrators typically collaborate with creative directors, authors, designers, and editors to translate concepts into representation.

At Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, you’ll fill your toolbox with skills in drawing, painting, 2D, 3D, motion, and animation to ensure you can actualize abstract ideas into tangible images.

In addition to the core communicative goals, our curriculum is also committed to teaching solid foundational skills, professional material handling and application, and research-based approaches to concept development that will prepare you not only to draw well but to understand your work and how to communicate that to clients and collaborators.

Ranked 5th in Illustration Programs in Pennsylvania in 2022

Animation Career Review

our program

Why Illustration at PCA&D?

As a small professional art college, class size enables you to have a personal relationship with faculty. The illustration faculty at PCA&D are all professional illustrators and designers working in many different markets of illustration.

As contemporary illustrators, they help you balance your own artistic vision with the needs of clients, while also embracing the spirit of entrepreneurship. You’ll learn about effective self-promotion, finding clients, pricing and ethical guidelines, the history of illustration, and how to manage your business, whether as freelance artists or working directly in-house with a company.

Our faculty will support you in finding an internship, mentorship, entrepreneurial-based project, or community-based project. With their guidance and inspiration, you’ll tackle real-world projects with immediate impact, building your portfolio. And, you’ll learn in the #1 best small city to live in the U.S., in a vibrant arts-rich environment with more than 125 galleries and creative spaces.

program concentrations

Beginning in your junior year, you will start to shape your illustration BFA by choosing from classes offered in the classical concentration and/or the contemporary concentration. 

Classical Concentration: concentrates on the classical approach to illustration including draftsmanship and painting. Representational painting techniques (taught both traditionally and digitally), storytelling (both visual and written), and conceptually narrative image making is the main focus. Some project examples of this type of illustration would include visual development for film, fantasy/science fiction book covers, comic books, or scientifically accurate illustration for publishers and clients.

Contemporary Concentration:  concentrates on current trends, contemporary shape building, and conceptual industry language. Focusing on illustrative typography, pattern designs, giftware illustrations, as well as other trending facets of the illustration industry. A few project examples of this track would include hand lettering for labels or posters, pattern illustration/design for products such as fabric or gift wrapping paper, gift card illustration, or conceptual approach to editorial publishing.

Customize your program

PCA&D students have the opportunity to explore multiple interests by incorporating a minor or certificate into their major studies. Expanding your skill sets to cross disciplines will make you more appealing to future employers and broaden your potential career path.

Kristin Bere PCA&D Class of 2022
Kristin Bere PCA&D Class of 2022
Kristin Bere PCA&D Class of 2022

Kristin Bere ’22

Due to the college’s small class sizes, I have been able to efficiently improve and grow through a majority of my projects. I’ve found it extremely helpful to utilize work time to run any revisions past my instructor. They have always helped me inch closer and closer to a more successful end result than I would have produced on my own. They will continue to be cheerleaders for you long after you have them in class."

Meet the Experts

Visiting illustration artists speak to students throughout the year about a variety of relevant topics. Recent speakers include Netflix animation visual developer Zach Heffelfinger ’14, Cider Mill Press publisher John Whalen, giftware creator Nicole Tamarin, Curious George animator Kurt Hershey ’13 of Copernicus Studios, SpongeBob storyboard artist and creative director Derek Drymon, and Penguin Random House art director Kate Renner.

Design in a Day

Hosted by AIGA, this beloved annual event benefits our local non-profit community as students devote a day offering free design services for these organizations. Strengthen community relationships by stepping into the role of design professional alongside clients, faculty, and alumni to create impactful campaigns, logos, posters, motion graphics, and more. Previous participants include: the Friendship Gallery, YWCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Lancaster Public Library.

Build Your Portfolio

Most class assignments are real-world projects for regional clients, so you can develop a strong portfolio, learn to effectively promote your own work, develop pricing, and establish strategies leading to high-profile assignments, whether as a freelance artist or working directly in-house with an agency. Our students’ work has gained national recognition in 3×3 Magazine, the Society of Illustrators, Spectrum, and more. By the time you leave, you’ll feel empowered to take ownership of your ideas and your creations as you put them out into the world.  

Step Into Your Career

Each senior gets their own personal studio space to develop and create their thesis: a passion project that could involve branding a cafe, product design, public awareness or social justice campaigns, gaming exhibitions – anything you could dream of. Your thesis will debut to the public at our annual Senior Show during commencement celebrations in May. Seniors also have the unique opportunity to brand the Senior Show by developing campaign images and pitching them to a panel of professional designers in the fall. 
What will your thesis teach you?

  • Time Management
  • Organization
  • Project Management
  • Design Development (from concept to published piece)
  • Pitching a Concept
  • Taking Critique
  • Visual Communication 
  • Adaptability

Professional Preparation

Where could your creative life take you?

Trent Sheaffer ’19

Students in the Illustration program take a number of classes in Professional Practices and Portfolio Preparation in order to graduate with a strong body of work for full-time and freelance opportunities.

Preparing for a career as an illustrator means knowing how to create and manage online stores as well as curate and promote your professional brand through websites and social media platforms. Students learn the essentials of billing, pricing ethical guidelines, contracts, copyrights, taxes, engaging artists’ representatives, and funding strategies.

Some students work with mentors to further hone their own personal style in preparation for their final thesis. Other students explore internships and projects for clients to anchor their portfolio in real-world experiences. Students also have the option to work at the College’s in-house internship program, The Agency, where they will tackle design and branding projects for both the College and for community non-profit organizations. Interns for The Agency gain valuable experience in business, presentation, public speaking, and collaboration.

These real-world experiences in and out of the classroom are opportunities to network and work with masters in their fields, making connections that can lead to lifelong mentors or even pre-graduation job offers. Here you will build skill sets allowing you to land positions in:

  • Art Directors
  • Comic Book Artists
  • Commercial Illustrators
  • Concept Artists
  • Courtroom Sketch Artists
  • Editorial Illustrators
  • Fashion Illustrators
  • Film Storyboard Creators
  • Educators
  • Printmakers
  • Production designers
  • Scientific Illustrators
  • Self-Publishers
  • Set Designers
  • Toy Designers

As a professional illustrator, you can work in almost any industry, particularly within the creative arts and design sector. Illustrators are entrepreneurial with nearly 85% managing their own businesses, offering the freedom to take on projects of their own choosing. 

where are Alumni now?

Illustration graduates pursue careers in a variety of fields. PCA&D graduates have worked for such clients as A&E Network, Adidas, Blue Sky Studios, Disney, ESPN, HBO, Fox Interactive, PBS Kids,  Time Warner Cable, The Wall Street Journal, and Hasbro. 

Department faculty

A faculty of working illustrators

As experienced working professionals with strong ties to resources and opportunities in the field, your faculty assign competitive, real-world projects to enhance your portfolio with professional work well before you graduate.

Robert Young, PCA&D Illustration Chair

Robert Young, Department Chair

“I teach an approach to illustration that treats the illustrator as an author and content creator. This differs greatly from traditional illustration programs that consider the illustrator more of a hired hand.” 

Mike Hawthorne
Mike Hawthorne@mikeHawthorneArt
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Hawthorne is from York, PA and graduated from Tyler School of Art at Temple University in 1998. Hawthorne is the creator of the comic book series Hysteria and has provided the artwork for various comics, including Deadpool, The Un-men, Fear Agent, Umbra, G.I. JOE: Origins, and Conan: Road of Kings.
Jason Ward
Jason Wardjasonwardart.weebly.com
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Jason is a working artist currently living in Lancaster PA. He received his art education at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, and the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD.
Jeff McComsey
Jeff McComseyjeffmccomsey.com
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Jeff is an American writer/illustrator who has been working in comics for the past ten years. He is also editor in chief of the New York Times best-selling historical zombie anthology FUBAR, now in its sixth volume.
Liz Pulido
Liz Pulidolizpulido.com
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Liz Pulido is an award-winning illustrator with 10 years of professional experience with work featured in American Illustration, Spectrum, and Creative Quarterly. She helped build a start-up children’s clothing business as a textile artist, and her textile work for Izzy & Ferd was worn on the red carpet and featured in multiple magazines, including Mama, Parents, and PNMag, as well as a Hershey’s chocolate television commercial.
Normandie Luscher
Normandie Luscher
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Normandie Luscher is an illustrator and designer with a broad interest in many areas, including storytelling, comics, fashion, patterns, product and surface design, and lettering and typography. She graduated with an MFA from MICA’s Illustration Practice program in 2019 and has been teaching as an adjunct professor with MICA and Towson University since then.
Randy Haldeman
Randy Haldemanrandyhaldeman.com
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Randy has been published by a handful of small press publishers, including Source Point Press, Margins Publishing, Pilot Studios, and Grayhaven Comics, and he has been featured in many comic anthologies, most recently Off Into the Sunset (“Cops and Robbers”), Tales from the Pandemic (“Flight 616”), and Monocul (“Boxes All the Way Down”). He also does illustration work for both comic and magazine covers.
Todd Ulrich
Todd Ulrichtodd-ulrich.artstation.com
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Todd is a Fantasy and Sci-fi artist working in the entertainment and gaming industry.
Yuanyuan Zhou
Yuanyuan Zhou
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I have professional experience working with newspapers and magazines for editorial illustrations, such as The Guardian, Full Bleed Magazine, Womanly and more. My work has also been recognized by American Illustration (AIAP), 3×3, ADC Young One, and Colossal Magazine. My works are always full of energy and quirkiness and always include a comical side.
Leah Limpert Walt
Leah Limpert Walt
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Leah is a representational and symbolist painter living and working in Lancaster, Pa. She studied at the University of Delaware, Moore College of Art and Design, and received her BFA from Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, graduating Summa Cum Laude with awards. She has shown in Philadelphia, New York City, and throughout the lower Susquehanna Valley.
Francis Barbera, Senior Show 2021

Frank Barbera ’21

HOW TO Apply

Make your creative life, a way of life

While you’re still deciding on a school, go ahead and start an application, it’s free! Submitting an application isn’t a commitment to PCA&D but it helps us get to know you better. Or you can start by submitting 8-10 pieces of your art to help us assess your potential.