The BA (Hons) Illustration course takes a contemporary view of applied illustration as a specialist discipline. The course has rapidly become a leading choice for those who are serious about becoming a professional illustrator. You will not only develop your strengths as an illustrator but also learn to build and manage your own professional practice. You will investigate a wide range of applications for illustration (from packaging, editorial and publishing to storyboarding, character design and comic strips), using both traditional and new media to realise your creative ambitions. 

With the BA Hons Illustration course running alongside the BA (Hons) Graphic Design, BA (Hons) Comic & Concept ArtBA (Hons) Animation and BA (Hons) Creative Advertising courses there are exciting opportunities to collaborate with creatives from other disciplines and with different skill to your own. You will take advantage of our excellent links with professional illustrators and creative industry experts, and on graduation will have the choice of a wide range of career options.

This is an exciting course with an explorative sense of creative adventure at its core . It offers fantastic opportunities for you to develop into an innovative and in-demand creative professional.

Working as part of a year-group in a studio environment you will have access to excellent facilities including traditional process studios and industry-standard Mac suites loaded with creative software. You will have opportunities to apply your skills across a range of illustrative applications including packaging, products, storyboarding, comics, editorial and publishing, caricatures and graphic novels. Your learning will have a professional focus through live projects, competition briefs, industrial experience and supported professional research. This focus is underpinned by the systematic development of an individually appropriate, but industrially relevant, skill set.

We have excellent industry links for work experience, visiting professionals and studio visits. There are many opportunities for collaboration with other courses , particularly Graphic Design, Comic & Concept Arts, Creative Advertising and Animation along with agencies both inside and outside of the University.

A great deal of attention is paid to helping you build your own practice and we will support you in this. You will learn to generate your own networking, collaboration and exhibition opportunities. On graduation you should not only have an awareness of the options and opportunities available to you, but the confidence and understanding to make informed decisions about your future and how to find work and clients when you leave the course.

The overall aim of the course is to help individuals to develop into independent, creative thinkers with the ability to deliver critically and visually engaged work within the professional context of contemporary illustration.

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course details

What You'll Study

Year One — You’ll explore a range of approaches to the communication of ideas through image making, with an emphasis on experimentation and critical reflection. You’ll develop your practical, theoretical and contextual understanding of the discipline through studio workshops and seminars alongside resource-based workshops. There is an ongoing focus on discovery through making, supported by a lively programme of studio briefs.

Year Two — You’ll explore a range of approaches to communicating ideas, concepts and messages through image, media and visual language. You’ll apply your work to industrially relevant contexts and products while studying the theory and processes behind your practice. You’ll also learn essential business skills.

Year Three — You’ll focus on your own ambitions and your business-related skills for becoming a professional illustrator. You’ll negotiate your own creative content—including competitions, live briefs, studio visits, industrial research and experience, building a portfolio which reflects your focus. You could collaborate with other students, learning to respond to the demands of the creative industries.

Work Experience

Alongside your core study you are encouraged to negotiate your own work experience, industrial research and studio visits to suit your particular interests or specialisms which will enhance your overall understanding.


Recent student successes include:

  • D&AD New Blood One To Watch Award 2016
  • Commendation for book illustrations submitted for Pan Macmillan’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ 150th birthday
  • Illustrated book ‘Charley’s Kidney Transplant’ published by Leeds NHS Trust
  • ‘Warhorse’ book illustration - House of Illustration (Shortlisted & Exhibited)
  • Digital Art Story Telling - Winner of the International Creative Contest
  • YCN Award Winners - Fedrigoni Paper Products

Students from all three levels have recently been involved in: 

  • Thought Bubble International Character and Comic Festival 2016, Leeds
  • Off The Page print exhibition 2016, Colours May Vary 2016, Leeds

Course Specification

Contact Hours & Teaching/Learning Methods

Undergraduate degree programmes at Leeds Arts University are delivered and supported through a range of teaching and learning strategies. Programmes are made up of modules, these are elements of study that are taught and assessed separately. Each module carries a clearly identified credit value, the accumulation of which will allow you to progress to the next level of the programme. 100 hours of learning are expected for every ten credits of the programme. Each level (year) of the programme is made up of 120 credits and therefore requires 1200 hours of learning. This equates to 40 hours of study per week throughout the academic year.

For every 100 hours of learning, approximately 25 hours are delivered as taught or supported sessions and remaining hours are allocated for studio/workshop access and independent learning. Individual programmes have their own learning cultures based on their specific use of the teaching and learning methods listed here. These methods feature differently depending on the programme, level, aims of module, content of the sessions and progress through an academic year.

For further information see our Undergraduate teaching & learning at Leeds Arts University document.

Destination Careers

Graduates will work as freelance or employed illustrators, concept artists, storyboard artists, information visualisers, character/caricature artists, technical illustrators and commercial artists. They may also work for illustration agencies.

Entry Requirements

We’re looking for students with the best potential to succeed - irrespective of their background. That’s why we welcome a wide range of qualifications and experience.

Click here to view our entry requirements

Portfolio Guide

A well considered portfolio says a lot about an applicant and their work. Our guidance is not meant to limit your creative statement.

In general terms however we would expect to see examples of the following;

  • A range of approaches to drawing and image making exploring a breadth of media.
  • Sketch books, notebooks and development sheets demonstrating the visual development of ideas and concepts.
  • Examples of work that demonstrates an involvement in the use of image in relation to the visual communication of ideas, opinions, content and messages.
  • Critical journals, notebooks, essay or blogs etc. demonstrating an interest in narrative, drawing, image making and contemporary illustration.

At this stage in your career we would much rather see experimental and innovative image making and developmental work rather than necessarily all finished work showing a final solution.

We would like to see a personal, selective and well-presented portfolio that demonstrates an informed interest in Illustration.

We do not need to see all the work that you have produced- around 15 samples in your main portfolio would be ideal- supported by notebooks/ sketchbooks and development sheets where appropriate.

We also run a range of daytime and evening portfolio development courses specialising in preparation for further and higher art and design education. For more information on current courses please click here.

Interview Guide

When you arrive at reception you will be met by a member of the programme team who will take you to the studio where you will leave your portfolio.

You will be shown around the department and have the opportunity to ask questions. You will then be given a brief exercise (it is not a test) that you can do in the library or café.

Whilst you have been doing this the programme staff will have been looking at your work. You will be interviewed by one member of the programme team.

Since we book in several students in one half day session, you should be prepared to be in the University for up to three hours. If you have had to travel long distances and have a train pre-booked, please let us know in advance and we will try to arrange the timing of your interview so you can get away in time.


This is evidenced from one or more of the following:

Good use of drawing, image making and visual skills to inform the development work.

  • Portfolio
  • Sketchbooks
  • Development sheets
  • Samples of work

The ability to generate, explore and develop a range of creative ideas in response to set problems and visual research.

  • Portfolio
  • Sketchbooks
  • Development sheets
  • Samples of work

Skills and inventiveness in the use of a variety of media and techniques appropriate to Illustration.

  • Portfolio
  • Sketchbooks
  • Development sheets
  • Samples of work

An awareness of the concerns, trends, and contexts of contemporary illustration and visual culture.

  • Portfolio
  • Sketchbooks
  • Samples of work
  • Personal statement
  • Interview

An active interest in the subject and ambition to succeed.

  • Portfolio
  • Sketchbooks
  • Samples of work
  • Personal statement
  • Interview

Tuition Fees and Other Costs

Tuition Fees

Our current fees are listed here

Other Costs:

Equipment & Materials

Level 4 (First Year)

Essential Equipment A6/A5/A4 sketchbooks (£5 – 15 each as required); Digital Camera (basic point and push model - £50 – 100); External USB drive – min 64GB (approximately £20)

Materials – approximately £250

Level 5 (Second Year)

Materials – approximately £250

Level 6 (Third Year)

Materials – approximately £400

Desirable but not essential:
Wacom drawing tablet £70 - £300
Mac or PC £500 - £1800 

We are an Apple Mac centric institution. If buying a computer students may want to consider waiting until they have enrolled as educational discount is available through the Apple educational portal. Students will need to consider purchasing the licence for Adobe Creative Cloud software which students can get at a discount on once they have enrolled on to the programme. 

Students will have access to University and programme resources that will allow them to complete their studies. 

Students have access to software and services that will allow them to work on word processed documents, spreadsheets and presentation once enrolled on their own computers. 


We organise trips to important illustration festivals such as Thought Bubble, Varoom or similar, costs are approximately £30 - £100. 

If there is student demand we try to organise a trip to a European destination (approximately £350) and/or one international trip (approximately £750). Depending on numbers of students wanting to go, costs for these will vary. We do not guarantee that we will run international visits. The decision is made annually based on availability, cost and the number of students required to make the trip viable.  

Level 5 and 6 students are also expected to undertake their own research and study visits, which will incur travel expenses. These will be individual to each student.

Terms & Conditions and Key Information

Our Terms & Conditions are here.

If you would like to download the Key Information on this programme click here.

International Opportunities / Visiting and exchange students

We are delighted to welcome undergraduate visiting and exchange students from Europe and around the world who would like to spend a semester or a full academic year taking credits from our exciting range of courses. You will be fully integrated into the academic and social life of the University during a period of full-time supervised study and your credits transferred back to your home institution.

You can join us through programmes such as Erasmus+, individual university partnerships or as an independent applicant. Please see here for more information and how to apply.

Leeds Arts University students interested in spending some time overseas can find information on the international opportunities available during your course here.

Questions? Contact

3 Years
Study Mode
Full Time
Term Starts
Institution Name
Leeds Arts University
Institution Code
Awarded by
Leeds Arts University


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"This is a hard-working and challenging programme, offering fantastic opportunities for you to develop into a sought after practising professional."
Fred Bates, Programme Leader
BA (Hons) Illustration