This course is a creative adventure which introduces you to a rigorous exploration of communication through image making and conceptual thinking.

Central to this will be your development and understanding of new skills and processes using traditional and new media, theory and production methods. It offers fantastic opportunities for you to become an innovative illustrator and creative practitioner, learning to build and manage your own professional practice.


Working in a collaborative studio environment you will have opportunities to apply your skills across a range of illustrative applications including, but not limited to, editorial, publishing, packaging, product, print, music design, advertising, character and animation.

You will use our excellent links with professional illustrators and creatives, agencies and experts across the creative industries to develop a professional focus to your personal practice through live projects, competition briefs and industrial experience. We will help you generate your own networking, collaboration and exhibition opportunities.

On graduation you will have an awareness of the professional opportunities available to you and the confidence and understanding to make informed decisions about your future. 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 and the wider creative industries.


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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 projects and seminars alongside resource-based workshops. There is an ongoing focus on discovery through making and play supported by a lively programme of studio briefs.

Year Two — You’ll further 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 and explore the postgraduate opportunities open to you.

Year Three — You’ll focus on your own professional ambitions and further develop the business-related skills required for becoming a professional illustrator. You’ll negotiate your own creative projects and activities including competitions, live briefs, studio visits, industrial research and experience; building a portfolio which reflects our focus. There will be opportunities to collaborate with other students from this and other courses, learning to respond to the demands of the creative industries.

Work Experience

Work experience covers a broad range of activities and students are encouraged to undertake work placements during their time at university. As well as guidance from the course team our Careers, Employability and Enterprise team offer support that enhances employability skills and underpins engagement with industry.


Recent student successes include:

  • D&AD New Blood One To Watch Award 2016, 2017 and 2018 and 2019
  • YCN Award Winners 2016 and 2018
  • 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

Course Specification

Contact Hours & Teaching/Learning Methods

Undergraduate degree courses at Leeds Arts University are delivered and supported through a range of teaching and learning strategies. Courses 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 course. 100 hours of learning are expected for every ten credits of the course. Each level (year) of the course 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 study, approximately 25 hours are delivered as taught or staff-led sessions and the remaining hours are a combination of other types of supported learning and independent study. Individual courses 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 course, level, aims of module, content of the sessions and progress through an academic year.

For further information visit Undergraduate teaching & learning at Leeds Arts University.

Destination Careers

Graduates can work as freelancers, as employed illustrators or as part of a creative collective/studio. Careers include illustration for publishing and editorial (children’s and adult books, newspapers and magazines, and digital and online platforms), public and mural art, advertising, entertainment, packaging, product and retail. They may also work for illustration agencies, as studio managers or creative directors. Graduates may also continue to postgraduate study. 

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 developmental work rather than all finished work.

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

Further costs of study are related largely to the costs of materials and depend very much on how individual students choose to respond to University briefs. At the start of the first year you will be provided with starter kit of equipment and materials that will help you during the first few months of the course. Each course also provides basic studio materials and equipment that will help you complete set projects. As you progress through the course, any additional costs will be dependent on the type of work you choose to develop and the central resources that relate to your work. The costs below are the result of asking our students to state how much they spend during the year and creating an average, as such they are indicative only.

Equipment & Materials

  • Level 4 (First Year) Materials, printing etc. £150
  • Level 5 (Second Year) Materials, printing etc. £150-£250
  • Level 6 (Third Year) Materials, printing etc. £150-£400

At level 6 the university will pay a contribution to the cost of materials, preparing your portfolio and/or exhibiting your work professionally.

Computers and Digital Equipment

You will have access to a range of digital equipment in course studios and central resources throughout your studies. You may decide to purchase your own equipment as your studies progress which may result in additional costs. These may include:

  • Wacom drawing tablet £70-£300
  • Mac or PC £500-£1,800
  • External hard drive £50-£120
  • Digital camera £100-£250

These items are not essential for the start or completion of the course. If you are intending to buy a computer for your studies we suggest that you wait until you get here. You will quickly find out what you need and what you don’t need. The Course Team will be able to offer you advice on what to buy and where to purchase it from based on your creative needs and budget.

Books, Online Subscriptions & Competitions

You will have access to an extensive range of books, text and online resources provided by the University. There will also be opportunities to submit to national and international competitions and live projects as part of your course. These resources are directly related to your studies and highlighted in modules as you progress through the course. Throughout your time on the course you may choose to purchase your own copies of key texts, subscribe to online networks and enter non-compulsory competitions. These may cost up to an additional £100 per year.

Educational Visits and Off-Site Activities

We arrange a range of research trips for all level 4 and 5 students. These trips are an essential part of the course and the costs are covered by course budgets.

During level 4 optional educational visits may cost approximately £100 (these may include conferences, exhibitions and festivals such as Thought Bubble)

During level 5 & 6 optional educational visits cost will be between £100 and £750 (these may include conferences, exhibitions and an international/European* study visit). These visits are planned to enhance your experience and are optional. We plan activities and aim to provide information about suggested places to visit and equivalent events for those students who are unable to participate in the visits.

*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.

We provide support for undergraduate students dependent upon their financial circumstances. Visit Undergraduate Financial Support for further information.

Terms & Conditions and Key Information

Our Terms & Conditions are here.

If you would like to download the Key Information on this course 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

Apply Now

Please apply direct to the University for our BA (Hons) Illustration course using the links below.

Home/EU applicants

Click here to apply via UCAS

International applicants

Click here to apply directly

If you need any assistance completing the form please contact the Admissions team at or call us on 0113 280 8000.


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


BA (Hons) Illustration

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"Illustration is the visual link between seeing and knowing. It is storytelling, reportage, protest and speculation."
Patrick Holley, Course Leader
BA (Hons) Illustration