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Find your illustrative style in just 2 semesters!

Experience SMFA’s unique and flexible approach to illustration; maintaining its fine-art basis while teaching its practical applications. You will acquire general technical and conceptual skills to use in a wide variety of opportunities within the field. Explore types of illustration, such as editorial illustration for newspapers and magazines, children's book illustration, concept illustration for ads and video games, and more. You will walk away with:

  • foundational drawing skills
  • experience with the latest software applications
  • finished pieces to add to your portfolio
  • strong developing sense of personal style and illustrative voice

Why a Certificate in Illustration?



Utilize illustration skills in a vast variety of fields

Job Satisfaction

40% of illustrators in the US have been in their job for over a decade

Industry Growth

The technical illustration market is predicted to be worth $5.1 billion by 2028

Program Curriculum

Course 1 | Hybrid Synchronous | 6 Weeks | Next Offered Fall 2023

art in a cup

Build foundational drawing skills to serve as the basis for your illustrative works. Through in-class workshop assignments and at-home drawing exercises, students will learn the fundamentals of traditional figure drawing as well as novel techniques used by respected artists. Competencies covered include: composition, perspective, expressive light and shade and the creative use of reference. The course will include group critiques, examples of relevant artwork and demonstrations of tools, materials and techniques. By the end of the course, students will be familiar with the basic tools of drawing, and proficient at the fundamentals of traditional drawing practices.  

Gain skills in:
  • traditional figure drawing
  • expressive light and shade
  • composition and perspective

Course 2 | Hybrid Synchronous | 6 Weeks | Next Offered Fall 2023

computer and icons

Learn to integrate digital tools into your illustrator’s toolbox! This course will explore ideas such as how you can use programs to enhance and streamline a traditional workflow, or how photographs can create a narrative. Students will gain confidence in using software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, as well as ProCreate. Lectures will focus on technical instruction with a digital approach, and will also cover topics such as composition and color theory that can apply to any illustration medium. Through homework assignments, students will learn the importance of disciplined, practical working methods from concept to sketches to finished art. While the focus of the class will be on understanding and integrating digital tools into the illustrator’s toolbox, students in this class will be encouraged to mix media between analog and digital. By the end of the course, students will be proficient at manipulating images from digital sources, and adept at moving between the drawn and the digital image. 

Gain skills in:
  • color theory
  • Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator
  • ProCreate

Course 3 | Hybrid Synchronous | 6 Weeks | Next Offered Spring 2024


Learn the art of storyline development via visual sequential narrative. Find wonder where creative writing and literature meets visual expression and communication design. This course will teach students to pair text with imagery to create variations of a story. Using a variety of media and techniques, projects will cover picture only sequences, as well as text and image sequences. By the end of this course, students will be able to utilize storyboarding to execute cycles of drafting, critiquing, and editing within a sequence. The course will conclude with a final project in a format of student’s choosing to align with the goals of their professional portfolio.  

Gain skills in:
  • storyboarding
  • editing within a sequence
  • communication design

Course 4 | Hybrid Synchronous | 6 Weeks | Next Offered Spring 2024

briefcase and pen

Round out your illustration skillset through professional applications! This course continues students’ exploration of illustration by simulating the experience of a professional illustrator working with clients. Through a wide variety of progressive real-world assignments in such areas as editorial, book, institutional, and children’s illustration, students will learn how to analyze an assignment, create concept sketches, and produce finished art. Students can use the media of their choice, including traditional hand-drawn, digital, or a combination, for class assignments and projects. This final course allows students to dive deeper into an area of interest, and put their illustration skills to practice while adding to their professional portfolio.  

Gain skills in:
  • working with clients
  • concept sketching
  • creative processing on a deadline


Program Design

This flexible accelerated program is designed for students looking to add skills to their resume while building or enhancing a portfolio. The program is part-time and runs in a flexible hybrid format with both on-campus and online course sessions. Interested students should expect to commit 2-week nights per week for class attendance, as well as 4-5 hours of outside of class work time. Students take just one class at a time, back-to-back in a semester, for 2 semesters to complete the illustration essentials certificate.


Program Completion Timeline

This program is designed to be completed in two semesters, or approximately 8 months. For example, students starting in a fall semester would take courses 1 & 2 between September and December, and courses 3 & 4 between January and May.




1st Session - 6 Weeks

The Drawn Image

Sequential Narrative

2nd Session - 6 Weeks

The Digital Image 

The Professional Illustrator 


Explore Advanced Studies in Illustration

Further develop your illustration skillset by adding advanced courses to your resume! Connect with us to hear more about upcoming advanced course opportunities in areas such as figure drawing or children's book illustration. 


Sample Student Work



Related Job Titles


Comic Book Artist

Book Illustrator

Storyboard Artist

Medical Illustrator


Related Industries


Film and Media





Hear from our Students


Taking that intro course, I got exposure to different types of illustration and techniques which has been really helpful in terms of trying to figure out what my personal style is, and if that has evolved since I last did illustration. And what my strengths and weaknesses are in these areas, so getting that direct targeted feedback was really, really helpful for somebody who's interested in pursuing a career path that may not be a professional already.

This course really pushed me out of my comfort zone when it came to being creative and creating art from my brain instead of from a reference. Not only did we have to think about what to draw, but also think about how to draw it and where on the page it should be in order to create the mood we wanted for our book.

The best part about it was I left feeling as though I had a tangible work product that if I wanted to continue working on it, I could spend another one or two years working on a specific draft and be ready for to submit to a publisher so that was that was super cool.

I gained skills in analyzing what makes an illustration successful. For example, I'm able to see how size affects an illustrator choices based on assignments that ranged from 1 inch square to posters. I'm able to see the difference between an illustration and a graphic design. I'm able to see how illustrators can use color to set a mood. I'm able to see how a range of styles can achieve similar results.