BA (Hons) Illustration - University of Portsmouth
A Gold rating in teaching excellence Read more
BA (Hons)


UCAS codeW220

full time3yrs

placement option1yr

Encouraging innovative ways of communicating through illustration

Course Overview

Why take this course?

As an illustrator you will have a unique voice to challenge and change convention, and our aim to help you understand your role as a cultural producer in a broad, social, political and historical context.

This course offers you the opportunity to question, reflect and analyse your own work and its commentary in the context of the work of other designers, filmmakers, painters, sculptors, writers, etc. With our strong research identity, we encourage you to develop a breadth of expertise in a variety of fields including: typography, photography, drawing, artist’s book, web design, animation, graphic design and print making.

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

  • Explore traditional and contemporary illustration while experimenting with a variety of media from print to animation, textiles to object and model making, to expressing your creativity by freely re-defining illustration
  • Develop knowledge of new image-making technology and benefit from industry-focussed professional practice elements of the course aimed at equipping you to compete in a commercial arena
  • Interact with our visiting speakers, all of whom are established professionals such as Craig Mackie (Commissioning Deputy Art Editor of The New Scientist) and Darren Garrett (Creative Director of Littleloud Animation Studios)
  • Visit our course website to find out more

What opportunities might it lead to?

On this course you will develop strong creative and technical abilities in character animation, visual storytelling, compositing and editing. These skills are specifically tailored to enable you to find employment within the entertainment sector, wherever your strengths lie.

Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

  • artist book making
  • children’s book illustration
  • narrative illustration
  • print making
  • art direction
  • teaching


Amber Jefferson-Grant, BA (Hons) Illustration student 2013

I really like the ‘free-ness’ of the course and how we are encouraged to go in the direction that we choose to; for instance, I have chosen to focus on children’s book illustration.

Amber Jefferson-Grant, BA (Hons) Illustration student 2013



Find out what our students say about studying at Portsmouth, including:

  • The creative atmosphere that encourages students to explore their own interests and ideas
  • The excellent facilities which you will have access to
  • Exhibiting, curating and promoting your work, preparing you for future employment

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Structure & Teaching

Year one

In your first year you will study core elements of illustration alongside developing your practical abilities in areas such as print-making, etching, typography and IT software packages.

Core units in this year include:

  • Identity Through Print
  • Introduction to Professional Practice
  • Introduction to Visual Culture
  • Line and Colour
  • Narrative Illustration
  • Research Methodology

Year two

As the course progresses, you will develop a more in-depth knowledge of particular themes and topics within illustration. Take units that will allow you to specialise in specific areas and that focus on your professional development.

Core units in this year include:

  • Bookworks
  • Number Through Print
  • Sequential Illustration
  • Social Awareness

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Professional Skills Development
  • Professional Experience
  • Student Enterprise
  • Visual Culture: Visions of the Body
  • Visual Culture: Cult Films and Postmodernism
  • Visual Culture: Design, Style and Identity
  • Visual Culture: Issues of Representation
  • Visual Culture: Technology and the Image
  • Visual Culture: Research Paper

Year three*

Much of this year is project work. You can develop your own particular strengths further within a series of projects and a self-elected final project/presentation, encouraging you to develop a portfolio that represents your identity.

Core units in this year include:

  • Illustration: Presentations
  • Illustration: Self-directed Research
  • Professional Practice - Projects
  • Professional Practice - Promotion

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Visual Culture: Dissertation
  • Visual Culture: Research Project

We use the best and most current research and professional practice, alongside feedback from our students, to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.

*This course is also available as a 4-year sandwich (work placement).

Placement year

Between the second and third years of study you will have the option to undertake a work placement year. There are two exciting options for the placement year:

We offer a range of salaried professional placements as part of your degree.  You can gain invaluable work experience to help you prepare for your graduate employment.  The University can provide you with advice on how to secure a work placement that matches both the needs of your degree and your future career plans, as well as giving you useful links and contacts.

Interested in running your own business instead? We also offer students the chance to start-up and run their own company for a year as an alternative to the traditional work-based placement. Students who choose this option often start-up their companies with fellow, like-minded students, working together, as a bona fide operation, in an attempt to build a successful venture. The Faculty and University provide mentoring and support throughout the year.

To find out more visit our Employability and Enterprise page.


We offer a variety of engaging teaching methods from workshops, lectures, projects and seminars, to individual tutorials. There is also emphasis on hands-on practical sessions as a strong studio culture develops within the subject area.

The time you spend in teaching activities may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year typically spent their time as follows:

  • Year one students: 19% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 81% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year two students: 17% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 83% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year three students: 10% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 90% studying independently and 0% on work placement


There are no exams on this course and learning becomes more independent as the course progresses. Here’s how we assess your work:

  • written coursework
  • creative design group projects
  • self-led projects from initial concept to finished product
  • project presentations
  • sketchbooks and portfolio

The way you’re assessed may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year were typically assessed as follows:

  • Year one students: 0% by written exams, 0% by practical exams and 100% by coursework
  • Year two students: 0% by written exams, 0% by practical exams and 100% by coursework
  • Year three students: 0% by written exams, 0% by practical exams and 100% by coursework

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Facilities & Features

Specialist Workshops

Take advantage of our many workshops, which include excellent facilities with specific areas for – screenprinting, letterpress, laser cutting, dye sublimation printing and digital fabric printing.

We also have a variety of digital studios with Macs and PCs running industry-standard software, our design facilities can cater to whatever project you are working on. In addition you will have access to our range of digital printing facilities, including large format, photographic and sheet fed printers.

Design Studios

As well as offering a dynamic and creative studio space with excellent access to the Eldon campus facilities, we foster a friendly and welcoming environment where you are encouraged to interact with both tutors and your peers.

Guest Speakers

We organise a lively programme of visiting speakers in order to encourage a vibrant culture of debate and industry contact. All have expertise in the areas of art, design and media from art direction, animation to illustration. Previous speakers have included Ross Holden and Graham Rawle (leading artist/illustrators).

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Budgeting for your studies

There are extra costs associated with studying, which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Recommended texts:
If you wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow from the University Library, the average price is £50-£60. You may be studying up to 6 units a year, each with a standard recommended text.

General costs:
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for costs of photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.

Final year project:
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose to develop.

Other costs to consider


You will incur extra printing costs on portfolio work of around £100 - £600. Material and production costs vary from around £100 - £500 per year.

Any study trips are optional and you will be expected to pay full cost. Optional study trips abroad will cost in the region of £200 - £800. UK trips, where offered, will be £50 - £150.

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Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Career prospects
Where next?

We equip you with the knowledge of new image-making technology and the professional practice elements of the course are in line with current and future industry trends. Not only will this give you a competitive edge in the job market, but will help to develop your own individual style, enhancing your future employment prospects.

Our graduates are pursuing exciting roles across the whole spectrum of careers in art, design and media. They are working in a range of roles in design studios, web design, exhibition work, teaching, freelance work and book illustration.

Roles they have taken on include:

  • artist
  • bookmaker
  • illustrator
  • print designer

Work experience

Work experience
Employment boosting opportunities

Here at the CCI’s Creative Careers Centre we are committed to improving your employability. Whether it’s placements, self-employed placements, internships, short-term work experiences, freelancing opportunities and volunteering, we will help you find valuable and relevant work experience to complement your degree. The experienced team is always on hand to offer advice on everything from producing high-quality applications through to preparation for a company assessment day.

Career planning

Career planning

To make sure you take the right steps on your career path, we’re here to give you help, support and advice throughout your study. Even after you’ve graduated, we continue to give you support for up to five years.

Employers tell us that they want graduates to be able to demonstrate certain skills when they come out of university. Our courses take account of this. We make sure we prepare you for employment through work-related learning, projects, placements and working in simulated environments that are designed to prepare you for the working world.

Video Description

BA (Hons) Illustration student Jacob Hill-Gowing explains his final year project

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Apply now or visit us

Apply for 2018 entry

To apply, you'll need this course's UCAS code, which is at the top of this page, and the University of Portsmouth institution code – P80.

Apply now

After you apply, we'll invite you to an Applicant Experience Day where you’ll get to speak to lecturers and meet your future classmates.

Open Days for courses starting in 2019

Come to an Open Day and explore our course facilities, tour the campus and have a look around our halls of residence.

Book your Open Day

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.

University of Portsmouth
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Winston Churchill Avenue
Portsmouth PO1 2UP

T: +44 (0)23 9284 8484