Skip to Navigation
    University of Colorado Denver
  Jan 20, 2018
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog

Illustration Emphasis, Fine Arts BFA

Return to Programs Return to: Programs


Please click here  to see general Visual Arts information.

Illustrators tell stories, express ideas and communicate through visual art. The profession spans a wide range of applications, encompassing graphic novels, scientific illustration, visual development for animation and games, children’s books, interactive illustration and anything an illustrator can bring to life. The field includes editorial, advertising and product illustration. Given the vast array of opportunities, today’s illustrators must understand how to communicate effectively with a chosen medium and situate their work professionally within a particular market.

Students in the illustration emphasis receive instruction in conceptual illustration, digital illustration, rendering, perspective, painting, exhibition preparation, professional practices and the use of various artistic and illustration techniques. In preparation for a professional illustration career, the course work allows students to master numerous essential digital and traditional tools.

Program Delivery

  • This is an on-campus program.

Declaring This Major

  • Click here   to go to information about declaring a major.

  • Students who are applying for entrance into the illustration emphasis must submit a portfolio, as described below. The illustration emphasis accepts applications twice a year. Students who meet the requirements and are accepted go on to take upper-division illustration courses.


 University of Colorado Denver Students

 The student has completed, or is in the process of completing, the following courses:

A minimum cumulative fine arts/art history GPA of 2.75

Transfer Students

The student has completed and is transferring a minimum of 24 credit hours from a previous institution.

Student has completed, or is in the process of completing, the equivalents of the following courses:

A minimum cumulative fine arts/art history GPA of 2.75


Students applying to the illustration emphasis submit a portfolio of 10 images in digital format, a written statement and unofficial transcript(s) from CU Denver and all previous post-secondary educational institutions. Application materials must be uploaded to by November 1 or April 1 at 5:00 pm (Mountain Time)The November 1 application deadline is strongly recommended. Applications are only accepted online and must be formatted to the specifications listed below. There is a $30 fee to apply.

Portfolio of Images

  • The portfolio must include a minimum of 10 digital images of creative work (but no more than 15). Submit six or more images of artworks done in FINE 1100 Drawing I, FINE 1400 Two-Dimensional Design, FINE 1500 Three-Dimensional Design and FINE 2405 Introduction to Digital Design. Artwork examples should demonstrate skill in observational drawing, linear perspective and life drawing, as well as  an understanding of design principles. Additional examples (up to five) may be in the form of design, drawing, painting, photography, mixed media and/or printmaking.
  • All images should be formatted as JPEGs. Limit file size to 1 megabyte. File names must be numbered, include the student’s last name, and then an underscore and a brief title.

File Name Examples:

  • 1_lastname_figuredrawing.jpeg
  • 2_lastname_still-lifedrawing.jpeg

Note:  For each image uploaded to SlideRoom, the applicant must provide the following information:  title, year, media and size, the name of the course for which it was created (if applicable)  and a brief explanation of the artwork.

Written Statement

A written statement must be uploaded as a PDF file with the portfolio on SlideRoom. In the essay, the student should address the following questions in no more than one page in length (400-500 words).

  • Why do you want to study illustration and what goals and expectations do you have regarding a career as an illustrator?
  • What are your creative strengths, and what areas need further development?
  • What other accomplishments would you like the committee to know about, such as Dean’s List, GPA, internships, art-related extracurricular activities or relevant professional experience?

Course Transcripts

These may be official or unofficial transcripts from CU Denver and previous post-secondary institutions. The CU Denver transcript must show any current semester courses.


  • A committee of painting, drawing and illustration faculty members reviews the application materials.  Acceptance into the illustration emphasis is based on the portfolio images, written statement and GPA.
  • If not admitted into the illustration emphasis, a student has the choice of attempting the review process again in a later semester or applying to another emphasis. Students are encouraged to apply for more than one emphasis. Students are also encouraged to schedule a meeting with the area head of illustration to learn ways to improve their portfolios for future submissions.

Please note that there are minors in illustration and painting/drawing. Should students not get into their first choice emphasis area, there is the possibility of minoring in that area. These minors do not require portfolio review. To learn more, please link to these minors from the Programs  page in this catalog.

The application is evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Presentation - The portfolio should be well-crafted and well organized in content and presentation.
  • Technical Skill - The portfolio should demonstrate strong proficiency in drawing, composition, design and color.
  • Creativity - The portfolio should demonstrate creative choices in content and aesthetics.
  • Conceptual Skills - The portfolio and written statements should reflect analytical thinking and conceptual exploration of the foundations of drawing and design.
  • Written Statement - The statement should outline academic and artistic goals, addressing any potential strengths and weaknesses.
  • Academic Performance - The grades must reflect a commitment to learning and growth.
  • Completeness of Application - All required documentation must be submitted (images, written statement and transcripts).


For more portfolio information, please contact or illustration area head Melissa Furness at

General Requirements

To earn a degree, students must satisfy all requirements in each of the areas below, in addition to their individual major requirements.

Program Requirements

  1. A minimum grade of C (2.0) is required for each course applied toward a College of Arts & Media major, minor or certificate requirement. A grade of C- (1.7) or lower will not fulfill a major, minor or certificate requirement. A grade of P is acceptable for courses in which the only grade available is Pass or Fail.
  2. All upper-division visual arts courses must be taken at CU Denver unless approved otherwise by Department of Visual Arts faculty.
  3. At least 27 semester hours of visual arts credits (at any level) must be taken at CU Denver.
  4. At least 24 semester hours of total visual arts courses must be upper-division.

Return to Programs Return to: Programs