School of Art, Design and Architecture

BA (Hons) Illustration

Come and study Illustration in beautiful, lively, purpose built studios with access to amazing resources with a friendly creative, collaborative body of students and award winning staff. Where we will help you to forge your own individual visual voice to succeed in today's fast-paced developing creative worlds.

While developing your personal visual ‘voice', you could also start getting noticed in the professional world by taking part in external commissions and competitions. You will set your work in a global context through inspiring overseas study trips to places such as London, Berlin and Bologna. You could also choose to take part in an International Exchange programme in your second year, broadening your cultural references and forging new contacts in the international illustration scene.

University of Plymouth ranked top for Design & Crafts in the Guardian's 2021 university rankings

  • 1st for 'Satisfied with Course' (92.5/100)
  • 2nd for 'Satisfied with Teaching' (92.7/100)
  • 7th overall for Design & Crafts (90.8/100)

BA (Hons) Illustration.  illustration. desk image

Register in advance for Clearing

We'll give you a call on A level results day to discuss your place at Plymouth, meaning there's one less thing to worry about.

Find out more about Clearing

Key features
  • Be inspired by a varied studio-based culture and practise in our easy-access workshop facilities. Take part in everything from life and location drawing to printmaking and media exploration.
  • Develop your Photoshop, Premiere, InDesign and Flash skills in digital workshops, and explore typography basics, bookbinding, creative writing and more.
  • Gain invaluable knowledge, confidence and professional awareness by seizing work experience opportunities in years 2 and 3. This can range from simple studio visits to longer-term placements and collaboration, such as graduate Kate Mowbray’s placement as a Publishing Assistant with BBC History Magazine.
  • Develop your personal visual ‘voice' and start getting noticed in the professional world by taking part in external commissions and competitions. Get an insight into the world of our award-winning students with freelance illustrator, Jack Teagle
  • Define your illustrative direction within specific routes such as comic/graphic novels, children’s markets, printmaking, and design for animation/screen – or continue to explore within a broad range of practice. 
  • Raise your profile and make new contacts by exhibiting your work at both our Degree Show and London graduate shows.
  • Set your work in a global context through inspiring overseas study trips to places such as London, New York and Barcelona.
  • Choose to take part in an International Exchange programme in your second year, broadening your cultural references and forging new contacts in the international illustration scene. Find out about recent student Alexander Lee’s experiences living and learning in Japan.
  • Benefit from a varied visiting speaker programme of illustrators, commissioning editors, publishers and ex-graduates ready to share advice and insight to help shape your future career.
  • Make use of a range of facilities, including the University's screen and traditional print and letterpress studios.
  • Build up your analogue and digital portfolios and develop your professional profile and confidence, ensuring you’re ready for whatever future direction you wish to pursue, whether freelance, studio-based or within further education such as MA or PGCE courses. 
  • Our National Student Survey (NSS) 2020 return show that 97% of students felt our staff were good at explaining things and 93% of students were overall satisfied with the course.*
Course details
  • Year 1
  • The first year will introduce you to the basics of illustration practice. You’ll develop your knowledge of image-making through character design, life drawing, printmaking, bookbinding, sequential and conceptual approaches, digital workshops and media exploration. We’ll also introduce you to the techniques and essential processes of illustration practice within historical and contemporary frameworks, preparing you for year 2.
    Core modules
    • ILLUS405 Character

      You visually explore character creation via a broad range of traditional and digital media and formats whilst being introduced to some of the design processes utilised within illustration practice. Practical character development, narrative, creative writing and debate on the ethics of representation are featured. Critical reflection underpins practical work and help you to identify strengths and weaknesses.

    • ILLUS406 Gaining Confidence In...

      You explore a range of conceptual, theoretical and practical projects and challenges concentrating upon the fundamentals of contemporary and future Illustrative practice. Areas include narrative sequence, interactivity, semiotics, metaphor, ideas generation, drawing, printmaking, critical and analytical reflection and writing, allowing you to gain confidence in a range of practical and conceptual skills. Potential for collaborative practice.

  • Year 2
  • In your second year, you can keep your focus broad or pursue a more specific area of personal interest at a deeper level. You’ll make contact with experts in the industry and analyse why the creative world is how it is. Critical and contextual modules with a varied visiting speaker programme will help you begin to position yourself as a professional. You’ll also have the opportunity to take part in placements, live briefs and competitions, to study abroad or collaborate with other disciplines.
    Optional modules
    • ILLUS502 Thematic

      Working on a shared theme you explore a range of design processes highlighting the potential strand exit awards. The resulting diverse array of outcomes developed from one central topic helps you to consider the impact audience and context have upon communications. You identify a context within illustration practice and in consultation with tutors write an individual proposal which reflects personally identified objectives. A visual research journal evidences research into the breadth of Illustrative practices culminating in a written report.

    • ILLUS503 Research and Practice

      Engaging with representational theories within the global, historical, contemporary and cultural landscape you express your findings as part of a group. Study trips offer the opportunity to gain primary research. Lectures, research, seminars and tutorials, run throughout the module. Drawing skills are defined and explored as a test bed for ideas and a reflective tool-kit for discovery. The module is also designed to extend your visual research skills and awareness of the value of drawing within illustration and associated media

    • ILLUS504 Interpreting Information

      Choosing from a selection of information from a variety of sources aligned to UN Sustainability Goals, you initially engage in group activity and then negotiate a personal project brief that allows you to interpret that information for a specific illustration context. This negotiated learning helps you to question and, where appropriate, reinforce your ambitions. Competition briefs and/or work-based learning through placements or studio visits may be undertaken as part of this module (subject to negotiation).

    • ILLUS505 Common Challenge: Technique and Approach 2

      Working on a Faculty set theme, individual or group research identifies, analyses and communicates an investigation into the theme. Lectures and research run throughout the module, to support the writing of an essay on the work of an individual or a group of practitioners in illustration or an allied area whose practice reflects the theme. Preparation for dissertation is undertaken. Drawing skills develop along with knowledge of the value of drawing within illustrative practice within a collaborative, cross-disciplinary environment.

    • ILLUS520 Japanese Exchange and Report

      This module enables you to extend your experience and understanding of illustration through study abroad. You spend a minimum of twelve weeks at the Hokkaido College of Art & Design, Bisen, Japan. This offers the opportunity to increase communication skills, self-reliance, a greater awareness of cultural values and increased vocational prospects. You write and present a critical evaluation of your educational, cultural and personal experience.

    • ILLUS531 International Exchange and Report

      The module is designed to extend your experience and understanding of subjects through study abroad. You spend a minimum of twelve weeks at an approved international institution offering illustration or complementary design options as a major subject. This offers the opportunity to increase communication skills, self-reliance, a greater awareness of cultural values and increased vocational prospects. You write a critical evaluation of your educational, cultural and personal experience.

  • Final year
  • There is increased emphasis on developing and consolidating your personal visual ‘voice' in your final year, while visiting lecturers will offer a variety of viewpoints. You’ll undertake a dissertation related to your personal interests and have the chance to exhibit your work at both our Degree Show and in London. Modules focus your attention on building up your analogue and digital portfolios, and raising your professional profile and confidence ready for your first job in your chosen field.
    Core modules
    • ADA600 Common Dissertation: Critical Practices

      The module engages students in situating practice through research, contextualisation and critical reflection, in relation to their final stage study and post University aspirations. Programmes can offer: a traditional dissertation; preparation for an extended dissertation; situating existing practice; or the construction of a new body of work as practice-based research.

    • ILLUS601 Negotiated 1

      A number of broad themes are presented. After reflection and evaluation of previous conclusions and future ambitions, you select one theme and submit a typed brief associated with the selection to satisfy your personally identified goals. Upon acceptance of your brief, you undertake an in-depth study of the chosen theme (or the identified aspect of the theme) and produce a body of work that responds to your written brief, demonstrating a full engagement with the task defined within the brief. Competition or live briefs may be undertaken as part of this module provided they fit within the agreed proposal and cover the Learning Outcomes. At the end of this module you may opt (subject to negotiation) to focus your studies towards one of the specific exit award titles.

    • ILLUS622 Negotiated 2

      This module is designed to consolidate the learning achieved throughout and prepare you for your professional ambitions. After an initial period of preparation, research and consultation, you submit a written brief identifying aims and objectives reflecting your practice and professional aspirations. Following approval of the proposal you undertake an extensive period of self-directed, negotiated study leading to the production of a substantial body of work. The work is presented either via report or verbally and visually. Competition or live briefs may be undertaken as part of this module provided they fit within the agreed proposal and cover the Learning Outcomes.

    • ILLUS641 Professional Practice 1: Portfolio

      After an initial period of preparation, research, consultation and proposed project work, you submit a portfolio / showreel evidencing your practice to date and a short type-written summary reflecting upon your practice and professional aspirations, identifying your aims and learning objectives for the year ahead. You start to build links within the professional world you have ambitions within. Competitions, live briefs or work-based learning may be undertaken as part of this module.

    Optional modules
    • ILLUS634 Extended Dissertation: Conclusion

      You build upon the work undertaken within ADA600 Option 1 to further develop your chosen topic and existing research and reflection, assimilating this into a final output of a dissertation of critical writing (between 10,000 and 12,000 words). You are allocated a tutor for the module. Field study trips to gain first hand research may be undertaken.

    • ILLUS642 Professional Practice 2: Report

      You locate your studio-based practice within a context of your chosen area of professional specialism and articulate this understanding through production of a report and associated promotional items, thereby equipping yourself for entry into professional practice or post-graduate study. You gain a deeper understanding of the business and professional dimensions of the subject of illustration. Field study trips to gain first hand research may be undertaken.

Every undergraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the course aims, the course structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest course structure and may be subject to change:

BA Hons Illustration Programme Specification 3888

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the changeable nature of the situation and any updates to government guidance, we may need to make further, last minute adjustments to how we deliver our teaching and learning on some or all of our programmes, at any time during the academic year. We want to reassure you that even if we do have to adjust the way in which we teach our programmes, we will be working to maintain the quality of the student learning experience and learning outcomes at all times.
Entry requirements

UCAS tariff

96 - 144

A level
A minimum of 2 A levels, General Studies accepted.

International Baccalaureate
26-36 points.

18 Unit BTEC National Diploma/QCF Extended Diploma

BTEC National Diploma modules
If you hold a BTEC qualification it is vital that you provide our Admissions team with details of the exact modules you have studied as part of the BTEC. Without this information we may be unable to process your application quickly and you could experience significant delays in the progress of your application to study with us. Please explicitly state the full list of modules within your qualification at the time of application.

All access courses
Pass a named Access to Higher Education Diploma (preferably art and design or combined), with at least 33 credits at merit and/or distinction.

Mathematics and English Language grade C.

English language requirements.

Equivalent qualifications may be considered, please contact

We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications refer to our tariff glossary.

Applicants are required to submit a portfolio, with an optional informal interview, for entry onto this course. Please note all applicant interviews for 2021 entry will take place through Zoom. Your Zoom interview will be arranged by our academic team, if you have any questions, please contact our Admissions Team, drop us an email at or alternatively give us a call +44 1752 585858.

Find further information on our interview and portfolio guidance page.

Fees, costs and funding

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU applicants should refer to our Brexit information to understand the implications.

New Student 2021 2022
Home £9,250 To be confirmed
International £14,200 To be confirmed
Part time (Home) £770 To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. For more information about fees and funding please visit

Additional costs

This course is delivered by the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business and more details of any additional costs associated with the faculty's courses are listed on the following page: Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business additional costs.

For more information about our fees and funding visit
How to apply
All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). 

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code. 

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

How to become an award-winning illustrator

University of Plymouth's lecturer and programme leader Ashley Potter talks about how he became a professional illustrator, his biggest achievements and why he enjoys teaching at the University.

Read the interview

Illustration is all around us, in all forms of communication. 

We’ll encourage you to explore a range of techniques, media and approaches – so you’ll be just as likely to see your work on the side of a building or on a tablet screen as on the pages of a book or magazine.

We have 5 Exit Award Strands within Illustration:

BA Hons Illustration (core award)
BA Hons Illustration: Animation & the Screen
BA Hons Illustration: Children’s Markets
BA Hons Illustration: Comics & Visual Narratives
BA Hons Illustration: Printmaking

These allow you to either follow a broad practice or a more specific one.

Explore the strands.

What our students say

Plymouth Press Club

The in-house press of BA (Hons) Illustration.  

We make small run print publications (books, zines and newspapers) from invited guests, students and staff on the BA (Hons) Illustration course.

Discover more about Plymouth Press Club

What will it be like to start university?

Beginning university is for many people a pivotal moment in their lives, embarking on new experiences, meeting new people and facing the exciting challenge of independence.

BA (Hons) Illustration and BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing students worked together to create a comic reflecting their experiences of starting university. Flavoured with some creative interpretation, it has been written, illustrated and designed using the skills that they have developed with us.

This diverse collection of comic-book-art and creative writing demonstrates how we can help you to nurture your talents.

Download a PDF of the comic 

The course

“I absolutely love the course. It’s great to be given tasks which help me to grow as an artist. I also benefit from help with so much extra-curricular work e.g. local fairs, advice with commissions etc. – I feel that the lecturers are genuinely invested in helping us to set strong foundations for our careers going forward”

"The course teaches a lot of practical life skills, offers industry opportunities and has fantastic studio space”

“The fact that you have your own desk in the studio space is amazing and a great way to talk and engage with creative people working in different areas of Illustration”

“There are lots of opportunities to participate in events, competitions and workshops to gain experience and explore new mediums.”

“Very free – I don’t feel limited in what I’m able to make. Tutors are very helpful”

“The course pushes you, at no point have I felt in my comfort zone. Encouraging lateral thinking. There’s never a dull moment working in the studio. Banter. And the facilities are really really really good.”



“Coming from the Midlands, it was a nice discovery that the locals were friendly. I have heard ‘lovely’ quite a lot. The ocean is cool. Seen that a few times. Quite like the ice cream here too. It’s like being on holiday part-time.”

“For anyone who prefers countryside to cities, Plymouth has all the advantages of city life without feeling too urban and crowded, especially with the sea right on its doorstep.”

“Close to the sea and countryside, whilst living in a city. Chilled atmosphere.”

“The University of Plymouth is perfectly central with all shops, transport and the train station in a walkable distance. It feels incredibly safe and being by the sea allows you to feel relaxed and free, like you can escape any stresses or worries.”

“Plymouth is a great city in general, because everything you need is within walking distance, but more broadly because the local illustration scene is fantastic”

“Plymouth Hoe is usually a really peaceful place for drawing out and winding down.”

Whale mural by Ben Wills

Big show off

Our students win national and international competitions and work on many live and external briefs.

Graduate Steve Panton recently won a Penguin Design Award for his book cover for The Big Sleep.

Find out more about our prize-winning students

Student success

Reuben places first in global challenge

BA (Hons) Illustration graduate Reuben Lane has won first place in the THU 2019 Desirable Future Golden Ticket Challenge, student category.

"I felt instantly inspired by the theme of Desirable Future, which compelled me to explore mixing forms from nature with functions of the future."

Find out more about our student success

Winning artwork by Reuben Lane for THU Golden Ticket Challenge

Winning artwork by Reuben Lane for THU Golden Ticket Challenge


* These are the latest results from the National Student Survey. Please note that the data published on Discover Uni (Unistats) is updated annually in September.