You know you can draw. Everybody says so. Now is your chance to explore how to turn that talent into a life as a commercial illustrator. It’s one of the most creative careers a person can have.

Bachelor's Degree

Earn Your Degree in 44 Months

Our Bachelor of Graphic Arts degree in Commercial Illustration offers students the opportunity to learn about conceptual, creative and technical skills necessary to thrive and have a career in this creative industry. With options to explore major genres of illustration, students will learn about specialized skills in advertising, book publishing, editorial art, alternative media and sequential art. The strong digital component will keep your skills current, and prepare you for what’s on the horizon.

Students will understand print design, as well as traditional and digital illustration including 3D rendering. From fundamental techniques to emerging digital technologies, Nossi instructors will prepare you for freelance and full-time careers in commercial illustration.

Illustration Courses


  • Bachelor of Graphic Arts
    Commercial Illustration
  • 136 curriculum hours

Courses of major

  • BD101

    This fundamental course introduces the beginning art student to the principles of drawing. Accurate observations of shapes, forms, contours and tones will be stressed while learning to use a variety of mediums, i.e. pen and ink, graphite pencils, charcoal, marker and colored pencil techniques. Fundamental understanding of perspective drawing concepts, including one-, two- and three-point perspective will also be taught in this course. Students will produce works of art using a variety of drawing techniques i.e: cross-hatching, hatching, scumbling, back-fourth strokes, overlaying colors, stippling and washes.

  • DC102

    Students are introduced to the principles of design using a variety of media as they complete projects that emphasize various aspects of composition. They will learn about balance, repetition of shape, positive and negative space, focal point, the illusion of depth and motion.

  • IL103

    This comprehensive foundational course teaches students to use perspective to depict spatial and volumetric depth in paintings and drawings, in both traditional and digital mediums. Beginning with simple line sketches and building skills in more complex tonal drawings, students will learn to create a sense of the third dimension with the figure, still life, landscape and structures as subjects. Students examine one-, two- and multi-point perspective methods and learn to add reality with tonal range and light source.

  • CT105

    Students are introduced to the principles of color theory utilizing various affects, techniques and mediums to create a comprehensive understanding of color principles. Light, hue, value and saturation are all explored in the course and students will learn many aspects of color relationship, application and how to affectively utilize the many facets of color and color theory in the commercial art field.

  • TY110

    Students will study the history of lettering from ancient symbols to today’s digital technology. Students will also study various type families, become familiar with the terminology and practice the art of hand lettering. Students will learn the art of designing with type and become familiar with different ‘moods’ or the feel type can have for different occasions. Students will also learn different styles of type used throughout history. Emphasis on rules for proper letter spacing, word spacing and the arrangement of type for maximum readability will be stressed.

  • AF130

    The structure of the human body is taught by observing the skeleton of the human figure. Understanding the bone structure is an essential prerequisite to drawing the human figure accurately with an emphasis on the muscular structure of the human body. Upon completion, students will be able to produce professional drawings of anatomically correct figures, depict chiaroscuro (the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting) in the figure, contrast and emphasize value and placement of the figures by using pencil, charcoal, pastel, conté and other mediums.

  • AI140

    This course will teach students the Adobe Illustrator program, which is the industry standard for vector-based design in the graphic arts field. Students will learn to create their own designs, illustrations and reach an understanding of the types of real-world problems students face on the job. Printing, color and design techniques (the latter learned in the various graphic design courses) will be integrated for completion of the various projects.

  • GD115

    Students will explore the theory of aesthetics and design concepts as it applies to graphics. It will also encompass a detailed investigation into the principles and concepts of effective visual communications through the use of two- and three-dimensional design with a goal of creative problem solving. There is also an emphasis in Information Gathering, Step 1 of the Nossi 9 Step Creative Process and commercial application of designing corporate graphics such as logos and symbol designs.

  • PS142

    Adobe Photoshop is the premier program for photographic manipulation for Graphic Designers and Illustrators. It is used for everything from print to web to video and now 3D. In this course, you will learn how to work within Adobe Photoshop, creating strong visuals for many different mediums. You will learn how to scan images and then modify them for use in your projects. And you will learn all of the tools of Photoshop. During learning these tools you will learn to manipulate images, create posters, paintings, videos and 3D advertisements.

  • TY216

    Students will delve deeper into the usage of fonts as a major design element. Real life projects will allow students to “practice” choosing appropriate fonts for the subject/client as well as choosing the correct size and color. Students will learn to properly use space, the typographic grid and hierarchy in their designs. Students will begin to use type as a graphic art.

  • ID160

    InDesign is the program for page layout artists. It is used to create highend advertisements, lay out magazines and books, as well as other print projects that need exacting typographic and layout specifications. InDesign also has the ability to produce interactive PDFs and Apps for the iPad. In this course, you will learn how to implement InDesign into the daily workflow of your design career. You will also break down actual ad and layout designs from magazines and newspapers to discuss how these can be built within InDesign.

  • AM218

    In this course, students will be introduced to various painting mediums to increase their versatility in the visual communications industry. Projects in watercolor, gouache, acrylic, oil and mixed media will be explored.

  • GD120

    This course is a continuation of Graphic Design Fundamentals concerning the creative process. Emphasis is on conceptual execution with diverse projects including simple packaging, ads, posters, print design and brand identity. The course focuses on how people see and arrange visual information into a meaningful whole. Students will also get a deep-dive into specialized printing materials and techniques, design terminology, digital design and the ‘business of design.

  • PS324

    Adobe Photoshop is the premier program for creating digital paintings and illustrations. It is used for everything from print to web to video. In this course, students will learn to work with brushes and master the settings. Extensive painting projects weekly and large projects will be achieved.

  • PA205

    In this course the student will learn a series of steps for creating a printed product. From the conception and execution of a design through editing and production of the finished product, students will learn about various printing processes focusing mainly on offset lithography. Upon completion of this course, the student will have a clear understanding of the four-color printing process and their role as graphic designer in the process.

  • IL260

    In this course, students will learn the different genres of illustration markets including editorial, advertising, corporate, technical, book publishing and packaging. Students will be introduced to the business of illustration. Techniques of oil, gouache, marker and color pencil will be presented to the student. Pricing, contracts, kill fees and second rights will be presented. Upon completion of this course, students will have produced four illustrations ready for publication.

  • GD230

    This course will explore the history of advertising and examine its role and importance in society. The student will learn the basics of marketing and product positioning with a focus on Conceptualization, Reflection and Refinement, Steps 3, 4 and 5 of the Nossi 9 Step Creative Process. How an advertising campaign develops, from the concept to final executions including newspapers, magazines, direct mail, television, radio and billboards will be explored, including the use of new medias, i.e. online advertising and social media.

  • BM375

    In this course, students learn the skills and procedures necessary to start a successful freelance operation by learning advantages and disadvantages of freelancing. They will learn what steps are necessary to protect their creative property and ensure that they are paid according to their skills and demand. Ethical standards as well as moral standards will be explored in order that students may understand fair competition in the freelance world. Governmental regulations, licenses and taxes will be explained.

  • IL310

    The course is designed to help illustrators understand the importance of environments and environmental conditions in illustration. The impact and effectiveness in creating the right environment is essential for illustrators to utilize in commercial illustration. Merging the right environment with character, creature and non-organic development can be the difference between a good illustration and a great illustration. Artwork will be created using both traditional and digital mediums and techniques with an emphasis on capitalizing the benefits of both.

  • AF340

    This course will explore the human form in a more in depth study as well as application of movement, clothing, lighting and foreshortening. Students will utilize various mediums and experiment with stylization, interpretation and application of human anatomy in visual communications. Concepts of perspective, structure and composition will also be introduced in this course, while exploring the affects that clothing and coverings have on the human form. Some introduction to animal and quadruped structure will also be introduced. Both traditional and digital mediums will be used in this course.

  • AI350

    Traditional mediums and the powerful colorization tools of Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat are merged for an unbeatable combination in the field of illustration. Savvy professionals today recognize the value of both worlds and in combination they can bring visual skills highly sought after in today’s marketplace.

  • IL360

    Students will have the opportunity to explore illustration in the narrative form. Storyboarding video productions, television commercials and feature films are a necessity in the world of visual entertainment. Comic books, since inception, have used sequential illustration to visualize concepts and tell their stories. Students will also explore the concept and development of Concept Art, where the main goal is to convey a visual representation of design, idea and/or mood for use in films, video games, animation or comic books prior to final art.

  • IL470

    Students will have the opportunity to further explore commercial illustration in the narrative form. This course will cover advanced typography and illustration in logo development to 3D applications and producing photographic quality illustrations, professional development and exploration in motion graphics. Professional application of concepts will be addressed in the campaign form of advertising. All aspects of graphic design and illustration will be applied to these concepts.

  • MD480

    This course will allow students to be introduced to the world of 3D visualization using Modo. Modo is recognized as a user-friendly standard in various fields like print, game design and animation. This will be the first major step for students in 3D principles. Students will start by learning the interface and how to maneuver around the application. As students progress, modeling, texturing and different layout concepts (including UV) will be explored. By the conclusion of this class, students will be able to create simple objects or environments and will texture, light and then render them for print purposes.

  • IL410

    Students will research advertising agencies, design studios and corporations and inquire about their illustration needs. Projects will range from annual reports to products and posters.

  • IL420

    Students are introduced to the world of book illustration for the publishing world. For Children’s PB or Graphic Novel (children to adult target ages), historical and religious books, all genres will be researched by students and evaluated. From this exercise, students will choose their direction of expertise and interest.

  • IL430

    Students will be providing illustration solutions to the editorial needs of newspapers, magazines and corporations, both on a local and national level. Political satire and bringing visual life to the written word are examples of the areas to be explored.

  • IL435

    This course will introduce students to digital sculpting and how it can be used in various forms of illustration. Digital sculpting is being used more and more by various companies and artists because of its speed and functionality. Students will be taught primarily in ZBrush but will also be using Photoshop to concept their artwork and produce finished pieces. The main purpose of this course is to give students a strong introduction to ZBrush and have them learn how to move around the interface confidently.

  • IL440

    In this course, students will create a cohesive body of illustrations best represent each student’s interests and strengths. Students will use the media with which they are most confident. Emphasis is on the individual style that most fits the student’s artistic personality. Upon completion of this course, students will have created imagery suitable for use in a promotional campaign.

  • CW210

    The focus of this course is to provide students with the essential skills for professional copywriting and editing. Students will learn how to recognize the purpose behind any piece of copy, use creative skills to make their copy reach target audiences, apply technical specifications to any piece of copy through the use of style sheets and format spoken English into acceptable professional copy.

  • IS440
    INDEPENDENT STUDY (optional)

    Independent study courses are individually designed to meet specific needs of students. They may vary from one to four semester hours of credit. They may be in any subject area a student needs in order to complete degree requirements. Independent study courses must be approved by a member of the faculty, the student’s department coordinator and by the Vice President of Academic Affairs.

  • BU450

    This course provides students who are about to graduate an opportunity to explore the presentation and interviewing techniques used to find employment. Positive self-image and goal setting concepts are reintroduced. Students are expected to create communication materials for self-promotion and develop strategies for networking and community involvement, including internship opportunities. Students must participate in a formal portfolio presentation of their work to the community and to their fellow students. They are given instructions in portfolio presentation and preparation for career opportunities.

General education courses

  • EN280

    This course is designed to provide the student with instruction in two major areas of the English language – writing and oral communication skills. Writing techniques using correct English grammar will be emphasized and will be applicable for different environments including corporate, business and professional settings. A variety of public speaking techniques will also be taught. The student will learn what is appropriate for each situation in which, as a professional artist, he might find himself.

  • AH302
    American History

    This course examines history in America. The course will be a combination of lecture and discussion. 

  • SS104

    Success Strategies is a course in goal setting, techniques of note and test taking, problem solving skills, time management and critical thinking skill development. The course is designed to help each student improve his learning skills. In addition, students will acquire skills necessary to succeed as commercial artists. Life enhancing principles are also a major aspect of this course.

  • PS108

    This is a survey course of the science of psychology. It covers the key terms of most of the psychological concepts from brain biology to abnormal, motivational and developmental psychology. This course surveys a broad field of study. A study of the thinking and research behind various fields of psychology will lead to a discussion of how each field applies to human events in the everyday lives of people. An examination of how psychology applies to advertising, graphic arts, illustration and photography will be made.

  • MA300

    Students will examine common uses of mathematics in everyday life. This course will also focus upon mathematical applications involving choice, voting systems, routing and networks, project scheduling, descriptive and inferential statistics and probability.

  • WC301

    This course presents students with a survey of Western Civilization from the ancient world to contemporary culture. Through discussion and appreciation of historical works, students will draw connections between the origins and influences of Western Civilization, as well as an understanding of its role in shaping cultures.

  • ES300

    This GE requirement was established, in part, because of the potent influence of science on society. Therefore, a major objective of this course is to help develop an understanding of the nature of science, including its philosophical basis, power and limitations. The content of the course is centered on life and its relationship to the environment.

  • LT211

    This class is designed to enhance the student’s understanding and exposure to literature. Readings will come from PDF files on Moodle as well as from handouts from the instructor. A novel reading is required and each student will read and analyze a different novel from a list provided by the instructor. Readings from different genres and cultures will include short stories, poetry and drama. Essays to analyze the readings are the method of assessment as well as tests over the readings and background materials.

  • EN270

    This English class will include intensive grammar review as well as writing assignments to complete a portfolio. Illustrations are encouraged to enhance the writing and the portfolio (these can add points to the grade). A resume and a cover letter are a separate part of the writing. A research paper is required and must have the correct documentation and analysis format. Professional presentation of final portfolio is required for completion of this course.

Who you'll be learning from

Mark Fleming


Bill Latta


Illustration students learn to see the concept of a project and learn to tell that story visually. The creative edge combined with the artistic skill set is what our students develop before becoming professional visual story tellers.

Mark Fleming - Illustration Coordinator

Common careers for Nossi illustration graduates:

  • 3D Modeling Artist
  • Fashion Illustrator
  • Book Publishing Illustrator
  • Comic Illustrator
  • Editorial / Advertising Illustrator
  • Illustration Agent or Representative
  • Political Cartoonist
  • Sequential / Concept Artist
  • Multimedia Artist/Animator
  • Sketch Artists

Fall Semester begins Sept 9

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Hugh Shelton took his Sequential Illustration class to Comix City Too! to meet up with NOSSI Alumni Mark Angell and discuss the changing world of comics. Mark explained the history of comics, variety of comic styles and how comics have adapted to the digital medium. Afterward, the students got to shop and engage in Q&A