Select Page

The study of visual arts covers a wide range of topics and programs. While most visual arts courses will share some courses, such as art history and portfolio building classes, the core courses that make up the programs can vary wildly based on the medium or materials being used. Here are some common programs for visual arts and what they entail.


Painting is the poster child of the visual arts field. It’s one of the first things to come to mind when someone mentions visual arts or fine art. A painting program generally consists of courses teaching the basics of painting techniques, brush strokes, and working with various paints like acrylics and watercolors. You’ll also learn about color theory and the use of colors, as well as different art styles and techniques used throughout history. Some programs might also include photography courses for how to best photograph your art for building a portfolio.


While a large part of photography comes down to proper framing and capturing the perfect moment to bring your artistic vision to light, a photography program will teach you a lot more of the technical aspects that go into getting a good photograph. You’ll learn different lighting and staging techniques, how to develop film, as well as how to do adjustments and editing in Photoshop. 


Illustration programs incorporate a wide variety of mediums, including graphite pencil, charcoal, pastels, ink, paints, digital art programs, as well as mixed media. Illustration programs tend to focus on still life and figure drawing, anatomy and the human form, scene composition, landscape drawing, portraiture, as well as concepts and theory regarding character design. 

Graphic Design

Graphic design is one of the more broad and encompassing programs in the visual arts field. Since graphic design is more about the composition of an image and conveying a message, it isn’t as restricted in terms of a medium as much as something like painting or photography. Classes for graphic design will include digital design classes using programs like Photoshop and InDesign, mixed media classes, painting and illustration classes, color theory, packaging design classes, printmaking, and large-scale printing classes, as well as various classes on art theory discussing design trends and influential design movements throughout history.