In RIT’s medical illustration degree, you’ll take complex scientific and medical information and distill it into stunning visual images.
What is a medical illustrator?
A medical illustrator is a professional artist with advanced education in the sciences (biology, human anatomy, physiology) and in art and design (illustration, 2D/3D/4D digital design, animation, interactive media). They are skilled in creating art that illustrates the things we often cannot see (internal organs of a body, cells and molecules, muscle tissues and tendons) or that need deeper explanation (how a surgery takes place, the inner workings of the human body, how a disease progresses).
Medical illustrators work with scientists, physicians, surgeons, researchers, and other medical specialists to take complex scientific information and distill it into visual images that can be used in a wide range of applications. These can include textbooks, brochures, infographics, interactive models, 2D and 3D animations, motion graphics, courtroom exhibits, digital presentations, educational materials, and more.
Medical Illustration Courses
During the first two years of the medical illustration degree, you will focus on developing your drawing and traditional illustration skills. During this time, you’ll attend human biology, anatomy, and physiology classes. Building on this foundation of science courses, the third and fourth years of the major emphasize 2D and 3D computer illustration and animation. As a third and fourth-year student, you’ll attend Human Gross Anatomy, a course that includes full head-to-toe dissection in RIT's Cadaver Lab, one of the few undergraduate cadaver labs in the nation. Through collaboration with area hospitals, you will also be able to draw from direct observation of surgical procedures and medical treatments in progress. The medical illustration degree explores all aspects of health care, from the molecular level through the macroscopic and into the theoretical.
Digital technology is integrated into the medical illustration program, which enables you to create highly polished, sophisticated images and well-designed, interactive, educational media presentations that include motion graphics, animation, and sound. You will graduate from the program with a comprehensive medical illustration portfolio that demonstrates your artistic talent, knowledge of scientific visualization, and expertise using multimedia.
Throughout your course work, you may select elective courses that enhance your studies or enables you to pursue an area of personal or professional interest. Electives are available in graphic design, new media design, 3D digital graphics, illustration, graphic visualization, industrial design, interior design, fine arts studio, environmental design, ceramics, glass, metals, textiles, woodworking, filmmaking, and photography. Additional electives are offered as special topics courses.
Refine Your Medical Illustration Portfolio
The medical illustration degree requires studio art experience and a portfolio of original artwork. In addition to offering portfolio requirements, RIT’s School of Art offers an annual Pre-College Portfolio Preparation Workshop. This two-week visual arts class is designed to help prepare the portfolios of rising high school juniors and seniors for admission to college art programs. Learn more about the Pre-College Portfolio Preparation Workshop, including information on workshop dates and how to apply.
Graduate Study in Medical Illustration
RIT offers a medical illustration MFA. This is an advanced scientific illustration program and one of only five medical illustration programs at the graduate level in North America, and the only program in the northeast. The two-year program culminates with the production of a thesis project, which requires extensive background research and an original body of art and design work on a complex medical topic.
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Medical Legal Illustrator/Litigation Support Specialist
Medical Book/Texts Illustrator
Information Graphics Illustrator
Medical Editorial Illustrator
Medical Model Designer
Medical Illustration Educator
Medical Illustration Exhibition
A unique partnership with Rochester Regional Health (RRH) allows RIT’s Medical Illustration students to exhibit their work each spring in Rochester General Hospital’s Werner Medical Library. While the...
Medical Illustration and Illustration students learn a variety of techniques and processes of scientific illustration. This is through observational exercises, field trips, and digital and traditional...
Medical Illustration, BFA degree, typical course sequence
Sem. Cr. Hrs.
This course is an introduction to the visualization of form, thought and expression through the drawing process. Concepts are introduced by lectures, discussions, demonstrations, research, and assigned projects. Designed to provide a broad introductory experience, students will experiment with a wide variety of media, tools, techniques and subjects to develop drawing expertise and problem solving skills related to design and composition. Course work will be assessed through critique, facilitating self-assessment, and the growth of both a visual and verbal vocabulary. The focus of the course is to provide awareness of the full range of ways in which drawing is used as a tool for both self-expression and communication. (Undergraduate Imaging Arts and Sciences) Studio 6 (Fall, Spring).
This course is an introduction to the visualization of form, thought and expression through the drawing process. Concepts are introduced by lectures, discussions, demonstrations, research, and assigned projects. Designed to provide a broad introductory experience, students will experiment with a wide variety of media, tools, techniques and subjects to develop drawing expertise and problem solving skills related to design and composition. Course work will be assessed through critique, facilitating self-assessment, and the growth of both a visual and verbal vocabulary. The focus of the course is to provide awareness of the full range of ways in which drawing is used as a tool for both self-expression and communication. (Prerequisites: FDTN-111 or ITDI-211 or equivalent course.) Studio 6 (Fall, Spring, Summer).
2D Design I
This course is a structured, cumulative introduction to the basic elements and principles of two-dimensional design. Organized to create a broad introductory experience, the course focuses on the development of both a visual and a verbal vocabulary as a means of exploring, developing and understanding two-dimensional compositions. Concepts are introduced through lectures, discussions, demonstrations, research, assigned projects and critiques. The course addresses a wide variety of media, tools, techniques both traditional and technological, and theoretical concepts to facilitate skill development and experimentation with process. Visual comprehension, the ability to organize perceptions and horizontal thinking that crosses other disciplines and theories, are key foundational components to the development of problem solving skills. Accumulative aspects of the curriculum included the exploration of historical and cultural themes and concepts intertwined with aspects of personal interpretation and experience. (Undergraduate Imaging Arts and Sciences) Studio 6 (Fall, Spring).
3D Design I
This course presents a progressive study over two-semesters in terminology, visual principles, exploration, concept generation, process, and techniques of three-dimensional design. Using hands-on problem solving, student will develop an informed understanding of the 3D form and space with an emphasis on the elements and principles of visual design and their function as the building blocks and guidelines for ordering a 3D composition. A heightened awareness of form and space will be developed through lecture, assigned projects, and critiques. Students will also develop a personal awareness of problem seeking and solving, experimentation, and critical analysis. **Note: May be taken as a one-semester offering** (Undergraduate Imaging Arts and Sciences) Studio 6 (Fall, Spring).
2D Composition and Color
This course will provide students with instruction and assignments to practice and apply compositional picture plane dynamics using representational subject matter. Students will explore the principles of composition through the use of formal visual elements such as line, shape, value and color to achieve effective two-dimensional compositions. (Prerequisites: FDTN-111 or ITDI-211 or SOFA-108 or equivalent course.) Studio 6 (Spring).
3D Applications: The Figure
Students will build upon their experience in 3D Design I including materials, and building processes, while constructing the human figure. Sculpted figures will portray accurate human anatomic structure, inference of function, and balance. (Prerequisites: FDTN-131 or equivalent course.) Studio 6 (Spring).
General Education – Natural Science Inquiry Perspective: Human Biology I
This course is one of a two-course set of courses that explores the biology of the human body. This course focuses on: cells, their structure, and organization; the human reproductive cycle; principle of genetic inheritance; transmission of disease and the body’s defense against disease. Recommended to concurrently take: MEDG-103 Human Biology Laboratory I *Note: Taken alone, this course fulfills the Scientific Principles Perspective. When taken with MEDG-103 the two courses together fulfill the Natural Science Inquiry Perspective Lecture 3 (Fall).
General Education – Elective: Human Biology II
This course is one of a two-course set of courses that explores the biology of the human body. This course focuses on the examination of the body's structure (anatomy), its function (physiology), the principle of homeostasis that governs the integrated control of all body organ systems, and various disease states (pathology) that affect its health. Recommended to concurrently take: MEDG-104 Human Biology Laboratory II *Note: Taken alone, this course fulfills the Scientific Principles Perspective. When taken with MEDG-104 the two courses together fulfill the Natural Science Inquiry Perspective Lecture 3 (Spring).
General Education – Natural Science Inquiry Perspective: Human Biology Laboratory I
This laboratory complements the lecture material of Human Biology I. Experiments are designed to illustrate the dynamic characteristics of a cell during processes of inheritance, development and disease. Recommended to concurrently take: MEDG-101 Human Biology I *Note: When taken with MEDG-101 the two courses together fulfill the Natural Science Inquiry Perspective Lab 2 (Fall).
General Education – Elective: Human Biology Laboratory II
This laboratory course complements the lecture material presented in Human Biology II. Lab experiments are designed to illustrate the dynamic anatomy and physiology of the human body organ systems. Recommended to concurrently take: MEDG-102 Human Biology II *Note: When taken with MEDG-102 the two courses together fulfill the Natural Science Inquiry Perspective. Lab 2 (Spring).
RIT 365: RIT Connections
RIT 365 students participate in experiential learning opportunities designed to launch them into their career at RIT, support them in making multiple and varied connections across the university, and immerse them in processes of competency development. Students will plan for and reflect on their first-year experiences, receive feedback, and develop a personal plan for future action in order to develop foundational self-awareness and recognize broad-based professional competencies. Lecture 1 (Fall, Spring).
General Education – First-Year Writing (WI)
General Education – Ethical Perspective
General Education – Artistic Perspective: History of Western Art: Ancient to Medieval
In this course students will examine the forms, styles, functions, and meanings of important objects and monuments dating from prehistory through the Middle Ages, and consider these works of art in their social, historical and cultural contexts. The primary goals of this course are to learn how to look, how to describe and analyze what we see, and how to use these skills to understand and explain how art visually expresses meaning. At the end of the term, students will have gained a foundational knowledge of the object, scope and methods of the discipline of art history. The knowledge obtained in this introductory course will also guide students in their own creative endeavors. Lecture 3 (Fall).
General Education – Global Perspective: History of Western Art: Renaissance to Modern
In this course students will examine the forms, styles, functions, and meanings of important objects and monuments dating from the European Renaissance through the beginning of the twentieth century, and consider these works of art in their social, historical and cultural contexts. The primary goals of this course are to learn how to look and how to describe and analyze what we see, and to use these skills to understand and explain how art visually expresses meaning. At the end of the term, students will have gained a foundational knowledge of the object, scope and methods of the discipline of art history. The knowledge obtained in this introductory course will also guide students in their own creative endeavors. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
This course will introduce students to video, photo, sound, and lighting equipment are used to create short-form time-based work. The basic concepts of art and design in time and space. The course explores elements of moving images, such as serial, narrative ordering, still and moving image editing, transitions and syntax, sound and image relations, and principles of movement. The course will address historical conventions of time in art and recent technological advances. In focusing on the relations between students' spacing and timing skills, 4D Design extends and supplements the other foundation courses, and prepares students for further work with time-based media. (Undergraduate Art and Design) Lab 3, Lecture 2 (Fall, Spring).
Computer Applications in Medical Illustration
Students will learn to use industry-standard raster and vector illustration software to create graphics of medical subjects. Students will also use page layout applications to combine digital images with text and other graphic elements. Course work emphasizes creation of illustrations to support medical education and publishing. (Prerequisites: FDTN-111 and FDTN-121 or equivalent courses.) Studio 6 (Spring).
This course will provide an in-depth anatomical approach to drawing the figure. Students will obtain instruction and practice at drawing human anatomy including body and head postures, facial expressions, and hand gestures. Students will learn anatomical proportioning while drawing from observation from models to convey emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, disgust, etc. Students will also learn to use photo support references. Works will be created in black and white and in color media using light and dark, and warm and cool effects. (Prerequisites: FDTN-112 and FDTN-122 or ILLS-206 or equivalent courses.) Studio 5 (Fall, Spring).
Human Anatomy and Physiology I
This course is an integrated approach to the structure and function of the nervous, endocrine, integumentary, muscular and skeletal systems. Laboratory exercises include histological examination, actual and simulated anatomical dissections, and physiology experiments with human subjects. (Prerequisites: (BIOL-101 and BIOL-102) or (BIOL-121 and BIOL-122) or (1001-201 and 1001-202 and 1001-203) or (1001-251 and 1001-252 and 1001-253) or (MEDG-102 or 1026-213) or NUTR-BS equivalent courses.) Lab 3, Lecture 3 (Fall).
Human Anatomy and Physiology II
This course is an integrated approach to the structure and function of the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, immunological, respiratory, excretory, and reproductive systems with an emphasis on the maintenance of homeostasis. Laboratory exercises include histological examinations, anatomical dissections and physiological experiments using human subjects. (Prerequisites: (BIOL-101 and BIOL-102) or (BIOL-121 and BIOL-122) or (1001-201 and 1001-202 and 1001-203) or (1001-251 and 1001-252 and 1001-253) or (MEDG-102 or 1026-213) or NUTR-BS equivalent courses.) Lab 3, Lecture 3 (Spring).
Illustration Professional Elective‡
General Education – Social Perspective
Human Gross Anatomy
An in-depth study of the structure of the human body. Emphasis is on understanding the relationships between anatomical structures as well as their form, texture, and color. Dissection of a human cadaver is supplemented with lectures on the structure and function of the major organ systems. (Prerequisites: MEDS-251 or equivalent course.) Lab 9, Lecture 3 (Fall).
Illustrating Human Anatomy
Drawings of lab dissections and the skeleton will be translated into illustrations designed to support instruction in Human Gross Anatomy. Course teaches what choices need to be made when translating literal drawings into illustrations that support instruction. The target learner for these illustrations is a student attending Human Gross Anatomy at a graduate level. (Prerequisites: ILLS-214 or equivalent course.) Studio 6 (Fall).
3D Modeling of Organic Forms
This course introduces strategies used to create NURBS and polygonal models of organic subjects in a three-dimensional environment. Assignments stress accurate portrayal of proportions, form, and texture. Instruction will also focus on creating lighting and shader networks that emphasize form and are consistent with surface characteristics. (Prerequisites: FDTN-131 or equivalent course.) Studio 6 (Fall).
3D Animation of Organic Forms
This course explores animating biomedical subjects and processes in their native environment to create illustrations. Students will be asked to research and create illustrations that animate their findings. Frame by frame animation, blend shapes, non-linear deformers and “rigging” systems will be introduced to permit students to choose the most effective method for creating motion and transformation. (Prerequisites: ILLM-503 or equivalent course.) Studio 6 (Spring).
Emerging technologies enable scientists to visualize structures that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. For example, molecular visualization software allows us to construct highly accurate molecular models from X-ray crystallography and other structural data. Cryo-EM and confocal microscopy are revealing the previously unknown structure of cellular organelles. Medical imaging systems allow us to reconstruct the human body in three dimensions from actual patient data (CT scans, MRI, etc.). This course explores the use of these technologies to provide references for traditional artwork and to export models for digital rendering and animation. (Prerequisites: ILLM-501 and ILLM-507 or equivalent courses.) Studio 6 (Spring).
CAD Studio Elective§
General Education – Immersion 1 (WI), 2
Art History Elective†
Students observe live surgical procedures and translate their sketches into finished illustrations that are used in medical training, patient education, and litigation. Demonstrations of sketching and rendering techniques are supplemented with lectures on general surgical principles and common procedures. (Prerequisites: ILLM-501 and ILLM-507 or equivalent courses.) Studio 6 (Fall).
Contemporary Media I
This course will introduce students to computer illustration, animation, and interactive media as applied to contemporary methods of instruction in medicine and allied health. Students will develop interactive design pieces to support instruction lessons for the educational health care field. (Prerequisites: ILLM-506 or equivalent course.) Studio 6 (Fall).
Contemporary Media II
This is the second of two courses on the development of student-created interactive media designed to assist in the teaching of medicine and allied health. The course will build off the foundation created in Contemporary Media 1. At the completion of this course, students will be able to create advanced topics in two-dimensional computer illustration, animation, and interactive media for instruction in medicine and allied health. (Prerequisites: ILLM-515 or equivalent course.) Studio 6 (Spring).
Portfolio and Business Practices (WI-PR)
This course will prepare students to enter the workforce in fulltime positions or as freelance illustrators. Students will create a portfolio, personal identity package, and marketing materials. The course content will introduces students to business concepts such as copyright, licensing, pricing, contracts, taxation, and formation of a proper business. (This course is restricted to 4th year students in the ILLM-BFA program who have completed First-Year Writing.) Lab 3, Lecture 2 (Spring).
CAD Studio Electives§
Art History Elective†
General Education – Immersion 3
Total Semester Credit Hours
Please see General Education Curriculum (GE) for more information.
(WI) Refers to a writing intensive course within the major.
Please see Wellness Education Requirement for more information. Students completing bachelor's degrees are required to complete two different Wellness courses.
† Art History electives are non-studio courses searchable in SIS with the Art History attribute of ARTH.
‡ Illustration Professional Electives include the following: Illustration I (ILLS-213), Digital Illustration I (ILLS-219), and Zoological and Botanical Illustration (ILLS-563).
§ CAD Studio Electives are any College of Art and Design course with a studio or lab component, per catalog restrictions.
For all bachelor’s degree programs, a strong performance in a college preparatory program is expected. Generally, this includes 4 years of English, 3-4 years of mathematics, 2-3 years of science, and 3 years of social studies and/or history.
Specific math and science requirements and other recommendations
Studio art experience and a portfolio of original artwork are required for all programs in the schools of Art and Design. View the Portfolio Requirements for more information.
Medical illustration requires biology.
Transfer course recommendations without associate degree
Courses in studio art, art history, and liberal arts. A portfolio of original artwork is required to determine admissions, studio art credit, and year level in the program. View Portfolio Requirements for more information.
Appropriate associate degree programs for transfer
Related programs or studio art experience in desired disciplines. A portfolio of original artwork is required to determine admissions, studio art credit, and year level in the program. View Portfolio Requirements for more information. Summer courses can lead to third-year status in most programs.
RIT Professor James Perkins ’92 MFA (medical illustration) has won the trifecta of RIT honors—this year adding an Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching and Distinguished Professor to his 2015-2016 Trustees Scholarship Award.