Last Updated on April 2, 2023
Want to study art or design in California? We have listed four-year colleges, training institutes, universities and community colleges in California that offer Fine Art, Architecture, Interior Design, Photography, 3D Design, Fashion Design, Animation, Graphic Design, Film, Game Design and other qualifications that are of interest to high school Art students. This article also explains the difference between colleges, community colleges and universities in the USA and outlines what international or out-of-state students might expect when studying an art or design course in the ‘Golden State’.
The universities and colleges included on this page are listed alongside some of the art and design speciality areas that may be offered at each school. These may not reflect recent program changes and the individual school websites should be investigated fully to gain complete, up-to-date details about qualifications, courses and specializations offered. Programs may vary by location and are subject to change without notice. If you are looking for online colleges in California – i.e. schools that offer online classes in addition to in-person tuition, this option has been listed alongside the campus location/s. If you are choosing where to study, we recommend visiting the school websites below, requesting enrolment information and attending open days, to see if they are a good fit for you!
A list of Art and Design Schools in California, USA
ACADEMY OF ART UNIVERSITY, San Francisco and online (Advertising, Animation & Visual Effects, Architecture, Art Education, Fashion, Fine Art, Game Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Industrial Design, Interior Architecture and Design, Jewelry & Metal Arts, Landscape Architecture, Motion Pictures & Television, Multimedia Communications, Photography, Visual Development, Web Design & New Media)
ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGN, San Rafael Hills and Pasadena (Advertising, Entertainment Design, Environmental Design, Film, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, Interaction Design, Photography and Imaging, Product Design and Transportation Design)
ART STUDIO, UC Davis University of California, Davis (Painting, Sculpture, Drawing, Photography, Ceramics, Printmaking, Time-based Media)
BROOKS INSTITUTE, Santa Barbara (Film / Communication, Graphic Design, Visual Journalism, Photography)
CAED: COLLEGE OF ARCHITECTURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN, Cal Poly – California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obisbo (Architecture, Landscape Architecture)
CALARTS: CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF THE ARTS, Valencia (Art, Graphic Design, Photography and Media, Art and Technology, Character Animation, Experimental Animation, Film and Video)
CALIFORNIA COLLEGE OF THE ARTS, San Francisco (previously called California College of Arts and Crafts) (Animation, Architecture, Ceramics, Community Arts, Fashion Design, Film, Furniture, Glass, Graphic Design, Illustration, Industrial Design, Interaction Design, Interior Design, Jewelry / Metal Arts, Painting/Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, Textiles, Visual Studies)
COLLEGE OF ENVIRONMENT DESIGN, Cal Poly: California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Architecture, Art, Landscape Architecture)
BAKERSFIELD COLLEGE, Bakersfield, Delano and online (Studio Arts, Architectural Drafting, Industrial Drawing, Architectural CAD)
BERKELEY COLLEGE OF ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN, University of California, Berkeley (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design)
CERRITOS COLLEGE, Norwalk (Fine Arts & Communications, Art & Design, Photography, Architecture)
CHABOT COLLEGE, Hayward and online (Architecture, Art, Digital Media, Film, Interior Design)
CITY COLLEGE OF SAN FRANCISCO, San Francisco (Art, Broadcast Electronic Media Arts, Cinema, Photography, Visual Media Design, Fashion, Architecture, Interior Design)
COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES, University of San Francisco, San Francisco (Advertising, Architecture and Community Design, Design, Fine Arts, Film Studies, Media Studies)
COLLEGE OF HUMANITIES AND THE ARTS, San JosÃ© State University, San JosÃ© (Art Education, Fine Arts, Photography, Spatial Arts)
COLLEGE OF MARIN, Kentfield (Architecture, Art)
COLLEGE OF SAN MATEO, San Mateo (Studio Art, Photography, Broadcast & Electronic Media, Graphic Design, Web/Multimedia)
COLLEGE OF THE SEQUOIAS, Visalia (Commercial Arts, Communication, Art, Adobe, Architectural Design, Architectural Drafting, Architectural Visual Communication, Architecture, AutoCAD)
DEPARTMENT OF ART, San Francisco State University, San Francisco (Fine Art, Art Education)
DODGE COLLEGE OF FILM AND MEDIA ARTS and WILKINSON COLLEGE OF HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES, Chapman University, Orange County (Film Studies, Film Production, Digital Arts, Creative Producing, Graphic Design, Art)
D.SCHOOL: INSTITUTE OF DESIGN AT STANFORD, STANFORD DESIGN PROGRAM and STANFORD DEPARTMENT OF ART & ART HISTORY, Stanford University, Stanford (Art Practice, Design, Documentary Film and Video, Film and Media Studies, Product Design, Design Thinking, Building Innovative Brands, Design & Science, Game Design, Vehicle Design, Movie Design, Storytelling & Graphic Design, Public Relations & Advertising)
EL CAMINO COLLEGE, Torrance (Architecture, Art, Digital Arts, Fashion, Film / Video, Fine Arts, Photography)
EXCEPTIONAL MINDS, Sherman Oaks (Multi-Media, Computer Animation, Post Production)
FRESNO CITY COLLEGE, Fresno and online (Architecture, Computer Aided Drafting, Graphic Communications, Photography, Art)
FULLERTON COLLEGE, Fullerton and online (Advertising, Architecture, Art, Computer Graphics, Fashion, Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Photography, TV / Film)
GLENDALE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Glendale and online (Animation, Architecture, Art, Ceramics, Graphic Design, Media Arts, Photography, Studio Arts)
GOLDEN WEST COLLEGE, Huntington Beach (Art History, 2D Design, 3D Design, Ceramics, Drawing, Jewelry, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, Photography)
LAGUNA COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN, Laguna Beach (Game Art, Fine Art, Illustration, Design & Digital Media, Animation)
LOS ANGELES CITY COLLEGE, Los Angeles (Architecture, Art, Photography)
LOS ANGELES HARBOR COLLEGE, Wilmington (Ceramics, Design, Digital, Drawing, Painting, Photography, Architecture)
LOS ANGELES TRADE TECHNICAL COLLEGE, Los Angeles (Digital Media, Fashion Design, Sign Graphics, Tailoring, Visual Communications, Art)
LOS ANGELES VALLEY COLLEGE, Valley Glen (Art, Cinema, Media Arts, Photography, Architecture)
MERCED COLLEGE, Merced (Digital Media, Visual Arts, Photography)
MIRACOSTA COLLEGE, Oceanside and online (Art, Design, Film, Media Arts & Technologies)
MODESTO JUNIOR COLLEGE, Modesto (Art, Ceramics, Computer Graphics, Drawing, Design, Sculpture, Painting, Photography)
MT. SAN ANTONIO COLLEGE, Walnut (Architecture, Computer Aided Design, Fine Arts, Animation & Gaming, Graphic Design & Illustration, Photography)
NEWSCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN, San Diego (Interior Architecture & Design, Product Design, Architecture, Media Design, Animation, Game Art and Programming)
NORCO COLLEGE, Norco (Art, Photography, Architecture)
ORANGE COAST COLLEGE, Costa Mesa (Art, Digital Media Arts & Design, Film & Video, Photography)
OTIS COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN, Los Angeles (Architecture / Landscape / Interiors, Advertising Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, Motion Design, Fashion Design, Painting, Photography, Sculpture / New Genres, Product Design, Toy Design)
PACIFIC UNION COLLEGE, Angwin (Film & Television, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Photography, Film and Theater Studies)
PIERCE COLLEGE, Woodland Hills (Architecture, Ceramics, Graphic Design, Web Design, Drawing, Painting, Digital Imaging, Art, Sculpture, Multimedia, Photography, Cinema)
PITZER COLLEGE, Claremont (Studio Art, Media Studies)
RIO HONDO COLLEGE, Whittier (Visual Arts, Ceramics, Photography, Painting, Drawing, 2D and 3D Design, Digital Animation, Commercial Arts)
RIVERSIDE CITY COLLEGE, Riverside (Art, Digital Media, Graphics Technology, Photography)
SADDLEBACK COLLEGE, Mission Viejo (Architectural drafting, Fashion, Graphics, Interior Design, Art, Photography)
SAN BERNARDINO VALLEY COLLEGE, San Bernadino and online (Art)
SAN DIEGO MESA COLLEGE, San Diego (Architecture, Fine Art, Ceramics, Digital Art, Design, Photography and New Genres, Fashion Design, Interior Design, Multimedia, Web Development)
SAN FRANCISCO ART INSTITUTE, San Francisco (Art & Technology, Film, New Genres, Painting, Photography)
SAN JOAQUIN DELTA COLLEGE, Stockton (Fashion, Interior Design, Art, Graphic Arts, Photography)
SANTA MONICA COLLEGE OF DESIGN, ART AND ARCHITECTURE, Santa Monica (Art, Communication and Media Studies, Entertainment Technology, Graphic Design, Interior Architectural Design, Fashion Design)
SANTA ROSA JUNIOR COLLEGE, Santa Rosa (Architecture, Computer Aided Design / Drafting, Computer Animation, Art, Media, Adobe Application, Digital Media, Graphics Design, Fashion, Interior Design)
SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, Woodbury University, San Diego (Architecture, Interior Architecture, Landscape Architecture)
SCI-ARC: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTURE, Los Angeles (Architecture)
SDSU SCHOOL OF ART AND DESIGN, College of Professional Studies & Fine Arts, San Diego State University, San Diego (Ceramics, Fiber, Jewelry & Metals, Furniture Design & Woodworking, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Multimedia, Painting & Printmaking, Sculpture, Studio Arts)
SOTHEBY’S INSTITUTE OF ART, Los Angeles Art Business, Art Management
SOUTHWESTERN COLLEGE, Chula Vista (Art, Computer Aided Design and Drafting, Telemedia)
UCI CLAIRE TREVOR SCHOOL OF THE ARTS, Irvine (Art)
UCLA SCHOOL OF ARTS AND ARCHITECTURE, University of California, Los Angeles (Architecture and Urban Design, Art, Design / Media Arts)
UC RIVERSIDE ARTS, University of California, Riverside (Painting, Drawing, Photography, Sculpture, Inter-media, Video, Digital Art)
USC CINEMATIC ARTS, University of Southern California Film School, Los Angeles (Animation & Digital Arts, Interactive Media & Games, Film & TV Production, Media Arts & Practice)
USC SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, University of Southern California, Los Angeles (Architecture)
VENTURA COLLEGE, Ventura (Architecture, Art, Photography)
WEST VALLEY COLLEGE, Saratoga (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Fashion Design, Interior Design, Fine Arts, Photography)
If we have left any universities or film, architecture, design or art colleges in California off this list, please let us know!
Why is California a leading destination for international and out-of-state students?
Boasting the largest population in the US, California has innovative, vibrant cities. These include Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood, with its thriving film and entertainment industry – and San Francisco, home to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. In ‘Silicon Valley’ many Fortune 500 company headquarters can be found, such as Apple Inc, Adobe, Facebook, eBay and Google San Jose and ‘Silicon Valley’ – an environment conducive to high tech innovation and entrepreneurship. California has a high standard of living and a strong economy; the epicentre of the entertainment, information and technology industries.
Nicknamed the ‘Golden State’ for its gold mining history and golden-brown landscapes in summer, this nickname has a fitting connection to the glitz and glamour of the state. Recently governed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, California has produced artists such as Guns n’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, as is the birthplace of Cameron Diaz, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks and countless other musicians, singers movie stars.
California has a warm and mild Mediterranean climate, perfect for outdoor sports and enjoying the stunning natural scenery – beaches, breathtaking snow-capped mountains, dramatic cliffs, granite rock formations, waterfalls, salt lakes (such as Lake Tahoe), Death Valley (the driest and hottest desert in North America) and nature trails through awe-inspiring parks and forests that cover approximately 40% of California’s land mass.
Most universities in California are situated in beautiful natural settings, with dormitories, and other food, shopping and entertainment facilities etc located on campus. First-year university students usually board in a shared or single dorm room, with shared bathroom facilities and meals served in a common refectory (dining room).
Universities welcome international students and have a diverse cultural composition – with a growing Hispanic and Latino population and many international students from Asian countries. Campuses are a melting pot of languages, foods, cultures and backgrounds – resulting in a rich and exciting learning experience outside of the classroom.
Selecting the best Art Colleges in California: Art School Ranking
The State of California has some of the most prestigious and highest ranked educational institutions in the world, according 2014 Times Higher Education World Reputation Ranking, for example:
- Stanford University (ranked #3)
- University of California, Berkeley (ranked #6)
- Caltech: California Institute of Technology (ranked #9)
- UCLA: University of California, Los Angeles (ranked #10)
- University of California, San Francisco (ranked #32)
- University of California, San Diego (ranked #40)
It is important to remember, however, that these ratings are given to the institution as a whole and many factors should be considered before determining which Art school is ideal for you. If you are wondering which how to find the top Art schools in California and which college will be a good fit for your circumstance, you may be interested in reading our article How to Find the Best Art School in the World (coming soon).
Understanding the difference between a community college, four-year college and university in the USA
Educational institutions are called different names in different countries. In California, USA, the following definitions apply:
Community colleges: These are usually two-year, publicly funded educational institutions that offer courses for students after high school. NB: In the past community colleges used to be known as ‘junior colleges’. Now this term is usually reserved for privately funded two-year colleges. Community colleges typically offer one year certificates or two-year associate degrees (these degrees can be used as part of a bachelor degree, if a student then transitions to a four-year college or university). Once considered by some to be simply vocational schools, this is no longer the case. Community colleges now usually offer a wide range of career programs and courses, targeting the arts, sciences as well as technical training to help transition students into the workforce. Students often travel to-and-from Community Colleges, and often attend part time, rather than staying in dorms or purpose built student accommodation. There are typically fewer international or out-of-state students, as well as more mature students than four-year colleges or universities. Community Colleges are also the less expensive option and have open admission policies for many courses.
Four-year colleges / Universities: When a student in the USA refers to ‘going to college’, they mean going to college or university after high school (the phrase ‘college’ is usually used to mean either interchangeably). A four-year college or university offers bachelor degrees (also known as baccalaureate degrees) as well as master and doctoral degrees; they sometimes offer associate degrees also. They have higher fees than community colleges and vary in their entry selectivity, with some courses very competitive, requiring strong high school results and application portfolios, for example. Universities may be private or partially funded by the state. (Read how to create a good art portfolio for College or University).
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Amiria has been an Art & Design teacher and a Curriculum Co-ordinator for seven years, responsible for the course design and assessment of student work in two high-achieving Auckland schools. She has a Bachelor of Architectural Studies, Bachelor of Architecture (First Class Honours) and a Graduate Diploma of Teaching. Amiria is a CIE Accredited Art & Design Coursework Assessor.