RBGE Diploma in Botanical Illustration

The RBGE Diploma in Botanical Illustration is one of our flagship botanical illustration courses. This independent, RBGE certified course hones the many skills you need to capture plants in pencil, pen and paint. It runs over two years part-time (or 3 years via distance learning). The main focus is on observational drawing, pen-and-ink work and painting skills, but by the end of the course, students should develop expertise in a wide range of botanical illustration techniques.

Rhododendron in watercolours

Attended Course (September 2019)

Students will be trained in visual analysis, fundamentals of botany, the essentials of different plant structures and the ability to assess and produce botanically accurate drawing and painting work.

Year One: The diploma involves one taught day per week over three terms of study. The taught programme includes:

1.  Drawing fundamentals leading to complex skills

2.  Paint fundamentals: mixing and application

3.  Painting the details: using orchids

4.  Measured drawing, pen and ink, cross-sections, herbarium study

5.  Composition in white

6.  Other media, coloured pencil, dipping pen, vellum

7.  Botany: plant form and function and its relevance

8.  Historical context

9.  Native plant project

Year Two: This is a home study year in which students are expected to produce a complete portfolio of work to an approved standard.

Both years are supported by a series of tutorials. Teaching will be on site at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and associated sites around Scotland.

The attended course begins in September, and follows a three term academic year structure on Tuesdays, 10.00am - 4.00pm for Year One. Year Two is all home study.

Distance Learning Course (September 2018)

The Distance Learning Course takes place over three years and follows a set time-table. Through PropaGate, the RBGE’s virtual learning environment you will work through the same learning modules as the taught course. Online tutorials are scheduled at intervals throughout the course to support work in progress, and these will typically make use of Skype.

This course requires a significant amount of home study - approx. 18 hours per week. All course content is delivered via PropaGate with online tutor support and feedback. Years 1 and 2 will cover essential techniques and skills of botanical illustration, leading to the production of a themed collection of paintings to be completed by the end of year 3.

The course tutors are botanical artists and RBGE tutors Jacqui Pestell, Lizzie Sanders, Claire Banks, Isık Güner, and Sharon Tingey, as well as visiting specialists and guests. There will also be input from RBGEs botanists and horticulturists.


Expert tuition on RBGE’s Diploma in Botanical IllustrationStudents aiming to enter either Diploma course are expected to have a reasonable level of skill in artistic illustration, ideally botanical or plant in subject, and should have a demonstrable interest in the area of study. Selection of students is through portfolio assessment and interview.
We also offer an extensive series of botanical art short courses and workshops that provide you with the basic skills before beginning the Diploma, as well as other art and crafts workshops.

Please note that this course is not designed for beginners. Artists at beginner’s level would gain most benefit from the RBGE Certificate in Botanical Illustration course. The certificate course has been created as an ideal stepping-stone to the Diploma and offers an introduction to the basics skills of drawing and painting needed to record plants and produce a portfolio of work. Full details can be found here: www.rbge.org.uk/certbi

How to apply

You can download the Applicant's Handbooks for both courses from the 'Downloads' box on the right. The Applicant's Handbook contains further information on the courses and an application form. Applications for the distance learning course should be emailed along with a digital portfolio to education@rbge.org.uk

Education Department
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
20A Inverleith Row
Telephone: 0131 248 2937

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PropaGate Learning is RBGE’s Virtual learning environment, helping you to explore the world of plants through distance and blended learning programmes

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The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)