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Overview of AP Art and Design

5 min readโ€ขoctober 27, 2020


Sherry Ross

AP Art & Designย ๐ŸŽจ

18ย resources
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What Is APยฎ Art and Design?

So, you got your schedule and it says AP Art on it. You are either thrilled, terrified, or frankly, a mixed of both ๐Ÿ˜†. That's totally understandable. Students often say that AP Art is the most stressful, time intensive class they take, but also the most fun and rewarding. Students feel that they learn about themselves, gain valuable time management and inquiry skills, bond as friends, and become better students and artists. Plus.... THE ART! You will make wonderful art! ๐Ÿฅฐ ๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ

What Is Offered as an AP Art Class?

There are four classes that are considered AP Art classes. However, only three are traditional Studio Art classes. Those are AP Two-Dimensional Design (AP2D), AP Three-Dimensional Design (AP3D), and AP Draw. All of these classes are typically yearlong production classes revolving around a student-driven inquiry that is explored artistically. The last AP Art class is AP Art History, which is a traditional academic class focusing on how Art influences and is influenced by societal changes over time and culture. It's pretty fun to nerd out over Art History, so consider giving it a try too! ๐Ÿค“ ๐Ÿฅฐ ๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ
The studio art classes have similar submission requirements, but the work created focuses on different techniques, materials, and, in some cases, ideas. Each class requires 15 images for the Sustained Investigation and 5 images for the Selected Works. More information on each of those is coming up in separate guides. ๐Ÿ˜‰ These images can also include sketchbook photos, process documentation (color samples, attempts with techniques, experimentation, etc.), or things like photos that you shot for reference- whether you used then or not.


AP2D explores the use of specific design principles across a variety of media. These media can include but are not limited to painting, drawing, digital images, printmaking, collage, photography, etc. The difference between 2D and 3D is depth. 2D means height and width, where 3D includes depth as the third dimension. You can include 3D works in your submission for 2D if the primary artistic content is 2D or if the 3D work is part of the exploration of a primarily 2D portfolio.
For example, if you have a simple 3D form but the decorative detail/painting is what you wish to have evaluated, its placement in a 2D portfolio is fine.ย Make sure you document it in your photo accordingly. If you have a body of work that has ten 2D works, and a few 3D works as part of the exploration, this is ok as well.ย This is a recent change from the College Board (CB).

AP3D ๐Ÿบ

AP3D also explores the use of specific design principles across a variety of media. These media can include but are not limited to ceramics, installation, jewelry, sculpture, mixed media, fiber arts, digital design work, etc. With the 3D work, the activation of the space within and around the work is evaluated. Size is not necessarily a consideration, but the scale and proportion within the piece are one of the design principles to be considered.
For this portfolio, you might include sketchbook pages, process documentation, photos of models, or mock-ups. While these are technically 2D documents, they are showing how the 3D work was created. This will be a critical component of your score.

AP Draw ๐ŸŽจ

AP Draw also explores the use of specific design principles across a variety of media. These media can include almost anything you created for AP2D, with the notable exception of photography and some design work.
The key thing that should be highlighted in AP Draw is mark-making (how does the student physically and purposefully manipulate the image with their hands or a tool). Does that mean you have to create an analog (traditional) drawing? Nope! ๐Ÿ˜‰ It means if you want to work with collage - the way you cut the materials is the markโœ‚๏ธ. If you want to do use a pad or computer to create, think about the assortment of brushes that are available to create your mark, as well as the pressure sensitivity of them. If you really want to use some photos, you can try things like drawing or painting into them or creating the surface prior to printing a photographic image. ๐ŸŽจ ๐Ÿ’ป

Parts of the AP Art and Design Portfolio

There are two parts of the AP Art and Design portfolio.
  • Sustained Investigation (SI) - You propose a topic of inquiry and create artwork to explore that idea through a series of artistic works.
  • Selected Works (SW) - Works you select to show your very best artistic work to the readers.
You will complete both of these tasks over an extended time period. During the duration of your class, you should be working diligently to complete these two sections. To properly complete this course, you need to give yourself ample time to develop, create, and revise your ideas and your work. Consider yourself "on the clock" from the time you walk through the door on day one until completion on the AP test day.

How Do I Know Which Class to Sign Up For?

Hopefully, your teacher has given you a pupil progression plan (a list of all the art classes offered and what classes and in what order you should take for your interests) and placed you in the class best suited to your previous experience and interest. Typically, students do 2D1, 2D2, AP2D, and then go into AP Draw. AP Draw is potentially the hardest, most advanced portfolio and most teachers only have students attempt it after they have completed AP2D. AP3D is most appropriate after level one or two classes to get you ready for AP. Also, consider how many years of art you can take at your school. Some schools don't allow students to take AP Art until their junior or senior year, because AP Art is the highest Art you can take and nothing is more heart breaking ๐Ÿ’” ๐Ÿ˜ข than an Art kid without Art their senior year.
Here's to an amazing experience in AP Art! ๐Ÿ˜„ โค๏ธ ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿฝ
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๐Ÿ”–Unit 1: Course Overview
๐ŸฅUnit 2: Portfolio Design Skills
๐Ÿค”Unit 3: Portfolio Analysis
๐Ÿ’ฏUnit 4: Exam Rubrics
๐Ÿ’กUnit 5: Tips and Tricks
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