Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Managing iTunes album art

Album art is a wonderful idea for digital audio collection and make navigating between albums so much easier in iTunes.

Since iTunes version 7.0 onwards, you can download the album art of a song or a group of them from iTunes store.

Open iTunes, right click on a song or a group of them and select "Get Album Artwork", iTunes will download the album cover and store them accordingly.

There are two issues with this feature:
  • Portability: If you switch to another media player other than iTunes, the downloaded album art from iTunes will not copy across.
  • Customization: How to customize the album art of your own.
This article will examine these two issues.


By default, iTunes will store all the downloaded album art under iTunes/Album Artwork folder. This means when you switch to another media player, the new media player will not understand how iTunes organize the artworks.

In order to support portability of the album artworks, you will need to embed the album artwork into the mp3 itself. There are two ways you can do that with your existing album artwork from iTunes:

  • Manual cut and paste: If you right-click on a song in iTunes (with album artwork downloaded from iTunes store before) and select "Get Info", go to "Artwork" tab and you will see the album art. Click on the album art and perform a Cut (Command-X in Mac) and Paste (Command-V in Mac). Click OK. This will embed the artwork into mp3 now instead of storing into the default iTunes folder.
  • Use Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes: This script will re-embed the artwork into mp3 of the select files. Note that this script requires some knowledge on how to install custom scripts in iTunes. Check out the link above for installation instructions.
Note that embedding artwork into mp3 will allow you to bring along/transfer your music collection easily without worrying about additional data. However, by doing this, you are increasing the file size of the mp3 and hence might consume more space.

Although iTunes store has a lot of album arts available for download, sometimes you might come across some of the albums have no artwork on the store. For example, foreign language albums, or singles, or you might want the exact album artwork in different countries, etc.

In this case, you can find the actual album artwork (an image) that you want to associate for certain tracks and following the instructions below to associate artwork:

  1. Right-click on a track/group of tracks in iTunes and select "Get Info".
  2. Select "Artwork" tab (if you select only one track) or check "Artwork" checkbox (group of tracks).
  3. Click Add or double click on the Artwork space and select the image that you want to associate.
  4. Click OK.