Ah, album art! That beguiling, physical representation of sonic substance! I can’t stress the importance of this art form enough. That’s why I devoted a whole site to the subject.
The question is begged: How do I get album art into iTunes?
Well, it’s been incredibly easy from the very first version that supported it. Until version 7, you had to supply your own. You could scan, like I do, or get images from the web. Some applications attempted to automate this process for you.
As I’m a perfectionist, I still scan my own art. This is old school and entirely legitimate. Here is how to apply album art to tracks:
- Obtain the album art.
- Usually you would apply album art to a whole album at the same time, so select the album tracks:
- Select the album name in the right-hand pane of the browse area (you might have to select Show Browser from the View menu), or
- Select all the tracks of the album in the main track list.
- There are two methods for applying art:
- If artwork already exists that you want to replace, select Get Info from the File menu, or press Command-I (Mac) or Ctrl-I (Windows). Drag the image file into the Artwork field. Click the OK button.
- Drag the image file into the Artwork pane in the lower-left (you might need to show it first by selecting Show Artwork from the View menu).
Version 7 brings a new option into the fold. iTunes can now check the iTunes Store for your album and download and apply artwork if it finds a match. Caveats: Your tags must be precise and sometimes it won’t find a match. This process can be done when importing from CD or manually later.
To have iTunes do this automatically, select Preferences from the iTunes menu (Mac) or Edit menu (Windows). Keyboard equivalents: Command-, (Mac), Ctrl-, (Windows). Click the General tab. Check the box Automatically download missing album artwork. Click the OK button.
To manually download album artwork, select a range of tracks (usually an album), right-click (Control-click on a Mac) and select Get Album Artwork. After a pause, you will either see artwork in the Artwork pane in the lower left, or nothing, depending on whether it can find a match.
To remove downloaded artwork, select the tracks, right-click and select Clear Downloaded Artwork.
Personally, I prefer the non-iTunes-Store method, for two reasons: 1) the artwork from iTunes is a bit small, over-compressed and often poorly colour matched, 2) iTunes downloads artwork but does not embed it in the audio file; it puts it in a downloaded artwork folder in your user folder. This means that if you move the file to another iTunes library, there will be no accompanying artwork. I found this out the hard way.
So there’s no excuse for the iPod owners I see on the street with the latest hardware and no artwork. This is especially tragic on 5th-generation iPods, as album artwork on these looks stunning and there’s so much screen to fill!