Time Saving Tuesday

Album art seems to be the hot new craze these days, and with Apple’s Cover Flow (pictured below) more people want their library of music to be filled with gorgeous artwork. Cover Flow has changed the way that I find songs to listen to, and for that reason I wanted to show how you can use iTunes to retrieve your favorite album art.

Before we jump in we want to point out that there are numerous ways that you can add album art to your music collection, including the free MediaMonkey. This article only focuses on iTunes, but we’ll likely cover other ways in the future.

Below you’ll find instructions on having iTunes automatically fetch the album artwork, how to manually add it yourself, how to add it in bulk, and forcing iTunes to store album art in the music files. The end result will be a beautiful looking library filled with flowing album art…

iTunes Cover Flow

–Automatically Adding Album Art–

Assuming that you have correctly added the tag information (artist, title, album, etc…) iTunes will be able to retrieve artwork for your songs automatically. Of course this relies on the album actually being sold on iTunes, which is currently a problem for artists such as the Beatles.

To force iTunes to grab the artwork for an album just right click on the song(s) and select the Get Album Artwork:

iTunes Get Album Artwork

One big issue I’ve had with this working is when dealing with compilation albums or soundtracks. Any albums that have various artists on them will likely be unable to download no matter what you try to do, unless you’ve actually purchased the songs from iTunes.

The album art that iTunes downloads is stored in a special folder created by the application, and is kept separate from the music itself.

–Manually Adding Album Art–

One thing that I’m impressed with is how easily you can manually add album art in iTunes. The nice thing about manually adding the album art is that iTunes will embed it into the song itself, which is actually a nice feature. That way the artwork will be available in applications other than iTunes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Find the image that you want to use as the album art. I recommend doing a Google image search for the album name, looking on Wikipedia, or pulling up the Amazon page.
  2. Once you’ve found a good quality image just right-click on it and copy the image. No, you don’t have to save it to your hard drive.
    Copy Image
  3. Now go find the song you want to add the artwork to, right-click on it, and select Get Info. Switch to the Artwork tab, click in the blank box, and press Ctrl+V to paste the artwork in that you copied.
    Paste Album Art
  4. Hit the OK button on the window, and you’re done. The album art has been embedded in that particular song.

–Bulk Adding Album Art–

If you have a ton of songs from the same album there is an easier way to add the same artwork in bulk. This isn’t entirely necessary to do since iTunes only requires one song in a particular album to have artwork associated with it, but other applications may like to have each individual song tagged with artwork.

In iTunes select all of the songs that pertain to the same album, which can be done using the standard Control and Shift keys while clicking on songs with your mouse. After that you’ll pretty much follow the same instructions for manually adding the artwork above, but the area for you to paste the album art into is in a different spot:

Bulk Album Art

–Embedding iTunes Album Art–

The album art that iTunes automatically retrieves is not embedded in the songs, which means that it will not be available outside of iTunes. Some of you may not mind that, but if you enjoy having the artwork no matter what application you’re using then you’ll want to go through these steps for each of the albums:

Note: This is unnecessary for any album art that you’ve manually added yourself.

  1. Right-click on a song and click Get Info.
  2. Go to the Artwork tab and press Ctrl+C to copy the artwork.
  3. Now press Ctrl+V to paste it back in.
  4. Hit the OK button.

When you copy and paste the album art in steps 2 & 3 you won’t really see anything happen, but you can easily verify that it worked by monitoring the date modified and/or filesize of the song. If you can see an increase in the filesize then the album art has been added.

It might take some time to get your library just the way you like it, but once you’re done the result will look great… especially for those using Cover Flow.