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13 Add Album Art to Songs

As convenient and versatile as digital music files are, there are some things about CDs that they can't replace. There's just something special about being able to pick up a CD case and identify it by the artwork on its cover; a listing of songs in bare text format just doesn't bring with it quite the same cachet, especially when the listing for a Mozart symphony looks just the same as the one for a ska band or standup comedian's routine. Furthermore, CD albums tend to come with booklets full of more artwork, including lyric sheets, interviews, cast and crew information, and more—some very extensive and thick. Where is the equivalent of these things in the digital music world?

iTunes can't quite provide the same experience as these features of CDs give you. However, you can add album art in the form of digital image data to the headers of your MP3 or AAC files. A scanned picture file, even a high-resolution one, is only a few hundred kilobytes at most, compared to the three or four megabytes of a complete digital audio file; thus, adding a piece of album art to a song, or even several pictures at once, doesn't materially increase the impact on your disk space. It can, however, greatly enhance your enjoyment of your music by showing you what the album looked like that the song to which you're listening came from.

  1. Obtain Album Art Images

    The first step is to get one or more images of the album art for a given CD album. If you have a scanner, you might choose to scan the cover of your CD jewel case insert, as well as some of the pages from the interior of the insert booklet. Consult the documentation for your scanner if you choose to do it this way; save the final picture files with at least 500 pixels of resolution in both width and height, but don't make it much bigger than 1000 pixels square. Save the image file in JPEG format for the best compression/quality balance. Try to keep each picture under 200 kilobytes in size.

    If you don't have a scanner, you can usually find acceptable album art images on the Internet. AMG's Allmusic service (http://www.allmusic.com) has comprehensive discographies for almost all major bands, including album art that—while not very high-resolution—will do in a pinch.

  2. Add Album Art by Navigating

    Use the Library view and the Browse columns to navigate to the music you want to modify. Select a single song, or a group of songs, and then choose File, Get Info (or right-click the selected song and choose Get Info from the context menu).

    Click the Artwork tab of the Info dialog box. This pane shows you all the album art currently embedded in the selected song or songs. Use the slider in the lower-right corner to adjust the size of the thumbnails of the images; you can view the thumbnails one at a time at maximum size (click the Previous and Next buttons to scroll through the images associated with the selected songs), or at any size down to 32 on-screen at once. You can add more than 32 images if you want.

    Click the Add button to add another piece of art to the information for the selected song or songs. In the file picker that appears, navigate to the location of the picture you want to add; select it and click Choose or Open. The picture is added to the display pane. Repeat for all the pictures you want to add to this song or set of songs (you can't add more than one picture at a time). Click OK to dismiss the Info window.

  3. Display the Viewer Pane

    Click the Show Album Art button under the Source pane in the iTunes' window. A smaller pane, labeled Selected Song, opens above the button; this Viewer pane shows you any album art that already exists in a selected song, or a gray dashed box with a Drag Album Artwork Here message if there is no album art in the song.

  4. Drag in Album Art

    A quicker way to add album art than the one described in Step 2 is to simply drag picture files from the Finder or Windows Explorer into the Viewer pane. You can add multiple pictures at once this way—just select multiple files and drag them all into the Viewer pane with one motion. You can even drag pictures directly from your web browser into the pane, without having to save them to your computer first.

  5. Organize Album Art Images in a Song

    When you have added multiple pictures to a song or group of songs, you will probably want to set the order in which that artwork appears; this way you can be sure that the album cover artwork appears first, and as you browse the pictures they appear in the correct sequence. Open the Info window again for a song or group of songs; click the Artwork tab. Adjust the slider until all the pictures are visible at once. Now click and drag the pictures into the order you want them to appear; the first one should go at the upper left, and so on in the normal order you'd expect in reading a page left to right.

  6. View Album Art

    In iTunes, click the small thumbnail image in the Viewer pane to display the full-resolution image in its own window. If there is more than one picture embedded in a song, use the Left and Right arrow buttons to page through the available pictures.

If you have an iPod with a color screen (such as the iPod photo), the album art for the current song appears on the Now Playing screen; if you press the Select button several times to switch through the various control modes, you can view the artwork at the full size of the iPod's screen.

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