Archiving & Backup of Artwork & Illustration Files

By heather at 12:23 am on Sunday, November 5, 2006

I’d like to save everyone the heartache of discovering their artwork has gone moldy under their bed, or their CD backups have corrupted and they lost their vectorized illustration files, or their computer blinks out and everything on the hard drive is lost. A few easy backup & archiving habits can save you from purchasing dozens of tissues and days of grieving over lost work, sniff.

Archiving Artwork :
Keeping your artwork safe from weathering and damage is important if you hope to resell it in the future, or if your client needs it again. Be sure to :

  • Flap your artwork with decent paper
  • Sign and date your illustrations along the border / on the back
  • Store in a flat, dry, cool place, such as large Tupperware or art paper drawers
  • Reuse silica gel packets by putting a few in with each container of artwork
  • Scan / photograph your artwork so that you have a digital copy in case something happens to the original

Archiving Projects into Binders :
Using a binder for each project / client is a handy way to archive sketches, notes, project time sheet, invoices, contracts, client’s brochures / business cards, reference materials, etc. Anything & everything you used on the project can be tucked into the folder. Label the spine by client name & date, that way they are easy to browse through.

Archiving Projects on Computer :
When working on a new project, keep all files together and label them consistently & intuitively. Opening a client file a year down the road and having fonts / images missing because they were not archived correctly is extremely frustrating. The project file should be clearly labeled and include :

  • Print-Ready Files : Include all files sent to the printer (Images, Fonts, Layout file, and PDF proof)
  • Hi-Resolution Files : Include all final artwork files 300dpi or greater at 100% or greater
  • Low-Resolution Files : Include JPGs / PDFs in low resolution for ease of posting to a website / review by client
  • Working Files : Layered comp files such as Photoshop / Illustrator files
  • Documents : Include invoices, estimates, contracts
  • Fonts : include all fonts used on the project
  • Reference : include JPGs, samples, and any other digital reference materials used on the project
  • Unused Concepts : for those sketches / concepts / versions of your illustration that were not approved… just in case you can use them later.
  • Contact details of Client

Back-up to external drive :
Having an external drive handy is an excellent way of quickly (daily/weekly) backing up files as you are working on them. You can get larger external drives to thumb drives, but all-in-all they are the same sort of thing. I recommend backing up to the external drive for quick access, but doing an additional backup to disc as electronic devices are still subject to static charge and information can still be lost this way.

Back-up to CD / DVD :
A little known fact about backing up to disc is that it is NOT permanent. A file on disc can last up to a year or two, but they can be corrupted over time. So, re-backing up files to disc annually is a safe way to make sure you won’t lose files this way. Backing up to DVD reduces waste, as you are able to fit 4.7Gb of data on the disc rather than just 750Mb… go green!

Backing-up Files Off site to FTP / Email Provider :
Heaven forbid, gasp, your studio is broken into or, gasp, it burns down. As an extra precaution, zip & email your important files to yourself, or upload to your off site FTP provider for your website. Business files such as accounting spreadsheets, licenses, purchased fonts, stationery templates, contracts, etc are all time consuming to remake if they are lost.

Filed under: business of illustration

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Comment by jeannette

November 5, 2006 @ 1:49 am

This is great advice. It’s 1 a.m., and as tempted as I am, I’m not going to dive into my attic and rearchive my work. But, thanks for the tips.

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