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Practical Tips for Print File Naming

25th February 2021 Digital Asset Management

A guide to naming your print files for improved digital asset management, and working with fine art printers like Image Science.



Deciding on a naming system for digital print files may seem a low priority task, but as time passes and the number of files you manage grows, it becomes an essential part of your ongoing digital asset management.

Done right, it will only require a small effort to apply as you go, but down the track will avoid swathes of lost time searching for files, miscommunications, and costly misprints.

Best Practise

Keep It Short & Clear

Print filenames are best kept short, no more than 30 characters, so where possible consider simplifying titles, names or other details.

Amongst other thing, this makes it much easier to scan a list of file names to find the specific one you want.

Avoid Special Characters Or Spaces

Avoid using special characters (such as [email protected]#$%^&* etc.), and spaces in your filenames.

Instead use capitals and underscores to separate words. For example: 'ImageTitle_PaperType_A2'.  (In the computing world, this is known as CamelCase).

Be Meaningful!

The number one problem we come across is clients sending us files (sometimes many files) that are either untitled or have arbitrary digital capture codes such as IMG_0725.jpg or DSC0066.tif etc.

In the short term or for one-off prints jobs this doesn't seem like an issue, and in a perfect world it isn't.   But even in this context it can be needlessly confusing - IMG_0725 is very easily confused with IMG_0752 during the busy flow of a day's work.

As soon as you need to correspond with your printer with any specific instructions relating to file adjustments, sizes, or quantities you'll recognise that communicating which files need what gets quite laborious and error prone with files named this way.

Much better to use meaningful names that help you, and us, connect those names with your intentions.

Start With Titles

Our recommendation is to create unique titles for each of your image filenames before sending them toprint.

Ideally these would be the actual titles you have for your works in general, so you never get confused. But if your works are untitled then the next best is to create a descriptive title that matches the content of the image (think 'RedCar_' or 'BlueAbstract_' etc.). This is a really simple way to keep everyone on the same page.

Where your works are part of discrete series or projects, we recommend organising your files into folders with series/project titles rather than in the filenames themselves, this will help keep your filenames as short as possible.

If all your images are really similar, have no titles and defy descriptive titles (such as with abstract iterations), then use your series/project title followed by a number (for example: 'CharcoalSession01_').

Consider Paper Type

(If you're not sure or think you'll want your image printed on different paper types for different purposes over time then skip this step).

If you know what paper type you'll always want your image printed on (a good idea for edition prints), then we advise including it in your filename. Though note paper product names can be long, so we recommend abbreviating them if needed to keep your overall filename under 30 characters.

For example, if you're printing your 'RedCar' image on Hahnemühle Photo Rag, then 'RedCar_HahnePhotoRag_' might be how you start your filename.

If printing with us you could even employ one of the following abbreviations we use in house for the papers we print on as a service:

  • HPR (Hahnemühle Photo Rag)
  • HGE (Hahnemühle German Etching)
  • HBA (Hahnemühle Bamboo)
  • HDC (Hahnemühle Daguerre Canvas)
  • ISCR (Ilford Smooth Cotton Rag)
  • IGFG (Ilford Gold Fibre Gloss)
  • ISP (Ilford Smooth Pearl)
  • CMP (Chromajet Metallic Pearl)

Using the above your filename would instead start 'RedCar_HPR_'

Finish With The Print Size

Adding the print size to the end of your filename is a really simple and effective way to clearly indicate the size your image file is set up to print.

It is especially helpful when your images are set up in multiple edition sizes.

Example: 'RedCar_HPR_A2' and 'RedCar_HPR_A3

Dates, Names & File Versions Are Distinctly Optional

Many clients send through images with dates, names and file versions in their image filenames.

If this is critical for your own asset management then it typically isn't a major issue. Though note they often unnecessarily lengthen filenames, and really long file names (especially large quantities of files with long filenames) become more difficult as regarding artist <> printer  correspondence.

These things are often better handled by a folder structure.  For example you might have a structure with your sensibly named files in that final folder:

Subject (or Location?)
--> Year
----> Month

If you decide to go ahead with any of these details in your filename, be sure to keep them short and place them in between the image title to start, and the paper size at the end.

An example: StarryNight_VanGogh_1889_V1_A3.

Be Consistent!

Where possible use the same file name convention for all your files.

It will help if you keep a reference of the convention on hand at all times (perhaps even print it and stick it near your monitor!) - so you never file an image under an unhelpful title again.

Our recommended naming convention can be boiled down to:

  • ImageTitle_PaperType_PaperSize
In practice this will look like:
  • RedCar_HGE_A3.jpg or BlueAbstract_HDC_24x35.tif etc.

Putting it all together for

Edition Printing

A common scenario we work with here is a series of files made for edition prints.

Putting all this together, we can create a really nicely set up structure for your series of prints, all prepared for printing at particular sizes, that will make it easy both for you to specify, and for us to print, your files with ease and accuracy.

You can also include a Master File (i.e. the highest quality/resolution version of the file you have) - if you imagine that we might need to prepare other sizes for you at a later date (and this is also handy as it means our library is effectively a backup service for your master image files!).

We suggest a simple structure that looks like this

Folder:

EditionPrintName_OptionalDate
--> Name_Paper_Size1
--> Name_Paper_Size2

Or, as a more specific example...

Folder:

RedCosmonaut_2020-05
--> RedCosmonaut_Master
--> RedCosmonaut_HGE_A4
--> RedCosmonaut_HGE_A2
--> AnyOtherPrePreparedSizes...

You supply this complete structure to us (zip it up and send it to us via our file sender, or bring it in on a USB stick), and we then store this entire structure in our client library, under your name (or the name of your business if that's how you order). 

This then makes it super easy for you to refer to your files in your orders, and for us to then find and print them correctly - meaning the greatest chance of everyone getting exactly what they thought they would, at the end of the order!

The Rewards

Consistency Pays Dividends Over Time.

Things like this really show their true value over the longer term.

As artists, it really pays to build up a library of well named and well structured digital assets over your entire career.  There are just so many later benefits to this, it's absolutely worth the effort.

It means when you come back to work months, or even years, later it will be much easier to work out what everything is if you have practised consistent, clear and sensible naming.  Need to print edition #17 of your work, years after you sold #16?  This should only take a few moments work - not an hour of sorting through your digital attic for that precious file...

As ever, with tasks like these, the sooner you start the better

Make it a fundamental part of your work flow as soon as you can, and your future self will thank you profusely for the small amount of effort you put in now!