Archiving CD artwork

Epson 3170The goal when I archive CDs is to get the best possible digital quality from my CDs and be protected against the loss of my collection. I don’t have as big a collection as many but I like most of the CDs I have got and I don’t want to have to hunt for them again if we have a fire or burglary.

For me it became clear the artwork from the CD was very important. It is amazing how interesting and illuminating the CD booklets can be.

For each CD’s artwork that I archive I put everything in one folder per CD. I believe in having a standard naming convention for files and folders, this means that in the future if you want to automate things like unzipping them it will be much easier.

Steps

My experience is that the biggest problem when archiving a CD is the quality of the disk itself – often it will have scratches or pin holes meaning a perfect rip is not possible. So the first thing I do is RIP the CD using Archiving a CD using Exact Audio Copy (EAC). If the CD rips without error then and only then, do I start archiving the artwork.

There is a lot of effort required to archive the artwork of a CD and it is a bit pointless if the rip doesn’t work đŸ™‚

When ripping a CD you create a folder for each CD – so if it contains multiple CDs, like a double album then you have two folders. By the time you are finished they will be combined to one folder, but initially they should be in separate folders.

My philosophy

There are two broad approaches you can take when doing a bunch of CDs. You can do one CD at a time from beginning to end or you can do each phase for all CDs together. My personal approach is to rip all the CD, scan all the CD artwork, tidy up all the artwork and so on.

Create Folders

We need a group of folders. Imagine we are ripping “The Beatles – Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” create folders “Fixed”, “Raw” and “Stuff”:

Scanning

This phase is the initial raw scanning of the CD artwork. We will use the folder called “Raw” in the root of the CD folder.

Before you begin don’t forget to clean your scanners glass! You may even need to clean the inside of the glass: Cleaning the Epson 3170 scanner’s glass

The following are the scanning options I use with my handy Epson scanner:

  • 800 dpi
  • 24 bit color depth
  • Save as JPG maximum quality
  • Deselect all adjustments like unsharp mask, color restoration etc.
  • Set “Auto Exposure Type” to “Photo” – Epson scanners
  • Filename prefix “Scan_” with “Start number” set to zero

I have chosen 24 bit because in reality all the tools I use, Gimp 2.8 and Ifranview, don’t work with 48 bit natively.

I have chosen JPG vs TIFF because in the first place I couldn’t save TIFF compressed from my Epson with the resulting uncompressed TIFF file being 206MB vs 7.1MB for JPG. I just don’t have enough storage if I am doing a lot of CDs

With rectangular images like CD booklets it really is much easier, all around, if they are scanned nice and square initially.It should also be noted that not all scanners scan completely to the edge of the glass platen. I would suggest putting say a ruler hard against the edge of the scanner and then pushing your material against that. This means your image will be nice and “square” but you won’t have to rotate it later in Gimp.

It is worth noting that some CD covers actually fold out so you need to scan something longer and possibly bigger than your scanner glass. If you have to do this it will be much easier lining things up if they are dead straight to begin with, so again it is very import to scan the images straight.

For myself I got a strip of thin aluminum from Mitre10 and stuck some sticky felt on the bottom:

Thus you would put you booklet etc like:

So that when you scan it you will get everything lined up straight and able to select outside the image:

I scan with a wide border around the actual image and then crop in Gimp. For the booklet for example I usually scan two pages at once by opening up the booklet flat. When it comes to the CD label I would not be too fussed about getting it perfectly straight on the scanner, this is very difficult, just scan it and then rotate in Gimp – way easier.

I scan at 800 dpi so that all image manipulation is at a high resolution. Then finally move to 400 dpi using Irfanview, because bearing in mind the printing process and the resolution of the images, anything more than 400 dpi really doesn’t give much benefit.

Fixing up the images

Having scanned the images the next step is to extract the images, tidy where necessary, crop and rotate. Start by created a folder in the root of the CD called “Fixed”, this is where you should put the tidied up images.

I believe it is important to have a consistent naming convention. This will mean that if, some time in the future, you want to do some automated task like putting them into albums on a tablet then you can.

Cover.jpg The cover art for the jewel case
Cover_Small.jpg Same as cover but at 25%. This is used as artwork for music
Back_01.jpg The back art from the jewel case
Label_01.jpg The artwork on CD 01
Leaflet_01.jpg Page 01 of the leaflet/booklet
Jacket_01 Outside jacket for CD
Misc_01 Misc stuff

The printing on leaflets, back cover and the actual CD falls into two categories, images and text/lines. Looking at a color image and text side by side, as below, from the same CD, at the same zoom we can see a noticeable difference:

The image is broken into dots for the printing process while the text is often relatively clean and sharp. Images, notably photos, have to be created as a series of colored dots to allow for a range of colors and hues. Text on the other hand is usually printed as one color and is nice and sharp.

Read my posts Fixing moiré patterns – text mixed with images and Removing moiré patterns using GIMP for ways to remove moire patterns and how to remove these patterns when then are in an image with text.

Copy Cover_Small.jpg

We need an image that will be embedded in the FLAC file. This is why we created Cover_Small.jpg.

Currently Cover_Small.jpg is in the folder:

C:\FLAC\The Beatles – Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band\Fixed\Cover_Small.jpg

Copy it to:

C:\FLAC\The Beatles – Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band\Cover_Small.jpg

Resizing images

As discussed earlier after cropping and tidying up the images the next step is to resize the images to 400 dpi. First create yet another folder in the root of the CD folder calling it “Stuff”.

For this I use IrfanView as it has a great batch process. Select “File | Batch Conversion/Rename…”:

From the batch conversion dialog navigate to the “Fixed” folder for your images and then click on “Add all” to transfer all limages to the lower section:

Now set the output folder to the “Stuff” folder you just created:
Set the options to maximum quality:

Click “OK” to close the “JPEG/GIF save options”. And click on the “Advanced” button just below the “Options” button you just used. Now set as below:

As you can see from above be sure to:

  • Select “RESIZE”
  • Set the size of the converted image to 50% of the original
  • Select both “Preserver aspect ratio (proportional)” and “User Resample function (better quality)”
  • Set new DPI value to 400

Click on “OK” to close this dialog.

Now click on the “Start Batch” button on the bottom left of the “Batch conversion” dialog. This will run the conversion.

After the conversion is finished click on “Return to batch”. This will drop you back to the “Batch conversion” dialog where as clicking “Exit batch” will take you right back to Irfanview.

Check your work !

At this point you should have all the artwork scanned and tidied up and resized in the “/Stuff” folder.

Soon you will be zipping things up and deleting the original scans. Now is the time to check that the “/Stuff” folder contains the correct artwork. Go through the stuff folder for each CD and double check the images are for the correct CD and you haven’t accidentally put the wrong artwork against the wrong CD.

Tips and tricks

When scanning a booklet it is a really good idea to review the pages you scanned to ensure you didn’t miss any. Some of the booklets can be very long and it can be very easy to miss a page.

Resources

Removing moiré patterns using GIMP (Zoyinc)
Fixing moiré patterns – text mixed with images (Zoyinc)
Scanning tips – stop the reverse side shinning through (Zoyinc)
Color balance in Gimp using an eye dropper (Zoyinc)