Sunday Mailbag- Handling Files?

September 7th, 2014 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: You are creating hundreds of pictures a year. As you work partly digital there are at least hundreds of files a year. Which order do you have for these files on your hard disk? Do you have one folder for each project? Do you have a folder for finished work, quasi a portfolio folder? Do you save all your files or do you delete most of them after some time? Do you have a standard procedure for your files (names, folders, etc.)?

A: I don’t think it’s exactly “hundreds” of illustrations a year but it is a lot. I have three different areas where I keep my digital files: Working, Art Files, Archives.

Working: This is a single folder on my main hard drive where I keep the files of anything I am working on at the time. I organize these into sub-folders for each job. These folders can get very filled up with different versions of the illustrations I am working on. I might save an illustration at a certain stage and then work on the same file under a new name going forward. I might do that if I end up merging a few layers at a certain point, so I have a version with the layers merged just in case I need it. I prefer to work on a file with as few separate layers as possible, to minimize the likelihood of my working on the wrong layer accidentally and messing up something. I also keep any references or working files in this same folder like sketches, raw scans etc.

Art Files: This is a folder on my secondary hard drive where I keep the finished work I have done for the last year or so. I have sub-folders for each of my regular clients here, and then sub-folders in each for the different projects I did for them. I take the file from the “Working” folder, delete all the unneeded files from it like the references, extra versions of the art, etc and then move it to it’s home in the appropriate folder in “Art Files”. I usually save an unflattened master version of a finished illustration, the flattened final art I delivered and any sketches involved. If I don’t have a client folder for a given job I put it in a “Misc” folder.

Archives: Every couple of years I purge my Art Files folder and put the older art into an archives folder. This is on a third separate hard drive and organized by year. I sometimes delete all but the final art file, but most of the time I keep the sketches and such as well. I have some of my really old art on CD roms somewhere, but a lot of the old digital stuff is lost to posterity. It seems to me that this whole digital art revolution is still a new thing, but I was doing digital illustrations as early as 1992 (my first digital job was a series of comic book format anti-drugs/anti-smoking/anti-bad stuff info for grade school aged kids using Adobe Illustrator), so that was 22 years ago!

I have a redundant auto backup of all my hard drives as well as the Mac “Time Machine” feature set to guard against data loss.

Thanks to Dominick Zeillinger for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


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New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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