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How to digitally archive your artwork

Portrait of Symposia author Colin Fisher
Colin Fisher

Mar 16, 2022

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 min read

How to archive your work digitally
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The digital age has made it easier than ever to archive your work. However, with all the available options for archiving and storing your work, you might have trouble deciding which is best for you. This article will help make that choice a little bit easier. We're going to go over how to archive your artwork digitally so that it can be preserved for future generations.

Keep in mind that these are just general tips – every artist's workflow will be different. But hopefully, this article will give you a good starting point for deciding how to archive your work.

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The importance of archiving your work digitally

Nowadays, almost everyone has some sort of digital presence. From Facebook to Instagram to Twitter, we're constantly sharing and creating content that lives online. And while this can be great for promoting yourself or your business, it also means that your work is at risk of being lost or forgotten if something happens to the platforms on which it's stored.

The internet is a constantly changing archive that offers new opportunities for your work every day, but it can be easy to forget about those old sites you set up in the past.

Understand that the internet is constantly evolving

Websites and digital stuff are constantly being updated, redesigned, or disappearing. Digital archives of your work can help with both the portfolio as well as peace of mind when you need to access it in future jobs because these documents keep original form regardless of whether they're physical materials or not.

I've been a designer for the last decade, but recently I recognized how much work is lost to the ever-shifting web. I developed this simple system: archive all pieces by date, then keep track with labels and sticky notes to make up for it.

This process has helped me see the value in my work in a new light. By appreciating how much I take it for granted, and the thanksgiving is given when looking at things from a holistic viewpoint, I hope you can experience these benefits too.

Digital archiving of physical materials

Prepare yourself to begin the archiving process.

You never know when you might need to reference your work, so everything must be in order and easily accessible. Plus, if something goes wrong with the file or medium, then there's no way for anyone else who comes across this material afterward.

Set goals for what you want to achieve

Setting clear objectives from the beginning is critical to successful archiving. There's nothing worse than having a fantastic concept but no way of knowing if or when everything was completed, so this will make it simpler for you to stay on track and motivated as your project progresses.

Archiving old work can be a great way to make it easier for you in the future. Suppose your portfolio is full of press clips and other materials from previous projects. In that case, archives will allow easy access when looking at new opportunities that come along because they'll already know about what kind of style we're seeking.

Understand the long term impact

Keeping a public portfolio of your work online is critical to communicating skills and discovering. This is a great way to show off your work and get noticed. Furthermore, keeping clips (screenshots or PDFs) from publications can help validate profiles like Wikipedia pages or LinkedIn profiles.

Archiving your work might help you break out of a creative rut and provide valuable hindsight. Reacquainting oneself with the past, whether it be some portion that has been forgotten about or never seen again, is a time-consuming practice that promotes self-improvement.

Reviewing your work in the past can be an excellent way to remind yourself of how you've evolved as an artist and even help decide what kind of projects might interest or challenge you. Plus, reviewing old archives gives us new ways to communicate our accomplishments - think about it.

The importance of archiving cannot be overstated. Websites and social media platforms often change, as do news outlets; all this can leave you without a way to remember what was happening when or where your work is being published if it's not recorded correctly on paper first.

Personal collections of file formats

Getting started: Make a list of all the work you want to archive

You might want to start by making a master spreadsheet or using an app like Asana and creating lists for each project you need archiving.

The following are the key points to note when creating your spreadsheets. You'll need a way of recording and tracking each moment so that you can refer back, if necessary:

  • Name of Work (e.g., book)
  • Title of Work
  • Type of work (e.g., article, blog post)
  • It was created or published/released on the date.
  • Publisher/Client Name and website URL
  • Author or Writer name(s)
  • Date Published/Released
  • Archiving the work will require physical and digital archive documentation.
  • We have other miscellaneous details, including the existing process materials and notable press.

An archiving project is complex, especially if you want it done right. You need to set your goals and determine what's most important for the future, then break down those items into manageable chunks, so they're easier to handle later on down the line.

Proper organization is critical.

It is essential to consider how you will organize your archive. You can use a list of work from this unit to inspire organizing ideas and materials.

You can use organizational folders to make it easier for you in the future. For example, if your preference is a set order or random system that suits how things come up, then create one of these:

  • Year
  • Client
  • Project
  • Genre/type of work

Your filenames should follow a consistent structure to be easily searchable and understandable—for example, PROJECT NAME_CLIENT YEARs.pdf.

Get all the tools you'll need in place.

It's essential to have a plan for archiving your work. The tools below can help you get started:

  • With the recent rise in computer and complex drive malfunctions, it is essential to consider using a cloud storage system like Dropbox or Google Drive. These services keep your data safe from potential loss due to any malfunctioning device by storing them on remote servers that can be accessed anywhere at any time with an internet connection.
  • Use a program to preserve your digital materials work: Google Chrome's Full Page Screen Capture plugin, FastStone Capture, or SnagIt will be required for saving online content in the PNG and PDF file formats.
  • There are several ways to record work in action on your computer screen as .mov or GIFs. This can be helpful if you want to take moving images that will never change, such as those from an app slider, and save them for future reference; it also allows us more freedom when editing videos since we aren't bound by what was captured live.
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After capturing photos of your work, it can help to create a secondary archive by printing those images

Digitally Archiving Work

Begin the capturing and filing process

The first step is to go into your master spreadsheet and find the item you want to be captured. Download both PDFs or PNGs (if available) using any screen capture/recording tool that allows it, rename them according to the file naming scheme, and place files in appropriate folders all at once.

This is the perfect opportunity to capture any press about your work, process documentation, or anything else you want to be saved. You can create a folder within that main one for "Press" material and put it at least manageable levels of subfolders under (for example) "PR" if not more labeled explicitly like so: Photographs/2014-Present; Video Clips, etcetera.

There are two options for transferring when working with digital files: gathering and renaming the assets or screen-capturing them. If your photography is already uploaded to a computer or online platform, then go ahead with option one; however, if not—consider getting pictures off of websites by capturing their URLs instead.

Once you have your system in place, it will be easy to get into the flow. Keep moving through all of those pesky spreadsheets while leaving notes if there's any physical work that needs documenting on them.

professional archivists working with important documents

Archive the Physical work

Gather everything first

When digital archiving work, it is essential to remember that you should also be keeping track of any physical pieces. Begin this process by gathering all your artwork in one place and dividing what needs photographing or scanning accordingly to avoid having too much for one session.

Determine the presentation style

There are many ways to present physical work digitally, but you must decide on your preferences. Do iPhone digital photos suit the project? What type of images do they want - individual pieces or book covers? Will they all look uniform regardless of the furniture items published through this medium (for instance, an artist's portfolio)? It can help gather reference material and see how different formats might turn out before committing yourself fully to making final files precisely as desired.

Figure out a cost-effective method of capturing

Consider offering a work trade to lower or eliminate costs if you need help with this task. You can also ask friends who are photographers for assistance, use shipping stores that offer DIY scanning services (if they exist), hire an outside professional photographer/entrepreneurial person on staff at your local framing shop; these people will know what images should be used where in order achieve the best results.

Receive and organize files

Once you have captured all of your physical work, Rename the digital files using a scheme and sort them into folders.

Digital form of your entire collection

Set yourself up for long-term success

Make archiving part of your creation process

The final stage of your typical working procedure is to hit "send" on an email, file an invoice, or communicate work with others. But what happens after you've sent the file? If archiving seems complicated now and then, note this critical task, so it's easier to complete when things go missing owing to carelessness. By doing a little each time you work, it will become second nature to archive your material in a safe and accessible manner.


Now that you know how to archive your work digital world, it's essential to set a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Archive your position regularly so you can rest assured that all of your hard work is safe and sound–and accessible when you need it.

  1. Archive your work digitally for long term success
  2. Use a file naming scheme to keep everything organized
  3. Consider different ways to present your physical work digitally
  4. Capture images of physical work using a method that is cost-effective for you
  5. Make archiving part of your regular creation process
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