Make a Huge Printable Poster From Your ITunes Album Art!




Introduction: Make a Huge Printable Poster From Your ITunes Album Art!

This is a instructable describing how to cumbersomely export your existing iTunes album art and arrange all the covers into a huge grid, leaving you with a gigantic, colourful and vibrant mishmash of popular culture ready for printing and, maybe later, your wall!

I decided I wanted to do this a couple of nights ago and now I've come up with a method, it's not really complicated but can be rather time-consuming depending on how large your library is.
I have around 800 albums with attached album art and it took at least an hour, granted most of that time is spent watching your computer doing all the work for you.

The process requires you to download some free applications (links supplied) and you also need a new-ish version of Photoshop (I use CS3) although I'll show you an alternate way of getting basically the same results with Google's free digital photo organizer, Picasa2.

So, for Windows only at the moment, but I'm sure some Mac user can come up with an easier and cooler way to do this. Damn you, I'm switching soon anyway.

More advanced users can check out Step 7 right away for a quick rundown.

Step 1: Locating Your ITunes Album Art

First we need to make sure you actually have some album art to work with.
There's several ways to go about this; you can import the covers automatically from the iTunes Store or you can painstakingly do it by hand for every album.

- Automatically
- By hand

I imported all mine into iTunes by hand, partly because I'm kinda picky and want them all the same size but mostly because I listen to weird electronic music that's just not available in the iTunes Store, forcing me to find the cover art from, Google image search and elsewhere.

Anyway, I will assume you have at least some album art in iTunes (the more the better) and move on.

So let's locate the images on your computer.
The problem, and the one thing that makes this instructable even worth sharing to begin with, is that the images are not readable by Photoshop as is and that they're all spread out into hundreds of strangely nested folders with strange names.
Therefore, we need to decode them and copy them all into one place.

The default folder for your artwork should be in "My Documents\My Music\iTunes\Album Artwork\Local"
If you can't find it there just do a search for the folder "album artwork" on your C: drive.

If you navigate around a bit from here you'll notice that it's very messy, so we have to find all the *.itc files (those are actually just renamed png images with some extra header data) that are thrown around in the myriad of folders and copy them into a new folder so that we can manipulate them without destroying your iTunes setup.

From the Local folder, click Search in your Explorer bar (CTRL-F) and search for any file that has "itc" in it's file name and after a while you should be presented with a list of all the cover art files.
Now, make a new folder somewhere else, maybe on your desktop, Select All the files (CTRL-A) and copy them into your newly made folder.

Make sure you copy the files, don't just move them or you will mess up your iTunes library!

Step 2: Converting the Files Into a Readable Format

Ok, here comes the tricky part. I was hoping there would be an easier way but so far I haven't found one.

Download Bitmaprip (Portable, 24KB ZIP)

Put the application from inside the zip file into the same folder as your itc files. This makes it easier for later but you can put it wherever you want if you know what you're doing.
Open up a command prompt - click on the Start Menu, choose Run, type in "cmd" without the quotation marks and click OK.

Navigate to your folder with the itc files and Bitmaprip inside.
- Beginners Guides: WindowsXP Command Prompt

In the command prompt, type:
copy /b * test.tes

This will combine all the files into one, named test.tes, you'll see why in the next step.

In the command prompt, type:
bitmaprip test.tes

Have a look inside your folder and finally you can see the decoded album art!
As for why Apple has chosen to hide the images so well there are many theories but we'll leave that for some other time.

You can now close down the command prompt and delete all the itc files, if you wish.

Step 3: Removing Duplicates

This quick step is optional but recommended since there will be one cover image for each and every track on all the compilations, various artists etc discs you have.

Download and install Duplicate File Finder (Installer, 1MB EXE)

Open Duplicate File Finder and click the check box next to the folder containing your images, leave the other settings untouched and click "Start Search".

Once the search is done, first click the fourth button from the left and then the recycle bin to the right of it, see attached pictures.
Confirm the deletion and exit Duplicate File Finder.

Did I mention I was a bit anal retentive? :)

Step 4: Scaling the Album Art to the Same Size

Another optional step, depending on which way you took when you imported your album art into iTunes.
I scaled mine to 200 by 200 pixels from the start but chances are there will still be some images with other dimensions and that will mess up the evenness of our final result.

Download and install Fotosizer (Installer, 1MB EXE)
When you install make sure you deselect the option to install the toolbar
The application is fine except for that.

Click Add Folder and locate your images, enter a custom size in the Width and Height boxes (I set mine to 200 x 200), uncheck the Maintain Aspect Ratio check box and finally select a Destination Folder, preferably a new and different one than the one with the unscaled images.

Click Start and wait, this should be pretty quick.

You can now close down Fotosizer and delete the old folder, if you wish.

This can also be done in Photoshop with Actions, if you know how. I just feel I can't spend even more time explaining how that beast works.

Step 5: Assembling the Poster in Photoshop

At last, time to reap the fruits of your labour! After some math, that is.

In order for the poster to end up symmetric we need to have a nice and even amount of images so if you have, say, 317 files in your scaled images folder, just delete 17 of them so that you have 300 left.
Or, if you have for example 355, you can delete 5 and let your finished poster be 25 down and 14 across. Experiment.

Open up Photoshop and make sure you have Pixels selected in Preferences->Units&Rulers->Rulers.
Go into the File menu and click Automate->Contact Sheet.

Click the Browse button and locate your folder with the scaled images.
Let Units be set to Pixels and then try figuring out the math. In my attached example the scaled images are 200 by 200 pixels and there's 50 of them, so I figured I try out an oblong poster.
10 rows times 200 pixels is 2000 pixels so the Width should be 2000.
5 rows times 200 pixels is 1000 pixels so the Height should be 1000.
5 times 10 is 50, so all the images will fit on one page, as you can see to the right in the dialog box where it says "Page 1 of 1".

Once you get a hang of it it won't need to be so difficult.

Now just press OK and leave the computer alone for a bit.
This example took around two minutes for me to render but once you start using several hundreds of covers the wait will be longer.
I can recommend assembling smaller chunks at the time if you have more than 400 of them and then putting them all together once the composition is done.

Hopefully you'll end up with something like the enclosed example, only larger.

Step 6: Assembling the Poster in Picasa2

Here's an alternative way to do the final assembly step in case you don't have Photoshop, it has less options and control over the final result but still leaves you with something you can use.

Download and install Google's Picasa2 (Installer, 5MB EXE)

Import your scaled images folder into Picasa2.
- Picasa Help

With the folder selected in the left pane, click the menu Create->Picture Collage, choose Picture Grid, click Create, wait a bit and you're done.

You end up with a square image that you can open up in Photoshop and crop/resize if need be.

Step 7: Summary and Some Final Thoughts

So, for the more advanced users, here's a quick rundown.

1. Copy all the itc-files from My Music\iTunes\Album Artwork\Local
2. Pipe all the files into one via copy /b * test.tes (/b is for binary copy)
3. Extract the png's using Bitmaprip
4. Remove duplicates with, for example, Duplicate File Finder
5. Scale all the images to the same size with for example Fotosizer or Photoshop Actions.
6. Use the Contact Sheet function in Photoshop or Picasa2 to assemble the images into a poster.

Wow. Such a long and convoluted walkthrough for something that should be so easy.
I'm pretty sure there are easier methods or maybe someone will just write a simple Python, ImageMagick or whatever script that does all this in no time.
But hopefully someone got some use out of this, if so I would love to see some examples of your finished results, be it a photo of your printed poster or maybe just a desktop wallpaper.

You can of course apply this technique to something else, like your collection of Russian propaganda art, or use the images to make a photo mosaic.

That's it, thanks and feel free to ask any questions or comment if I left something out.

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    Tip 2 years ago on Step 3

    Sorry, this instructable is pretty old by now so some links are bound to be outdated. Try this alternative instead, it has more functions and works great


    8 years ago on Step 5

    You can also create the montage image with ImageMagick like this:

    montage test.tes.00* +frame +shadow +label -tile 5x9 -geometry 500x500+0+0 merge.png

    Adjusting the tile value and geometry (size) as appropriate


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Like it. Shame it's not possible to do 'spines' - I always enjoyed looking at vinyl collections of friends or in shops to see if I could recognize the album by the spine.
    There are scripts around that help export from the MP3 (I guess) and this thread might be worth investigating:


    8 years ago

    Thanks for posting this, really fantastic & just in time for Father's Day... It will make a great gift! Much appreciated bc I know it took a lot of time explaining!!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    nice Instructable. how do you decode the artwork on a mac (OSX lion)?


    10 years ago on Step 7

    the one in this picture is so cool how did u make it like this


    10 years ago on Step 5

    there is no contact sheet in automate


    11 years ago on Step 5

    Thanks for this instructables had fun doing this, just thought id mention to save someone the maths if they are looking to do the same thing I made a 1920 by 1200 background for my monitor.

    360 albums, 24 columns, 15 rows

    that makes each album cover 80 by 80 pixels and fits perfectly!

    24 x 80 being 1920 and
    15 x 80 being 1200

    therefore 1920 by 1200 wallpaper


    11 years ago on Step 3

     Your link isn't working buddy. Try and update it, I can't find the programme.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks very much for this instructable, it's great. My only real gripe is with using Picasa to make the poster. I have the latest version of Picasa (3.5) and it is the most infuriating program I've ever used.

    Sometimes it finds folders of your photos but a lot of the time it doesn't and won't import them properly. I think I have narrowed this down to it not liking the pictures being resized to 200x200 pixels.

    The pictures that it does import are bigger than that size (I'm talking about the original file sizes before re-sizing), hence it will actually show them. But as soon as you resize them to the smaller size then Picasa will not import them properly.

    You cannot resize the pictures in Picasa as it doesn't allow you to do that.

    Now the other annoying thing is that when you use the Photoshop method it displays the names for each individual picture in the grid. So there is a lot of messing about to do to get it to look just right. Sorry for the long post!


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Hello fellow Aphex Twin lover :)

    I think both your annoyances can be remedied. Inside Photoshop, make sure you uncheck "Use filename as caption" inside the Contact Sheet settings, as per my screenshot in the Instructable.
    As for the Picasa problem, select "Small Pictures" in the "View" menu.

    Let me know if this works.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Yes! Praise the Lord it worked perfectly.

    Thanks very much for that. I tried the remedy in photoshop also but I prefer to use the Picasa method as you can create a nice border round the pictures and easily add spaces between each picture to the size you want. I know I could probably do this in Photoshop but as you can see, I'm not very technically minded lol.

    Thanks a lot for your help.

    P.S. Richard D.James rocks!


    13 years ago on Introduction

    The Command prompt guide you linked too is dead. I tried working out how to navigate myself... but this is all that happened, even though I'm certain I Have the folder in the right place:


    12 years ago on Introduction

    How do you do this on vista? step two won't work and I thought it was because I'm using vista.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry I wouldn't know. I wrote this guide for XP and I've since switched to MacOS X. I'm sure there's some way to do it on Vista though - what seems to be the problem?


    12 years ago on Introduction

    I don't use iTunes, but wanted to do the same thing in ubuntu. I have my cover art set as a folder.jpg file in my mp3 folders. Most of my cover art is a 300x300 res jpg.

    First I recursively searched for all jpgs in my folder tree that were above 10k using gnome-search-tool
    Saved the results as jpgs.txt
    Created a bash script to copy the jpgs to a folder with IFS stuff for dealing with white space
    IFS=$(echo -en "\n\b")
    for file in `cat jpgs.txt`
    echo "processing $file"
    cp "$file" $RANDOM.jpg
    Then mogrified the jpgs to make sure they were all 300x300
    mogrify -resize 300x300! *.jpg
    Created many smaller montages, since 2400 jpgs will crash montage
    montage -tile 7x7 *.jpg montage.jpg
    Loaded all of the smaller montage pics into gimp and aligned them to grid to create a giant montage.jpg
    Converted montage.jpg to pdf so I could use pdfposter
    convert montage.jpg montage.pdf
    pdfposter -v -s 1 montage.pdf pdfposter.pdf

    pdfposter dumps out a pdf a la rasterbator, so I can print out my 7.5 square foot poster on A4... without the rasterizing of rasterbator..

    and that's that.