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In today's digital age, our hard drives are filled with files that we've been working on. For freelance designers, those files can belong to any number of clients. If all of your work is for a single company, you probably have files from many projects over the years. The challenge that we're faced with is finding the files when we need them. For example, you may remember that you worked on some kind of a design about a year ago, but it may take hours or may even be impossible to find that file at times. More importantly though, because Illustrator files can be used in so many different ways, we're constantly sending out our artwork to other locations, to other hard drives, to other people, to clients, so on and so forth.
As such, we may want to be careful about putting copyright information,= or at least putting some other kind of information that identifies,= who the creator of those files were. And that's where the concept of metadata comes in. Metadata is information that describes what is in a file. While some kinds of metadata are automatically stored in a file, for example what fonts or colors are used in that document, the more information you put into the metadata of a file, for example who the designer was, what project or client that was for, pertinent copyright information, or things of that nature, it will only help you when it comes down to align later on, when you need to find that file or track information about the file.
Let me show you how to add metadata to any document inside of Illustrator. I'm going to start creating just a new print document, click OK to get the document open up on my screen, and I will go to the File menu and choose File Info. This brings up a comprehensive dialog box where I can enter all kinds of information about this file. In truth, I can open up this dialog box at any time, even after I have saved this file many times. However, my advice to you is that getting into the habit of adding information, even if it's basic, before you start working on a file will make your life that much easier. You'll notice across the top of the dialog box many tabs. Each of these tabs reference different types of information or metadata that you can add to a file.
Now, it's important to realize that almost every single digital file can contain metadata. For example there's a tab here called Camera Data. Well there's no camera data if it's an Illustrator file. However, whenever you snap a photograph with a digital camera, certain metadata called x-if metadata is automatically stored along with the file. It records what kind of camera was used to take that picture, what the exposure settings were set to, whether or not the flash went off when the picture was taken, and some cameras can even record the GPS location of where that photo was taken in the world.
However, when it comes to Illustrator the most important panel is probably the Description panel. At the very a least, it's helpful to add a document title, who the author was to that document, and maybe a basic description of what that artwork is. I also find it very helpful to add keywords, which can be used when you're trying to search for documents. Finally, you may want to specify a copyright status. When I create my own work, I'll usually choose a copyrighted option and I put my personal web site here inside of this field. If you work at a company, you may want to put the company's web site here as well.
In doing so, no matter where your Illustrator file ends up, even after it's been placed into InDesign, turned into a PDF or opened up with Illustrator even on the other side of the world, your information will be secure in that file. Before I click OK, let me share with you one little tip that I use often. On the bottom of the screen over here there's a button called Import, but if you click just to the right of that on this little arrow, it pops up over here and gives you an option to Export. What it's exporting? Well it's actually creating something called a metadata template, and when you export a metadata template, you can then choose to open up a different document and import that template. This saves you the time from having to type in information every time you create a new document.
My advice is to actually sit down for a moment and create a special metadata template for yourself. For example, the author name, which would be your name, maybe your title and maybe some basic keywords that you know that you'll always have in every document. For example if you work at a large company and you're part of a department in that company, you may want to add a keyword for that. Finally, specify a copyright status and information for your file and then export and create a template. Now, anytime that you create a new document inside of Illustrator, simply import that template and all those fields will automatically be populated.
All you'll have to do at that point is simply change a document title, maybe change the description, and add some the necessary keywords.
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