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Back up your art files

Technology is an amazing thing until it fails us, and having a backup plan is what will make it an inconvenience rather than a disaster. As an artist and designer, it's absolutely VITAL that you make sure all your files are regularly backed up, preferably in multiple places because you never know which device or cloud system will suddenly fail you.

Just these past 2 months, we had a streak of failing devices in the household all of which were a solid reminder to thank all of our lucky stars to back up.

The one that could have been the worst being my iPad suddenly blacking out while I was using it 2 weeks ago. The screen went dead, and when that happens, Apple doesn't bother replacing that part, they just replace the whole iPad with a new one. Fortunately, I had pretty much everything backed up not only to the iCloud, but also have multiple back ups for my files in several places, including an external drive. With 6 years worth of artwork and designs, loosing it all would be catastrophic so I made sure this would never happen by backing it all up frequently.

Most files do not stay on my iPad, I always transfer the drawings I made in Procreate to my laptop so I can continue working in Photoshop. From there, here are the different ways I make sure my files stay safe.

always save a psd version of the artwork

It is ALWAYS a good idea to keep a master file you can go back and edit with all the working layers intact from a professional standpoint. You never know when you are going to need one element from one artwork to use in another, and not saving a master file is the BIGGEST mistake you could make. Those files may take a lot more space on your drive than a png or jpeg, but not having one could be an issue later on when you revisit a design for a project.

save the PSD file on an external drive

Most laptops nowadays have 256 or 512 GB of storage, and sure you could be buying one with more storage, but it would also make the price of your machine go up drastically. Storing PSD and PSB files on your laptop/desktop could eat in your storage very quickly, and quite frankly, you don't need all those master files on hand at all time, so save them on a 1TB external drive, you can now get those at a fairly affordable price. I currently use this one from Toshiba (affiliate link) and make sure you keep this drive protected in a sturdy case, in which you should ideally keep some silica gel pouches as well.

I only keep the master files I need on my laptop, the ones I am currently not done publishing all the colorways, or are part of a collection I am still working on. If I haven't used a file in 6 months, it gets deleted from my laptop and I keep only the jpeg and png version of the artwork as well as the jpeg seamless tile file.

save it to a cloud based drive as well

My most iconic designs all live on 2 different Google drives, some are in dropbox as well, and some are on the iCloud. If one fails, there is always another one. I keep it simple and only keep the master files on those cloud based drives. I don't mind dumping my jpeg and png files on my external drive, but with cloud storage, you pay a monthly subscription for X amount of storage, so keeping anything but the master file could force me to pay more for files that I can re-create easily on my laptop from the master file.

re-back up your external drive every few years on a new drive

The older a device, the higher the risk of it failing you out of the blue. To make sure your hard drive bailing on you doesn't spell "catastrophe" back it up on a new drive every couple of years and label each drive with the date you stopped using it so that you know which one is the most recent one.

don't be cheap with icloud upgrade

The 5 GB Apple give you free with your apple ID is not enough, and while you don't need a huge storage allowance, you want to have enough to store your photos and some app data in case your iPad crashes. In the grand scheme of things, a couple of hundred rupees a month is a business expense your should be factoring into your budget.

When my replacement iPad came earlier this week, I got everything back because I had all the files that mattered backed up into the Cloud and installed automatically on the new device. It took a couple of hours, but everything was there as I left it on the old device. I took the occasion to purge some stuff I didn't need anymore too, but my iPad crashing 2 weeks ago didn't send me in panic mode because I knew the data that mattered was safe in the cloud, and all my other back up places. Living without an iPad was a bit inconvenient because we are in the peak of the festive season prep and I wanted to create new designs, but I didn't loose any of the older ones so I could still work on what was saved on my laptop and external drive will I waited patiently

back up your new work regularly

I fell into a routine of doing it either Saturday or Sunday mornings before I do anything else. To make sure I know which files to back up, I leave them all outside the folders and then when I save them to the external drive, I put them in the correct labelled folder or create a new folder. I know that every folder on my laptop is already backed up and safe, loose files aren't, unless they are labelled with a red dot, which indicates an unpublished file.

Once a month I also do a little digital cleaning by deleting old files I no longer need from my laptop, because at this point, they are already on 2-3 back up drives physical or cloud based and something I haven't revisited in 6 months is not something I need to take up valuable real estate on my laptop. Sometimes I move a master file from the external drive back to the laptop because I suddenly am working on new versions of it after a few years of letting it be dormant.

No back up system is perfect, so you should never rely on just one of them, a cloud based drive could get hacked, a laptop or iPad die on you unexpectedly, your external drive could catch moisture or you could loose it somewhere, or all your stuff could get stolen, or damaged in a natural disaster. While you can't have any control over all those events, you can ensure that the loss of your work is as minimal as possible. You may loose some of your work, but not all of it, and starting over with some of your files still intact is always better than starting all over from scratch.

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