The Most Common Artwork File-Naming Mistakes

The Most Common Artwork File-Naming Mistakes

How much thought do you put into your file-naming? Just like bad artwork, a bad file name can cause issues. And the most common mistake is using characters (like a question mark) that don't belong in a file name.
Why is this an issue? 
Computer operating systems use certain characters to either interpret or organize data. When those characters appear in the wrong places, the system will either interpret the file incorrectly or not be able to use it at all. Thankfully, MOST of these mistakes are very easy to avoid.

Safe file name characters

When naming files, you'll want to stick to alphanumeric characters (ie, letters and numbers) and hyphens. If you don't use anything outside that, you'll be 100% fine. 
Examples of safe file names include:
Good-file-name.png
green-dragon.png

Don't use extra periods in file names

Just like a period is used to note the end of a sentence, a period signals to a computer that it's hit the end of the file's name. Anything past the period might be treated as the file's extension type, and the computer may attempt to load it accordingly... which is a problem when it's not a valid extension.
Examples of bad names include:
red.dragon.png
red-dragon.png.png
An easy fix would be:
red-dragon.png

Don't use slashes in file names

Computer operating systems and other systems use slashes and backslashes for their file paths. You'll commonly see these at the top of folders. 
Examples of bad names include:
bad/file/name.png
blue\dragon.png

Don't use parentheses in file names

Who doesn't love parentheses? Computer operating systems, for starters. Although computers may generate files with parentheses, those same parentheses can cause issues when the files are opened or transmitted. 
Why might a file have a parenthesis? One of the most common causes is because somebody created a copy whose file name is identical to another file in the same folder. Because two files in the same location can't have the exact same name (due to a computer not knowing how to organize and process them), a newly created identical file will include parentheses with a number at the end. 
For example, if I was to copy "Bolt-Logo.png", the new version might be "Bolt-Logo (1).png" which adds a space, a set of parentheses, and a number. (Depending on how the file was created, the duplicate issue can be resolved differently.)
How do you get around this? Simple, just change the file name. If you're creating a resized version of an image, you could list the new size at the end (ie, "medium" or "500-px").
Examples of bad names include:
bad file name (1).png
bad-file-name(2).png
cool-company(logo).png
An easy fix might be:
bad-file-name-medium.png
bad-file-name-2.png
cool-company-logo.png

Avoid spaces in a file name

Spaces can sometimes cause issues with file names. Instead, you should use hyphens (-). A less popular alternative is underscores (_). 
Why is this an issue? Because some systems really don't like spaces and may try to change them to something else. Have you ever seen a "%20" in a URL? That's an example of a space being converted to something else. 
Examples of bad names include:
gold dragon.png
company logo.png
An easy fix might be:
gold-dragon.png 
company-logo.png 

Other bad characters to avoid when naming files

- Apostrophes (')
- Arrows (> and < )
- Asterisks (*)
- Dollar symbol ($) or any currency symbol
- Hashtag / pound symbol (#)
- Percentage symbol (%)
- Question marks (?)
- Quotation marks (")

How you might find bad characters in file names

If you've ever gone to right-click and save a file from a website, you've probably seen some strange file names. These might be a matter of the file name having an issue when it was uploaded (for example, a space might become "%20") or the file not being named properly in the first place. 
Thankfully, when you encounter a file with a bad name, there's an easy solution -- just rename it!

What's a good artwork file name? 

Good file names are descriptive so they're easily understood. This could include the name of your organization and a description of the artwork.
For example, if you had a business named Gadgets & Things and the art file contained your logo, a good file name would be Gadgets-and-Things-logo.png (where the "&" would be replaced with an "and").
Or if you were purchasing shirts for Summerfield Middle School and the design included a lion, you might name your file Summerfield-Middle-School-Lion.png or Summerfield-School-Lion.png or just Summerfield-Lion.png
Other examples of good file names include:
Boston-High-Logo.png
Jones-Family-Reunion-2024.png