iTunes Album Art Not Syncing to iOS Devices: Album Art Size Could be Limiting Factor

A reader wrote to me the other day with an intriguing question: why was some of his album art not syncing to his iOS devices? He had ripped John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach cantatas pilgrimage CDs in Apple Lossless format, and scanned all the covers at 600 pixels. Yet none of these covers showed up on his iOS devices. However, all his other music displayed album art on iOS devices.

I asked him to send me one of the files, and I found that he had actually added album art at 2900 pixels wide; perhaps he had set the scanner for 600 dpi, and not resized the images to 600 pixels. When I added the track to my iTunes library and synced it to my iPhone, the album art didn’t display.

So, I set out to do some testing. I tried changing the size of the album art to see if that had an effect; sure enough, it did. I did some more testing, using the same track and the same album art. I tried at different sizes, to see where the cut-off would be. I named each file with the pixel size of the artwork, and the size of the graphic file that I was adding.


It turned out that the files up to 2200 pixels displayed album art; the 2400 and 2900 pixel artwork did not display.

There are two possibilities; I need to do more testing to figure out which variable iTunes uses to decide whether to sync album art with music. It could be either the pixel size, or the graphic file size. In other words, it’s possible that iTunes has a limit of 2200 (or up to 2399) pixels, or that the limit is 10 MB (or up to just under 12 MB). My guess is that it’s the latter; I don’t think iTunes can calculate the pixel size of an embedded image, but it probably can figure out how much space it takes up. The 10 MB file size was rounded up; I think the actual file was 9.8 MB.

Finder001.pngIt makes sense that iTunes would strip album art if it’s very large when syncing to an iOS device. You might accidentally add a huge file as album art for an album, much larger than the size of the music file itself. (That was the case with the original file I received from my reader; the music file was around 5 MB.) To save space on an iOS device, iTunes may simply strip it. It would be nice, however, if iTunes could tell users when this happens.

So if you’re having problems with iOS devices not displaying album art for specific tracks or albums, select one of these files in iTunes, press Command-I, then click the Artwork tab. Drag the artwork to the Finder, then select it and press Command-I. The info window will show you the file size and the pixel size of the artwork, as you can see in the screenshot to the left.

If the artwork is larger than the sizes I mentioned above, try reducing it to see if it still doesn’t display. I don’t guarantee that my limited test will work all the time; in fact, if it doesn’t work for you, post a comment.

Update: French website iGen did some tests, and found that the limit is around 10 MB for the album art file. They found that pixel size didn’t matter, but they also found that a graphic of 10.3 MB was synced, and another of 10.1 MB didn’t sync. My guess is that those are the Finder sizes, and include the amount of space taken up by thumbnails; it looks like the limit is around 10 MB per file.

10 thoughts on “iTunes Album Art Not Syncing to iOS Devices: Album Art Size Could be Limiting Factor

  1. You wrote: “I don’t think iTunes can calculate the pixel size of an embedded image”.
    Sure it can, or rather it doesn’t need to – the image size (px by,px, resolution) is part of the EXIF meta data embedded in each image. iTunes just needs to read that, the same way as the Get Info command in the Finder does it,… or Webkit when it needs to display an image and the author hasn’t specified any dimension.

    That said, useful reminder that there is an upper limit for iTunes Artwork. I vaguely remember reading a FruitCo tech note on the subject but search engines don’t seem to find it. Probably typing the wrong keywords…

    • I’m not sure I understand you’re question. Are you asking if small artwork won’t sync? I’ve never seen anything small that didn’t sync. I doubt there’s a lower limit, but if you added something very small, perhaps.

  2. I have artwork that is 53 kb that does not sync and 43 kb that does. Both Jpg… can’t figure out the problem Also, it is on my Ipad mini and not Ipod 5th gen, which has 9 Gigs available. Also, all missing artwork is on songs purchased from ITunes!

  3. I also had some artwork that did not sync and tried some of your suggestions. I can say for me in iTunes 12.1 that pixel size did not matter. It was simply file size. While resizing some of my artwork I had one that ended up as 10.0kb and it would not sync, so it appears the threshold for not syncing is 10.0kb or larger.


  4. I can verify the results. I had the same problem. I found out that all covers that didn’t sync was around 2800px. I made them 2200px, now all are sync just fine!
    Thank you for a very helpful article! :)

  5. My experience is that pixel size and file size make no difference. I have discovered that, when an image does not display, saving the image (copy and paste) from the iTunes info window to another directory, deleting the image from info window, saving the info window without the image, and then reentering the very same image from the directory where it was saved results in the artwork showing up on other iOS devices and Sonos.

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