Printing Documents 2-Up (or n-up) on a Page in InDesign

Look, someone needs to come out and just say it: InDesign does not have powerful imposition tools. There, I said it. If you’ve been frustrated with making booklets, or trying to make printer spreads, or printing your artwork two-up on a page (or 10-up, or whatever), or a half-a-dozen other imposition-related tasks, you’re probably thinking, “Gosh, there has to be a way.” But no… You can’t do it! Whew, that feels better getting out of my system.

But there’s always a workaround. One of my favorite ways to print something “n-up” (that is, print the same thing multiple times in a grid on a page) is to use the LayoutZone script. Just export the whole page (or whatever part of the page you want) as an INDD file and place that file back into another InDesign document. Then use Step and Repeat to duplicate the “image” at will. If you later edit the original INDD file, it’s updated automatically on the n-up page.

Of course, you could also do this in CS or CS2 or whatever by using PDF files (without the auto-update feature) — just export the artwork as a PDF and place that PDF.

Why export as an INDD or PDF file, instead of just using Edit > Step and Repeat to duplicate the page objects themselves over and over in a document? Hm. Well, yeah, you could do that, though it’s messy and hard to update. For example, if you need to fix a tiny typo in something you’ve duplicated 10 times on a page, you’d have to fix that typo 10 times.

Third-Party Solution

Another — probably better — solution is to use some third-party imposition software. For example, here are a couple of sites you might take a look at (warning: I have either not used these, or used them too little to have an opinion yet… don’t take this list as a recommendation):

Then, of course, there’s also many other imposition programs for Acrobat that could probably do this.

Data Merge

Finally, here’s a wacky idea, suggested by (I think… can’t remember now) Peter Gold or Bob Levine or some other clever person: Use Data Merge! The trick is to get any text file (a simple one, like this list of numbers, works well). Import that into the Data Merge panel, make a small text frame on your artwork and place a data merge item in there (just click on the first item in the data merge panel to add it). Set that text frame to non-printing in the Attributes panel and you’re good to go!

To make the n-up page with this artwork, click Create Merged Document in the data merge panel and set the multi-page layout options there. (If you need more info on data merge, do a search for Data Merge on our site.) Because the imported data is sitting in a non-printing text frame, it appears on screen, but isn’t “really there” (it won’t print or show up in a PDF file). The result: n-up pages with “just” your artwork.

If you have other fun ways to lay files out n-up or do other imposition tricks, let us know below!

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16 Comments on “Printing Documents 2-Up (or n-up) on a Page in InDesign

  1. The data merge thing was also the first thing that popped into my mind. I don’t think there is a way to trick the Miniatures feature in the Print dialog box or the Print Booklet command except maybe specifying “7;7;7″ as the pages to print a 3-up version of page 7, but if I remember correctly InDesign is smart enough to notice the duplicate numbers, in which case I think it should just ask me if that’s really what I want instead of rejecting it.

    What I like to do for stuff like business cards is the following: Make a PDF, place that in Illustrator and use two non-destructive repeat effects on it, one for horizontal copies (essentially giving you a row of copies), and one that duplicates that row down as many times as I want. That way you can quickly adjust the spacing and the number of copies you want in each direction by changing the effects parameters in the appearance panel, whereas InDesign’s Step & Repeat has to be completely redone every time you want to change something. With my solution, a change in InDesign is just a matter of re-exporting to PDF and updating the link in Illustrator.

    I also think parts of Lightroom 2′s print module have made it into Bridge CS4 (I haven’t upgraded yet), if that includes the new multiple-copies-of-the-same-image option introduced in LR2, one could probably also use that, specifying a PDF instead of a photo as the source.

  2. Acrobat 8 Pro will can print Multiple Pages per Sheet & will let you print page “1,1,1,1.”

    If you are comfortable with the commandline, there is always the open source psnup.

  3. What I tend to do for business card printing, is to export to PDF from Illustrator or InDesign, place the PDF in InDesign and step-and-repeat to fill the page. I can’t place the Illustrator file as that doesn’t have bleeds, and placing InDesign files is flakey at best.

  4. I’d be inclined to make a new file to the size of the paper I’m outputting to.

    Layout>Create Guides

    and set up gutters, etc. if needed

    Then place the .indd file

    If I drag and copy (by holding alt) I snap the design into place.

    The just Ctrl (cmd) alt shift D to step and repeat it across or down.

    If I just need it 2 up, then I make a master page with the size I need, and place the design on the master page. Then I place 2 pages with the artwork and print spreads, you can use margins to set up gutters, etc.

    If I need it 3 up, then obviously just 3 master pages.

    Generally, the print booklet serves most of my needs.

    But every now and then I need to do a proper imposition. I was looking for good imposition software that runs in tandem with Indesign before, and haven’t really found anything that is as powerful as 3rd party software.

    So generally, I just make up my own imposition sheets in InDesign for anything that would be more complex.

  5. @Mike: The advantage of the free LayoutZone script is that it’s much faster and more precise, in particular when the objects don’t fill the whole page. For example, you might lay out a business card on an A4 sized page; placing that whole INDD file into another INDD file would be a hassle, so LayoutZone helps by cropping the document dimensions down to the size of the artwork.

  6. There is a very simple solution for this: Use CorelDraw! It has very powerful built in imposition software. You can print n up with crops and bleeds, gutters etc. with a few clicks of the mouse. You can import pdf files into CorelDraw for output. It baffles me as to why Adobe doesn’t get on this.

  7. Question about Data Merge in InDesign. I need to print postcards 4-up on 8.5×11 paper, but can?t seem to get the data merge to put a different record (company name, address, etc.) on each card when I create the document 4-up. 1-up works with data merge, but then I?m not able to print from InDesign or Acrobat 8 without the document being reduced in size. Any suggestions? Would LOVE to skip the mail merge and label printing/applying!

  8. I just downloaded Impose. It’s only $39.99 and it’s THE BOMB! My troubles are over.

    Note: there are still issues lining up the front and back of duplexed pages, but that’s a printer-specific issue and can be tweaked in the file.

  9. My problem is everytime I download a PDF file and try to print it it prints out 4 pages per sheet. I have tried everything I know to adjust the print set up with no avail. This does not happen on other word or email docs only on PDFS.

    Can some one help me with this.

  10. I REALLY wish Indesign would address this. I have about 30 files, 40 pages each (only 3×5″) that I need to print 2-up on a page. Its a 3-step process of exporting to PDF and then reimporting etc – if I have just one little change on one page its a whole lot of work to print.

    I keep putting it out there in hopes that maybe someone at Indesign will pick up on it.

  11. Please try IDImposer for one-click creation of your InDesign 5 or 6 impositions. IDImposer supports Saddle, Perfect Bound, Step and Repeat, N Up, and Cut Stack impositions … pretty much anything other than complex rotated-page impositions. The output is a new InDesign “printer spread” document, ready for printing or exporting to PDF.

    Even if you will be using a commercial printer for the final imposition (always talk to your printer about your job), IDImposer is useful for producing mock-ups of the final folded and bound job.

    Free 15-day trial.

    Disclaimer: As you may have guessed, I am the developer of IDImposer.

  12. I have a strange question. I was asked to come up with an arc to match the curvature of some printed type. No big problem with that…scanned the document then used to Pen tool to creat the desired path. Next, I needed to place the new arc into a text box. I drew the text box and moved the arc into it, then grouped them. Seems to be going well , so far. Next, I had to populate an etire page with the text boxes…used Step and Repeat to do that. (I know there is a quicker way, but I relied on S&R, this time.) What I would like to do, now, is auto-populate the boxes…on the paths…using data merge or something similar. Do I need to physically thread each box together or will it be automated? I’m using CS3, if that makes a difference. Thanks for any help you can give.

  13. Is there a way to print a spread of 2 totally different documents? I work within a program called News Edit Pro and our 40 page magazine is built out as 40 individual pages, no spreads or multiple pages in a file.
    But I want to see page 32 and 33 printed on the same tabloid sheet. I know I can export each page out as a PDF then place together then print as a spread but that is a lot of extra work in a short time window that we have.

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks!

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