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Breaking Pages Apart to Bleed Off a Spine

I need to split up facing page spreads so I can bleed into the gutter (the spine) without affecting the opposite page.

This is tricky, but can absolutely be done. The key is the Allow Pages to Shuffle option in the Pages palette flyout menu. There’s no way to split up a spread (or add pages to a spread) when this feature is turned on. However, if you turn it off, then you can have all kinds of fun. (“It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how!”)BreakSpread1

When Allow Pages to Shuffle is turned off, you can grab a page in the pages palette and drag it to the side until you see a dark vertical line. It’s tricky because you have to drag just far enough, but not too far (there’s only a tolerance of one or two screen pixels). Move the cursor around until you see that dark vertical line off to the side of the spread. When you let go, the page moves over and the spread becomes to “single pages.”

Here’s a trick you can use instead of dragging the pages around: While Allow Pages to Shuffle is turned off, you can use the Move Page feature (from Layout > Pages submenu or the Pages palette menu). If you want to split the page 2 & 3 spread, then tell Move Pages to “move page 2 to before page 2” (or page 3 after page 3). It sounds weird, but it seems to work.

BreakSpread2Note that the appearance of the “broken spread” is (of course) different depending on the state of your Pages Palette Options dialog box. If you’re showing pages vertically it will look like the pages are “staggered.” If you’re showing pages horizontally, they’ll just be free floating as though they were individual spreads.


[Update: You can watch my video on this technique at here]

David Blatner

David Blatner

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
David Blatner

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  • - November 30, -0001
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111 Comments on “Breaking Pages Apart to Bleed Off a Spine

    • Thank you! I have spent way too much time on the hassle involved with this! It must be a common need to move from spread to separate pages and this works–but is Oh so hidden! Thank you!!

      • Nope…that’s not the same thing. That splits ur spreads completely & turns everything into single pages. This method keeps L/R assignment & just splits spread visually.

  1. Aaron, you sir, are a genious!
    Adding bleeds manually inside the document helped me bypass all this mess and many more troubles that resulted from it.
    Thank you.

  2. Thank you SOOOOOOOO much. You have no idea how long I have been looking for this information and how many concessions I have made with clients and printing companies to achieve a non-bleed from the spine.

    You are amazing!!!

    Thank you a million times over.

  3. When I do this my page numbering which is on the right hand page for both pages (facing) changes from two numbers, say 111-112 to PB-112.

    So the split to get the bleed working is placing the (linked) container for the left hand page on the Pasteboard??!

    If I drag the page back the numbers come back but then I need to solve the gutter (inside) bleed.

    Any clues on how to fix this?

  4. Ps. Aaron’s suggestion sounds good but I have many photos spanning both pages and don’t want to loose an extra 10mm in the area where they span when these get printed to single pages.

  5. AT LAST! Been trying to figure this one out for ages. You’ve saved me hours of further Googling – thank you so much!

  6. I don’t know why anybody would do this! When you export the spreads as single single pages, just set the bleed settings and it will automatically generate the (missing) inner bleed for you.

    • Makko: Um. I’m pretty sure you either don’t understand the problem here, or you have not tried this. InDesign can’t generate a missing inner bleed for you.

      • makko: You have trim marks there, not bleed marks. :)

        When you export a pdf, if I understand it correctly, you want to see three things:

        1. The trim marks with white space in them, as you see in your screenshot
        2. Another set of marks further into the page, the bleed marks, which you don’t have
        3. For any image that you want to touch the edge of the page, it should be extending to fill the space between the trim marks and the bleed marks. Whatever is in that space is your “safety zone” during printing. It may or may not end up in the final cut — so you should fill it, but you shouldn’t put any crucial part of the image in it.

        What this article addresses is an unfortunate effect of Indesign. Namely, if you have your document set up in spreads, then the inner margin doesn’t show the bleed guides that the outer margins do. When you export this to pdf with a bleed area defined, Indesign gets confused, and fills that area with whatever’s on the opposite page. If you try this yourself, say with a left page that’s entirely blue and a right page that’s entirely yellow, the exported pdf will have a very funny effect. The left page’s bleed area on the right side will be yellow, and the right page’s bleed area on the left side will be blue. Hence, we fix this by detaching the spreads before exporting. Sad but necessary.

  7. None of these technique seem to work if you have the Middle Eastern version and your binding is set to go right to left.

  8. I have a single pages book with a bleed for the top bottom left and right. I am trying to convert to Facing Pages but the problem here the inner bleed of the right pages overlaying the left page.
    Anyway to crop that bleed before changing the document settings to Facing Pages?

  9. So that little checkbox is now called “Allow Document Pages to Shuffle” but I’m wondering if there is a way to do this with Master Pages. I’ve just started a document for a spiral bound, and have resorted to just deleting the one facing page. And creating two, an A and B master.

    Wondering if there’s a better way.

  10. The trick is great!!! But if you have a 200 pages Facing Pages document, if might take a while… Wish new versions of Adobe would allow you to put an invisible space between the pages, just enough to add your inner bleed, that way you can easily design your layout, you see your left and rights pages together, having your bleed on all 4 sides at the same time.

    Projects like this are always rush, you dont want to worry about the bleed at the last minute.

    This is a project I am doing right now and the client is not sure if he wants perfect bind or spiral, the document is setup at Facing pages for now

    • Yeah Vleonard81. Inform your client that its really cost effective to decide this right up front. Spiral may will probably wind up costing more. Depends on your project. I had one that I just set up they way I wanted send them the inDesign and magic of magic it was perfect. On another, they wanted 25 little booklets. Off to kinko’s. Explaining to them what I needed was incredibly difficult. I even mocked one up because they were sure which edge the binding was to be on. (The pages were printed front and back, you cant possibly imagine the confusion that caused…)

      Ultimately I had to set up my file for 8.5 x 11, with user added trim marks, and layout the pages with the backside of page one on the left, front side of last page on the right, then figure what will be on the backside of that when its printed.

      In the end, using paragraph styles and master pages was a godsend, allowing me to make a copy with facing pages and a printed spiral down the middle that my client could review, and with a few alterations, get the Frankensteinesque print version to kinkos.

      Wish I knew more about alternate layouts, but like you said, last minute rush. Good luck.

  11. This is really helpful but I have some pages where a title runs across the spread and therefore I need it to appear over both pages when I separate them. When I follow the process described the title only appears on one of the two pages. Is there a way to link an object to a specific page?

  12. Basically, unless you have an image the goes across, donc put inner bleed if you do a very long spiral-bound document, you’re just asking for a migraine… Not worth the hassle…

    Doing this again, taking over someone else “beautifully designed, without thinking about 4 sides bleed”, now I have to figure this out… nightmare!

  13. Ok, I get this, but I am exremely irritated that this is the only way to do this. Why doesn’t InDesign have a simple setting for this? It must be a common use case! So, I have to design all my pages in the spread (because that’s how it works visually), and then separate all the pages, one by one, to make it print ready!? We’re talking about a 65 page book! How annoying!

    Thanks for the help, though. Much appreciated.

    • Oh, and I also have to go to each page and pull any images out into the bleed. Aaargh! I don’t have time for this!

      Just venting. You’re info here has been great.

      • I’m doing it with 160 pages right now! I think there was a script at one time, but I ran into problems when I used it. But I’m glad to know one way to do this. Thanks.

    • Kate, I understand your pain, but no, this is actually not a common use case. It is not required for the vast majority of bound books/magazines/etc. It is only required for things like spiral-bound publications, or those going into binders, or something like that.

      • Interesting. I guess this is the first spiral bound project I’m working, but it seems like it should be a simple enough feature to add. It would save so much time in those cases. It would probably help at the printing press as well. I have to send them a staggered file.

        Thanks again for the info.

  14. And you only have to do it to the first spread, which is a huge relief for anyone working with larger documents. I tested after breaking the first spread and it broke them all! Brilliant.

  15. A printer recently told me they wanted pages split for inside bleeds on a perfect bound job. I told them it was nonsense but he did say that there was a new feature in the recent version of InDesign that makes this much easier. Is there something new that I haven’t noticed for breaking apart spreads in CC 2014 or CC 2015?

  16. Darn – I guess it’s no surprise that a person who insisted we needed gutter bleeds for perfect binding would also be mistaken about how you create those in InDesign.

    I think it was a printer’s sales rep, trying to show off his prepress expertise.

    • That script is a little bit buggy… sometimes.
      But if you cut the “aDoc.documentPreferences.facingPages = true;” (line 22) and paste it at the bottom, it’ll be perfect ;)

  17. Thanks so much! Do you know if there’s a way to do this in the master spread as well? I’m trying to set up a long doc that won’t be printed as spreads with automatically different masters based on odd or even pages. I can break apart the spreads (thanks to you) but I still get the images from one master bleeding onto the other page.

  18. Thank you for sharing this tip. It has saved me huge amounts of time spend on deleting the overbleed from my print-ready files!

  19. How about for multiple pages though? I really gotta go spread-by-spread & pull each left page to the side each time? Our book is 180 pages.


  20. So simple. Thank you for this solution.
    The printer wanted bleed on the inside margin from the same page (I had the document set up as spreads). When exporting to single pages, the inside bleed had the image from the opposite page. When I switched the document to singles pages (from spreads) my master pages messed up my layout. I was about to export every single page separately to then put back together in Acrobat (80 pages) but luckily found this :) Kudos to InDesign also.

  21. Thank you so much for this!!! It is great. Just one question – now that this is done and bleeds are added, how do I export it to still show as spreads? Really hope there is a way.

  22. but, how can I apply differing bleed positions around two masters, single page format, in same document?

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