Manual Printing in InDesign

The process of creating printer spreads from layout spreads is called imposition. Manual imposition used to be the only way to produce your final book from InDesign. Luckily there is the “Booklet Printing” feature to make your lives easier these days.

But, sometimes this method isn’t what you need. Perhaps you want to take a PDF to a printer who doesn’t have InDesign? or the business center simply doesn’t know how to use the “Print Booklet” feature? In this case, you’ll need to manually impose your pages. The good news? It’s easier than you think!

**Before you get started, save your file as a NEW name (something like “booklet_printer_spreads.indd”). This way you still have your original file easily accessible without all the pages moved around for this process.


The Process

1. Evaluate Page Numbers

How many pages are in your booklet? In the example (below), there are 24 single pages (12 spreads). When the document is printed (on both sides) and folded – it will only be 6 pages at the printer.

Please remember that you need to make sure you have an EVEN amount of “spreads” (there are 2 pages in a spread) for the booklet to print properly. Otherwise, you won’t be able to print all your pages front to back. This means your booklet needs to be created with 4 individual pages in mind (8 pages, 12 pages, 16 pages, 20 pages, 24 pages and so on).


2. Make a Dummy

You will need to create a dummy version of your booklet to ensure you move your pages around in your InDesign document properly.

Let’s go through the process together

In keeping with the example above, grab 6 sheets of paper and stack them together. Fold the stack of sheets in half all at once to mimic the final booklet.

Number all your pages (including the covers).

Keep numbering until you’ve reached the end of your booklet with the last page being the backcover (page 24)

3. Number your pages in InDesign

Next, you will want to number all of your pages in InDesign with big giant letters. Put them on a new layer so it will be easy to delete in the end. This will help you keep track of your pages when you begin to move them around. I normally design with the cover and back cover next to each other, so this first spread (below) represents these pages side-by-side and ready for the printer. The following pages will have to be moved to enable imposition to occur.

I normally design with the cover and back cover next to each other, so this first spread (below) represents these pages side-by-side and ready for the printer. The subsequent pages of the book will need to be moved to enable imposition to occur. This is where the numbering will come in handy.


Go through the entire document and put the big clunky numbers on each page. It will be worth it in the end, I promise!

4. The matching game

Now, you will need to OPEN UP your booklet into separate the pages so that you can see what page number should be printed next to the other. You will need to go through these pages methodically (one at a time) while you match them up with your InDesign pages (via the “Pages” dialogue box).

Simply grab on the individual page, and drag it to the appropriate partner.

Manual imposition printing InDesign CC 10

Continue this throughout your document as follows.

Manual imposition printing InDesign CC 11

Manual imposition printing InDesign CC 12

Keep matching your pages until you reach the end of the document

You will know you’ve moved your pages correctly if the middle spread of your book is lined up as the last two page in InDesign (12 and 13 in this example)

Manual imposition printing InDesign CC 13

5. Delete numbers. Save. Print.

Now you can go through and delete out all the number in the InDesign document that you used for reference. If you thought ahead – and put your numbers on a different layer, you can simply “hide” the layer.

Don’t forget to Save!

Your pages can now be printed on the same sheet, folded, and collated in the appropriate order. Choose File > Export (and choose Adobe PDF). Remember to check the “spreads” box or else you’ll only get single pages.

Take your PDF to any printer/lab and print the document out of Adobe Acrobat. Print two sided. Fold. Staple at the top and bottom. Breath and relax.

How to print double sided?

Sometimes you don’t have access to a duplex printer (a printer that automatically prints front to back for you). What do you do?
Choose the “Print Odd Pages” and “Print Even Pages” options out of Acrobat. After one set is printed, flip over the pages, load it in the printer, and print the rest of the pages. For best results, print a test document to see which direction and order the pages should be added to the printer.

Manual imposition printing InDesign CC 14