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How To Import a PDF into InDesign

Posted by Jamie on September 11, 2018

Even though Adobe invented the PDF format back in the nineties, they didn’t include the ability to natively work with them in some of their major programs until recently. Graphic designers will know InDesign well and will have used tricks or plugins to get the program to work with InDesign. A recent update apparently added the ability to work better with PDFs in InDesign.

I am no graphic designer but I know someone who is. I leaned on her expertise to help me with this tutorial. So while the words are mine, the knowledge is all hers.

What is a PDF?

The PDF, Portable Document Format was invented by Adobe in 1991 and is a format that includes all the data necessary to correctly format a document. The idea was to include everything within a universal format so no matter what application you use to open a PDF file, it will display in exactly the same way. It enables graphic designers to create a document knowing full well how it will look on whatever computer or application is used to open it.

InDesign is Adobe’s desktop publishing application that forms part of the larger Adobe Creative Suite that includes Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator and others. It is extremely powerful and is used by many leading publishers and designers.

Import a PDF into InDesign

As mentioned, in older versions of InDesign, you had to use a plugin to be able to work with PDF files. Now you can import them and use Place to add them to a design. You can place an entire PDF into an InDesign file or specify certain pages. It isn’t exactly intuitive but it is possible.

Importing a PDF into InDesign will strip out links, audio, video or any other media type you may have embedded into your PDF. Otherwise the process works fine. If your PDF is password-protected or secured in any way, you will need to remove this security for the process to work properly.

  1. Open your project in InDesign.
  2. Select File and Place.
  3. Check the Show Preview box.
  4. Select Show Import Options and select the PDF file.
  5. Select the page, pages or entire document to place within InDesign.
  6. Select Open to open the PDF in InDesign.

You should see a preview within the Import Options window showing you what the PDF will look like when inside your design. You can make adjustments later if you need to as InDesign will import using the best resolution possible by default.

Within Import Options, you have the ability to select a single page, a page range or the entire document. You can also crop, select individual layers, set it as placeable artwork, trim, bleed for printing and add media limitations to preserve the original size and format of the PDF.

InDesign is primarily for images and desktop publishing and while it will work with larger PDFs, it isn’t great with them. It is better to split a large or image-intensive PDF file into individual pages in Acrobat and then add them individually into InDesign. It takes a while but makes working with the project much easier in the long run.

Export a PDF from InDesign

InDesign CC 2018 brought with it the ability to export from InDesign to PDF without requiring you use Acrobat to format it properly. This is apparently a real time saver and something that should have happened years ago. If you want to export a design from InDesign into a PDF file, it is now easier than ever.

  1. Select File and Export from within your design.
  2. Select Adobe PDF (Print) or Adobe PDF (Interactive) as the format.
  3. Select Save.
  4. Select Export and save as a PDF.

Use Adobe PDF (Print) if your PDF has no links, audio, video or anything interactive. Use Adobe PDF (Interactive) if your document has links or other media elements.

You can also export a PDF from InDesign as separate pages. This can be useful if you want to use them in another application or think it may require further editing or modification.

  1. Select File and Export from within InDesign.
  2. Select Create Separate PDF Files from the options box.
  3. Select what is added to the filename.
  4. Select Save.

You can select incremental numbers, page number and page size as the file suffix here. Just select the most suitable one for your needs.

That’s how to import and export a PDF into InDesign. Do you know any other ways to do it? Share them below if you do!

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