Laying out books in InDesign to print signatures

There is a relatively simple way to print your InDesign document so that you can just fold up the signatures and sew them together without having to painstakingly work out and hand-place what page goes where on what side of each piece of paper. It is not in the least self-evident, however, and so I’m posting the way I got it to work. (People who know InDesign properly, please jump in and correct/adjust this advice!!)

Step one: you have your book all laid out and ready to go. SAVE IT. Even if you just saved it save it again. Command-S or ctrl-S. Go to the toolbar at the top of the screen. Under “File” all the way at the bottom is an option called Print Booklet.

If you’re doing a straight-up hamburger-folded signature like I did, tell it to create a 2-up Perfect Bound booklet. There are other options like saddle-stitch which I didn’t get to explore fully but if you are doing traditional signatures Perfect Bound works fine.

Set the specifications to what you need. For instance, in my case I needed to print 2 pages per side of an 8.5×11 sheet of paper, and it defaults to portrait orientation, so I had to set it to landscape in order to fit both pages on the sheet. Select two-sided printing; it will offer you a choice of “binding” on the long or short axis. This means basically which axis the spine will occupy, so in my case short-side was needed, as the spine of the book is the length of the short side.

It will ask you how many pages per signature it should include. I think for this application it refers to pages of your document, not sheets of printed paper. I set mine to 12 and got three sheets of paper with four pages on each of them.

Print Booklet offers you a preview of what your piece will look like. If you’re lucky enough to have a printer, I would suggest you print off a copy to check that the signatures are where you want them to be. Note that you have to select a printer in the dialog box to print to. Make sure to tell it to collate the job. This means that you just have to fold each signature and nest them in the order they are presented instead of hunting through your printed stack to find which bit goes next. Printing a test copy is super useful at this point.

Once you have everything set the way you want it to, go back to the menu where you can select which printer to send your document to. It should offer an option for PostScript. Select this and hit print.

It will prompt you to save the PostScript file somewhere memorable. Do so and then locate and open it–I was on a Mac so all I had to do was locate it in Finder and doubleclick, but I figure there has to be an analogue on PCs. Look through the file to make sure all your stuff is where you want it to be, then save that file as a PDF.

You now have a PDF of your document in the correct format for printing and folding your signatures. I apologize for the inexactness of some of this advice but you should be able to figure it out from these steps with the help of the internet–email me if any of this rambling is particularly unclear?

Thanks and good luck.


  1. Kendall said:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’m only having one problem. When I go to print it tells me my document is using multiple page sizes and that Print Booklet only works with documents that use consistent page sizes but I know mine is consistent. I’m not sure how to get around it. Any ideas?

    • meredithpurvis said:

      Hi there, Kendall. So glad you found this post helpful! I’d double checking your page settings, look at your master pages, and then review your print settings just to make sure it’s consistent across all these places. Unfortunately, without being able to actually look at your document, it’s hard to be certain of what’s happening. Best of luck in solving the problem!

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