Multiple-page PDFs from Illustrator

May 12, 2004 - 3:00am ||| 7 Comments | Add new


A few weeks ago I travelled to beautiful Cincinnatti, Ohio to provide a two-day training session in Illustrator CS for about twenty students. As this was a large pre-press packaging firm (the "back end," the people in charge of taking designer's files and trapping/separating them out to something that will print), these pros and their management had some <ahem> concerns about Illustrator CS that I don't usually encounter with my usual training clients, the "front end" designers and layout production types.

I was able to answer most of their questions to their satisfaction, and we ran some tests on their equipment to make sure that all those cool Live Effects like 3D extrusions, distort/transforms, and drop shadows over spot colors etc. would actually work with their trapping and separation software. It turned out Illustrator CS did a MUCH better job than Illustrator 10 with these types of elements.

We were all quite relieved. :-)

However, I left there promising to get back to them with the answer to one question I couldn't figure out on the spot: How to create multiple-page PDFs from Illustrator CS, a program that only produces single-page files. The workaround they used for earlier versions of Illy (which I knew about, and was going to get to in DesignGeek one day) wasn't working in CS.

It took me a little while, but I figured it out. The key is getting to know ILCS's new Print… dialog, which gathers a lot of previously-broken out functions (Page Setup, Separations Setup, and more) under one roof.

A couple notes: First, you're going to be creating a "real" PDF using Distiller with this method. You can't create a multiple-page PDF with "Save As PDF" in Illustrator, you actually have to print to a file. So you'll need some version of Acrobat (which is the only way to get Distiller) installed.

Second, the basic concept of how to create multiple-page docs from Illustrator — using tiled pages — works in all previous versions. So if you don't have CS, you can still use this tip. Just look around for the equivalent dialogs that I mention below.

Step-by-Step Multiple Page PDFs

1. The size of your Artboard (Illy-speak for "Document") in the New Document dialog or File->Document Setup should be equal to the overall N-up of your multiple-page file.
For example, if you want to to create a two-page letter-size PDF, portrait mode, your Artboard dimensions should be 17" wide by 11" tall (two letter-size pages side-by-side). For a four-page document, your dimensions should be either 34" by 11" (four across) or 17" by 22" (two up, two down).
When you enter the dimensions, you don't have to figure out how many points that is, just enter the inch mark (") after your number and Illy will convert it. (Or change the new Units dropdown to Inches.)

2. Open the Print dialog, which in Illustrator CS has incorporated the Page Setup functions. You can make changes here and click the "Done" button to save your Page Setup without printing. Not real intuitive, I know.
The first set of Print options you see are from the "General" category. Look in the middle of the panel and you'll see a section called Media.
This is key: In Media, choose the final, individual page dimensions and orientation for your file. Do you want each page in your PDF to be letter-size, portrait mode? Specify that here.

3. One more setting. Go to the Setup panel (below "General" on the left of the Print dialog) and once there, choose Crop to Artboard and Tile Full Pages.
At this point you should see the Preview of your document (on the lower left corner of the Print dialog) reflect all these settings.

4. Click the Done button to save your page setup and return to your document.

5. Go to the View menu and turn on (show) the Artboard and Page Tiling. You should see non-printing guidelines that divvy up your large artboard into individual pages — the size and orientation you set in Media — complete with page numbers.
Create your artwork, or move existing artwork around, so they lay out correctly within the boundaries of the page tiling.

6. When you're done, open the Print dialog again to create your PDF. Just a couple more settings to go.
In General options, choose Adobe PDF as the printer and Adobe PDF as the PPD, which will be the default. These options will only appear if you've installed Acrobat 6, by the way, and if you haven't, why haven't you, are you insane? It's the most useful upgrade in the Creative Suite!
By the way, when you print from any application to Adobe PDF, it uses the current Adobe PDF Settings (nee Job Options) from Distiller. Distiller doesn't have to be open for Illy to grab its settings during this PDF output process, but if you want to check your settings or change them, fiddle with Distiller first, then go back to Illy.
If you don't have Acrobat 6, choose Adobe PostScript File as the Printer and Distiller as the PPD, and plan on running that .ps file through Distiller when you're done.
Finally, compulsively check the Setup panel one more time to make sure that "Crop to Artboard" and "Tile Full Pages" is still active. You never know.

That's it! Do yourself a favor and save these settings as a Print preset (click the Save Preset button at the bottom of the Print dialog) so you won't have to remember all this the next time, and click the Print button.

On Mac OS X, the PDF is created with the same name as your document, except with .pdf as its extension, and saved to your Desktop. On Windows, you're prompted for a filename and location for the final file. Open it up in Reader or Acrobat and check it out — woo-hoo!

Proof Separations Too

Whether you're creating a single- or multiple-page PDF from Illustrator, you can use this method to see how your Illy file will trap and separate if output directly from Illustrator.
Just change one more setting in the Print dialog: Go to the Output options panel, and in the Mode drop-down, choose Separations (Host-Based).
The PDF you create will have one page per color plate. Don't forget to include Printer's Marks to help you identify which plate is which!

Comments (Subscribe to Comments RSS)

1 January 20, 2011 - 4:49pm by anonymous (not verified):

Hey DG. Thanks so much for this instruction sheet on creating multi-page PDFs. However, when I try and save as PDF after all the formatting is done I get a dialog box that reads: “The save as PDF and Save as PDF Postscript options in the Printer dialog are not supported.”

Any thoughts on why this is happening.

I’d appreciate any help you can give!

2 January 22, 2011 - 3:18pm by webdeluxe (not verified):

I’m getting the same message: “The save as PDF and Save as PDF Postscript options in the Printer dialog are not supported.”

Anybody allready figured out how to do this…

3 March 6, 2011 - 3:52pm by Sebastian (not verified):

Any idea how to still print when using Snow Leopard? it removes the PDF printer and now I can’t print PDFs from Illustrator again… grrrrr!

4 June 14, 2011 - 3:25am by Elektryk (not verified):

Did you figured out how to open multi-page pdf in Illustrator CS5?

5 July 13, 2011 - 4:06pm by BJ (not verified):

If you unclick “Create Compatible PDF file” it might work.

6 September 3, 2011 - 3:01pm by Renee (not verified):

These directions are very informative. Under General, then Media, it will only let me choose “Defined by Driver” or a bunch of other pre-defined options. It won’t let me custom my settings. Any idea how I can actually get this option selectable? Thanks!

7 March 21, 2013 - 2:00am by Thiet ke logo (not verified):

I go to menu file and create new document and write number of pages i want, just simple.

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