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Compiling a print-ready file using InDesign (Part 1)

Most of this post is based on CS2 on a Mac because that’s what I use. I am going to focus on the minimal basic stuff.

  • Prerequisite

You have your comic pages as individual files in a folder.

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  • Objective

Compile these comic pages into one single file ready for print.


File -> New -> New Document or Cmd-N/Ctrl-N to start a new document.

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I choose these particular numbers because I want to use the maximum printable area that I can on my printer. You can find this information in your printer manual. If you don’t, likely you don’t need to worry about it too much.

If you take a sheet of letter size (8.5″x11″) paper and fold it in half, you’d get 4 comic pages per sheet. Each page is going to be 5.5″x8.5″. You should have prepared your files close to your intended book size. Half-letter size is the most common and probably cheapest to print.

Note the bleed. If you aren’t going to trim anything at all, just leave all of them to ZERO. Otherwise, 0.125″ is likely enough. Also you don’t need bleeds for the spine.

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This is what it looks like once you have clicked ok. The main panel area is where you are going to drop your comic pages into.

The first page is going to be on the right. If you drew your comic the Japanese way, you have to start working from the bottom, or just have your page orders awkwardly reversed.

On the top right corner where it says A-Master, is where you can apply all the default page formating to all pages. You can also create B-Master, C-Master…etc, and apply these different defaults to different pages, but I’m just going to keep it simple for this tutorial.


Now, I’m going to add page numbers.

Double click onto the A-Master.

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You can see how all the pages have “A” on them. That means any changes you apply to A-Master page, it will apply to all the pages with “A” on them.

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^Here I have made two text boxes on the A-Master page.

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Click on any of the numbered pages to go back to your actual pages, and you’ll notice that all the numbered pages would have the text boxes on them (since they have elements from A-Master applied to them).

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^ Numbered pages with Master A applied = shows text boxes.

But you don’t really need these stupid text boxes, so go back to the master pages and get rid of them. Create a text box, go to the menu

Menu -> Type -> Insert Special Character -> Auto Page Number

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(^ A-Master page shown above) An “A” will show in your text box.

Now if you go back to your actual pages, you can see them all as numbers in accordance to your page numbers.

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You may want the page numbers to go on to both left page and right page of the spread, so you can head back to the master pages and add it, move it to the appropriate locations. You may also want to change the font size and font type by the Text properties (Cmd-T/Ctrl-T) while you are in there.

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If you find the guides and stuff distracting, you can press “w” to toggle between the normal view and preview mode.

Since the first page is likely going to be your cover, you may want to consider starting your page number on the inside page.

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Select both page 2 & 3, right click or control-click on the spread and choose Keep Spread Together. This willprevent the spread from breaking apart into single pages. Control-click on the page and choose Numbering & Section Options. 

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After that, you can see there are two page 1’s. Since you don’t need a “page number” on the cover (which is first in your “pages” tab view), you can remove the page number from the page.

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So right now, you may notice that you can’t really edit the things on the first page one! You can’t even click on it! It’s like this in InDesign so that you don’t accidentally change all the defaults elements that you set up in the Master page.

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Control-click on the page, and choose Override All Master Page Items. Then you can remove the unwanted page number from the cover page and back cover page.

An alternative is to apply a blank master page [none] to the cover and back cover.


Next up, we can start putting your comic pages on the document!

File -> Place… (Command-d for macs, Ctrl-d for windows) and pick your file from the dialog box. Life will be very easy, if your page size in inDesign is exactly the same as your comic page saved in .psd or what not, since you can easily snap them in place.

In CS2 and earlier version, you have to place the files one by one. It’s sort of a pain when you have a 100 page book. In CS3 and above, you can select multiple files in the file dialog box, and click away and your life will be a breeze at this moment.

As you “place” the image files in, you probably see the images are covering your page numbers.

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So you go back to this dialog and override all the master page items. The page numbers you added will just float back to the top and may be overlap with your page in weird locations. Just shift it for the page and hopefully you don’t have to do a lot of this to your entire book.

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Yay! Your entire file! Time to save it if you haven’t yet.


Naming Conventions

And let’s look at the Links window.

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On the left are the file names of the images that you have placed onto your inDesign document, on the right are the page that the specific file are placed into. Please note that these page numbers are just straight forward order of your pages, and not the special page number that I taught you to change to exclude the cover page as page number one.

I’m pointing this out, because it is a very convenient way to check that your comic pages are in the correct order, without having to scroll through the whole document. Filenames are important. Name your files accordingly, especially when you are organizing an anthology consisting works from different people. I have had to painstakingly rename all the files one by one, because I was given files named like

page01.jpg
page02.jpg
page03.jpg
page04.jpg
page05.jpg
page06.jpg
nextpage07.jpg
page04-new.jpg
page04-new2.jpg
page04-lastnew.jpg

What does this all mean? Yes, you might have received the instructions in your email, but hey, people forget.

Another problem with the above… when you have 5 people naming their page01.jpg… which file is which?

It’s best to name it something more recognizable.

koyar-sparklystars01.jpg
koyar-sparklystars02.jpg
koyar-sparklystars03.jpg
koyar-sparklystars04.jpg
koyar-pandastory01.jpg
koyar-pandastory02.jpg
koyar-pandastory03.jpg
koyar-pandasotry04.jpg

From the above, you can tell it’s from me, koyar, and there are two stories. Whoever on the receiving side of these files aren’t going to hate me for naming the files weird things. (yes, we have all been through that stupid stage to name Assignment #1 as ASSignment #1 when we hand in homework to our teachers.)


This file is technically print-ready. If you are using a professional printer that accept inDesign files, you can package your files and fonts and send the whole folder to them. I am not going to go over that in this tutorial since that’s not our purpose.

Next step would be to export this file as a printable pdf. If you have CS2 or lower, click here. If you have CS3, click here!

Originally posted on tumblr.

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