How to Combine a PDF in InDesign

By Shawn M. Tomlinson

Like all the other programs Adobe produces, InDesign works hand-in-hand with every other Adobe program. The includes Acrobat, the main program to produce portable document format (PDF) files. Of course, you can export to PDF from Photoshop, Illustrator and others in the Adobe Creative Suite family as well. Even if you did not make the PDF yourself, but got it from some other source such as a client, to combine into your InDesign project, it does not take much effort to make it work. There are several ways to accomplish it.

Step 1

Open InDesign and the project you intend to combine a PDF within. If you have not started the project yet, simply start a new InDesign file. You can build your pages around the PDF. Go to the "File" menu and select "Place." In the browser that appears, select the PDF file you want to combine into your InDesign document. This will cause a thumbnail image of the PDF to appear as your new cursor, at least in InDesign CS5. In earlier versions, a stand-in generic image will appear.

Step 2

Use your cursor with the PDF displayed upon it to click and draw an image box for your PDF to appear in as your first choice for combining a PDF in InDesign. You can, for example, click in the upper left-hand corner of your page at the border guide and draw down to the lower right-hand corner to fill the page. If you hold the "Shift" key while you do this, you can draw any size or shape of box and the PDF will come in as it is normally proportioned, but will not fill the frame. If you do not hold the "Shift" key while doing this, the picture box frame automatically will constrain itself to the PDF's proportions.

Step 3

Place the PDF by clicking the cursor anywhere on the page. The PDF will form on the page in its actual size and you then can move it around or resize it to your need. This is your second option for PDF combination in InDesign.

Step 4

Use the thumbnail cursor to drop a PDF into a picture box frame you already created on your InDesign page. For example, if your PDF is of a bar graph and you already created the frame on the page where you want it to go, use "Place" to select your PDF, then drag the thumbnail cursor over the frame you created and let go. The PDF will snap into the frame at the proportional size. Alternately, you can do this directly from a Finder window in an Apple Macintosh computer or Windows Explorer. Open the Finder window or Windows Explorer so you can see it and your InDesign page. Click, hold and drag the PDF file into InDesign and let go when your mouse is over a frame you already made.

Tips & Warnings

  • InDesign treats PDF files just like any other graphics file, such as JPEG, TIFF, PSD and others. You do not need to do anything extra to import a PDF into InDesign.