Creating a layered PDF using Photoshop and Indesign

A great step by step guide by Dave Graffam  from on how to create a layered PDF file!

You can buy his models at RPGnow, DrivethruRPG and Wargamevault.

Original post can be seen at the Cardboard Warriors Forum

I use InDesign, and do some finishing touches with Acrobat Pro.

Expect to spend 10 or 20 minutes setting up each layered PDF page. It’s easy, but it’s repetitive and not very fun, so put on some music or a movie.

1. Save each layer as PNG
Save each layer of the Photoshop file as its own PNG file. Make sure they have a transparent background.

Name them 01.png, 02.png, 03.png, starting at the bottom. Name each layer in the PSD file exactly the same way: 01, 02, 03, starting from the bottom.

2. Create a PNG Holding Area folder
Create a folder called “PNG Holding Area” or something. It will be used for every project, so put it someplace convenient.

3. Create an action/macro
Create an Action that will save tons of button-pushing later.

Working with the PSD file, hide all of the layers. Create a new Action (call it “Layers To PNGs” or something) in Photoshop. Go through each of the steps of making layer 01 the only visible layer, Saving As “01.png” into the PNG Holding Area folder, hiding that layer, making layer 02 visible, saving it as 02.png into the holding area, hiding that layer, and so on…

When the layers are all saved, Stop recording the Action. (Later, you may need to extend the Action if you have more layers. You can do that easily when needed.)

4. Move the PNGs to their own folder
Now cut-and-paste all of the PNGs out of the PNG Holding Area folder into a folder of their own. This will be your source folder for your images when working in InDesign. (I usually name these source folders Page-01, Page-02, to match the PSD file names.)

5. Create an InDesign document
After saving all the PNG files for a page, create a one-page InDesign document (usually 8.5″ x 11″, portrait, no margins).

Drag in two guides, creating crosshairs dead in the center. (There are probably accurate ways to do it — I just eyeball it using the rulers.) At this point, save this document as a template for all of your pages. Then give this page a unique name.

6. Stack up the layers in InDesign
Open the Layers palette in InDesign and then Place (shortcut Ctrl+D in Windows) that first 01.png file. Line it up using the crosshairs guides and the little “x” in the center of the image.

Create a new layer in my InDesign document, then Place 02.png on it. Repeat until all of the layers are in place. Good time to save your work.

7. Rename the layers
In InDesign, rename all of the layers from 01, 02, 03 to something better.

8. Prepare the PDF
Hide all of the layers except for the bare minimum that you want to appear by default when the file is opened. (The fewer layers that are visible by default, the quicker the whole PDF will function — usually.)

9. Create the PDF
Then, Export to PDF. Make sure to check the box Create Acrobat Layers. (Also mess with the image export settings to find something you can live with, in terms of final file sizes and image quality.)

10. Finishing touches with Acrobat Pro
This last step is totally optional. I open the PDF file in Acrobat Pro. In the Layers menu there, I rename the “Filename.indd” to “Layers Palette.” I also Lock my “Overlay” layer (the one containing my copyright badge, registration marks, cut-and-fold lines, instructions).

Hope that helps!

Original post can be seen at the Cardboard Warriors Forum

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