Converting a single-page pdf into magazine-style spreads … in Acrobat!

When I send magazine pages to the printer, I do so as single-page pdf files with full bleed. Once the issue has been soft-proofed and approved, I take all the single-page PDF files and put them together to form one composite cropped-to-trim PDF for archiving, as you see to the left.

Our magazine website is going through a major overhaul, including making the magazine available for online subscriptions. As a result, I was asked to provide PDF files in spreads, like a magazine would really appear to anyone picking up a physical copy to read.

Should be easy, right?

Not according to the internet! I spent hours darting into and out of online forums, trying every menu I knew in Acrobat, and could not figure it out for the life of me. I didn’t want to create a flip-page e-reader, and I didn’t want to import the PDF to InDesign and re-export as spreads. I just wanted to click a button in Acrobat, and turn my single-page PDF into something more closely resembling a magazine.

Eventually I stumbled upon a forum that gave me enough of a hint that I was sent in the right direction, and able to figure out how to make this work. And it is easy! I’m sharing it here, with a handy-dandy date at the top of the post so you know when this information was shared, unlike some of these online forums that may be cobwebbed remnants from bygone eras of the late ’90s, when PDFs were a new technology.

I’m using Acrobat Pro DC on a Mac, and here’s how to convert your single-page PDF into an online “magazine” view.

1. Open the pdf you want to convert

2. Go to File > Properties

3. In the Document Properties window, click on the “Initial View” tab

4. Go to the Page Layout drop-down and select Two-Up Continuous (Cover Page)
(this will make it so your front cover is a separate one-page right-hand view – and subsequently your back page is a separate one-page left-hand view – and your next two pages open as a spread)

5. Save As – save your document with a new name

6. Close the document

7. Open the renamed document

Voila! Your single-page PDF is now displayed in more of a magazine style, in spreads, like the designer originally intend.

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  1. Vic June 15, 2020 at 5:00 pm #

    Cannot thank you enough!!!!
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! …

    • Kippy Spilker June 18, 2020 at 1:31 am #

      You are so welcome, Vic – it makes my day that this blog was able to help someone. 🙂

  2. Robert July 5, 2020 at 1:16 pm #

    Hello, I’m using Acrobat Pro DC on a Mac and this is a great tip thank you. I have been looking everywhere for this solution. Can I also add that I tried this a few times and the bleed was still showing so I had to go a step further.
    To remove the bleed area I went to edit pdf>crop pages tool, drew a box over the trim area on page 1, double clicked the crop box area which brought up ‘Set Page Boxes’ window and selected ‘All’ in the page range.
    This gave me the magazine style spread without bleed exactly like your example.

    • Robert July 5, 2020 at 1:53 pm #

      Ah sorry please ignore my comment, I see you crop the pages before combining to spreads.

      • Kippy Spilker July 5, 2020 at 11:30 pm #

        No problem whatsoever, Robert! I’m going to leave your comment because you never know – someone else might miss that step, too, and your comment might help them. 🙂 I’m so glad this post could help you with what you’re working on.

  3. Paul September 30, 2020 at 12:00 am #

    Great workaround Kippy, thanks very much. I was wondering if it’s possible to go one step further. I have a 4 page pdf from an Illustrator file, which I need to create a 2 page spread for the printer. Using your process I have created that. I open it and see the 2 spread made from page1/2 and 3/4. When I go to print it, it shows the separate pages on the 8.5 x 11 size(Default). Will the printer be able to output at the 11 x17 size of the 2 – 8.5 x11s spreads. Not finding much in the way of easy fix.
    I’m using CC2019.
    Thanks very much in advance.

    • Kippy Spilker September 30, 2020 at 1:33 am #

      Hi Paul. Well shoot, I thought I had the answer, got all the way to the end and Adobe basically said, “Oh, hey, sorry. You were really clever to get this far, but we’ve disabled this option. Thanks for playing.” haha. Basically I was trying to take a 4-page 8.5 x 11 and “print” as multiple (2×2) on tabloid horizontal, and then for the printer type, I chose pdf. That SHOULD have worked, but it didn’t in CC2020 – not sure if it was disabled before 2019, but you could maybe give that a shot? The only other 2 options I can come up with, and I am not crazy about either of them, is 1) To let your printer know what’s going on, so they can adjust on their end (they should have much more sophisticated pagination software that can handle this scenario) or 2) To lose a generation in quality, import your pdfs into a 2-page 11×17 InDesign document, and re-export. I guess if you’re working from Illustrator, you’re hopefully dealing with vector graphics, so the loss should be fairly negligible. Neither situation is elegant, but hopefully one of them will work. Please let me know what you decide to do. – Kippy

      • Kippy Spilker September 30, 2020 at 1:35 am #

        I should add, in response to your question about “will the printer be able to output…” Yes, I certainly think they should be able to. But I think you’d need to let them know, because it may not automatically open up on their end looking like the spread you’ve created. It’ll still show as the 4 separate pages.

      • Paul September 30, 2020 at 3:14 pm #

        Thanks very much for your help with this. At this moment I am sending some test pdfs to our printer to see if he can print the 2 page spreads I have created from the 4 pages. I hope he can sort it out!!! I will let you know how it turns out. As you state since it is a pdf they will be able to print with their software, but I am sure it will come at a cost if they have to play around with it. In case you are wondering why this is necessary, the original document was created as an 11x 17 handout for clients, but that format doesn’t work for the downloadable version on our website. The programmers want 4 separate pages now!! I actually came up with a half decent way of dealing with it. I created 4 – 8.5 x 11 artboards, non bleed document and butted them together.Then added the graphics to each artboard. Then I created 2 -11 x 17 artboards and aligned them underneath the first 4 artboards. I create a a hires pdf which has the 6 pages. With this pdf I then just save 1 version with the printer spreads for the printer and another with the 4 pages for the web version.
        But I will wait to see if it’s an easy fix from the printer with the file I created with your solution first!!
        Thanks again!!

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