Automate business card creation using InDesign

InDesign offers powerful features to automate creation of content, where you can bring in data from external files and place them on your layout. For example, your client likes the new business card design and just ordered new business cards for every employee. And as is normal practice, has sent you an XLS with the employee details and an inflexible deadline.

You’ll need to jump right in!

We’ll use the layout as a template and place data from a CSV file into this layout. So save your XLS file as a CSV file.

Connect layout to data

  1. Open the layout in InDesign. The basic layout shows the elements as you’ve designed them.
  2. Choose Windows > Utilities > Datamerge.
  3. From the panel menu choose  Select Data Source and browse to the CSV file and click OK.

    Note that the first row in the CSV file is used as the column header, and they are displayed in the panel.
  4. Now drag and drop the elements from the Data Merge panel to the layout. Or select the text that you want to replace and then double-click on the element in the data merge panel. The result should look something like this.
  5. Save the file.

Preview the layout with actual data

You are now ready to preview the content.

  1. In the Datamerge panel, check Preview.
  2. Use the arrow buttons at the bottom to preview the data.
  3. Make any adjustment that might be required.
  4. Save the file.

Create merged document

After you have previewed all the records you can create the merged document.

  1. To create the merged document and generate the PDF choose Export to PDF from panel menu.
    • TIP: Choose Create Merged document , to create InDesign document.
  2. Select the options as they suit you. I’ll choose single record per page. After specifying the options click OK.
  3. Specify the PDF settings and click OK.
  4. A PDF is generated that contains the generated records.

Send the PDF for printing

Your printer (or you) should be able to use the generated PDF for printing.

Bonus tip

If required, you can use Acrobat and create a composite PDF that contains multiple business cards on each page. We’ll use Acrobat’s tile printing feature to create a combined PDF.

  1. Open the generated PDF in Acrobat.
  2. Choose File > Print and select the Adobe PDF printer.
  3. Under Page handling specify the following:
    • Page scaling: select multiple pages
    • Pages per sheet: specify what suits you
    • Page order : specify what suits you
  4. If you’re happy with the Preview Composite results, click OK. The PDF is generated.


In this small tutorial you learnt how to:

  • Use InDesign CS Data merge feature to automate data placement in the layout
  • Create a merge document or PDF
  • Use Acrobat tile printing feature to create a composite PDF.

  1. #1 by Confused on July 21, 2011 - 11:15 pm

    This looks like such an easy solution for tiling a document; however, it does not work. No matter how many pages per sheet I indicated, I only get one card printed.

    I also do not have the “Preview Composite” button in my version of Acrobat Pro 9.

  2. #2 by Dwayne Mofford on April 27, 2013 - 10:43 am

    Full color cards, or cards that use many colors, are printed on sheetfed presses as well; however, they use the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) four-color printing process. Screens of each color overprinted on one another create a wide gamut of color. The downside to this printing method is that screened colors if examined closely will reveal tiny dots, whereas spot color cards are printed solid in most cases. Spot colors should be used for simple cards with line art or non-black type that is smaller than 5 points.’

    Take a look at the latest posting on our own internet site

  3. #3 by A. Joshi on April 7, 2015 - 10:07 pm

    Great explanation, I,ve forwarded this to quite a few of our customers who have found it very useful and easy to follow
    Thanks for putting this up and sharing with us to make life a bit easier

  4. #4 by Rosemary on April 22, 2017 - 7:39 am

    Disappointed. Looking for a REAL template to print a sheet of business cards in InDesign. There are so many fakes out there – just making it more cumbersome for us to find what we’re really looking for. I wish people would not post these. Just web clutter.

    • #5 by Joe Fox on July 12, 2017 - 9:43 pm

      Just because you don’t understand what was posted here and can’t do a simple layout yourself in InDesign doesn’t take away from the immense value of what IS here on this page. This is a very powerful tool for creating data-driven business cards, so you only have to design them once and you can build an entire company’s cards in minutes.

(will not be published)