Double-Sided Printing

In general, Double-sided or back-to-back (Duplex) printing refers to printing an image to both sides of the same piece of paper. Examples of single sheet duplex printing are post cards, brochures, some posters, some flyers, cards. Collateral that are printed to a single sheet of paper, front and back, may have their  layout designed in either inDesign or Illustrator. Collateral involving more than a single paper printed front and back side (in other words, multi-page duplex) should be designed in InDesign, not Illustrator and certainly not in PhotoShop. Examples of these are books, booklets and pamphlets.

To accomplish either with precision requires your attention to several very important steps. Those steps are similar for single-page, as well as multi-page duplex in most ways, but differ in others. Steps for printing to the front and back of many papers, which will become the pages in a book, are described from this link.

Steps for printing to front and back of a single piece of paper are below.

Double-Sided Printing to a Single Piece of Paper

  • In Illustrator show the Rulers
    VIEW>>RULERS>>SHOW RULERS

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  • Press (not click) and drag a guide from the horizontal ruler and again from the vertical ruler and drop them so that where they cross marks the exact center of your artboard (page). Then, using the magnifying glass, zoom in as close as you possibly can on this center point. Then, lookout your ruler marks, re-adjust the position of the guides so they mark the center point exactly. You may need to unlock the guides to do this. VIEW>>GUIDES>>UNLOCK GUIDES
  • When you finish this step, be sure to lock the guides
    VIEW>>GUIDES>>LOCK GUIDES

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  • Place, or draw your design. When you are finished, group all the elements (parts) and center this group with the guides. You can do this easily by first selecting the group with the selection arrow (Black arrow) and then aligning the little boxes in the center of the top and center of one of the sides of the bounding box with the blue guidelines.

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  • Notice that in this example the image goes out to the edges of the paper an all sides, so it needs to “bleed” or be extended a bit larger than the artboard to the red lines of the bleed area. Also notice that in this design the type is very close to the edges of the paper, so if not printed correctly it is very possible that the type will be cut off. Because of both of these this design has “critical registration” issues. We will want to set crop (trim) marks when printing this side (but not when printing the back side). PRINT>>MARKS AND BLEED>>TRIM MARKS

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  • After printing this first side (the side which has critical registration issues) pay close attention to how it comes out of the printer. It will be sitting in the output tray of the printer, face down. Do not turn or flip this over. Place it with the same side down, same direction back into the paper feed tray. It is now ready for you to print the back side. This back side should not have critical registration issues. Be sure to design this back side design with this important consideration in mind.
  • The easiest and most precise way to assure both sides line up correctly requires several important steps. First, open your front side file and save it. THEN, also save it a second time with a new name. SAVE AS>>NEW NAME
  • Then delete the image you designed for the front side. BE SURE YOU SAVED THIS WITH A NEW NAME BEFORE DELETING THE IMAGES.
  • Now you will have a blank artboard except for the guides already in the exact same place as before. So you simply need to design this side, group all elements and center the group on the guides as you did for the front side.

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  • Notice no type, or other detail, comes close to the edges of the paper, there could be a full bleed, however.
  • The last critical step happens from the print dialog settings. You must reverse the orientation icon from whatever it was when printing the front side to the opposite direction. (So if it was vertical with the head on top the first time, you now need to select vertical with the head on the bottom to print the back). PRINT>>GENERAL>>ORIENTATION
  • Uncheck the TRIM MARKS option