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Imposition

When you lay out pages in an application like InDesign or QuarkXPress, they're placed in linear, sequential order. When you distill them to PDF, they stay in that order—fine for electronic documents, where you can scroll through the pages onscreen. However, that page order doesn't translate to printing on an offset or digital press, where a single large sheet of paper holds many different individual pages in specific placement. That's where imposition comes in. Just as page design means arranging text and image elements in a page layout, imposition is the process of arranging the pages of an electronic document in a layout for the press so that when the printed sheet is folded, cut, and bound, the pages fall into the correct reading order.

Imposition Lingo

Before computers entered the picture, the analogous process—called stripping—involved manually creating a press layout by cutting film and taping it into position on a flat of paper or plastic, which would be photomechanically imaged onto a plate by exposing it to light. In digital production, however, software can create press layouts automatically, and physical flats of film are falling by the wayside as layouts are imaged directly to plate with lasers. A group of imposed pages that will be imaged to a single plate is called a form, and when two forms are printed back to back on a press sheet that will be folded, that's called a signature.


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