I have designed a wedding invitation in illustrator (CS6) that I need to add about 60 individual guests names to the invitation and get the printer to print for me.

I am after a suggestion on how do do the names and how to get all the files print ready for the printer with the usual bleeds and trim marks. I have limited experience in coding etc.

The document I have with the names is saved as a excel document.


Illustrator can do this, no problems, its just easier in inDesign. You need to use variables to modify the text. See the manual for a more in depth discussion of how this works. Do this:

Load the data

First the hard part, reading the data from the excel file. Unfortunately, Adobe Illustrator does not support CSV files for a data source. They do, read XML though. Fortunately, Prepression has been kind enough to write a Illustrator script that does this for you. The script is called VariableImporter. With this tool at hand let us begin:

  1. Save your excel table as a CSV or TSV file.
  2. Read the data in with VariableImporter.

The script is a bit temperamental but test a few things first.

Make the image dynamic

  1. Open the variables window from Window → Variables.
  2. Select your text object that you want to change.
  3. In variables window click the make text dynamic button with suitable data column selected.

    Make text dynamic

    Image 1: Make text dynamic on selected text.

    You can now test the different record in action. Data in set

    Image 2: Test dataset.

  4. Repeats 1-3 steps until you have all you want to change.

Export each variable as a PDF.

To export the data sets into multiple pdf files do this:

  1. Make a new action where you save a pdf document.
  2. From the menu in Actions window corner, select Batch...


    Image 3: Export the data sets to individual PDF files.

    Set the source to Data Sets, Override save commands, and a folder.


Not 100% sure on each step to do this but here is a hint; you can use indesign to layout your illustration. Then in indesign you have 60 pages of your same design and you can dynamically change the names of your guest for each page using that excel document to loop through each person.

  • Thank you. so i open a new file in indesign and place the illustration and invite details but the individual names then create 60 pages of the same invite and add the names and then save as a PDF? Is there such thing as a mail merge for these programs? – Amanda Aug 9 '15 at 2:14
  • Yes in indesign you can add like a default background for each page so that it doesn't crash your computer with a heavy file. I found this, maybe it will serve you good helpx.adobe.com/indesign/using/data-merge.html – vsvs Aug 9 '15 at 2:23

I don't think you can do this easily in Illustrator unless there's some plugin for this. I don't know how, frankly.


One "hack" I used in the past for similar work was in QuarkXpress (similar to InDesign, which you probably have too) and I didn't have the plugin to merge my data:

What I did was to import the "base" of design in Quark (for you, InDesign) and made a master page for the text and the design that didn't need to change.

On that master, I made a small text box that was linked to the text box of the next page; but I did it small enough to only be able to welcome ONE cell from Excel when importing the data. So what happened was that each cell containing a unique name had its own text box, on each page... and they were automatically added to each page. I hope I'm explaining this properly and I'm quite sure it's feasible in InDesign as well. You can also use a simple text document where each name is on its line or a page break; when you'll import that text in InDesign with the technique above, each line will go on a separate page, in the linked box where you want it to be.

That's how I did my hundreds of pages without having to copy/paste each name or use any extra plugin.

PS: Another benefit from do these invitations in InDesign is that it will be way faster for you to prepare the print-ready files! You'll be able to export in a few clicks all your invitations at once in a PDF; in Illustrator, you'll need to prepare each invitation individually!

Here's a quick visual how-to to hack-data-merge in Indesign:

I added more info in case it's your first time with Adobe InDesign!

1) Create a new document and select "primary text frame". Create the document the size of your invitation.

New document

2) Create a Master Page and insert your Illustrator base layout. The pale blue zone represents your Illustrator image.

Note: By default, the "primary text frame" is almost the size of the page. On my screenshot it's smaller because I resized it.

nsert image from Illustrator in Adobe InDesign Master page

3) Import your text in InDesign

It's possible you'll need to export your Excel file to text. If so, you should convert it to have pagebreak or each name on a separate line to make sure they will go in a separate text box!

If 2 names or more appear in the small text box, double-click again on the master page and resize it smaller vertically OR increase the text size!

Importing text in Indesign

4) Finalize the formatting and adjust size of the text box.

Format text

  • @Amanda I added some screenshots so you don't need to go through all the tutorials if you never used Indesign. – go-junta Aug 9 '15 at 3:23
  • AMAZING thank you so much go-me, I will have a play with it later this afternoon on a test image and let you know how I go. – Amanda Aug 9 '15 at 4:09

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