Inserting Variable Data Field into a Design

Data Field Insertion

After you build your database and save it as an excel (xls.) or CSV (.csv) file, Adobe InDesign makes it very simple to import a variable data section into your design. To do this, follow this guide: 

When you are ready to import a variable data section to your artwork, open your design file in InDesign. Then,

  • Select “Window” from the top menu
  • Select “Utilities” and click on “Data Merge” as shown below.
Selecting data merge from the window list in adobe indesign |
  • A new panel will open with instructions on how to select the data source (the CSV file we created in the first steps).
  • Next choose “Select Data Source” from the panel menu (circled in red below).

*Important – make sure you close the excel file you are working on or else you will not be able to open it in InDesign.

Data merge button |
  • In your design, use the Rectangle (or other shape) tool to create an area where you want your variable data to go.
  • After you import your data you will see items with the names of your columns in the Data Merge box. Drag data fields from the panel areas you created. The data will appear as <<column name>> in your file.
Inserting variable data into an indesign file |
  • Click “Preview” in the bottom left corner of the Data Merge Panel to see what the attribute will look like. Now you can adjust the font, color, and size in order to fit the display properly.

*Important Tip – Make sure to account for long names or information in the frame size as it will either get cut off or wrapped to the next line automatically.

  • On the Data Merge Panel, select “Create Merged Document”. This will open a window with many options to customize the output but the default settings will create this simple variable data project.
Creating a data merge document in adobe indesign |
  • The final step is to save your document as a PDF. Click File > Export, and select PDF from the Save As drop down.

Additionally, it is important to remember to set up your document correctly, including proper bleeds, image resolution, and the proper use of colors.