Building the Master PDF

Your Online Template Builder document template begins with a print-compliant PDF Master containing any static objects (including art, logos or designs) to be included in the printed product. The bleed must also be included in the Master PDF if you want your production file to include bleed. When setting the size of your master PDF, keep in mind that Online Template Builder uses the size of the media box (page size), not the trim box (trim size), to calculate the output size.


Variable fields for the template are inserted into your PDF using Adobe Acrobat Professional or Nitro Pro. You will add Form Fields to indicate areas on your PDF that will contain the variable information you will specify in the Online Template Builder.


Flattening your PDF

It is beneficial to flatten the master PDF (to remove transparency) before adding any form fields. If transparency is not needed, it will enable the system to more quickly return previews to the customer in the web browser during the ordering process. This process is especially important for templates that will be merged with a variable data file. To flatten the master PDF, open the document in Acrobat and navigate to the Tools > Print Production > Flattener Preview. Use the High Resolution preset, and make sure the Raster/Vector Balance is set to 100% (all vector). Ensure that "All pages in document" is selected under the "Apply to PDF" section, and then click “Apply.”


Using Adobe Acrobat Professional to add Text Form Fields


To add form fields, open the document in Acrobat Professional, and navigate to the Tools Menu > Forms > Create. It will walk you through the option of looking for form fields that already exist on your PDF. Choose the option to "Use the current document or browse to a PDF file", select Next. Choose to "Use the current document", select Next. If this is the first time you are placing form fields on the document it will tell you none were detected, Select "OK". If it finds form fields it will show them to you. In either case, you will now be in the Forms area of Acrobat and you will see that your side menu now has an option under "Tasks" for "Add New Field" and within that drop down is "Text Field." That is the tool we will use to create the form fields. 

The Text Field Tool will display the mouse pointer as crosshairs for positioning fields in the document. To apply a form field, position the crosshairs in the upper left corner of the area that you want to apply your field. Draw the mouse to the right while holding the mouse button to form the field. On releasing the button, a dialog box will appear. Apply a name to your field. 

Online Template Builder requires field naming to comply with the following rules! 

This is a very important item to note and the most common problem we hear when people are getting started.

• Field names must be alphabetical characters only (A-Z or a-z)

• Numbers or special characters cannot be used

• Names may not contain spaces

• No duplicate names are allowed

If you need to edit the form field name you can either double-click on the box itself, or select it from the right menu under "Fields". If you double-click you will edit the name under the "General" tab of the Text Field Properties box that appears. Note: All form fields applied in Acrobat Professional are defined as text fields. Later in Online Template Builder, when you are in the development process, they may be defined to hold image content, or be otherwise reformatted.

Knowledge Base articles related to building your master PDF


Getting good placement of the form fields on your master PDF


1) Upload the PDF with the variable AND static information in Acrobat, draw the form fields exactly where you want them to be. Upload the PDF into Online Template Builder Creator and set the rules for each of your fields. You can test the template and make sure the placement is exactly the way you want. Next open up the PDF again in acrobat and use the "replace" pages command to switch out the current PDF with another PDF that has only the static areas (all variable fields are removed). By doing this, the form fields will remain in the exact position you wanted. Upload the new master PDF into Online Template Builder and as long as you didn't change the names of any of the form fields, all the formatting will be done.

2) You can make a note in your design program of the x/y coordinates and the field size and acrobat has a way that lets you see this in your PDF document so you can place it exactly where it needs to go. This is done by using the "Cursor Coordinates" option under the View menu. You may also want to turn on your rules in that same menu to help with the placement.

3) Place the form fields anywhere you want on the PDF... any size you want. Make note of those x/y coordinates. Use the field's Positioning tab in Field Setup. In the Positioning tab, you can make adjustments to where the field is placed on the PDF. This works well for both tweaking the position or making a big change.

You would check "Override Positioning from PDF" and then enter measurements. The "Left" and "Bottom" options refer to the coordinates of the field's bottom left corner and are measured from the bottom left corner of the master PDF. "Width" and "Height" refer to the dimensions of the field. For all four options, the original measurement is listed in parentheses for easy reference.



How can I have vertical text in my production file?


You will use the field's Positioning tab (in Online Template Builder) to rotate the text field, making the text run vertically instead of horizontally. Do not rotate your master PDF in Acrobat, as that can cause problems with the template. Instead, you'll rotate the form fields in Online Template Builder after you upload your master PDF.

Please refer to the images below as you follow this process:
1) In your master PDF, create form fields using your normal method. Don't worry about where to place the form field or how large to make it, as you will specify that information in Online Template Builder later.

2) Upload your master PDF to your template in Online Template Builder.

3) In the field's Format tab in Online Template Builder, select "Lower Left" from the "Rotate On" drop-down menu. Then, enter the degrees of rotation in the "Rotation" box. In the example images below, the field has been rotated 90 degrees. If you want the text to run the other direction (top to bottom), though, you would enter a rotation of 270 degrees.

4) In the field's Positioning tab, you will enter measurements to tell Online Template Builder where to place the rotated field. Make sure to check the box next to "Override Positioning from PDF." Select the unit of measurement you would like to use (Points, Inches, or Centimeters) from the Measurement drop-down menu. Next, you'll enter the measurements. Make sure you enter something in each box, even if it's just "0". The bottom and left measurements are from the bottom left corner of the page to the bottom left corner of the field PRIOR to being rotated. In the example images, the field is being rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise, so what is referred to as the bottom left corner ends up being the bottom right corner of the field after rotation. Like the vertical and horizontal positioning, the field's height and width measurements apply to the field pre-rotation.

Create Master PDF templates using InDesign

Note: The process detailed below is still a valid method of creating templates in InDesign. However, there is now a convenient InDesign plug-in available for Online Template Builder. You can learn more and download the plug-in here: Chapter 36a - InDesign Plug-in for Online Template Builder



Online Template Builder Master PDF Templates From InDesign Instead of Adobe Acrobat
To create PDF files directly from InDesign without using Adobe Acrobat, you must be using in InDesign CS6 or later, earlier versions of InDesign may not support this feature. Following the steps below, you can assign both text and picture boxes as compliant form fields within an InDesign document:

1. Open the Buttons and Forms floating palette by going to menu commands Window > Interactive > Buttons and Forms.

2. Draw a text box on your page, or choose an existing text box.

3. Select the text box with the Item Tool (the black arrow on the top of toolbar).

4. On the Buttons and Forms palette, set the Type to be Text Field, and set a Name for it.

5. Repeat as necessary to layout the document.

6. Use File > Export > Interactive PDF. Open the file in Acrobat to test, or load into Online Template Builder.

InDesign is a big application with an extensive and detailed feature set -- too detailed to provide a full listing of features that are compatible or not compatible with Online Template Builder. But here are a few items to keep in mind if you use InDesign to produce PDF templates for use with Online Template Builder.

  • Interactive PDF Exports in sRGB format. This is a limitation currently of Adobe InDesign itself. The workaround is to export the document twice, once as Interactive and once as Print in CMYK. Open both files into Acrobat Pro, copy the form fields from the sRGB PDF, and paste them in place into the CMYK PDF.
  • Picture boxes assigned as form field must still be set as an Image field in the Online Template Builder Field Setup interface.
  • Copying and pasting text or picture boxes assigned as form fields within an InDesign document may alter the names you have assigned to them, so you must check the names assigned after any copy and paste operation. Example, if you had assigned a text box with a form field name of Title, after copying and pasting InDesign CS6 will automatically change that name to Title 2. You must rename it and drop the number symbol. Text fields can only be named with letter characters. If you include numbers or symbols, then an error message will be shown when you upload that PDF template file into Online Template Builder.
  • Alignment settings such as center for text do not translate directly to the template, and must be set in the Field Setup area of Online Template Builder.
  • Text on a curve will become a regular text box in the uploaded template, and the dimensions will be equal to the rectangular bounding box of the original curve text object in the document.
  • Do Not Use Check Boxes, Combo Boxes, List Boxes, Buttons, Radio Buttons or Signature Fields These types of form fields will not work, and may cause the exported PDF file to generate an error when uploaded into Online Template Builder. Text or picture boxes must be assigned as Text Fields.

Check Assigned Field Names
If your exported PDF file is being used for an Interactive Designer template and is showing an error when uploaded into Online Template Builder, check first to ensure that it is not an issue with the names of the text fields assigned in the document. Do this by clicking on each text frame box with the item tool, and looking at its settings on the Buttons and Forms palette.

Reset the Preferences Some preference settings may cause Online Template Builder to throw an error when you upload and use an Interactive PDF as a template. You can try resetting the preferences on your InDesign application, and then try exporting the PDF again. To reset the preferences, a combination of keys must be held down while InDesign is starting up, and need to be held down until the confirmation prompt message is shown. On Windows hold down CTRL+ALT+SHIFT. On Mac, hold down SHIFT-CONTROL-OPTION-COMMAND. You must be holding these keys down when you launch the application, a confirmation will be displayed when it is successful, and then choose to delete the preferences.

Only use Text Fields
Do Not Use Check Boxes, Combo Boxes, List Boxes, Buttons, Radio Buttons or Signature Field form elements in the source InDesign document file. Remove any elements such as these that are present. Only text fields will work with Online Template Builder.

Simplify the Document
If the above suggestions don't resolve the error, then making the document simpler in structure, copying an object or objects into a new document to test the export, or exporting particular pages in a document may help to narrow down the source of the problem settings. You should be able to open a new document, assign a text form field, export to interactive PDF and upload into Online Template Builder without receiving any errors.


More help:

Here is a video showing how this works: (Remember that you only want to use the "text" form option).


"Unfortunately an error has occurred." on Asset page when uploading a Master PDF

If you receive the following error after uploading your Master PDF on the asset screen in the Online Template Builder admin, you need to open up your Master PDF and make sure none of your form fields only have letters A-Z and that there are no spaces or duplicate names. This means no numbers, no special characters.


"Unfortunately an error has occurred. Please make sure your field names contain only letters (A-Z or a-z) and that there are no duplicate fields."

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