A 1955 baby book with a blue cover. A white lamb appears in a field of flowers.

Combining Multi-TIFF Files

When digitizing my family’s memorabilia, I have elected to use the TIFF file format for all photographs. I am using the multi-TIFF format for documents like brochures, wedding certificates, and baby books. Sometimes the scanner freezes before I am finished scanning an item, which means I have to save my multi-TIFF file before it is complete. Rather than scan everything again, I have discovered I can finish the scanning, save a second multi-TIFF file, and then use the Preview app on my iMac to combine the two multi-TIFF files.

Why multi-TIFF?

Both of my scanners, an Epson V600 and a Canon MX922, supposedly enable me to scan documents as multi-TIFF files. But, I run into various problems, including error messages before I have finished scanning the entire document and scanning as multi-TIFF but the output files end up being separate TIFF files (instead of a single multi-TIFF file). I know multi-TIFF files are not common (I have had multiple folks tell me they have never heard of such files), but they are lossless. As I archive family memorabilia, I want my archive files to be lossless, knowing I can always create a copy in other file formats for various purposes. So, I am attempting to proceed with multi-TIFF files for select memorabilia. I didn’t find much help regarding manipulation of multi-TIFF files. I’m documenting my experience in case it helps others.

Multi-TIFF problems with the Epson V600 and Epson Scan 2

I made the following selections in Epson Scan 2:

On the left, a scanning application window shows scan settings selected; on the right, the cover of a baby book appears, ready to be scanned.
I checked the box to add or edit pages, and I selected Multi-TIFF as my image format.

I hit Preview, set my marquee (the dotted lines around the baby book cover), and then hit Scan. After the scan pass, the Add Page window appears:

A window from a scanning application. It reads, "Add Page" at the top. There are four options to select, each with a very brief descritpion.
None of these options yield the desired result.

Add seemed to be the obvious choice here, since I had only scanned one page and I had 18 more to go. But wait! Do not select Add before placing page 2 of the document – when one selects Add from this window, the scanner proceeds to scan. Unfortunately, this means you cannot set the marquee for any subsequent images. That’s a problem, because I don’t place my images in the upper right corner (where the scanner has an arrow directing placement). If you place an item into this corner, some of the item is cut off during the scan. So, I always place my items on the scanner bed, about 1/2” distant from any scanner edges. But that means I always need to adjust the marquee a bit, because I never place subsequent items in exactly the same position as the first item.

I tried selecting Edit instead:

A window from a scanning application is titled, "Editing Page." The image of a baby book cover appears and is selected; there are options to reorder and to rotate. A user can also choose to Add, Cancel, or Save.
An improvement over the Add Page window, but still not the flexibility I desire.

This was marginally better. Remember after your first scan, you won’t have a preview option for any subsequent pages in your document. But, you can view each page from this window, and if you don’t like the results (crooked, partially cut off), you can delete a particular page, reset the document as best as possible (remember, no preview available), and continue in this manner until you get acceptable results for each and every page. If that sounds tedious, it is! And, the results still weren’t as good as I desired for archival purposes (I wanted to be able to adjust a marquee before each and every scan).

I decided this was a good time to switch scanners.

Multi-TIFF problems with the Canon MX922 and Image Capture

I made the following selections in Image Capture:

A window for the Image Capture application shows the first page of a baby book on the left side and selected settings on the right side.
I selected Format: TIFF and checked the box for combining into a single document.

Placing the document and then selecting the Overview button allowed me to draw the marquee appropriately. The scanning took longer with this device and software, but I plugged along. At least, until I received an error message. The Scan button disappeared, so the only option was to close the application and save whatever pages I had scanned into a single file. This has happened to me multiple times when scanning with this device and Image Capture – before I finished with a long (10 or more pages) document, the scanner and/or Image Capture stopped working.

I elected to save the multi-TIFF file (with the first 11 pages of the baby book) and do some research.

Combining two multi-TIFF files using Preview on a Mac

I had 11 pages scanned, with 8 more to go. I started scanning again, with page 12, and finished. At this point I had two multi-TIFF files that I wanted to combine into a single multi-TIFF file. I thought that I found some assistance online, but none of the links I reviewed helped me to resolve my issue. Here’s what I figured out:

  1. Select both multi-TIFF files in Finder.
  2. Right click and open in Preview (mine opened in two different windows).
  3. Select one of the files as the “base” file, and drag pages from the second file into the base file.
  4. Save the base file once all pages have been added from the second file (the pages will still be present in the second file, they are being duplicated in the base file).

Once you have all pages in the base file, Preview’s Contact Sheet view makes it easy to arrange the pages as you wish:

A window from the Preview app on a Mac; it shows 19 baby book pages and a drop-down list in the upper left. This window allows the user to view all 19 pages at a single time, making it easier to reorder them.
Use the Contact Sheet view in Preview to reorder pages.

This workflow only worked for me if the files were both multi-TIFF files. I tried this workflow with a series of TIFF files (each with one image). If selected in Finder at one time, when opened in Preview, they appeared as shown below:

A Preview window showing a series of images on the left, in a single column. On the right is the top image, which is the cover of a baby book.
This is how single TIFF images appear in Preview; no way to combine them.

I was unable to save a single multi-TIFF file from this window.

When I opened two TIFF files (each with a single image) in separate windows, I was unable to combine them (dragging didn’t work) to build a multi-TIFF file.


I don’t have a solution for building a multi-TIFF file from a series of single TIFF files, but I did figure out how to combine two multi-TIFF files; I assume this process would work for more than two multi-TIFF files.

What if you want to undo your multi-TIFF file? That’s easy, and there are plenty of articles on how to do so. To create multiple TIFF files from a multi-TIFF file, just drag each page from the multi-TIFF to the Desktop using Preview.

For archival purposes, I am saving the multi-TIFF files to my hard drive (which has multiple backups). For sharing with family, I separate the multi-TIFF files into single TIFF files and upload them to Lightroom. I am not aware of any photo managing software that handles multi-TIFF files. Once the individual images are loaded into Lightroom, I elect to stack them.

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