Page counts can be confusing

Over the last few weeks, I have noticed an increase in the number of specifications I have received that call-out a page count with a very specific type of binding that just instantly stops me in my tracks.

For those of you unfamiliar with how commercial printing works, let me take a minute to explain what a proper, or rather feasible, page count looks like depending on the way you intend to bind it.

But first, what’s a page?

A page is defined as a single side of a single sheet of paper.

A sheet is defined as a single piece of paper and contains two pages.

In the print world, it is not uncommon for us to refer to a page count when discussing a sales sheet or brochure.

For example, a two-sided flyer is often referred to as a “2-pager” and a “4-pager” is a brochure that typically folds in half to form four total pages.

It is important that you discuss your project in total number of pages because the difference in price between an 80 page catalog and a 160 page catalog is quite drastic.

Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask us if there might be a more cost-effective page count for your project. I recently had a 110 page book request come in where they could save over $1500 by simply increasing the page count to 112 pages.

Self-Cover or Plus Cover?

Covers on booklets and catalogs count as pages too, but how should you provide us those specs? Lumped into a single page count or do you take it out? Well, that all depends on the paper you intend to print it on.

Self-Cover: If you would like your final piece to have a cover that is printed on the same stock as the rest of the book, the page count should be included in your specifications. For example, a 16 Page Self Cover (SC) booklet has 12 inside pages + a 4 page cover all printed on the same stock.

Plus Cover: If you want the cover to be printed on a thicker stock than the insides of your book, the page count should be specified “+ Cover”. For example, a 12 Page + Cover has 12 inside pages + a 4 page cover on a thicker stock.

Differences in page counts depending on binding

The method of binding plays a crucial role into how many pages you can have.

Saddle Stitching: Saddle stitching requires that your page count be divisible by four.

In commercial printing, we often gang multiple pages up on a press sheet (seen below) and fold that sheet down to create individual signatures.


For a traditional 8.5″ x 11″ book, we are able to get 16 total pages up on a sheet. When this gets folded down, we saddle stitch the spine of the signature and do a final trim to ensure all the pages are the proper size. If you have a 32 page book, two signatures are created and one is nested inside the other before stitching.

Perfect Binding (and Coil/Wire-O): Perfect binding allows us to be a little flexible with how many pages you have. For example, you can actually have 114 pages (7 – 16 Page signatures and 1- 2 Pager) in a perfect bound book. Depending on the paper used for your inside pages, it is possible to have your page count be divisible by 2. If you’re able to make it divisible by 4 that is still preferred, but it is possible for us to work with a single 2-page insert if needed.

When it comes time to actually bind the book together, we place the 2 page section in the very middle of the book. Why? Because instead of nesting the signatures together, we stack them on top of one another. Placing the 2 page insert in the middle of the book helps secure the individual sheet during the grinding process so that it doesn’t accidentally move and ruin the final piece.

Confused yet?

If you still aren’t quite sure about your proper page count, don’t hesitate to contact us when getting ready to produce your project. The earlier you can bring us in, the smoother and quicker you’ll be able to get your goodies in-hand.

Have a project you need estimated?

You can submit job specifications here and we’ll get one in the works for you!


2 thoughts on “Page counts can be confusing

  1. Pingback: Page counts explained | dreaming in cmyk

  2. Pingback: Print Specs 101 | Metropolitan

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