Perfect Binding 101: Tips for designing a perfect bound book

For books having 80 or more pages, saddle-stitching starts to become a questionable possibility, and the need to explore other binding options is a necessity. One of our most common alternative methods is perfect binding, or for those of you unfamiliar with the term – think paperback book.

PerfectBindQsThere are so many things to consider when selecting to perfect bind your project. It can sometimes feel overwhelming when trying to ensure your end-product is a quality piece. Here are a few tips to help you put your mind at ease when designing your next perfect bound project.

Cover layouts should be submitted as flat artwork

Meaning, if you have a 9″ x 12″ finished book with a .25″ spine, your artwork should be laid out on an 18.25″ (9″ front + 9″ back + .25″ spine) x 12″ page size.

Creating vertical guides at 9″ and 9.25″ to visibly see your spine while layout out your design. How do you want it to look on the final piece?

Bonus Tip: Make sure if you have an imagery you may have bleeding across the spine has the proper image resolution at final size to ensure a quality print.


Determining your correct spine size

One of the first questions designers ask  when working to put together a perfect bound book is “What size should my spine be?”.  Page count and paper thickness, or caliper, are the tools we use to determine the proper spine size.  Below is the formula we use to determine the spine size of a perfect bound book:

(# of pages divide by 2 ) x the caliper of your text paper

You may not have the caliper of your paper during initial stages of design, but we can certainly help provide you with the proper size at time of estimating.

Economically add color to your project

If you’re looking to add a few full color pages throughout your project in a cost-effective manner, there are some things you should think about before determining just where you wish to place them.

When only a few pages of color are added to your piece, it’s most economical to place color pages in signatures of four.

Unlike with saddle stitch binding, where it’s important to remember that the signatures will be nested together, in perfect binding we stack signatures on top of one another to form the finished product.This allows you to print consecutive pages more economically, while leaving the majority of your book 1-2 colors.

For example, if you have a 32 page book being saddle stitched and you want the first eight pages in color, due to how we have to layout the pages to stitch them together, there would be an additional eight pages at the end of the book that you could economically get in color as well, since they are already on the same form as the first eight.

In perfect binding, however, it’s most economical to keep your color pages in consecutive order – and you want to think carefully about your page counts.

For example, if you have a 112 page perfect bound book you’re designing at 8.5″ x 11″,  it is most economical to keep your color pages starting on a page divisible by 16 and within the following 16 pages.
Why, you might be wondering? A 112-page book is broken into seven 16-page signatures. By simply making one of those signatures full color, you are adding that splash you need to highlight your spotlight section, but adds a minimal amount of plates to the project. If you only have 10 pages of color content, don’t worry – we’ll still run a 16 page in color to keep costs low for you.

Want to case it all in?

Taking your project from a paperback to a hard-bound still involves much of the same considerations.

Work with us to determine what the proper spine should be after taking into consideration the paper thickness, the page count, end sheets and boards use for rigidity.

Some additional items to consider when designing for case-binding…

  • Do you want a ribbon?
  • Do you want the cover to image wrap around the entire book, or would you prefer a leather cover with foil lettering? Oh, and you can’t forget the dust jacket.

Feel free to bring us in during the initial design stages. While you’re working on the design, we can put together mock-ups so you can really see your vision coming to life.


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