Monday, July 16, 2012

Consider the End from the Beginning

Are you familiar with the term bindery? That’s the department in our company where we create the final product from flat press sheets – products like a folded brochure, a booklet, a pad, a numbered invoice, pages with holes ready for a ring binder, a spiral bound manual, or a ticket with perforations to make a tear-off stub. The bindery is where we trim business cards to final size and trim the edges of booklets to make them even. It’s where we apply the glue that makes individual sheets of carbonless paper into a set. It’s where we package the order and do the final quality control check. So even though we rarely mention the bindery when talking to you about a project, it is a very important part of the process.

Bindery operations

If you have ever cut, folded, stapled or punched holes in sheets you’ve printed, then you are familiar with bindery operations. We perform these operations using stand alone equipment for sheets printed on our offset presses, and with add-on modules to our digital printing equipment to collate multi-page documents, staple sets, and even make booklets. Having these inline capabilities adds a level of efficiency that can mean a faster turnaround time for your project.

Considering bindery operations when creating documents

You will get the best results for your project if you understand that some bindery functions require an adjustment to the layout of the document file. The three most common are allowances for trimming, folding and document binding.


If your document contains a bleed – an image or line or solid color that extends all the way to the edge of the sheet – the layout will need adjusting. This is because printers do not print an image to the edge of the sheet. What looks like printing to the edge is really a printed image that has been extended past the final size, then trimmed to the final size. The standard allowance for a bleed is 1/8 inch (0.125) beyond the finished size. So if the final size of your printed piece is 8.5 x 11, then set the document size at 8.75 x 11.25, set trim marks at 8.5 x 11, and extend the image that will bleed 0.125 inches past the trim lines.

When preparing a file, such as a business card, where more than one can fit on a press sheet, include trim marks that show us what you intend for the final size. The process of positioning images to print on the press sheet is called imposition; we determine the imposition plan based on production considerations.


When preparing a document like a trifold brochure, remember the size of panels that fold in must be slightly smaller to produce a completely flat and even fold. The adjustment is particularly critical when the image from one panel abuts the image from an adjacent panel. Here’s an example of the mathematical computation for panel size:

8.5 x 11 sheet of paper folded in thirds to produce a brochure measuring 8.5 x 3.67 after folding.

  • 11 divided by 3 = 3.667 (the width of a panel if all panels were equal)
  • To determine the width of the inner panel, subtract 0.125 (1/8th inch) from 3.667 = 3.542 (new width if inner panel)
  • To determine the width of the outer panels, divide 0.125 by 2 = 0.063. Add this amount to 3.667 = 3.73 (new width if outer panels)
  • Result: the panel that folds in (the inner panel) has a width = 3.542; the two outer panels have a width of 3.73
Remember that the position of the inside panel changes from the front to the reverse. In this example, the inner panel moves from the left to the right depending on whether you are working on the outside or inside of the finished brochure. To see this easily for yourself, fold an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper in thirds, make a mark on both sides of the inner panel, then unfold.


To put holes in paper, we may use a spindle drill (similar to a wood drill) or a punch. When you are setting the margins for an item that will be bound, you must allow extra space from the edge of the sheet to where the image begins to accommodate the drill or punch pattern. A half inch clear space is recommended for an 8.5 x 11 sheet, so shift the margin to the right for one-sided pages. For two-sided pages, shift right for odd-numbered and left for even-numbered pages.


Booklets consisting of more than two or three flat press sheets before being made into the booklet can present a problem known as shingling or page creep (see photo at right). Notice that the pages are uneven or shingled. This is the result of page creep. To eliminate the unevenness, the final step in making a booklet is to trim the face (i.e. the outer right hand edge). If there has not been an adjustment for page creep, it is possible that text, page numbers, or images could be trimmed away during the face trim.

Making exact adjustments for page creep requires complicated mathematical computations. A less accurate though simpler method is to make a dummy booklet: fold the exact number of press sheets that will make up the booklet, gather them into a booklet and stitch (staple) in the center fold. Trim the face, then disassemble the booklet. Measure the width of the inner-most sheet (the one that will have the center spread) and set page margins accordingly.

Do it yourself or ask us for help

The instructions we’ve given to adjust for trimming, folding and binding are standards in the printing industry, so they are worth learning. However, if the software program you are using doesn’t have the tools to make the adjustments easily, then we suggest you let us do it for you. Give us a Word file with text, tell us where you would like photos or graphics placed, and let us do the final layout. The cost is small compared to what you’ll save yourself in time and frustration.

For more information or a cost estimate, contact Loyd or Marya at (215) 923-2679.

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