Newbie problem: Correct gutter for different bindings

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Colin Hughes's picture
Joined: 16 May 2007 - 8:27am
Newbie problem: Correct gutter for different bindings

Dear all,

it's not usually a question that I see raised much (possibly it's irrelevant to a good amount of design work) but it's got to the point now that I need some helpful pointers from the massed genius of the posters here.

That is, for the different type of bindings, is there any rule of thumb I can use when designing a page so that my attractive layout isn't chewed up into the gutter when the book's bound? I've tried to 'talk to my printers'(there's two we use) but we're a small concern and only do short runs and I get the sense that they don't and won't want to spend any time on us.


Blank's picture
Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm

Make a mockup with a few text pages inserted among a bunch of blank paper or just compare to an existing book of similar dimensions.

j's picture
Joined: 30 Jul 2004 - 1:49pm

Your printer should be able to provide you with a dummy book, using the right paper and something close to the final binding.
The general rule of thumb I have is if you're worried about it, it's probably too tight.

darrel's picture
Joined: 4 Feb 2003 - 6:03pm

The printer should tell you how much of the sheet will be eaten up by the binding. That leaves you with aesthetic decision regarding your own margin. The two added together is what you'd want to use.

Note that some binding methods will also introduce creep into the equation that you'll want to account for.

Victor Curran's picture
Joined: 31 Dec 2008 - 3:34pm
  • Saddle stitch: You should be safe with a minimum 1/2-inch back margin. If it's a low page count (up to 32) you can probably get away with even less, though I wouldn't recommend it.
  • Mechanical bindings (wire-o, spiral, etc.): Keep type at least 1/4 inch away from the holes that are drilled for the wires.
  • Perfect binding: Minimum 5/8-inch back margin, 3/4-inch is better. It's not so much a question of the type getting "chewed up," it's the fact that the pages don't lie flat in a perfect bound book, so the last 3/4 inch curves steeply away from the reader's eye.
  • Smyth sewing: Sewn pages lie flatter than perfect bound pages, and Smyth sewing doesn't involve any grind-off like perfect binding, so you can get away with a minimum 1/2 inch. But Smyth sewing is usually reserved for better-quality casebound books, so don't skimp on your margins.
  • One more thing. When readers look at a book, they don't see a page, they see a spread, so if your back margin and front margin are equal, the space between the two type blocks looks too big.

    Your back margin ought to be smaller than your front margin (and your head margin smaller than your foot margin).