So you’ve spent months designing a booklet (may that be a glossy magazine, a catalogue of amazing products or a brochure) to sell your company’s services. But how the heck do you actually get it ready to be printed?

Because it’s not as simple as you might think!

As a generation that grew up with the internet, we’re used to our designs confirming to exact dimensions. If it’s a 100 x 100-pixel avatar. We can create a perfect 100 x 100-pixel image and upload it. Although if your image is considerably bigger, the system you’re uploading to will usually scale it down. Thanks, Instagram! But printing on paper doesn’t work like that.

It doesn’t help that, for years, paper printing companies have kept these secrets to themselves, making it difficult for people to easily take ownership of their print production and costs

So we’re going to explain the basics about how to print your booklets very clearly and succinctly with helpful diagrams.

But before we begin. You need to understand that all catalogues, magazines, brochures and even comics are all booklets. And that a booklet is simply sheets of paper that have been bound together. So whatever you choose to name your printed product, based on its content, it is technically still a booklet.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

Booklet - How to prepare a booklet for printing
If in doubt, go for silk paper as it consistently provides good results.

Kinds of Paper for a booklet

First, choose your paper. Each type has a different look, feel and texture.

Silk > Recommended default paper. Smooth finish.

Gloss > Shiny paper! Gives a feeling of premium quality. Costs the same as Silk.

Uncoated > Rough paper. Creates a vintage look. Slightly dulls colours.

If in doubt, go for silk paper as it consistently provides good results. Gloss works well for high-resolution photography and covers, hence the term ‘glossy magazines’. Uncoated paper is very popular for zines because it gives a faded, rough and vintage feel.

Paper thickness is something to think about too.  Measured in gsm (Grams Per Square Metre), the recommended default is 115 to 130gsm for interior papers and 170 to 250gsm for cover papers.

Obviously, the thicker the paper, the more rigid it becomes. To give you an idea of scale, inkjet printer paper is 80gsm, premium magazine pages are usually 130gsm and business cards are typically 300gsm.

Covers

Thicker gsm paper at the front and back of your booklet which will make it look more professional while protecting the inner pages.

Also available in Silk, Gloss or Uncoated, but they tend to be 170gsm to 300gsm in thickness.

‘Self-cover’ is when a publication doesn’t add cover pages. So the first page of a booklet effectively becomes the front cover. Also known as a ‘floppy’ because it flexes easily.

How to prepare a booklet for printing
There are three types of bindings for booklets: staple bound, perfect bound and wiro bound.

Lamination

Always laminate your cover papers. It makes magazines, catalogues and brochures look so much more presentable. Most importantly, it also protects against wear and tear.

Matt lamination – Smooth protective coating

Gloss lamination – Shiny protective coating

In the same way, you get silk and gloss paper, you get matt and gloss laminations.

So if you have a silk cover paper, you will want to give it a matt lamination. And if you have a gloss cover paper, you will want to give it a gloss lamination to make it really shiny!

Uncoated cover paper should not be laminated. The finish doesn’t stick to this paper type very well and would defeat the whole point of choosing an uncoated paper in the first place.

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Binding

Next, you need to choose your binding. There are three types for booklets.

Staple bound > Two staples through the middle holds it together. Also known as Saddle Stitched.

Perfect bound > Pages are glued to a square edged spine. Basically a paperback book.

Wiro bound > Loop wire rings hold the pages together through bit holes punched in the paper.

Most booklets are staple bound. It’s effective and affordable. Premium publications are perfect bound because it looks really good. However, you need to achieve a minimum total paper thickness for the square spine to be created.

If your interior paper thickness was 130gsm, you would need at least 36 sides to achieve the minimum thickness required for your booklet to be perfect bound. If your paper is thinner, you will need more.

Wiro binding is less common, as it tends to be used for notepads and trade catalogues with thicker papers.

How to prepare a booklet for printing - a catalogue with a kitty
The purpose of a print file is to allow for a margin of error in your design.

How to prepare a file for booklet printing

Once you’ve chosen your paper, cover, lamination and binding, you’re ready to create your print file for production. Please note that your choice of binding has an impact on your print file set up.

The purpose of a print file is to allow for a margin of error in your design. While modern printing machines are incredibly accurate, preparing for slight discrepancies will ensure that there are no surprises when you see the end result.

Please see the Print File Setup diagram for a visual guide to the following.

Size

You have the usual A4, A5 and other A sizes to choose from as well as Portrait or Landscape orientations. Some people like to create Square and Custom sized catalogues. Just bear in mind that everything in the UK is scaled around standard A sizes, including the cardboard boxes to pack, ship and store your booklets in. So it’s wise to stick with industry standard A sizes where you can.

Trim Line

As the name suggests, this line is where your design will be ‘trimmed’ during the cutting process of making your pages. So if you have A4 pages, your Trim Line will match the exact height and width of an A4 page. But, the cutting blade doesn’t always fall perfectly, which is why we need to add Bleed…

Bleed Area

The bleed area needs to extend 3mm outside of your trim lines on every side. It is always 3mm, regardless of the paper size or binding you have chosen.

So if you had an A4 design, it would be A4 sized +3mm on all edges with bleed added. Your design needs to completely cover the bleed area. Otherwise, if the cutting blade falls outside of the Trim Line by even 1mm, you would end up with a very thin (but very noticeable) white line along the edge of your page.

How to print a booklet - Catalogue with wholesale T-shirt brands
Computer screens display RGB colours generated by light. Printing machines produce CMYK colour with ink. It is not physically possible to print in RGB.

Quiet Area

The quiet area is everything 5mm inside the Trim Line. You should avoid putting any important elements of your design in this space. Its size is always the same, regardless of your paper size, but will vary depending on binding you have chosen.

It has two functions:

  • Firstly; it’s similar to the Bleed area because the cutting blade could fall a few mm inside of Trim Line, potentially chopping off an important part of your design.
  • Secondly; having design elements which are right at the edge of the page will make your artwork look cluttered. Leaving a clear space around the edges provides a little more room for your message to stand out.

Note: Staple bound booklets only require a 5mm Quiet area.

However, if your booklet is perfect bound, keep your designs 12mm away from the binding edge. Because it’s frustrating trying to read a magazine article when the text is difficult to see in the fold of the pages. This applies to your cover design too.

And if your booklet is wiro bound, you need to keep your designs 20mm away, otherwise big metal loops could go through important design elements. This applies to your cover design too.

CMYK and DPI

This is the technical bit. You need to set the colours of your design to CMYK and make sure your image resolution is high enough for printing.

Computer screens display RGB colours generated by light. Printing machines produce CMYK colour with ink. It is not physically possible to print in RGB.

What you see on your screen is a different colour spectrum to what you get printed on paper. So when RGB colours are converted to CMYK for printing, some colours won’t look exactly the same.

We recommend setting your colours to CMYK in InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop before you begin creating your designs. Use the CMYK Profile: Coated GRACoL 2006 (ISO 12647-2:2004) for the best results.

If you’ve already created your artwork in RGB, you can perform a quick colour conversion using these packages. Although you may wish to manually adjust some CMYK values after conversion.

While printing machines may be able to process JPEGs, Word documents and other low res files, we recommend only uploading PDF files exported using the ‘high-quality print’ setting from InDesign. And to ensure that all images are at least 300dpi, as anything lower will look grainy with a low resolution when printed.

How to prepare a booklet for print - Wedding booklet
The quiet area is everything 5mm inside the Trim Line.

Booklet Examples

Brochure:

  • A5 – Portrait
  • 20 sides
  • Staple bound
  • Silk interior paper 115gsm
  • Silk cover paper 170gsm with Matt lamination

The typical specifications for a good quality booklet. It’s staple bound with silk papers and has a slightly thicker silk cover with a matt lamination. This cost-effective setup is also commonly used for a wide range of catalogues and magazines.

Glossy Magazine:

  • A4 – Portrait
  • 80 sides
  • Perfect bound
  • Silk text paper 130gsm
  • Gloss cover paper 200gsm with Gloss lamination

This is the specification you would expect for a premium magazine. It’s perfect bound with a high page count, thicker silk papers and a thick gloss cover with a gloss lamination to create a high-end finished product which looks and feels luxurious.

This setup can also be used for premium product catalogues and company brochure templates. As soon as you go perfect bound, you’re creating a booklet that immediately looks professional.

Hooray! You now have all the essential information you need to know about booklet printing. Armed with this knowledge, now you can freely compare your options online and make your budget go a lot further.

Author: Adam Smith from Mixam, a paper printing company on a mission to make print easy and accessible to everyone. Because it’s really not as difficult as your local print shop probably makes it out to be!


Services for T-shirt Designers

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From the moment you get in touch, one of our printing experts in either London or Glasgow will answer all of your questions and find efficient solutions to your needs. It is our mission to help you reach your goals.

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