Stumped on Binding? A Beginner's Guide to Common Binding Techniques

  • by Christine Batta
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We often get questions from our clients about the best type of binding for their printed documents. No option is going to be universally perfect. You will want to weigh the qualities of each type of binding in terms of the goals and use of your document. Here are some points to consider that we've gathered in our experience with printed design projects.

Spiral Bind

Individual pages bound together with a coil on one edge


spiral bound printed document

  • Document length: ANY. You will want to make sure you get the appropriate size coil for the length of your document. A coil that is too large will make your piece handle awkwardly.
  • Visible: YES/NO. A spiral binding can be hidden by an extra cover on the outside of the piece
  • Customization: YES. You choose your material, plastic or metal, and even color (usually black, white or red).
  • Lies flat when open: YES.
  • Quality over time: MAYBE. The spiral bind makes it possible to transport the piece with a page other than the cover open on the outside. This means the pages can get banged up when a person carries it around.
  • Specifications: Page must have ample interior margins to make space for the hole punches and spiral.

Perfect Bind

Individual sheets glued together at spine


perfect bound printing document

  • Document Length: LONGER. At least 60 pages.
  • Visible: NO.
  • Customization: YES. You can add graphics to the spine to identify and match your piece.
  • Lies flat when open: NO. If you don't want to break the glue at the spine, you shouldn't open a perfecting binding up to lay flat.
  • Quality over time: YES.
  • Specifications: Printing on an uncoated, matte paper instead of glossy because the glue adheres to this paper better. Your page count must be divisible by 4 in order to print four pages on sheet that will be folded down to the size of the final piece.

Saddle Stitch

Folded sheets that are stapled in the middle


saddle stitch printing document

  • Document Length: SHORTER. Under 100 pages (depending on paper type and staples available)
  • Visible: SOMEWHAT. The crisp fold in a shorter document keeps the staple from standing out on the outside. You will see the staples on the inside in the very center spread.
  • Customization: NO.
  • Lies flat when open: YES.
  • Quality over time: SOMEWHAT. The staple's hold it strong but the exposed, crisp outside edge of the paper can crack over time.
  • Specifications: Your page count must be divisible by 4 in order to print four pages on a sheet that will be folded down to the size of the final piece.

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