Don’t Get In a Bind Over Binding: What You Need to Know

What do brochures, look books, newsletters and wall calendars have in common? Once the pages are printed, folded and assembled in the correct order, they need to be attached together so they stay that way. Which means you’re bound to consider various types of binding.

Unlike the dizzying variety of choices in cardstock, paper finishes and textures, there are just a couple of dozen ways to attach printed pages together—including dog-earing them, or using chewing gum if you’re desperate—so you don’t have to tie yourself into knots over the right binding for the job.

In fact, there’s almost no arbitration involved in binding—your choice chiefly depends on:

  • The number of pages in the piece;
  • The thickness and texture of the cardstock;
  • The number of pieces being produced;
  • Turnaround time from pre-press to post-production; and
  • The budget.

Within these parameters, you can choose one type of binding over another if you want to make a design statement, as with the old-world look of hand-stitching. Popular binding options include:

  • Sewn Bound: As you no doubt guessed, a sewn binding uses thread. Center sewing is used as an alternative to saddle stitching (see below) to attach the center-folded pages of a brochure or catalog together.

450 Lexington Avenue Thread Binding

The brochure we produced for an office tower at 450 Lexington Avenue in the Grand Central area of New York City is printed on non-coated paper bound by thread. The uncoated paper gives the brochure a very clean and professional look, and showcases the commercial space. The saddle sewn binding was chosen because it adds a richness to a brochure.

  • Saddle or Loop Stitched: Saddle stitching, which looks like stapling, is a type of wire stitching that is used to fasten double-sided documents that need to lie flat, such as booklets, catalogs, look books, newsletters, magazines, pamphlets, programs and wall calendars. With stitching, the wire is punched along the fold line of center-folded sheets of paper nestled inside each other, and the ends of the wire are bent to hold the sheets together.

Loop stitching also uses wire, but instead of lying flat in the center of the folded pages the wire is looped along the outside of the spine so that the pages can be inserted into a three-ring binder without punching holes into paper. Loop stitching is ideal for adding supplements and updates to already published material. Another advantage of loop stitching is that unlike other types of binding, you don’t need to worry as much about the width of your gutter margins to prevent text and images from getting lost inside the fold of the spine.

  • Perfect Bound and Tape Bound: With perfect binding, the folded pages are grouped into sections called signatures, then the signatures are collated. The folded edge is trimmed and scored, then the spine is attached to a wrap-around cover with a hot glue made from resins and polymers that are fluid at high temperatures and stiff when they cool down. Other options include polyvinyl acetate-based adhesives that result in a more flexible spine; polyurethane reactivate (PUR) adhesives that allow the bound document to lie a bit flatter than with the hot-melt adhesives; and lay flat perfect binding, in which a strip of gauze is attached to the spine and the cover is glued to the sides of the spine on top of the gauze.

This type of binding is more elegant than saddle stitching, and is often used for annual and corporate reports, holiday catalogs and magazines. However, with the exception of lay flat perfect binding, the document will not lie completely flat—so you need to be mindful of gutter margins when laying out text and images, particularly two-page spreads.

John Mellencamp Brochure

For ACA Galleries on West 20th Street in New York City, we produced 400 units of this perfect bound catalog of a collection of paintings by John Mellencamp that were included in an exhibit at The Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, GA earlier this year. The spine is beautifully squared and has a perfectly scored hinged cover.

Because of the small press run, we were able to print the images digitally on 100# coated cover stock, which brought the vivid colors to life, and gave the project heft and substance. The cover was printed on a conventional press. Inline spot UV gloss was applied to the title, which made it pop against the 120# dull finish stock.

  • Wire-o and Spiral Binding: These bindings are typically used for desk and wall calendars, handbooks, manuals and recipe books, and allows pages to lie flat. As an added bonus, they come in a variety of colors for branding purposes or to coordinate with the cover design.

They all require punching round, square or rectangular holes along the binding edge of the front and back covers, as well as the individual sheets of paper between them. In Wire-o (also known as double-wire) binding, a double set of “c”-shaped wire loops is threaded through the holes and crimped closed. Spiral binding uses a wire or plastic coil that looks like a stretched-out slinky.A Building Book

This brochure for The A Building at 425 East 13th Street in New York City is an example of concealed wire-o binding. The interior was bound in a white wire with an extra blank cover sheet in the back. The cover sheet was then glued into the inside back cover to secure it into the book.

The outer cover—111# Curious Soft Touch Milk stock mounted to 14 point Tango cover stock—has a sturdy 1/2″ spine, and when the book is closed you can’t see the wire under the cover. Concealed wire-o mimics the look of a perfect bound or case bound book, which creates a more prestigious effect, while allowing the pages to lay flat. We used 150# Utopia Premium Silk Cover for the interior pages, which has the effect of a big story book.

  • Side Stitching or Side-Sewn: With this type of binding, the wire or the thread is punched through the entire document from the front to the back cover about an inch or two away from the spine. With side stitching, the spine is covered with book cloth to conceal the wire. The more elegant side-sewn binding—Japanese sewn binding, for instance—is used to make a design statement. These types of bindery are suitable for thinner books with one-sided pages; as with perfect binding, gutter margins are an issue and the finished piece will not lay open.

Binding is not an afterthought, but an integral component of the functionality and look-and-feel of a project. highresolution® printing specializes in unique binding solutions and hand-finishing to make each production unique.

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