PTX HOW TO GUIDE: Setting Up Your Book for PRINT

Setting up your booklet or book to give to your preferred printer may be a bit tedious, but going through this check list will help you to master the design and preparation of your next booklet or book for print.


  1. Most designers create their covers in Adobe Illustrator.  Ensure that you include a spine and that it is the correct size. There are many online resources to assist with this (click here).  Remember to take into account the paper stock and number of pages. This will determine how wide your spine will be. 
  2. Ensure that you save your file as:

                -  PDF/X-1a:2001

                - With standard 1/8" or 0.125" bleed (perfect binding and saddle stitch)

                - CMYK

      Other things to consider are:

                -  Outlining/embedding your fonts

                - Making sure all images are 300 dpi

Bleed Exceptions

There will be exceptions to the standard bleed size based on the type of binding you will be using. For hard cover books, such as photobooks, we recommend that you adjust your bleed to 1/2" or 0.5" to facilitate wrapping the image around the chip board. Remember the wrap around portion will not be as visible so we suggest that you use a solid colour, preferably the dominant colour used.

For spiral bound or ring bound books, expand your bleed to 1/4" or 0.25".

Inside Pages

Most designers use Adobe Indesign to create books and booklets. To be honest, this the best tool to use as it lays out the pages for you.  This takes the guess work out of signatures and inputting page numbers (which will be explained below).  When preparing your inside pages for print ensure that you:

  1. Save your file as PDF/X-1a:2001
  2. Save as pages, NEVER AS SPREADS.
  3. Save your files as CMYK, unless spot/Pantone colours are intended. If so, take care to let your printer know during the quote process and specify the Pantone colour to be used. If you do not own Pantone book/swatch use to assist you in indicating to the correct colour code. Remember to take into account the difference between RGB and CMYK (hyperlink post).
  4. Set your trim marks and bleed to 1/8" or 0.125".
  5. Embed your fonts.
  6. Images must be 300 dpi.


According to Designer Insights "A signature is a group of pages that are printed on both sides of a sheet of paper. The paper is then folded, cut and trimmed down to the finished page size. The number of pages on a signature depends on your page size and the size of the press sheet they fit on." (source).

It is customary to calculate your pages based on a 4 page signature, therefore, your pages should be divisible by 4, especially when using saddle stitch binding, to maximize your print output and page units. THAT'S alot of information in one breath.  What this does, as well, is to ensure that you get perfect sets. Saddles stitch doesn't do well with a 12-page signature as you will have blank pages, usually in the middle, of your print and who wants that?

Quick tips

Before you start, we recommend that you fold a letter size sheet of paper into 4 and place into each other to see how your pages will flow. For perfect binding place the sheets on top of each other. Number your pages and head them as well.

Numbering and Margins

One of the reasons designers prefer to use Adobe Indesign to create their designs is its features. It makes the process of designing page numbers super easy with the Master Pages feature. Master Pages allows you to set up how you would like your header and footer, page numbers, margins and sections to look. It will follow the same structure unless you change your Master Page or alter in that section. Pretty awesome… right?

When setting up your page numbers and margins take the following checklist into account:

  1. Left side pages should be even numbers
  2. Right side pages should be odd numbers
  3. Standard margins for books are 7/8" or 0.875" on the left and right side and 1/8" or 0.125" on the top and bottom


Flipbooks and Digital Publications

Preparing your books for online or digital publications is simpler than you think. When setting up your books take into account the following checklist:

  1. Include your inside pages and cover (minus spine) in a PDF document as explained in the above section.
  2. No bleed or trim marks necessary.
  3. Always save as pages.
  4. Remember your inside cover pages. Insert a blank page after your front cover and before your front cover to facilitate the flipbook on online book turn technique.
  5. Forget about the spine.
  6. Take your page count into consideration. This impacts the number of blank pages you may need to insert.

What techniques do you use when you are preparing your books for print? Tell us in the comment section below.