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Perfect Binding
File Set-Up Guide

Prepare print ready artwork for a perfect bound book

Why supply files correctly?
You have a tight deadline and supplying files correctly first time round means your job can go straight on the press and be delivered on time. If the artwork isn’t print ready then valuable time can be lost and your deadline missed.

Which Software Do I Need To Use For This?
Adobe InDesign will be the easiest program to use when you are preparing artwork for a perfect bound book. There is a one week free trial to get you started. 

At Ex Why Zed, we've put together a review of four popular graphic design programs: Adobe InDesign, Affinity Publisher, QuarkXPress, and Scribus. Discover which one is the best fit for your needs and budget.
Lets get you started

For perfect bound books we need two files: A cover file and a text page file.

1. A hires pdf file for the cover and inner cover. You will need to add a spine on this cover file. The width of the spine depends on how many pages your book has. It is simple but the more pages you have, the thicker the spine needs to be to wrap round them all.

2. A file for the text pages. These are supplied as single pages rather than spreads and in correct reading order with crop marks and 3mm bleed on each edge.
How do I find out my Spine Size then?
Check the list below to see if your number of pages is shown or ask us for the spine size once your design is finished. Best not to ask before you have finished your artwork, because if the number of pages changes the spine will get bigger or smaller. Easier to make the cover at the end of the process and only do it once.
Preparing your cover artwork
Prepare your text page artwork
Spine Sizes

Create a new file
File > New > Document


Number of Pages
For our quick, easy method of setting up a cover file choose ‘2’ here.

Facing Pages
Leave unticked

Primary Text Frame
Leave unticked

Page Size
This is easy to work out…The height number is the height of your Zine. The width is the width of the back cover + the spine size through the centre + the width of the front cover. So for an A4 book with a 5mm spine the height will be 297mm and the width 210+5+210=425mm. For an A5 book with a 3mm spine the height will be 210mm and the width 148+3+148=299mm.

View paper size dimensions.

If your height and width numbers are correct then this will correct itself to the right choice so you dont have to worry about picking an option here.

Type ‘2’ here.

This is a clever little cheat that will save you loads of time and makes it easy to see where your spine is. Ask Ex Why Zed what size your spine needs to be and then input that number here. There are a selection of the most common spine sizes here. When the file opens you’ll see two guides through the centre to show you the spine – amazing hey!?

If you like, then you can add a margin guide around the page edge to make sure none of your content gets too near the edge. For example you can set the four margins to 5mm which will help you avoid placing important information within 5mm of the cover’s edge. InDesign shows your margins as pink lines on your page. On the image (right) the 3mm bleed is the outer line, then the black page edge and then the pink 5mm margin indicator.

Bleed and Slug
Adding ‘3mm’ in the top, bottom, left and right boxes here will add a red border on your InDesign artwork 3mm outside of the blank page edge to show where the bleed needs to extend to. For further info see the Bleed set up section above.

Click ‘OK’ and your new file will open.
You will now see a page identical to the one on the right. Brilliantly you can now see your back cover on the left, your spine through the centre and your front cover on the right. Easy!

Page two of your new cover file is shown to the right. This is the reverse of the outer cover- your inside cover is on the left, spine through the centre (this will be glued so don’t put any information within 8mm of the spine) and inside back cover on the right.

We are sure you have done your research and worked out the best binding type for your publication, but if not, here is a quick video guide to talk you through the three options.
Our example here shows the measurements for the cover of an A5 Portrait Zine with 60 inside pages onto 115gm Uncoated which needs a 5mm spine. The width of the spread is 148+5+148 = 301mm, the height is 210mm and bleed is 3mm on all edges.
Measurements for A5 book cover with 5mm spine
Margins & Bleed
Your new cover file set up

Number of Pages

This is the number of INSIDE pages you have. Page 1 of your text file is the first right hand page of your zine when you open the cover. Remember this has to be a multiple of two (a sheet of paper has a front AND a back) and you need an absolute minimum of 36 inside pages to be thick enough to glue and perfect bind.

Facing Pages

If you find it easier to design as double page spreads then leave this option ticked. If you are comfortable working in single pages then untick this box. Maybe try both ways before starting to see which you prefer.

Master Text Frame

Leave unticked

Page Size

Make sure the page size you specify is the same size as you intend your perfect bound Books to be printed. Use the presets on the drop down menu if you're going for a regular page size.

Click here for paper size dimensions.


The left hand icon is portrait and the right hand one is landscape.


If you leave this on '1' you will just be given an artwork page. If you are more comfortable with a column structure then experiment with this option to give your pages a consistent structure.


This relates to this distance between your columns. If you only have one column then there is no gutter and you can skip this box.


It can be useful to add a 5mm border round the page edge to prevent you adding content too near the edge.

Bleed and Slug

Add '3mm' in the top, bottom, left and right boxes here to add a border on your InDesign artwork 3mm outside the page edge to guide you where the bleed needs to extend to. For further information on bleed see the Bleed set up section.

Click 'OK' and your new file will open.

Your file will be identical to the one here on the right. You now have 60 pages of content to fill - Good luck!

Our example here is for an A5 Perfect Bound Zine with 60 inside pages. The width and height match A5 (210x148mm) and there is 3mm bleed on each edge.

Common Spine Sizes for Perfect Bound Book Printing

Text pages onto 115gsm Uncoated FSC
36pp to 42pp Text = 3mm spine
44pp to 58pp Text = 4mm spine
60pp to 72pp Text = 5mm spine
74pp to 88pp Text = 6mm spine
90pp to 102pp Text = 7mm spine
104pp to 118pp Text = 8mm spine
120pp to 134pp Text = 9mm spine
136pp to 148pp Text = 10mm spine
200pp Text = 14mm spine

Text pages onto 130gsm Silk FSC
36pp to 40pp Text = 2mm spine
44pp to 52pp Text = 3mm spine
54pp to 70pp Text = 4mm spine
72pp to 88pp Text = 5mm spine
90pp to 106pp Text = 6mm spine
108pp to 124pp Text = 7mm spine
126pp to 144pp Text = 8mm spine
146pp to 162pp Text = 9mm spine
200pp Text = 12mm spine

Text pages onto 120gsm Evolution Uncoated
36pp to 38pp Text = 3mm spine
40pp to 50pp Text = 4mm spine
52pp to 64pp Text = 5mm spine
64pp to 76pp Text = 6mm spine
78pp to 90pp Text = 7mm spine
92pp to 104pp Text = 8mm spine
106pp to 116pp Text = 9mm spine
118pp to 130pp Text = 10mm spine
200pp Text = 14mm spine

Cover Design Tip
Keep your spine text small so it doesn’t slide off the spine. If your spine is less than 5mm we recommend not putting any text on it to avoid any risk of it sliding round to the front or back cover when your zines are bound.

When your artwork is designed and printed it will look like the image below. You can see the back cover on the left, spine in the centre and front cover on the right – exactly the same as you designed it!
Text page design tips
Your cover is glued onto the first and last page of your text block. Therefore any content within 8mm of the spine on the first and last text page will be lost so keep important information (page numbers, headings etc) out of this area.

If you have an image that crosses over the spine (a spread) around 3-5mm will be obscured within the spine gutter. You can overcompensate for this by sliding a left hand page's image a few mm left and a right hand image a few mm right so they appear to match up.

IT IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA TO HAVE SMALL TEXT ACROSS A SPREAD because some of it WILL BE LOST in the spine and your sentences won't make sense with missing characters and words.

For more design tips and considerations check our perfect binding section here
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