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Specifying Ring Binders

  • How many binders do you need?
  • How many sheets of paper must they hold? Include tabs (due to their thickness, count each tab as four pages). The capacity of a binder is determined by measuring the inside diameter of round rings or the inside height of "D" rings. Your binder manufacturer can provide a chart showing how many pages each ring size will accommodate: 1/2", 3/4", 1", 1 1/2", 2, and 2 1/2".
  • Do you want vinyl (durable and cheap) or turned edge binders (elegant but more expensive)? Turned edge refers to fabric glued over binder board.
  • How do you want your binders decorated? Your options include screen printing (for longer runs), which works well on vinyl and is good for line art. Screens and halftones are more challenging, so discuss these with your printer. Foil stamping, embossing, and applique are other options. For lower runs, consider offset printing inserts and slipping them under the clear, overlay pockets (outside front cover and spine). You can even have your binder manufacturer seal these inserts beneath the plastic.
  • How large a sheet must your binders accommodate? Include the size of the tabs that extend beyond the trim size of the sheet.
  • What color do you want? If your run exceeds 10,000 or so units, many binder producers will provide a custom PMS color for your binders: your logo color, for instance.
  • Do you want the rivets exposed or unexposed? Neither is stronger than the other. However, concealing the rivets may look better if you have artwork on the spine.
  • Do you want inside pockets? If so, do you want one or two? How about outside or inside business card pockets or CD holders?
  • Will you need sheet lifters? These plastic strips protect the text and keep the first and last pages from tearing.
  • Do you want round rings or "D" rings? "D" rings are mounted on the back cover. Many people think pages turn more easily on "D" rings and and are better aligned when the binder is full and open.

Two things to consider when producing binders:

  1.  Your printer will understand what you want better if you provide a mock-up, showing size, contents, tabs, rivets, decoration, ring shape, etc.
  2. Have the manufacturer ship the contents of the binder shrink-wrapped and set inside the binder but not over the rings. This will avoid damaging both the contents of the binder and the rings.

Web Growth

Web growth is obvious even if you don't know what to call it. Most of you have seen perfect bound books with the text extending a hair's breadth beyond the trim of the cover. It's ugly.

What causes this? In cases such as this, the text of the book has been printed on a heatset web press. The high heat used to vaporize the solvent in the ink during drying also takes the moisture out of the sheet. Once the text blocks have been bound into the covers (which usually have been produced via the sheetfed printing process without the high heat of the web ovens), the text blocks absorb moisture from the air and "grow" beyond the covers (which don't absorb as much moisture).

What can you do about this? Some printers say you can't do anything.

Some say that turning down the heat ducts on the web press ovens will minimize this, while others suggest letting the book blocks absorb the moisture before being bound, and still others suggest trimming the books twice. So if you plan to produce a perfect-bound book with a text block printed on a web press and covers printed on a sheetfed press, discuss this potential flaw with your printer before the ink hits the paper.


[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]

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