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Expert Advice

Ask a Smartpress.com Expert: Common Booklet Printing Issues

Question:  I’d like to print some saddle stitched booklets with you that have a variety of design elements on the internal pages. I have read through your file setup information and I’m pretty sure that I know what I need to include, but I want this booklet to look as perfect as possible on the first try. What are some of the common design issues that crop up with booklets, so I can try to address them in my print file? 


text error across booklet pagesBooklets are complicated to design for, particularly saddle stitched booklets. There are so many pieces that need to be put together in the right order, designed in a way that they look good together and printed so that the two pages line up well. Additionally, when it comes time for printing, there are important aspects that need to be considered.

gap in image across pagesFirst, is cutting tolerance. This is the slight variation that can occur when your booklet pages are cut down to size. Smartpress’s cutting tolerance is 1/16″, which means that the trim line for each page can vary by up to that much.

Second, is slight shifts in how the pages lay together when they are bound. Because of the cutting tolerance mentioned above, when pages are stacked together, they might not line up at the center.  This can have an impact on:

  • Headers and Footers page to page
  • Borders and Bars that extend across two pages
  • Photos and other imagery that extends from one page to another, with the exception of the centerfold
  • Text is particularly hard to line up page to page, and we do not recommend it

text not lining up in booklet pagesSome of the issues above can be mediated by opting for “bigger is better.”  Make your header or footer thicker to reduce the appearance of overly thin borders, bars, headers, and footers. Making photos and other images that extend page to page bigger may also help with those elements.

borders not lining up in booklet printingLastly, consider page creep.  When you take a stack of papers that are all the same size and you fold them at the middle, the edges of the paper will not line up, as the middle pages will stick out beyond the outer pages. To get a nice, smooth edge to the booklet, we cut the paper flush, causing the outer pages to be bigger than the inner pages.  Any design elements too close to the edge of the page could be cut off towards the center of the book. Additionally, borders on inner pages would be thinner at the edge than borders on outer pages. Page creep gets worse with the more pages you add, but if you’re aware of the issue, you can account for some of this page creep issue in your design by adjusting your borders.

If we notice an issue with your booklet printing project, we try to notify you. However, small issues like border, header, and footer thickness variation are harder for us to spot.

Do you want to have your digital printing question answered? Leave your question in the comments below or email us at customerservice@smartpress.com and we will do our best to answer your questions.


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