Saddle-stitch booklet set-up and finalization

I’m working on a saddle-stitched print booklet for a festival. I’m a bit worried about the gutter. For example I have an image stretched across two pages in a triangular frame and I’m curious how that will translate being saddle-stitched.

The client intends for this to be 8.5x11 booklet, but mentioned something about 11x17. I think they were asking it be printed on 11x17, but that really has more to do with the printer, right? Or, do I need to design this on 11x17 with the trim expected to be 8.5x11?

An 8.5 x 11 saddle-stitched booklet would be printed on 11 x 17 sheets.


Design your pages as 8.5 x 11 facing pages. Without knowing more about the output method, anyone would have to guess at the specifics of how to handle “special” items. Do you know how it will be printed and by whom? If you do, you need to be in contact with them.

That kind of thing is done in magazines all the time. The gutter/spine/binding will go right across the middle of it, but on a two-page spread, that’s just the way it is.

A lot depends on the printer you’ll be using, whether or not there are bleeds and how many you’ll be printing. If you’re printing, say, 500+ of these booklets and if there are multiple pages and bleeds involved, you’ll likely be using an offset printing company that will print the booklet on still larger sheets of paper that they will subsequently trim down to size.

If you’re just printing a few and if there are no bleeds, you’ll likely get it digitally printed and it will likely be done on 11x17-inch paper and folded.

Are you building this in InDesign or another layout application? If so, make the pages 8.5x11 inches and set it up as side-by-side spreads. The printing company will take it from there and do what they need to do.

OH DUH! You’re amazing, thanks! For some reason, my brain kept getting tripped up on those second dimensions of 11x17! …Even though I (kinda) understand saddle-stitch printing. (apparently not well enough…)

SO, if I’m designing this in InDesign, all I need to do is set it up with “Facing Pages” and design as normal (page 1, 2, 3…) and then, work out with the printer how to send to them, right? Or, do I need to account for the order the pages will be printed in my design?

I’m still waiting on my client to decide on a printer unfortunately.

THANK YOU. That was super helpful. I’m so grateful!

I’m designing in Indesign, so I’m assuming I create it as 8.5x11 pages (with bleed) with facing pages and design in the order the pages should be (page 1, 2, 3…) and then work out with the printer the rest?

Based on my understanding of saddle-stitch, most printers account for this, right? I don’t need to worry about which pages will print side-by-side based on the fold/number of pages…? And I think I can do this in InDesign if needed for the printer, right?

Typically, “imposition” is the printer’s responsibility. As the designer, you don’t want to make assumptions about the methods the printer will employ. It’s your responsibility to establish lines of communication with the printer early in your design process, during which a mutual understanding of the finished product will be reached and equated to what the printer wants and expects from you to best facilitate the output and finishing methods they’ll apply.

This might seem super-obvious, but I’ve made the mistake several times of assuming that clients understood it: the total number of pages in a saddle-stitched booklet need to be in multiples of four. In other words, using your situation, open the 8.5x11-inch booklet and it measures 17x11 inches. There are two pages on the front and two pages on the back of each sheet of 17x11-inch paper. In still other words, a saddle-stitched booklet can have 8, 12, 16, 20, 24 pages, etc., but it can’t have 7 or 13 or 18 or 37 etc.

Another hint: sometimes it’s useful to create a little dummy booklet to keep track of the pages. Just get a few sheets of 8.5x11-inch paper, put them together and fold them in two to make a little booklet. Now you can mark the cover, the inside cover, page 1, page 2, etc., all the way back to the inside back cover and the back cover. Sometimes it’s useful to have a physical sample to pick up, look at, thumb through to keep track of which pages go where, where the middle spread is, etc.

Another thing: odd-numbered pages are always on the right. Even numbered pages are always on the left.


Willy has nightmares about pagination…runs back to photo section !!

No, it’s not super-obvious, J-B.

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I’ve done a ton of these (probably literally) and the most important info has been covered by the previous posters.
.125" bleed is adequate for an 8.5"x 11" booklet. Your final pdf export will pick up the center bleeds. I always export as pdf/x using doc bleeds for final check. That way you can catch potential mistakes in bleeds and it helps double check images for resolution and colour conversion. I’ve been burned so many times by type reflow that my finals are outlined as well. If you’ve done your job, everything will then rest on the printer’s capability. The last thing you need is a finger pointing battle between you and them over a screw up, so ask to see a final proof before they go to press.

I always do this; it’s extremely helpful.

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