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Part 1: Important Binder Tips

Download Binder Design Cheat Sheet
Go to Part 2: Print Ready Checklist for Binders

These valuable tips, assembled by our print and design experts, will guide you through the binder design process.

Every Binder Should:

  • Define who you are. >>>
  • Entice the audience to look inside. >>>
  • Direct the audience to contact information. >>>

Selecting a Product

  • Review stock, coating, and imprint method samples before ordering. >>>
  • Test your ring mechanism to make sure it can hold the amount of materials you need. >>>
  • Achieve colorful backgrounds by printing ink on white stock or by allowing the stock color to act as the background. >>>
  • Imprint dark stocks with foil stamping, embossing, debossing, or metallic ink; printing other inks on dark stock can afect color reproduction. If you’re printing on a non-paper material, try printing with white ink first to minimize the bleed-through effect. >>>
  • Increase the durability of binders made from paper stock with reinforced edges or lamination. >>>
  • Choose a clear view style if each of your binders requires a unique message or if you expect you’ll need to quickly replace your design with a new one. The removable inserts make this simple and easy. >>>
  • Select a binder with pockets to allow the ability to add materials on-the-fly (even without a three-hole punch). >>>

Imprint Methods

  • Use PMS (spot) colors to produce designs with just one color or when exact color matching is required. Gradients are possible with certain binder types. >>>
  • Create a unique look with shiny metallic PMS inks against matte vinyl stock. >>>
  • Print four color process (CMYK) for designs with multiple colors (such as full-color photography). >>>
  • Set black CMYK areas to 60% Cyan, 40% Magenta, 40% Yellow, and 100% Black in your design software for a richer black color. >>>
  • Use 30% more Cyan than Magenta for truest color in blue CMYK areas. >>>
  • Choose PMS ink for unique colors such as metallic and fluorescent hues. >>>
  • Select fonts more than 1 pt thick for foil stamped text or more than 2 pt thick for embossed/debossed text. Avoid serif fonts or font sizes smaller than 12 pt. >>>

Layout

  • Position artwork so that slits and opaque pockets don’t obscure your design. >>>
  • Place important logos, text, or other elements on the right 2/3 of the front and back cover to increase their visibility. >>>
  • Provide at least 1/4″ of space around your logo. >>>

Branding and Legal

  • Match binder colors, design, and messaging to the company’s identity. >>>
  • Comply with font and image copyright policies. >>>
  • Include contact information. >>>

Testing and Proofing

  • Create a quick and easy test version if your binder has pockets. Print a reduced
    size copy of the design, cut it out, and fold it to check placement of elements. >>>
  • Review your .PDF proof for any inaccuracies. >>>
  • For four color process designs, request a color digital proof to confirm the color, size and position of elements. >>>



Print Ready Checklist

Every Binder Should:
  1. Define who you are
    Whether through a recognizable logo, name, or title, recipients should immediately recognize the binder’s point of origin. Place this information somewhere the audience will notice it (typically front-and-center on your binder’s cover).
  2. Entice the audience to look inside
    A binder’s not much use if audiences don’t feel the need to explore its contents. You can use a range of techniques to compel recipients to open your binder, such as a written teaser on the cover, a graphic that suggests an opening motion, or an unusual die-cut closure to encourage interaction.
  3. Direct the audience to contact information
    Provide your reader with a way to seek you out for business or further discussion. Phone numbers, web URLs, or other means of contact should be placed where the recipient is most likely to find them.
Selecting a Product
  • Review stock, coating, and imprint method samples before you order.
    Requesting a sample is the best way to make sure you select the right product. Samples let you interact with stocks, coatings, and imprint methods in person, so you’ll experience a product the same way your customers would. This will empower you to make the most informed buying decision.
  • Test your ring mechanism to make sure it can hold the amount of materials you need.
    Understanding the basics of binder ring sizes is a great place to start, but you should always test out your binder to ensure that it will hold the required number of sheets.
  • Achieve colorful backgrounds by printing ink on white stock or by allowing the stock color to act as the background.
    Four-color process and PMS ink colors are truest on white stock because printing on colorful stock can alter the appearance of the ink color. When printing on a colorful stock, it’s best to simply use the stock’s natural color as your design background.
  • Imprint dark stocks with foil stamping, embossing, debossing, or metallic ink; printing other inks on dark stock can afect color reproduction. If you’re printing on a non-paper material, try printing with white ink first to minimize the bleed-through effect.
    Since dark stocks can interfere with four-color process (CMYK) and PMS inks, textured or metallic imprint methods work best with dark stocks because they don’t use any ink that can be altered by the paper color. Alternatively, if you’re printing on a non-paper material, you can print a white background first and then print a design over that to avoid bleed-through.
  • Increase the durability of binders made from paper stock with reinforced edges or lamination.
    Reinforced edges aid in preventing dog-earing, tearing, and other damage. Lamination provides similar protection in addition to preventing stains and water damage.
  • Choose a clear view style if each of your binders requires a unique message or if you expect you’ll need to quickly replace your design with a new one. The removable inserts make this simple and easy.
    With clear view binders, you can switch out the front cover on the fly and replace it with something new.
  • Select a binder with pockets to allow the ability to add materials on-the-fly (even without a three-hole punch).
    Use a binder with pockets if you anticipate having to add new materials quickly (especially if they may not be three-hole punched).
Imprint Methods
  • Use PMS (spot) colors to produce designs with just one color or when exact color matching is required. Gradients are possible with certain binder types.
    PMS (spot color) printing uses pre-mixed inks to create solid colors and their gradients to achieve exact color matches. It’s the best option for designs with just one single color.
  • Create a unique look with shiny metallic PMS inks against matte vinyl stock.
    Shiny metallic inks contrast nicely with matte vinyl stock, creating a unique look that stands out.
  • Print four color process (CMYK) for designs with multiple colors (such as full-color photography).
    Four color printing combines four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to create a spectrum of hues. It works best for photos or other designs with multiple colors. Because CMYK inks are mixed at the time of printing, these colors can vary, especially when reproducing navy blue or orange hues.
  • Set black CMYK areas to 60% Cyan, 40% Magenta, 40% Yellow, and 100% Black in your design software for a richer black color.
    You’d think 100% black would be pure black, but the color actually looks richer and deeper when you combine all four colors at these percentages. You can set these colors in Photoshop and Illustrator by clicking “Window,” then “Color.”
  • Use 30% more Cyan than Magenta for truest color in blue CMYK areas.
    Sometimes when you want an area to be blue, it ends up looking a little purple. When selecting colors, you can achieve a truer blue by clicking “Window,” then “Color” in Photoshop or Illustrator. Set the Cyan 30% higher than the Magenta. (Example: 40% Magenta, 70% Cyan)
  • Choose PMS ink for unique colors such as metallic and fluorescent hues.
    Metallic and fluorescent colors cannot be reproduced with CMYK inks. Consider spot printing these colors into your design with PMS inks.
  • Select fonts more than 1 pt thick for foil stamped text or more than 2 pt thick for embossed/debossed text. Avoid serif fonts or font sizes smaller than 12 pt.
    These imprint methods use pressure and engraved stamps to apply foil or create indentations. Tiny, detailed areas—such as small fonts or the “feet” on serif letters—often won’t make a strong enough impression to show up correctly on the finished product. Embossed or debossed text should be at least 2 pt thick, while foil stamped text should be at least 1 pt thick.
Layout
  • Position artwork so that slits and opaque pockets don’t obscure your design.
    Visibility is key to good design. If a pocket obscures your logo or your contact information is cut in half by a slit, your audience may have trouble understanding your message, which can damage brand recognition. Placing valuable information in open areas—away from possible obstructions—makes your design flow more easily from one point to another.
  • Place important logos, text, or other elements on the right 2/3 of the front and back cover to increase their visibility.
    When recipients hold a binder, their hands conceal part of the left side. Placing important elements here could reduce their visibility, resulting in important elements going unnoticed.
  • Provide at least 1/4″ of space around your logo.
    Cramped, claustrophobic designs make it difficult to distinguish a logo. Placing white space around your logo to makes it stand out for greater brand recognition.
Branding and Legal
  • Match binder colors, design, and messaging to the company’s identity.
    Consistency breeds brand recognition and trust. If a binder’s style or message is noticeably different from your other branding, it may confuse your audience.
  • Comply with font and image copyright policies.
    It may not seem like a big deal, but misusing a font or image can lead to a lawsuit if you’re not careful. Research copyright policies for your fonts and images. Some may require you to credit the original artist, while others may be “All Rights Reserved” and not usable under any circumstances.
  • Include contact information.
    Great marketing is useless if there’s no way for the customer to follow up with you. Include contact information—such as a phone number, URL, address, or other method—somewhere on your design. Pockets or back covers are popular choices, because they make contact info accessible yet not distracting.
Testing and Proofing
  • Create a quick and easy test version if your binder has pockets. Print a reduced size copy of the design, cut it out, and fold it to check placement of elements.
    If your binder has pockets, print your design on a home printer, and cut it into the shape of the product. Then fold it to look like a finished binder. This simulates what your product will look like when it’s fully constructed, so you can check that design elements are positioned on properly on the panels.
  • Review your .PDF proof for any inaccuracies.
    We include a free .PDF proof with every order. It’s important to check this digital document for errors before authorizing the print job. Fixing a mistake on a .PDF file is much easier than making corrections after your design goes to print.
  • For four color process designs, request a color digital proof to confirm the color, size and position of elements.
    A color digital proof (also known as a laser proof) is a hard copy of your design that’s digitally printed, so you can get an extremely accurate idea of what your product will look like. Laser proofs work best for four-color process, as they don’t recreate PMS colors well. Costs for these proofs may vary depending on your product or the number of proofs you request. Contact us to learn more about proofing.

Return to Overview: Binder Design Cheat Sheet