As Debbie would say, every great baker knows to stock the kitchen with the essentials — sugar, flour, salt, butter and eggs. Combined, they make Debbie’s mouth-watering baked goodies. Forget one, however, and you’ve got a real problem. You can probably scrape by without the salt and can even substitute the butter, but leave out the eggs? Suddenly those gingerbread cookies look a little more like hockey pucks (and kind of taste like them, too).  

Just as eggs hold together Debbie’s cookies and cakes, choosing the right bindery style for your print project is essential for securing your pages and making it look professional. Even with all the other ingredients in the mix – great design, paper style, and high-quality ink – binding is one of the most important to get right.

With so many to choose from, finding the perfect bindery option for you can be tricky. That’s why we’ve compiled this Complete Guide to Bindery to help you sift through the options:



A classic binding technique, this method uses strips of linen or vinyl coated with a thermoplastic glue. The strips wrap around the spine and covers of your publication and, when melted, create a strong and durable bind. Available in a variety of colors and fully customizable, tape binding is a great and affordable option that gives your project a clean, professional look.

Great for:

  • Decorative accents 
  • Presentations 
  • Reports 


Perfect binding is the most common technique used when it comes to soft-cover books. It’s also commonly used for magazines, booklets and journals. The method uses a PUR adhesive to wrap the front and back covers around the spine, creating a seamless bind with clean edges. As the spine and covers are printed on the same sheet of quality stock paper, it’s extremely customizable, and can lend itself to a creative, contiguous design between the covers. For this reason, perfect binding is a popular choice among publishers and is a cost-effective choice. While stylish and durable, perfect binding is not recommended for documents that are meant to lay flat, as this method of binding does not allow full mobility of the pages.

Great for: 

  • Soft-cover books 
  • Magazines 
  • Information guidebooks 


Also known as Otabind, lay-flat binding is a technique that allows the pages to lay flat when opened, as the name suggests. A variation of perfect binding, the cover is glued only to the sides of the spine, allowing the book block to “float” above the spine’s cover when opened. A method originally used for hard-cover books, lay-flat binding protects the spine from being bent or creased — all while maintaining a soft-cover price point. With a customizable spine and clean appearance, this method is a popular alternative to perfect binding without the drawback of limited page mobility or margin loss. However, this method uses a cold adhesive that can increase the lead time on your publication, something to keep in mind if you’re up against a deadline.

Great for:

  • Notebooks 
  • Textbooks 
  • Photobooks 


Side sewn/over-sewing 

Side-sewn binding is performed by drilling small holes through the signatures along their left margin, which are then threaded by a large-gauge needle and sewn together. While this is a popular method used to hold pages together before being bound by a hardcover, side-sewn binding can add a decorative touch to your publication if the cover is sewn through as well. This method produces an incredibly strong bind that works for almost any size document, though is not as time-efficient as other methods.

Great for:

  • Decorative binding 
  • Hardcover binding 
  • Large publications 



A great option for small booklets or publications with fewer than 100 pages, saddle-stitch is one of the most popular binding options. Using only 2-3 wire staples, this method is also extremely efficient and cost-effective as it uses no glue, cutting down on drying time. The folios are folded and layered together, like nesting dolls, before being stapled together through the spine. This action can create page “creep”, where the inner pages protrude past the cover’s edge. To correct this, the edge is typically trimmed to match the cover — something to account for when designing your publication’s contents.

Great for:

  • Brochures 
  • Pamphlets 
  • small books with fewer pages 

Loop stitched 

Using the same technique as saddle-stitched binding, loop-stitched uses custom-formed staples that allow for placement into a 3-ring binder or folder. The staples are bent into loops that mitigate the need for a 3-hole punch, meaning you don’t need to worry about losing text or interrupting any graphics. A bonus? The pages remain bound even if you need to remove them from the binder, keeping your pages organized and professional.

Great for:

  • 3-ring binders 
  • Folders  
  • Client/prospect leave-behinds 



The holy grail of bookbinding, hardcover books are the most durable binding method. After the book block has been sewn or glued, the spine is covered with a layer of cloth and then wrapped with three boards, forming the outer “case” that surrounds the pages. Able to be made from a diverse range of materials – including leather, cloth or paper – hardcover books are perfect for featuring intricate artwork or stylistic foil-stamping, adding a personalized touch to your publication.

Great for:

  • Books 
  • Cook books  
  • Text books 

Dust Cover 

Frequently included with hardcover books, dust covers (also called a dust jacket or slipcase) are designed to protect hardcover books and can be a more versatile, cost-effective way to feature cover art on a case-bound book. With plenty of paper types, textures and inks to choose from, dust covers can make your book stand out on the shelf and feature important information such as an author’s bio, book summary or reviews from industry critics.

Great for:

  • Customizing hardcover books 
  • Protecting your book 


Spiral bound 

Another classic bookbinding option you’re probably familiar with, spiral-bound books are virtually everywhere and are an easy, low-cost binding method. Using a machine that punches a specific hole pattern through a block of loose pages, a coil made from plastic or wire is then threaded through the holes, trimmed and bent at the ends to prevent pages from falling out. Allowing for 360-degree page rotation, this option is great for publications you want to lay flat, and coils come in a variety of colors.

Great for:

  • Manuals, instruction guides
  • Reports
  • notebooks 


Like spiral bound, comb binding is cost-effective and quick. Combs are available in either plastic or wire, and are able to be customized with your brand’s logo or colors. With multiple sizes available, comb binding is suitable for thicker publications, able to hold several hundred pages together. As opposed to spiral-bound books, comb-bound documents can be easily edited should you need to insert or remove pages later on.

Great for:

  • Cookbooks 
  • Reports or presentations 

Wire-o bind/twin loop 

Similar to spiral-bound, twin-loop binding requires drilling a specific punch-pattern on the left margin of your document and through which wire loops are inserted and pinched closed. Typically, this produces a sleeker, more professional look than spiral or comb binding, and is a more durable method. While a popular method, Wire-O binding does not allow for editing, so it is important to work with your printer to ensure your document is set up correctly prior to binding.

Great for:

  • Planners 
  • Calendars 
  • notebooks 


Screw Post binding 

As the name suggests, screw binding involves punching holes into your book block and securing your cover and pages together with metal screws. An incredibly strong binding method, the screws are ideal for thick documents and are available in a variety of lengths and finishes. While a more time-consuming method that involves several materials, this method allows for easy editing and can repeatedly be rebound.

Great for:

  • Portfolios 
  • Legal Documents 
  • Decoration

At the end of the day, the binding style you choose will probably be determined by your project. Partnering with a local, experienced printer can help you through the process and find the right binding method that is within your style and budget. 

Dan Woehrman is owner of Callender Printing, offering full-service printing capabilities – including letterpress, offset and digital – with union craftsmen quality. Share your thoughts on Facebook or on Twitter @CallenderPrint.