March 19, 2024

What’s the Difference Between Saddle Stitch and Perfect Bound?

Saddle stitched and perfect bound magazine spines
Saddle stitched and perfect bound magazine spines
Saddle stitched and perfect bound magazine spines
Saddle stitched and perfect bound magazine spines

Choosing how to bind your newly-designed magazine can be confusing, given the variables. The two most common methods are saddle stitching, and perfect binding.

An example of a saddle stitched spine on a magazine.

Saddle stitching is really just stapling your pages together at the spine. It's a great, low-cost alternative for books and magazines with lower page counts. Depending on the thickness of your paper, you might be able to saddle stitch up to 64 pages, but you do run the risk of the final product bending from the spine, and not laying flat. You also don't get a flat edge spine to print on.

Because saddle stitching uses a single sheet of paper folded in half to create a spread, your page counts will always be in multiples of four. Saddle stitching is a great, low-cost, time-saving option - we have printed numerous pieces that were saddle stitched, including client books and promotional mailers.

Make sure your printer knows how to adjust for paper creep when saddle stitching. This happens when multiple folded pages placed together start to get wider in the center of the book - because the thickness of each folded piece of paper is pushing the center pages away from the spine.

A distinct advantage of saddle stitching is that the product will generally lay flat when open, and - unlike perfect binding - you won't lose any information into the fold of the spine.

An example of a perfect bound spine on a magazine.

Perfect binding uses glue instead of staples. Signatures of pages are placed together, slightly ground down on the spine side, then glued to the inside of the cover stock. Processes may vary slightly by printer, but the overall result is the same.

Perfect binding is more expensive and time-consuming, but also has the advantage of feeling much more high-end and polished than saddle stitch. It gives you a flat edge spine to print on (which magazine subscribers/collectors always appreciate), the final product will generally lay flat when closed and look more attractive, and it's easier to pack in bulk, as there's no bending of paper at the spine.

A significant con to perfect binding is that when open, the product may not lay completely flat. It's also important during the design phase to account for any paper that will be ground off during binding - you don't want to lose vital details in photos because they have disappeared into the spine. An experienced designer will know how to work around this.

Either method can be used in the creation of a beautiful printed publication.