Prep Like A Pro

Designing For Saddle Stitch Printing

Kyle Irwin

How to Design a Saddle Stitch Booklet

Designing a booklet can be a little overwhelming, but don’t fret! Here at Printworks, we make ordering saddle stitch booklets a breeze. Here are some tips to keep in mind when designing your digital booklet for print:

Readers Spread vs Printers Spread

Reading and printing your pages in order will differ when it comes to saddle stitch booklets, and it has to do with something called “spreads”. A spread is the layout of two consecutive pages (i.e. pg 2 and 3 in example below). When designing a digital booklet, it is best to use a readers spread, which displays pages in the order they are intended to be read in. A readers spread can be set up this way because there isn’t any paper folding involved.

Image depicting the page order of a saddle stitch booklet.

When designing a booklet for saddle stitch printing, it’s best to use a printers spread. Whereas a readers spread arranges the pages in order (pg. 1, pg. 2, pg. 3, etc.), a printers spread must be arranged to account for being printed and folded into a booklet. For example, an 8 page booklet, which requires two sheets of paper (4 pages per sheet), a printers spread would look like the following:

Image depicting a printers spread, how a saddle stitch booklet is laid out for printing.

As you can see, the pages appear to be out of order in the spread. This is because the booklet, when folded, requires the pages to be printed out of order.

For a visual aid, take two sheets of paper and fold them to make a booklet, but don’t staple the spine.

Image of two flat pieces of paper.

Image of two pieces of paper folded in half.

Without pulling the folded sheets apart, number each page starting at the front cover (pg 1) and ending at the back cover (pg 8).

Image of two pieces of paper folded in half, with the front labeled "1".

Image of two pieces of paper folded in half, opened, with the right page labeled "2" and the right page labeled "3".

Now, pull the sheets apart and lay them flat. You will see which pages belong on each sheet when designing as a printer spread.

Image of two folded pieces of paper, opened up with the pages labeled 1-8.

Single Spread Vs. Double Spread

When beginning your saddle stitch print design, it’s good to know whether your pages will be single spreads or double spreads. A single page spread means that each page’s content, images, background, etc. are all contained to one page. A double spread refers to when two consecutive pages have content, images, background, etc. designed across both pages.

Single Spread (pages are distinct from one another):

Image depicting how booklet pages are displayed on a screen as a single spread.

Double Spread (two pages “spread” to make continuous image):

Image depicting how booklet pages appear on a screen as a double spread.

Because saddle stitch booklets require pages to be printed out of order, many designers choose to only use a double spread design in the very middle of the book, where these two pages happen to be consecutive despite being designed as a printers spread. This is also called a center spread, and is preferred over a two page spread elsewhere in a saddle stitch booklet. Using a double spread at the center guarantees the color is consistent across both pages, and they won’t be slightly askew after finishing since they are printed on the same sheet.

Setting Up and Saving in Adobe InDesign

One of the most common software programs for saddle stitch booklet design is Adobe InDesign, and for good reason! InDesign makes it super easy to compile your page designs into a booklet PDF for print.

Start by creating a new document. In our example*, we’ll be creating a 5.5 x 8.5 booklet, with 8 pages. You’ll also notice, we are designing with “facing pages” (readers spreads) which means the layout of the booklet will be designed with all interior pages formatted next to each other. We won’t be exporting the final file this way, but more on that in a bit!

(* Please note that we are using Mac, and the layout will differ slightly for Windows versions)

Image showing how to create a new document in Adobe InDesign.

Notice under Present Details on the right hand side, we have changed the Units to “Inches”, the Width and Height to “5.5” and “8.5” respectively, and our Pages (page count) to “8”.

Image showing how to change units to inches and create the proper size in Adobe InDesign.

Scroll a bit further down in the Preset Details section, and you’ll see Margins and Bleed. Make sure your Margins are set at 0.5’’, and, if your design calls for it, your bleed at 0.125’’.

Then click Create in the lower right hand corner!

Image depicting how to set margins and bleed and slug in Adobe InDesign.

You should now see a blank InDesign project, set up with all 8 pages sized at 5.5 x 8.5, but pages 2 and 3, 4 and 5, as well as 6 and 7, are set up as readers spreads because we selected “facing pages” when creating our document.

If we had not selected to go with facing pages, every page would be isolated, like this:

Image depicting page layout as "facing pages" in Adobe InDesign.

However, in this example, we are choosing to use a double spread on pages 4 and 5, so facing pages makes it easier to design.

Image depicting a double spread layout in Adobe InDesign.

(Pages not placed)

Image depicting a single spread with content in Adobe InDesign.

(Pages placed)

In our example, you’ll see how we have set up pages 4 and 5 with a double spread design:

Image depicting a double spread with content in Adobe InDesign.

After dragging and dropping all of your designed pages into their proper places, you’ll see your booklet take shape! Keep in mind to keep any important content away from the safety print margins, and make sure your design extends to the bleed line, if including bleed.

Now we’re ready to export your file to a print PDF! Click File>Export and you’ll get a window where you can name your project, as well as where it saves on your computer. Make sure that Format is set to “Adobe PDF (Print)” so your pages are formatted for saddle stitch printing. Click Save, and on to the last two steps!

Image showing how to export to PDF in Adobe InDesign.

Image showing how to choose file name and location for saving to PDF in Adobe InDesign.

The last window to come up will provide you with a giant mess of different export options. The good news: we only need to worry about two minor things! Firstly, click the General tab on the left hand side of the window, which will display options. The only one you need to inspect is the Pages section, to make sure that Export as “Pages” is toggled.

Image showing how to export PDF as "Pages" in Adobe InDesign.

Lastly (and only if your design includes bleed), click the Marks and Bleeds tab on the left side. Make sure that “Use Document Bleed Settings” is checked.

Image showing how to set marks and bleeds when saving a PDF in Adobe InDesign.

Click Export and take a look at your PDF to make sure it looks correctly. If your document has 8 pages, all sized the same, you’ve successfully set up your saddle stitch booklet file for print!