Hardback Books Artwork Preparation Guide

General information

This section gives you general background information that is useful to understand before you get into the detail of how to create your hardback book artwork.

DON'T PANIC!We've tried to give you helpful and complete information here. That means there is quite a bit to read as we have to cover all of the options you DON'T want as well as all of the options you DO want. Don't panic! Much of it boils down to common sense and a few key things to remember. Once you have read this guide, you can call the Helpdesk to discuss anything you need more help with. But, please read the guide first.

Some notes about the construction of these books.

PUR bound. These books are PUR bound book blocks cased in with either a full colour printed hard cover, or a material covered cover. The construction is similar to the hardback versions of popular novels that you see in the book shops. We offer free samples so that you can see the book construction youself before placing an order.

Standard vs Premium binding? All of our hardback books are bound to a very high quality level. Premium binding adds the following:

  • Spine and hinge reinforcement. For books that are likely to be heavily used, or experience rough handling, this adds an extra level of strength.
  • Continuous end papers and fly sheets. With standard binding, these are separate sheets which are glued together. Continous sheets look a little nicer.
  • Coloured end papers and fly sheets. When you select Premium binding, this option becomes available. Coloured end papers and fly sheets are not available with standard hardback binding.
  • Printed end papers and fly sheets. By default, all end papers and fly sheets are blank. If you select Premium binding, you are able to select the option of printing on your end sheets and fly papers.

Sewn sections? These books are not bound using sewn sections. Sewn sections are often used for thicker books that are going to get intensive use and abuse and especially where it's important that the book lies flat open on a table top by itself. For instance, cookery books intended for fairly frequent use or thicker school reference books. Typicially these lay flat sewn books are printed in their tens of thousands and the technology to produce short run versions at an affordable price is not available. If you think that your book will get intensive use, abuse or is required to lie flat on a table top, we suggest you choose an alternative binding, such as wire or coil.

Why should you bother with all this?

Getting a job commercially printed requires you to prepare your artwork in a specific way. Once you understand this, it's easy to do and you'll get the results that you want. If you don't follow these simple steps, then you may end up with a job that you're not happy with.

Book size

When we refer to the size of a hardback book, this is the book block size (the inner pages). The book covers are slightly larger than the book block.

Is proofing the same as proof reading?

It's worth remembering that when we proof your book we just check that it is technically capable of being printed. We don't proof read it, we don't check it for factual errors, we don't check or critique the way that you've laid it out, and we don't call you for a chat if we dislike like the colours you've chosen. We're just the printers.

Is creating or editing your original artwork included in the price?

The prices you see on the web site are from your print ready PDFs. We don't design your cover for you inclusive in that price, we don't add photographs or illustrations, we don't alter layout or correct any form of mistakes you may have made. This is purely a printing service. We're very happy to do additional work for you. If this is of interest to you, please call to the helpdesk on 01452 751900 to discuss.

What electronic format do I supply my book in?

You need to supply us with 2 PDF files. One should have a single page that contains the artwork for the case. The second should contain artwork for the book block (inner pages). The exception to this is if you are ordering hot foiling on the case, where you may supply the artwork for the hot foiling as a seperate PDF if you wish. Read on for more detailed information!

Understand the different types of printing.

This is just a straight repeat of the information on the product page and strictly speaking not part of the artwork preparation guide. It bears repeating just in case you missed it.

Why not request some samples from the helpdesk so that you can see the quality of the printing before ordering?

There are four different options available:

All B&W (Standard Quality). Standard Quality Black & White is printed on the latest generation digital production printers. The quality is very good, resulting in crisp text, graphics and photographs. The print quality of photographs is good, and works well for many types of books, but this is not the highest print quality that we can offer. We do not recommend high toner (ink) coverage with Standard Quality printing, as a general rule you should not exceed 30-40% toner coverage.

All B&W (High Quality). This is our highest quality black & white printing for near photographic reproduction. Some people print very large areas of solids (i.e. covering nearly all of the page) when selecting B&W printing and although this can produce striking results, it is not recommended (you will get better and more consistent results using CMYK Rich Black).

A mixture of Colour and High Quality B&W. If you require some Colour pages and some Black & White pages, choose this option. It is not possible to mix Standard Black & White and Colour in the same book.

All Colour. Full colour printed on a colour digital press for near photographic reproduction. These presses are used for photobook printing and you should choose this option if that is the type of finish you wish to achieve.

Useful terms.

Understanding some of the lingo is useful as we'll use it when an exact meaning is required. Plus it may come up in Trivial Pursuit one day.

Recto pages. In languages written from left to right, a recto page is on the right hand side when a book is open. It is printed on the "front" of a leaf.

Verso pages. In languages written from left to right, a verso page is on the left hand side when a book is open. It is printed on the "back" of a leaf.

A Leaf and a page. What is a page? This can cause some confusion! It's easiest to explain if you visualise picking up a book. Now open the book anywhere. Look at the recto page (the right hand page) now turn the page and look at the verso page (the left hand page). They are different pages on the same leaf of paper. To put it another way, a 100 page book block has 50 leaves and 100 pages. Another thing that sometimes confuses is blank pages. A blank page is still a page, it's just a page that is blank.

Artwork. This is a generic term, meaning the files that you send to us to print. These are normally PDF files in the format specified in this guide. In this context, this term doesn't refer to photographs or drawings, it simply means your finished work, which may incorporate text, drawings and photographs. It does not mean the file that we send back to you to check, that is the proof.

The bluffer's guide to hardback books

The CASE. The case of a hardback book is the back cover, spine and front cover. This is manufactured all in one piece. Hence you might also hear hardback books referred to as "Case bound" books. Inky offers full colour printed cases or material covered cases. Think of cases as a sandwich. For the full colour printed cases, on the outside there is a hard wearing gloss or matt laminate, this is bonded onto full colour print in the middle, which is in turn bonded onto sections of rigid board. For material covered cases, your choice of material is bonded onto sections of rigid board. To clarify a little, there are a wide variety of "materials" that can be used to cover book cases, from book cloth and linen to fake lizard skin!

The BOOK BLOCK. The book block is made separately. Traditionally, it has been made of sewn sections (called signatures) that are glued together. This is an expensive process to set up and not well suited to digitally printed books. The alternative is to use a fully glued book block. Historically, the big disadvantage of this method is that the hotmelt (EVA) glue widely used for this purpose was not really suitable, being brittle and not strong enough for bigger book blocks or difficult papers like silk or gloss. The solution is to use a newer system called PUR binding. PUR is much stronger than standard hot melt, it's tolerant of higher and lower temperatures and as it is flexible, not brittle, your books open flatter and without cracking the spine. PUR binding has been extensively used for mass market hardback books for a number of years now, but the technology has only recently been perfected that allows us to use PUR for short to medium run digitally printed books. The PUR machinery is also very expensive, which is why only a small handful of printers like Inky are able to offer this secure and flexible binding method.

End Papers and Fly Leaves. During assembly, the inside of the front and rear covers are covered by pasted on end papers. This end paper carries on and forms the first (and of course last) leaf of the book. This unpasted part of the end paper is called the fly leaf or fly paper. As standard our end papers and fly leaves are white uncoated paper and are unprinted. If you select premium hardback binding you can also choose from different coloured papers and also choose to have the end papers and fly leaves printed. With premium hardback binding, we only offer printing on white paper for the end papers and fly sheets through the web site. It is technically possible for us to print on coloured paper also, but you will need to discuss this with the helpdesk and they will generate a custom quotation for you once the details are clear.

Assembly. The case and book block are assembled together using a casing-in machine. Once the cased in, the book must be pressed and the joints heated and set correctly. In our bindery we use a combined book press and joint-setting machine to give you a top quality product. The book block should float free of the spine, but be securely bonded to the front and back of the case with a hinge. Some short run hardback books have pages glued directly to the case. This is a very, very bad idea. It is unlikely to last very long and cannot lay anywhere near flat.

Inky manufactures books with high quality cases and PUR bound book blocks; make sure that you don't settle for anything less!

What format should my hardback book be in?

This section gives you a summary of what format your artwork should be in and some tips on creating it. Much more detailed information is broken out into the sections about the Case (AKA the cover), the Book Block and the Dust Jacket.

Two PDFs

Unless you have made special arrangements, you should supply us with two PDF files. One for the cover and one for the inner pages. A detailed description of how to create these files is in the sections "How to create your cover (case) artwork" and "How to create your inner pages (Book Block)", but here are the basics.

PDF 1: The Cover. For the cover PDF we require one page.

PDF 2: The Book Block. The PDF containing the inner pages ("the Book Block") should contain seperate pages, NO SPREADS of any kind (that includes printer's spreads). Don't try to do any imposition: just the pages, in the right order, one at a time.

If you want to learn more about creating a PDF and why it's necessary for the curious, please read our little guide here:
CREATING A PDFopen link in new window

Tips on creating PDFs

Use the "commercial print" preset. Always make sure that you select the "PDF X/1a" preset when using Adobe products to create a PDF. Other manufacturers products will vary, but try to choose the "commercial print" preset if available as this will tend to get rid of any common nasties while the PDF is being created.

Make sure that you set the correct page size. For both the cover and book block PDF. This is the number 1 reason why artwork fails preflight checks during proofing. Make sure you use the correct page sizes both when setting up your artwork and when you create your PDF.

No Printer's Marks. Please don't add any "printers marks", they interfere with our pre-press procedures (i.e. slow us down and literally get in the way) and we will just delete them anyway. They are named literally: Printer's Marks: the marks printers make.

Embed fonts. If there is an option to "embed fonts" when creating your PDF, please turn it on. Don't panic about it though, our standard "fix ups" during preflight include embedding the fonts that you forgot to embed. Of course we can only do that with fonts that are available and licensed to us.

Check the PDFs before uploading!

Don't just output the PDF and upload it. Check it before you send it! Is the page size correct? Hold on a second, I think you skimmed that a bit too fast! I'd better mention it again: check that you set the correct page size!

Tip: Open your PDF in Acrobat Reader or Pro and point your mouse cursor at the bottom left of the page. Your page size is displayed there.

What about TIFFs or JPEGs?

These formats are not accepted for books. To be clear: the images within your PDF files can of course be TIFFs or JPEGs. We just can't accept (for example) 500 separate JPEG files as your 500 page book block. The book block needs to be supplied as a PDF, the images within the book block can be TIFFs or JPEGS.

Tips on choosing software to create your book

If you haven't already started work on your book and are not sure what software application to use, have a read of our handy little guide for some tips:


How to create your cover (case) artwork

This section gives you detailed information and help on how to create the artwork for your cover (AKA the case).

Let's call it a case...

If you've read the Bluffer's guide, you'll know that the rear cover, spine and front cover of a hardback book are in fact all part of the same thing: the case. So from now on we'll call it that in this section for clarity. If you don't know what the case is, please read the Bluffer's Guide above.

Cover Layout Guide Templates.

The utility to create your guide template is in your Admin area of this web site. Unless you are a very experienced designer, a guide template will really help. We can generate a FREE template for you that is accurately sized, including the spine. This helps you lay your cover out at the right size and put all of the elements in the right place. It's not a template that you edit, you will need to use it as a guide along with whatever software you've chosen to create your book in. Here is a 3 minute video tutorial on how to generate your guide template.

How to generate a book cover template using the Inky online toolopen link in new window

Need some help?

If you can't create your cover yourself, don't panic! Here are some ideas that might help. Please call the helpdesk to discuss them in more detail.

Cover Layout Service. If you can't create your cover yourself, this is a low cost option which can help. Creating accurately sized and laid out artwork for your hardback book case can be a little tricky if you haven't done it before. Our prooofing team is very experienced and what might take you ages, will take them only around half an hour. A small fee applies for this service and we provide you with a finished PDF to work from. Please remember that this is not a full graphical design, it is a simple cover layout service from text and images supplied by yourself. Please speak to the helpdesk for more details.

Artistic Cover Designs / Graphic Design. Inky no longer has a full time Graphic Designer on staff. For more complex or artistic cover designs, we recommend that you employ an experienced Graphic Designer who can quote you for cover design from your brief.

Video tutorials.

We have several step-by-step tutorials. You may want to read the whole of this section before you watch them as they will make more sense then.

All of our video tutorials are currently hosted on YouTube and will open in a new tab.

Scribus. This video takes you step-by-step through creating the artwork for a printed case in Scribus. This is quite an old video and there have been some changes since it was created. Scribus is an excellent FREE Desk Top Publishing (DTP) application. Like all tools, you will have to learn how to use it. It's designed for varied and complex tasks, so there's a lot to it. The Inky tutorial concentrates on just the elements you need to create a cover and shows you "how to" step by step. Since we created this video, the hardback book product page has been updated and now works out all of the dimensions for you. So you can ignore the bits where we explain how to calculate these. There is also a new online tool (available through your Admin area of this web site) that generates an accurate template for you to show you exactly where to place all of the elements on your cover. In the next version of this video, we'll show you exactly how to use that with Scribus.

How to create a book cover using Scribusopen link in new window

Canva. This video takes you step-by-step through creating the artwork for a printed case in Canva. Isn't Canva great? It's a free online app that's easy to use and let's you create lots of printable things. It's not so great at accurately creating book covers, however by using Inky's dynamic book cover template generator AND Canva, it's a doddle. In this video tutorial we show you how to create a print ready, accurately laid out book cover in about 11 minutes.

How to create a book cover using Canva and Inky templatesopen link in new window

We're working on new tutorials, so please contact the helpdesk if you are looking for help with any other app.

Apple Pages. This video takes you step-by-step through creating the artwork for a printed case in Apple Pages. Pages seems to have come on quite a bit in recent years and while it wouldn't be our number one choice for creating a book cover, it's perfectly usable. It doesn't play nicely with templates, but has a nicely implemented ruler & guide system, so we show you how to set that up using the Inky template. In this video tutorial we show you how to create a print ready, accurately laid out book cover in about 8 minutes.

How to create a book cover using Canva and Inky templatesopen link in new window

We're working on new tutorials, so please contact the helpdesk if you are looking for help with any other app.

The spine.

When you use the price calculator to work out a price and order your books, it will also tell you the APPROXIMATE thickness of the spine (it's in the "notes"). Please remember that this is only approximate and the thicker the book, the larger the discrepancy might be. If it's vital that your spine measurements are precise, we recommend that you order a hardcopy proof, inspect that and adjust your artwork accordingly before committing to the whole print run.

Be realistic about printing on the spine. If you have a very thin spine, don't expect to be able to print on it!

Why is the calculated spine thickness "approximate"? We use two basic measurements to calculate spine thickness: the paper thickness and the rigid board thickness. We have an process to add an "approved paper" and until we go through the process again to change the paper for whatever reason, we will always use that specific paper for that specific product. When we add an approved paper, the mill will tell us the "nominal thickness" for each weight. You can think of that as the "target" thickness that the mill aims for and the specification of the paper that we use generally has a plus or minus tolerance of no more than 8% of the weight and thickness. For instance, a 130gsm gloss paper may have a nominal thickness of 98 microns, but be delivered to us at 92 microns. That's well within specification and we must accept that consignment. We measure the first batch of paper that we receive from the mill with a very precise micrometer and this is the thickness that we use in our spine width calculator (we have found that this is much more accurate than using the mill's own nominal values). So, you can see that from batch to batch of paper that the mill manufactures, the actual thickness of the paper can vary slightly. It is not a large variation and does not affect the quality of your product, but the ACTUAL thickness of your spine can be different to the CALCULATED value, especially if you have a large number of pages.

Visualise your case.

When designing your case, it helps if you visualise what it physically IS. Imagine a hardback book. Now (as you briefly turn into the Incredible Hulk), you rip the whole case off in one piece (don't do this). Open the cover flat and put it down on a table top. The rear cover is on the left, the spine is in the middle and the front cover is on the right. That's how you need to design your cover. But with less ripping, obviously.

simple diagram of a cover

Creating artwork for a printed case.

There are lots of different software applications that you can use for this, so this section is not a step-by-step how to. It covers the basics and gives you the information that you'll need. Don't forget: you can use a Guide Template to make things easier and we have step-by-step video tutorials for many DTP tools and apps.

1. Create a custom page size

Using your chosen DTP application or Word processor you need to create a custom page size that matches your case size. See below for what that size should be. It's no good trying to bung it all on a US Letter sized page and hoping that will work! You've got to figure out how to create a custom page size in your software. You will need ONE page in your PDF for your case artwork.

The case page size for STANDARD sized books. We're referring to the page size for the case artwork, not the page size for the book block. The good news is that unless you need a custom sized book, we've worked all the measurements out for you. Look in the "notes" section of your quote (it's also recorded in your order description if you've got that far) and that lists your case artwork page size.

The case page size for custom sized books. If you are ordering a custom size book, then you will have to calculate the page size to use for your case. Don't worry, if you need help with this, just call the helpdesk for a chat! Here is how to work out the height and width.

  • Height = book block height PLUS 32mm.
  • Width = book block width TIMES 2, PLUS the width of the spine, PLUS 36mm.

Example, an A4 book with a 12.5mm spine. The CASE ARTWORK dimensions should be approximately as follows:

  • Height = 297mm, PLUS 32mm, EQUALS 329mm.
  • Width = 210mm TIMES 2, PLUS 12.5mm, PLUS 38mm, EQUALS 470.5mm.

2. Draw yourself some guides

Don't forget: if you use our free Guide Template, you don't need to do this. If you are using our Guide Template, place the template onto the page. Exactly how you do this will depend on the software that you are using. We have step by step tutorials for some popular applications.

We can't tell you exactly how to create these guides, that depends on what software you are using. The first guide is a vertical line 12mm from the left edge of the page. The second guide is a horizontal line 12mm from the top of the page. The third guide is a vertical line 12mm from the right edge of the page. The fourth line is a horizontal line 12mm from the bottom of the page. What you have now drawn are the guide lines which show you where the EDGE of your case is. These are what we call the wrap guides, i.e. where the print starts to wrap around the cover. Now draw your fifth guide: a vertical line 19mm PLUS the width of the book block from the left of the page. So, using an A4 book as an example, this would be 19+210 = 229mm. This guide shows you where the left hand side of your spine is. Now draw your final guide: a vertical line 19mm PLUS the width of the book block PLUS the width of your spine. Using an A4 book with a 12.5mm spine as an example, this would be 19+210+12.5 = 241.5mm. This guide shows you where the right hand side of your spine is. Now you have all of these guides, you can see exactly where your front and back cover, spine and wrap around areas are. But it would have been much easier to use the Guide Template.

3. Lay out your case artwork

The case artwork is laid out in the same order as the image above. Use either the guides that you've drawn, or the free Guide Template to make sure that you put all of the elements of your case in the right place. Exactly how you do this will depend on the software that you are using. We have step by step tutorials for some popular applications. Don't worry: you will get a soft proof to check that will confirm the actual position of the spine and the edge of the case.

Artwork in the wrap around? The artwork that extends out from your rear cover, spine and front cover is called the wrap around. This extends around the edge of the case and then underneath the front and rear end papers for a neat finish. Read the Bluffer's Guide for a reminder about what the end papers are. The end papers are the same size as the book block, so stop approximately 4mm from the edge of the cover. You are only ever going to see what's on the edge of the cover and the inside of the cover before it goes under the end paper. What to fill the wrap around area with? Usually it's just a continuation of the background colour or graphic.

One more tip about centering artwork on the front cover. We are talking about very fine details now. There are many stages to making your hardback book. One of the last stages is setting the joints. We do like our jargon in this business just as much as anywhere else, so here's a translation. The joints are part of the hinges of your front and back cover. Specifically, for a hardback book, these are the depressed areas between the spine and the cover. Because we make you proper hardback books, the cases are made using a glue that can be reactivated during the later joint setting stage. This means we make nice crisp joints that are properly formed. Your artwork will follow the contours of the book joints and if you center your (for example) front cover artwork absolutely, it will end up appearing to be slightly off center. In nearly every instance this make so slight a difference as not to matter. If being fractionally off center matters to you, we recommend getting a hardcopy proof and adjusting your artwork after inspecting that.

How to create your dust cover artwork

This section gives you detailed information and help on how to create the artwork for your dust cover (AKA the dust jacket).

Basic layout

Create the dust cover artwork in your favourite DTP application or Word processor as ONE page and supply the artwork for the dust cover to us as ONE PDF page. You can send this to us as a separate PDF or in the same PDF as your case artwork (if you are ordering a printed case).

Lay the dust cover out in the same order as the image below. See the next section for measurements. Don't worry if this seems a bit complicated. You will get a soft proof to check that shows you the position of the spine and the edge of the case.

simple diagram of a dust jacket

It's no good trying to bung it all on a US Letter sized page and hoping that will work! You've got to figure out how to create a custom page size in your software.

We suggest that, unless you are an experienced designer, you make life a lot easier and keep the same background colour or image over the entire dust jacket. Getting panes of different colours to line up exactly right over every fold in the dust jacket is a tricky job and best avoided if you can!

Calculating the custom page size and other measurements

The good news is that unless you need a custom sized book, we've worked all the measurements out for you. Look in the "notes" section of your quote (it's also recorded in your order description if you've got that far). This lists:

  • the overall custom page size for the dust cover artwork
  • the front and rear flap widths (the height is the same as the dust cover)
  • the front and rear cover widths (the height is the same as the dust cover)
  • the estimated spine width (see the section "More details about spine thickness" for more details)

If you are using a DTP application, it's easy to set up some guides and accurately position your content using these measurements. If you're using a word processor, it's a little more fiddly.

Custom sized books

If you want a custom sized book, then you need to do a bit of basic arithmetic to calculate the dust jacket artwork size.

Width. Spine width + (3 x book block width) + 28mm.

Height. Book block height + 12mm.

How to create artwork for Hot Foiling

This section gives you detailed information about how to supply your artwork for hot foiling. In a nutshell: the artwork for your hot foiling must be in PDF format. All hot foil artwork must be in BLACK. Do not mix your hot foil artwork with your printed case artwork (if ordered) or book block artwork.

Very simple hot foiling

Some people will have simple requirements for hot foiling, for example a line of text for the title and a line of text for the author name. In this instance, it is sufficient to supply the text at the correct size and font in your PDF and give us instructions via the helpdesk on where you wish to place it. A simple message along the lines of "Please centre these two lines on the front cover" will suffice.

Everything else

You must provide the artwork for the areas to be hot foiled as one or more PDF pages. Do not confuse PDF pages with PDF files, one PDF may have several pages. Expert designers may wish to supply us with ONE PDF page, correctly sized to the case artwork. The advantage of this method is that if you are using DTP software, you can position your hot foil clearly and accurately on the case. Alternatively, you may find it easiest to supply your hot foiling artwork as separate pages for the rear cover, the spine and the front cover. This method is likely to be easier if you are using a word processor, rather than DTP software. It is important that you keep the pages in the following order: rear cover, spine, front cover. If they are in a different order, please clearly tell us that and check your proof very carefully. Do not make us guess, we may get it wrong! If you have only ordered one or two sections to be hot foiled and wish to use supply separate pages, just supply pages for the sections that you've ordered, there is no need to send us empty pages.

To save any confusion, we suggest that you save the hot foil artwork in it's own PDF file.

If you have ordered a printed case AND hot foiling you will ideally supply us with three PDF files: (1) the case artwork (2) the hot foil artwork (3) the book block artwork.

If you have ordered hot foiling and NO printed case you will ideally supply us with two PDF files: (1) the hot foil artwork (2) the book block artwork.

If you have difficulties splitting the artwork up like this, please have a chat with the helpdesk to sort out the best way forward.

Please refer to the previous sections for the sizes you need.

All of your artwork for hot foiling MUST SIMPLY BE IN BLACK. Do not send a mixture of colours, you will not like the results! Text and simple graphics work best with hot foiling. If you wish to print a graphic on your case, keep it simple and solid black. Do not use tints (a percentage of black), they do not translate well to hot foiling.

Important note. If you have ordered a printed case and hot foiling, DO NOT attempt to mix your full colour case artwork and your hot foil artwork on the SAME PAGE. That simply will not work.

Spine width. We cannot currently hot foil onto spine widths less than 8mm.

Digital hot foiling limitations. It's pretty amazing that we can now hot foil on hard back cases digitally. In the past this popular option was only available for long runs of books but the new digital print process means that we can hot foil any quantity at all. However, it does have some technical limitations that you need to understand. Your artwork cannot go all of the way to the edge of the case (the hardback cover), there must be a clear 3mm gap all the way around. You can print on the spine, but be realistic about what you can fit in. Very small text will not work well with digital hot foiling and there must be an approximate 3mm gap between the printed area of the spine and the edge of the spine. We also recommend that you do not print on the "hinges". These are the 13mm wide areas from the edge of the spine to the front and back covers. If you visualise a hardback book, the hinge areas are the depressed areas next to the spine that flex when the covers are opened. This means that we do not recommend a continuous print that covers the spine and one or both covers. If you do want this kind of complex design, we may be able to help. However, you must discuss this with the helpdesk before placing your order and some additional charges may apply.

We do not recommend large areas of solid foil for digital hot foiling. This is most commonly seen where the designer has a solid block of foil with a small area (for example text) reversed or knocked out. This can cause consistency problems with digital hot foiling. If in doubt, call the helpdesk to discuss. If your design is complex, we suggest that you order a single book to start with before committing to a larger quantity.

How to create your inner pages (Book Block)

This section gives you detailed information about what format your artwork should be in and some tips on creating it. It will help to read the "useful terms" near the start of this page before reading the rest of this section. We remind you (full information about how a hardback book is constructed is in the "Bluffer's Guide" above) that a hardback book has end paper and a fly leaf. Unless you have ordered them coloured or printed, end papers and fly leaves are blank.

Send us your artwork as a PDF

This is covered in "What format should my hardback book be in?" but just to remind you, your book block artwork should be sent to us as one PDF. If you haven't already read that section, please read it now.

Page layout

Page order. We're not trying to insult your intelligence, but this issue has come up a few times now, and has caused problems, so it's worth making crystal clear. When you open a hardback book, page one of your book is on the recto (right hand) side facing you. It is not printed a page or two in, it is not printed on the back of the cover. This is of course just like every hardback book you have ever read. If you want your book to start printing on a verso (left hand) page, you need to insert a blank page. That blank page will be "page one" of your book and should be the first page in your book block PDF.

Page sizes. The page size should be the size that you have chosen for your book, for example an A5 book will be 210mm x 148mm. If your pages are BLED, then you need to add 2mm bleeds all round. If you don't know what a bleed is, please read the explanation in the extensive help on this web site.

Margins. We recommend that you use a minimum of 12mm margin on the top, bottom and outside edge of your page and 18mm on the inside of your page. You may find this difficult to lay out if you are not used to creating books, or you don't have DTP (Desk Top Publishing) software. In that case you should consider making all of the margins at least 18mm. Larger books should have larger margins. For example, a "C" sized may will look better and be easier to read with a minimum of 25mm margins. Remember: these are general guidelines. Many designers completely ignore them because their specific requirements are different, for example printing notes in the margin area is often used with text books. A good common sense rule is: if in doubt, just print one and then make your necessary changes after examining that.

Page numbering. It may seem obvious, but we recommend that you always number your pages. There a few different ways to do this, i.e. numbering prefaces and appendices seperately and these are all fine, however it is generally accepted that with hardback books that the covers and fly leaves are not counted as numbered pages. Be consistent in where you put your numbers. If you want numbers on the outside of each page and your book is in a left to right written language, remember that on right hand ("front" or recto) pages the number should be on the right hand side. On left hand ("back" or verso) pages, the number should be on the left hand side. Desk Top Publishing software (DTP) normally has tools to help you with much of this, but word processing software may not. The easy alternative is just to put your numbers in the middle!

Blank pages. We do not insert blank pages! You may think that it is just common sense that chapters should start on a recto page and this will automagically happen, but it doesn't. If the previous chapter ends on a recto page and you want the next chapter to also start on a recto page, insert a blank verso page before the new chapter. We print exactly what you send us, so if you want a blank page, insert a blank page. Blank pages count toward your black and white page count.

Pages and spreads. The PDF containing your inner pages (the book block) should simply consist of pages, not spreads. A spread is printing terminology that means adjacent pages where artwork spreads out over both pages, for example a photograph. While designing a book, these adjacent pages are often viewed side by side and in some applications you can create your PDF with these spreads as one joined page. You must not submit a PDF with spreads, just the separate pages please. Although spreads are often used in softback and hardback books, you need to remember the limitations of this binding method, i.e. this type of book does not lay completely flat when opened and therefore the centre of your spread will be obscured by the spine.

Typography. Typography primarily covers the font type, style, size and position of the text used in your book. Consideration should also be given to the line spacing, margins, page numbering and more. This is really beyond the scope of this guide, but there are several good books on the subject and some useful information can be found by "googling" for it. Here are a couple of general pointers that may be of some help:

  • Text will generally look better if it is justified, i.e. with the words spaced so that lines have straight and even margins.
  • Don't make the font sizes too small. It's difficult to give you a firm "use 12 point" rule, as each font will vary. In general, anything under 10pt in any font is likely to be too small. Print out a page in the font & size you are thinking of using, take a good look at it and then show it to other people. Take a trip to the bookshop and look at a few books. Does your font look smaller than is generally used?
  • Use a small number of fonts and use them consistently. We've seen some very ugly books that have used a jumble of different fonts. Keep it simple and use fonts for specific purposes. For example; one font for your text, one font for headings, one font for illustration titles. Three fonts should be plenty for most books, but some reference books will need more.

ISBN Numbers Demystified

This section gives you a quick overview of ISBN numbers in relation to books. Why you might need one and how you obtain one.

Do I need one?

The first thing to note is that there is no legal requirement for you to have an ISBN number and it does not confer any form of copyright protection. It's simply a product number that will be useful if your book is to be sold in book shops. You should also be aware that when using ISBN numbering, there are strict rules on what changes are permitted to the book after publication that must be adhered to.

How do I get one?

The UK ISBN Agency is run by Neilson Book. If you want a UK ISBN number for your book, this is where they come from. The vast majority of people get their ISBN numbers from Neilson. In the past, you have had to buy a minimum block of 10 ISBN numbers, but that's changed now and you can order a single number if you want. It's a bit of a fiddle, but the end result is that YOU are the publisher of record. If you get your ISBN number elsewhere, for example from the service that prints your book, then THEY are the publisher. This can cause you problems later, so it's sensible to bite the bullet and deal with buying your own ISBN numbers up front.

You can read about the Neilson ISBN Agency here:

https://nielsenbook.co.uk/isbn-agency/ open link in new window

You can buy your ISBN number here:

https://www.nielsenisbnstore.com/ open link in new window

Neilson have some excellent information on their web site about how to use their service. When you complete the necessary form, they will also register your book details on the Publishers International ISBN Directory and the Nielsen Book's Publisher Database. You should read up on this. These are used by booksellers and libraries to provide information for customers.

Can Inky sell me an ISBN number?

In theory we can, but as the Neilson route is relatively simple, low cost, and has clear benefits to you we never do this these days.

Can Inky create me an ISBN bar code?

Yes, Inky has the software to create ISBN bar codes. We make a small charge for this and email you the bar code in PDF format ready for you to insert into your artwork. You can order this at the same time as ordering your books, or speak to the helpdesk to add it to your order. You must have the ISBN number first before we can generate a bar code for you.

What is "Legal Deposit"?

You should also remember your obligations under "Legal Deposit", if your book is to be published and distributed in the UK. If you have an ISBN number and intend to distribute your book for sale in the UK, you should ensure that one copy is deposited with the British Library. You also have an obligation to supply a copy to the 5 Legal Deposit libraries. This deposit is only legally required if a claim is made by the libraries within 12 months of publication, but in many cases publishers will make this deposit as a matter of course.


This section gives you a quick overview of what these acronyms mean and how this applies to you.

The Bluffer's guide to RGB and CMYK

RGB (Red, Green, Blue) are the basic components of the colours emitted by your monitor. All the colours that you can see on your monitor are made up from RGB in different proportions. CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK) are the ink pigments used to reflect light back to you from the printed sheet. The full colour images that you see on a printed sheet are actually made up from complex patterns of CMYK. RGB colours must be converted to CMYK so that they can be printed. This conversion is usually hidden from you when you are using a desk top printer. Because RGB has a wider gamut (range of possible colours) compared to CMYK, not all RGB colours can be printed accurately in CMYK. For this reason, professional designers will usually design their artwork in CMYK and preview it on screen in simulated CMYK.

Do I have to supply my PDF with the images all in CMYK?

This is relevant for case artwork or inner pages printed in full colour.

No you don't have to supply your file in CMYK. If you supply your file in RGB we will convert it to CMYK as part of the proofing process.

Will converting from RGB to CMYK alter colours?

Generally the colour conversions are very accurate. Bear in mind though that RGB and CMYK have different colour gamuts (range of possible colours). You should always therefore check your proof very carefully before approving it.

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