Artwork Preparation Guide

Punch Bound (coil, wire or comb bound)

General information


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.

Why should you bother with all of 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.

The prices you see on the web site are from your print ready PDF

We don't include any design work in these prices, we don't add photographs or illustrations, we don't alter layout or correct any text. If you need us to, we're very happy to quote for any additional work you need, for example graphic design. If you need this, please call to the helpdesk on 01452 751900 to discuss.

All printing is double sided by default

If you'd like single sided printing, choose the option for single sided printing.

Blank pages

Please note that we don't automagically insert blank pages! If you want any blank pages inserted, you must insert them yourself. An example is where you want a chapter to start on a recto page, but it falls on a verso page. By inserting a blank page at the end of the previous chapter, you ensure that the next chapter starts on a recto page. Don't worry if you get stuck, just call the helpdesk and we can normally help.

Do you need some help understanding the order process?

This isn't part of this guide, but you can read the help section here:

HELP > PLACING AN ORDER > HOW DO I PLACE MY ORDER open link in new window (opens in a new window)

Some tips on choosing software

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 and information about FREE software that you can use:


Some 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 blank.

Book block

You wouldn't think that this needed to be explained, however there are some weird and wonderful definitions out there (especially on Wikipedia!), so it's worth making clear what this actually means. The book block comprises the leaves of the book. This excludes the cover and end papers (end papers are only applicable with hard covers).

What format should my punch bound book be in?

Supply your artwork in PDF format

PDFs are the closest thing we have to a "stable " format. This means that what you see on your screen is the same as we see on our screens and is the same as we print for you. That's not the case if you send anything else. What fonts you have installed, how you have your software configured, software versions and so on all conspire together to break your lovely artwork.

Please read the help section on creating PDFs. This includes important information on how to create your PDF, what settings to use and what to do if you don't have a PDF writer tool:

HELP > ARTWORK > CREATING A PDF open link in new window (opens in a new window)

What if I can't supply a PDF?

If you have your file in a different format and you cannot create a PDF, then please call the Help Desk for advice on how to proceed. We can usually sort something out!

How many PDFs should I upload to Inky?

You wouldn't believe the number of variations that people can come up with! The problem is that we have to keep re-inventing the wheel each time, so the process takes much longer and it's much easier for errors to creep in. Please stick to:

  • All of your book block pages should be in one PDF. Single pages, no spreads.
  • If you have ordered printed card covers (not hard covers): either include your covers in the book block PDF, or send them as a separate PDF. Either way is absolutely fine. If you do include your printed covers in the book block PDF, please make sure that the outside front cover is page 1, the inside front cover is page 2, then all of the pages of your book block followed by the inside front cover and finally the outside back cover. If you do it this way, there won't be any confusion over which are your covers and which are book block pages.
  • If you have ordered colour printed hard covers, the artwork for these covers must be in a separate PDF. This is because the page size for hard covers is different to the page size for your book block. For instructions on how to create hard cover artwork, please read: How to create hard cover artwork.
  • If you have ordered printed end papers, the artwork for these must be in a separate PDF. For instructions on how to create artwork for your printed end papers, please read: Hard covers, extra information about creating these.
  • If you have ordered Hot Foiling, the artwork for this should be in a separate PDF. For an explanation about how to create this artwork, please read: Creating artwork for Hot foiling.
  • If you have ordered Tabs, you need to send us the text for the tabs by email or enote. Please read: Tabs, how to send us the label text

As always, we'll do our level best to help, so have a chat with the helpdesk if you are stuck with something different to the above!


  • NO SPREADS please in your book block PDF. Each page in your original document should be a seperate page in your PDF. Just the pages (including the cover if you have ordered standard printed covers), in the right order, one at a time.
  • No printers marks. No crop marks, no bleed marks, no colour bars, nothing. At best these will slow down the creation of your proof, at worst they will damage your artwork and will have to be removed before we can go to print. Printers marks are for the PRINTER to add.

Blank pages and blank covers

Please read the note in the general information section. In addition, if you order blank covers, please insert them as blanks into your PDF. If you can't do this, don't worry we will do this for you as part of the proofing process. This only really becomes an issue when you also want tabs as this will make instructing us WHERE to insert the tabs more difficult.

Rotated pages

Check your PDF. Are the pages a mixture of landscape and portrait? Don't assume that we will automagically fix this for you. If you need help with this, please let us know, we'd be glad to fix it for you. Let us know which pages are affected and way round you want us to rotate them to fix the problem! You MUST check your proof to make sure that your job is fixed to your satisfaction.

Make sure you include bleeds

If your artwork has white space all round, like a border or margin then you don't need bleeds and you should submit your artwork at the exact size you have ordered. If your artwork has a background colour or image that goes all the way to the edge then you need a bleed area of at least 2mm all round. If you're not familiar with bleeds, you can read the relevant help here:

HELP > ARTWORK > BLEEDS open link in new window  (opens in a new window).

Always embed fonts

When you create your PDF, make sure that you embed your fonts. This means that if you use a font which we don't have installed on our computers here, it will still print properly. We will always check this and tell you if the fonts are not embedded. If you haven't embedded fonts, we will try to fix this for you, but this is not possible if we don't have that font, so it's much safer to embed them yourself.

Make sure all images are "good enough" resolution.

300dpi is ideal for printing. Below 200dpi you may start to notice some deterioration in image quality and below 100dpi there is a risk that the images will be unacceptably poor. Don't panic if you only have (for example) 150dpi, it may be perfectly fine for your print job. Print out a representative page from your soft proof on a desktop colour printer and if it looks OK to you there, it should look fine in the finished article. We will automatically generate a warning on any images below 100dpi, so that you are aware that there is a potential issue, but you can still approve your job.

Flatten transparencies and layers

If you can't do this yourself, we will always do this automatically for you. Always check your proof very carefully as problems with your original artwork can become apparent after we've flattened it for you.

What's going on here? Before a printing machine can print your artwork, the PDF needs to be converted into the native language that drives the print engine. This is done by a dedicated computer running specialised software called a RIP (Raster Image Processor). Transparencies and layers need to be decoded by the RIP and in an ideal world there would be no two ways to interpret them and all software would be bug free. Back here in the real world, it's much more sensible to avoid the whole issue altogether. Transparencies and layers are completely useless in print-ready files and can introduce errors. So, just flatten them! If you don't flatten them, we will do it for you and the soft proof that you we generate for you will have transparencies and layers flattened. We will also warn you about this in your report. One more reason why it's important to carefully read your report and look at your proof!

Make sure you use a safe zone

Put simply, this boils down to: don't put text or images too close to the edge of the page! It looks amateur and you run the risk of bits being trimmed off. The exception is background images that you specifically want bled off of the edge of the page. Suggested Safe Zones are shown in the page layout Templates in this guide. You can read more about Safe Zones Here:

HELP > ARTWORK > SAFE ZONES open link in new window  (opens in a new window).

Punch holes

You are ordering a punch bound book, so please remember that the punched holes extend to approximately 8-10mm from the bound edge. The Templates show you where the punch holes will be.

Page numbering

We recommend that, where possible, you always number your pages. It makes it much easier to spot errors before they become real problems. Be consistent in where you put your numbers.

Combining (merging) PDF files

Sometimes, somehow, you end up with a bunch of separate PDF files! Don't despair, there is an easy way to merge these. If this fails, call the Help Desk for advice on how to proceed. We can usually sort something out for you. You can read the relevant help about merging PDF files here:

HELP > ARTWORK > COMBINING (MERGING) PDFs open link in new window  (opens in a new window).

Check the PDF(s) before uploading

You would be amazed at the number of problems that can be avoided by using this simple check!

Open the PDF file or files that you are going to send us and take good look at them before you start uploading. Make sure that they look exactly how you want your artwork to look.

Make sure that you have set the correct page size.

Hold on a second, I think you skimmed that a bit too fast! I'd better mention it again: Make sure that you set the correct page size!

If you don't know how to do this, point your mouse cursor at the bottom left of the page (assuming that you are using Acrobat or Acrobat Reader). Your page size will be displayed.

What are bleeds and do I need them?

If your artwork has white space all round, like a border or margin then you don't need bleeds and you should submit your artwork at the exact size you have ordered. If your artwork has a background colour or image that goes all the way to the edge then you need a bleed area of at least 2mm all round. If you're not familiar with bleeds, you can read the relevant help here:

HELP > ARTWORK > BLEEDS open link in new window  (opens in a new window).

Information about colour


If your artwork uses RGB colour, we will convert it to CMYK as part of the proofing process. If these terms are unfamiliar, don't worry, just stick to plain old RGB. Most people submit their files in RGB and rely on us to do the conversion to CMYK. If you want to know more about CMYK and RGB, you can read the Bluffers Guide TO CMYK And RGB in the help section here:

HELP > ARTWORK > THE BLUFFERS GUIDE TO CMYK AND RGB open link in new window  (opens in a new window).

Colour Management

If you are not an expert in Colour Management, we recommend that you do not use it. Leave your artwork in RGB and we will convert it to CMYK as part of the proofing process. If you want to know more about Colour Management, you can read the relevant help here:

HELP > ARTWORK > COLOUR MANAGEMENT open link in new window  (opens in a new window).

Templates and how to use them

The very first thing to note is that you cannot edit these templates. They are simply there to show you dimensions and where we recommend that you place content.

The template will show you information such as the size, bleeds, safe text areas etc. The templates are only a suggested layout. It's your artwork, you can choose to lay it out however you wish.

Remember that the templates are not there to be printed, so don't include them with the artwork you send us!

Your specific page size may not be included here. If you can't see what you need here, contact the helpdesk for assistance.

Note that these are TWO page templates. Page 1 is the recto page, page 2 is the verso page - this is important because of the punching on the bound edge.

Information contained in the templates

  • Punch area. This is an indication of where the punched holes will extend to. Very important to understand so that you don't get any text cut out!
  • Bleed area. If you don't know what this is, make sure you read the section that explains it:

    HELP > ARTWORK > BLEEDS open link in new window  (opens in a new window).

  • Trim lines This shows where the page will be trimmed to.
  • Safe Zone (AKA Safe Copy Area). If you don't know what this is, make sure you read the section that explains it:

    HELP > ARTWORK > SAFE ZONES open link in new window  (opens in a new window).

Why have all these pesky guidelines?

Take a look at the diagram below. The top row shows artwork with a correct bleed and the safe copy area used, "before" and "after" trimming. Even though the trimming is slightly out on the finished item, it still looks great. The bottom row shows what can happen with no bleeds and no safe copy area. There is a fraction of a millimeter of white space showing, plus part of the "T" is trimmed off. Of course, we've exaggerated a little to make the point!

A5 page template

Page templates

If you can't see your specific page size here, contact the helpdesk for more assistance.

Tabs, how to send us the label text

Be realistic about what will fit

Text only please. Remember to be concise, there isn't much room to print on a tab!

Send the tab text to the helpdesk in an email

Please mention your order number in the email subject. We need a text document or text e-mail from you that contains the wording to be used on the TABs and the corresponding PDF page numbers where you want the TABs to be inserted AFTER. If the order is for a 2 sided document, the PDF page numbers must be even (because even pages are the verso side on 2 sided leaves). Alternatively you can insert pages clearly showing where the tabs are to be inserted into their PDF, however we will still need the wording for the TABs in a separate text document or text e-mail. For example:

P4 Topic 1
P8 Topic 2

If you have ordered a blank inside front cover, it's important that you insert the blank into your PDF, otherwise this will throw off the page numbering in your instructions to us.

How to create Hard Cover artwork.

When is this section relevant?

You don't need to read this section unless you've ordered a punch bound book with a hard cover. For all other punch bound products, you can safely ignore this section.

This information is primarily helpful when you are ordering full colour printed hard covers. Covers wrapped in material (for example cloth) can be foiled, so understanding the size of the cover is also useful for positioning your foiling accurately.

Visualise your cover...

When designing your cover, it really helps to visualise exactly how the product is made and what the end result should look like. You are welcome to ask for a sample from the helpdesk, but in the meantime a couple of photos will help. These photos show the outside and inside of one hard cover before it's punched and bound.

The front of a hard cover The front of a hard cover

When making a hard cover, we start with a thick, rigid board. The full colour print is made separately and then applied to the outside (first picture). If you look at the inside of the cover (second picture), you can see that the full colour print wraps around the edge of the cover and onto the inside. An end paper (orange in this example) is then applied to the inside of the cover. Approximately 4mm of the colour print shows all round the edge of the end paper. In order to make a strong, neat job, quite a lot of the edge of the colour print ends up underneath the end paper.

This particular cover has then had hot foil stamped onto the outside, but that's a separate process!

What size is my cover?

Remember: this is not the same size as your cover artwork!

Your cover height is the book block height PLUS 8mm. Your cover width is book block width PLUS 4mm.

What size should my cover ARTWORK be?

For hard cover punch bound books you should create your covers separately to your book block and supply them to Inky as one separate PDF. This is because it requires a different page size to the book block. The (page) size calculation is straightforward:

  • Height = book block height + 31mm
  • Width = book block height + 27mm

Why is the artwork so much bigger than the cover size? We need the extra artwork to wrap around the edge of the cover and run underneath the end paper.

Example: You have orded an portrait orientation A5 sized book with hard covers. The book block is A5 portrait, i.e. 210(h)x148(w)mm. The cover size is 218(h)x152(w)mm. The cover ARTWORK is 210+31 x 148+27 = 241(h)x175(w)mm.

Do I need to add bleeds to my cover artwork?

No, bleeds are not a concept that is used with this type of cover. Remember though, that approximately 6mm of your artwork all the way around will be hidden underneath the end papers.

End paper size and artwork requirements

The end paper height is the same as the book block height. The end paper width is the same as the book block width MINUS 4mm. This is only really important to know when creating artwork for a printed end paper. We recommend that you create your end paper artwork separate to the book block and cover artwork. Printed end paper artwork DOES require 2mm bleeds all round. If in doubt, ask the helpdesk for clarification.

How to create artwork for Hot Foiling.

When is this section relevant?

You don't need to read this section unless you've ordered a punch bound book with a Hot Foiling on the cover.

If you only need something simple...

Sometimes all you want hot foiled on the cover is a few lines of text. In this case, you can simply discuss this with the helpdesk and (if possible) we will do this for you. You'll need to tell us what font, what size and the position on the cover. This works great for many people, but this is not a graphic design service. If you have more complex requirements, you will need to supply us with the relevant artwork.

What size should my Hot Foil artwork be?

The page size for your Hot Foil artwork must be the same size as your cover. See the relevant sections of this guide to calculate what this should be. Position your Hot Foiling exactly where you wish it to be on the page. Supply your Hot Foil artwork to us as a separate PDF file.

Notes on the artwork itself

All Hot Foil artwork should be in 100% black. Where you want foil, make it black (no matter what colour foil you have chosen).

Hot Foiling is not the same as printing. You cannot create half tone effects with Hot Foiling. Very fine lines are best avoided. Premium Hot Foiling can cope with foiling large solid areas, digital hot foiling is not recommended for large solid areas. We are always happy to discuss your project with you and advise you on the best approach to achieve the effects that you want.

The level of detail and the quality of large solid areas can be affected by the material chosen and even the colour of foil chosen (Gold and Silver colour are the most flexible). This will not affect most jobs, but if your job is likely to be demanding - complex artwork with a a mixture of large solids and fine text for example - then make sure that you take the time to discuss the job with us first so that we can advise you on how best to achieve the finished product that you want.

With Premium Hot Foiling, it's possible to Hot Foil more than one colour. It's also possible to hot foil on top of other hot foil, which can give fantastic effects. There are many other advanced decorative effects that we can also offer, including: clear foil, embossing, Unifraction dies, hologram foils and so on. Have a chat with the help desk if you're interested in more advanced decorative effects.

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v3 18-02-2018

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