Which Binding option is best? | Learning Hub | Fineline Print & Web

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I’m Alec from Fineline and today I want help you understand some of the main binding processes and … take a look at their pros and cons. 

And, before we finish I’ll share with you a little-known secret about Vat.

Whilst there are scores of different binding techniques out there; some for the home-office and some for highly specialised binderies, it’s not really practical to try and cover them all here. 

So … we’re just going to take an overview of the most commonly available ones to give you a flavour of what’s out there and help you make an informed decision about the choices you’ll have to make.

There’s a lot to get through so we are going to skim over them quite quickly but if you want to find out more about one particular method then please do drop us a line and we’d be only too glad to help.


However, before we dive in and look at the different binding techniques it’s worth bearing in mind that this particular finishing process actually has two functions.

  • The first is its visual appeal and second …
  • Is its practical function.

We tend to judge things by their looks, but I would argue that it is practicality which should be the most important factor. Simply because your document will have been designed to do a specific job and if its functionality is compromised then it’s not going to be fully effective.


So, let’s begin with a quick overview of the binding types we are going to look at here.

  • Saddle Stitching
  • Loop Stitching
  • Stab Stitching
  • Wire Binding
  • Case Binding
  • Perfect Binding
  • Padding
  • Tip Gluing 


Saddle Stitching


Ideal for booklets such as Brochures and Programmes. Saddle Stitching is by far the most popular method where speed of turnaround, functionality and cost are paramount.

The name is a little misleading because the stitches are, in actual fact, the two wire staples which are inserted in to the spine to hold the pages together.


Jargon Buster:

Self-cover: booklets with the same weight of stock for the cover and inside pages.


Pros: Fast, cost effective and functional.

Cons: Not all printers can bind small sizes: A6 or less. 

Not suitable for booklets with a high page count. Max: 100 pages printed on 80gsm uncoated paper. Less, for higher weights of paper – especially when coated stocks are used.

Saddle stitched books are difficult to lay flat so not always suitable for workshop manuals and the like.


Loop Stitching


Loop stitching is similar to Saddle Stitching which we’ve just looked at. But with one significant difference.

Instead of the wire staple lying flat along the spine of the book the wire forms a loop. This enables the document to be stored in a ring binder.


Pros: Ideal for filing similar sets of documents in one folder.

Cons: Impractical for everyday use if filing is not required.


Stab or Side Stitching


Commonly used for quickly binding blocks of flat sheets where presentation is not the over-riding factor.

This method of binding is commonly used on photocopied reports that are stab stitched by the copier as they pass through the machine. A variety of staple positions can be chosen but the one most commonly used is a Top Left-Hand Corner (TLHC) single stitch.

It is also found in NCR Books where two side stitches are used to bind the pages.


Pros:  Quick, low cost and secure.

Cons: Poor presentation quality when used on documents such as brochures.

Limit to the number of sheets which can be stitched.

Higher print costs.


Wire Binding


Ideal for Calendars, Reports and lay-flat Workshop Manuals.

Wire Binding uses pre-formed Wires that are closed around a specially punched spine. 

Wires come in a variety of colours, but you may find that your printer will commonly stock just white or silver.


Pros: Looks professional.

Lays flat: ideal for workshop manuals and music books.

Pages can be opened a full 360 degrees. In other words, the document can fold all the way back upon itself.

Robust:  not easy to remove pages.

Versatile: can be used to bind a handful of sheets right up to 25mm thick.


Cons: Slightly more expensive than Saddle Stitching

Documents need to be rebound to add or replace pages.


Comb Binding


Comb Binding is very similar to Wire Binding – the only difference being that the Combs are made of plastic.


Pros: More widely available than Wire Binding

Slightly cheaper than Wire Binding.

Lays flat: ideal for workshop manuals. But cannot open a full 360 degrees.

Robust:  not easy to remove pages.

Versatile: can be used to bind a handful of sheets up to 25mm thick.


Cons: Less professional appearance than Wire Binding.

Needs specialist equipment to add or replace pages.



Comb Binding vs Wire Binding – which one is best?

Most Professional Appearance:  Wire Binding
Most Durable:  Wire Binding
Most Flexible When Reading:  Wire Binding

Most Affordable:  Comb Binding
Most Updatable: Comb Binding


Perfect Binding


Perfect Bound books are bound with glue rather than sewing or stitching.

Pick up almost any paperback book and it will almost certainly be Perfect Bound. The spine will be glued (usually with a hot melt glue) and a wrap-around outer cover applied before the glue has set.


Pros: Professional appearance – ideal for company reports and self-published books.

Can bind more pages than Saddle Stitching. Up to 40mm thick.

Less expensive than Case Binding (see next section).

Best for use with uncoated paper for a more secure bind.


Cons: Book cannot lay flat.

If opened repeatedly the spine can crack leading to pages becoming detached.

Coated papers can be difficult to bind securely.

Ideally, the glue needs 24 hours to cure and set securely.

Slower and more time consuming than Saddle Stitching.

Printing on the spine is not advised if the book is less than 8mm thick.


Case Binding


A Case Bound or Hardback book is very similar to a Perfect Bound document we’ve just looked at. But with one very important difference.

The Case is the hardback cover which holds the text pages inside. 

What makes Case Bound Books so secure is that the text pages have been folded, gathered and sewn together with cotton thread into mini booklets or sections.

The sections are then gathered and glued together to form the finished book block which is then glued inside its hardback Case.


Pros: Durable and hard wearing

Impossible to remove pages without tearing them out.

Will stand repeated opening and closing without undue wear and tear.

Both coated and uncoated papers can be bound securely.

Wide variety of materials can be used for the case covering. Leather, book cloth, PVC coated paper to name just a few.


Cons: Cost – this method of binding is significantly more expensive than ordinary perfect binding.

Lead time: case binding is a time-consuming process.

Few specialist binders in the UK so jobs have to be sent away to be bound. However, with the rising interest in self-publishing small, artisan bookbinders may be found locally.




Padding is one of the simplest of the binding methods using glue.

A glued pad is simply a block of paper glued along one edge with something like a PVA glue.

This method of binding is ideal for Telephone Notepads and Invoice Pads.


Pros: Pads can be almost any thickness. From a few sheets up to several hundred.

Wide variety of paper stocks can be glued successfully.

Keeps multiple sheets bound together in one neat block ready to tear off as and when required.

Low cost when compared to Perfect Binding and Case Binding.


Cons: Speed, liquid PVA glue takes time to dry so lead time is likely to be an additional 24 to 72 hours depending on the volume of sheets to be padded.

Sheets have to be torn off in sequence. Sheets torn out of the pad part way down the stack are likely to remove all those above it. Which is not a good idea if the aim in to keep the stack intact!


Tip Gluing or Self Separating Sets


Judy, please see the NCR Sets image half way down on the right-hand side of the page on this link.



Tip gluing, Self-separating Glue and Fan-Apart gluing are all one and the same thing. 

And they all refer to an ingenious method of gluing which allows for a stack of multi-part Sets to be glued together so that once the sheets are dry only the those which make up the Set are held together!

Fan-Apart gluing is most commonly used with carbonless paper and the way it works is this. The sheets are collated in to a big stack and the glue applied to whichever edge you want to bind. 

And here’s the really clever bit, the chemical properties of the glue recognise the different coatings of the carbonless sheets and only binds together the top and bottom sheet if it’s a 2-part Set or the top, middle and bottom sheets if it’s a 3-part Set. It’s pretty amazing really - but it works.

Ideal for multi-part business forms such as Invoices, Receipts and Delivery Notes.


Pros: Keeps all the sheets of a multi-part Set together

Cons: I can’t think of any right now!


And last but not least, right at the start I promised that I’d share a little know secret about Vat.

Items such as brochures, catalogues and leaflets are Zero Rated for Vat. That is, there’s no Vat on them which is great news for you because there’s 20% less to pay.

However, if you wish to complete the job yourself by binding them with your own equipment the job is deemed a “Part Supply”. And, as such, Vat must be charged on that item – even though the finished item is regarded as a Zero Item.

If you are Vat registered, then this will probably not concern you. If you are not, then an extra 20% might well offset the saving of doing it yourself!


So, that’s about it with the subject of binding and I hope this quick run-through has been helpful … and thanks for dropping in,


But before you go …

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