What is Saddle-Stitched Binding?

Two saddle stitched booklets on top of each other, one is open

Last updated on November 22nd, 2023 at 01:11 pm

Think of a booklet that is bound with 2 “staples” down the spine—that’s a saddle-stitched binding! Saddle-stitched binding is a very popular binding method for booklet printing, catalog printing, magazine printing… the list goes on and on! They’re very popular among customers due to how economical they are to design, print, and bind.

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What you probably didn’t know is that these booklets are actually not stapled. (I dare you to try to staple a hundred of them by hand!) Saddle-stitched booklets are “stitched” using a spool of long metal wire. The wire is pushed through the sheet (in a motion similar to that of a sewing machine). Then, the wire is folded into something that is basically a staple.

Saddle Stitched wire spools are used for binding the collated sheets together to form a booklet.
No staples are used to create a saddle stitched booklet. Instead, wire spools are punched through the collated sheets before folding of the booklet.

There are many different kinds of equipment used to do saddle-stitched binding. They range from low volume machines (slow, manual) to high volume machines (fast). But the principle behind all of these machines is all the same. You can also emulate saddle-stitched binding with a long-neck stapler, but it is time-consuming and inconsistent.

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The “Stitch”: How It Works

There are many parts of a saddle-stitch binding process (see next section). We’re going to start off by focusing on the part of the saddle-stitch equipment that actually does the binding. In order to actually bind books, you need: stack of collated sheets of paper, a saddle-stitch head, and a spool of saddle-stitch wire.

Here is what happens in the stitching unit of the saddle-stitch machine: the stack of collated sheets (guts and covers together) gets fed into the unit. The stack of sheets is jogged—top-bottom and left-right—to make sure they’re neatly stacked. Both saddle-stitch heads pull a bit of wire to pierce through the stack of paper. Then, both saddle-stitch heads descend—one end of the wire gets through, folded, cut, and the other end is pushed in.

With this, the saddle-stitch bind is complete! It’s ready to go to the next stations for folding, and finally—cutting.

Saddle-stitch tip: How pages of a booklet are paginated

Saddle-stitched booklets need to be paginated in a particular way to make sure that—after folding—the pages end up in the correct sequence. This often surprises people when they try printing a saddle-stitched booklet.

The “stack of collated sheets” I mentioned earlier need to be paginated in such a way so that all the opposite pages are paired up (spreads). Let’s say you’re creating a 16-page saddle-stitched booklet. There are going to be 4 sheets of paper, folded in half. Here’s what I mean:

  • Sheet 1/Side 1: Pages 1 (front cover) & 16 (back cover)
  • Sheet 1/Side 2: Pages 2 (inside front cover) & 15 (inside back cover)
  • Sheet 2/Side 1: Pages 3 & 14
  • Sheet 2/Side 2: Pages 4 & 13
  • Sheet 3/Side 1: Pages 5 & 12
  • Sheet 3/Side 2: Pages 6 & 11
  • Sheet 4/Side 1: Pages 7 & 10
  • Sheet 4/Side 2: Pages 8 & 9 (This is the centerfold spread)

So, in summary: you have a 16 page booklet printed on 4 sheets of paper, folded in half. Each sheet of paper has 4 pages on it.

Other kinds of preparation for a saddle-stitched booklet

There are 2 other types of preparation/finishing that a professional printing company like Printivity will do for a booklet getting saddle-stitched binding.

First, cardstock covers get creased down the center of the spine. This makes the paper fold better, and this in turn alleviates cracking on the paper, toner, and ink.

Simple image of an example of a saddle stitched booklet before the final cut. Image shows the inner sheets being pushed out farther than the outer. Dotted lines shows that the Face-trim will cut off the creep to make the end of the book even.

Second, saddle-stitched booklets are face-trimmed after being bound. This is more than just a trim for full bleed booklets. This is to trim off the “creep” that occurs during the folding. When a stack of paper is folded in half, each inner sheet of paper gets pushed out a tiny amount. If you don’t do a face-trim on the creep, the sheets in the booklet do not look neat.

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Saddle stitched booklets should be the go-to product for your next trade show! Contact Printivity to see if this cost effective, quick production turnaround, professional booklet is the right choice for your next project.


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