The Difference Between Tri-Fold and Z-Fold

It is easy to assume that the only difference between a tri-fold brochure and a z-fold brochure is the way that one of the panels is folded. However, this is a common misconception. There is a slight difference in functionality between these types of folds that most people miss when designing their files.

Understanding Tri-Folds

Tri-folding is typically used when the file’s content was designed to account for distinct panels. Panel 1 is usually the “cover page” that includes the title and a brief description of the topic of the brochure, panels 2-4 will have information that is all connected, panel 5 may have additional information about the topic, and panel 6 will have the call to action for the company or event.


Let’s start first with how the panels are intended to be read on the page. Side A of the tri-fold contains panels (read from left to right): 5, 6, and 1. Side B of the tri-fold contains panels (read from left to right): 2, 3, and 4. When the brochure is folded, panel 1 is the first panel to be seen and read, page 6 is the back cover, and page 5 is the outer flap. Panels 2, 3, and 4 are all on the inside of the fold.

Tri-Fold Panels
Side A                                                                                   Side B  

Understanding Z-Folds

Z-folds are commonly used for when the file’s design spreads across all 3 panels on that side. You usually see z-folds used on letters that stuffed into an envelope. The page will easily open to view the content when the consumer is holding panel 1 and 3.


The z-fold’s panels are little more straight forward than Tri-Fold’s. Side A of a z-fold contains panels (read from left to right): 3, 2, 1. Side B contains panels (read from left to right): 6, 5, 4. Panel 1 on either side are the visible panels when the brochure is folded down. Panels 2 and 3 will usually have related content to the corresponding panel 1.

Z-Fold Panels
Side A Side B

What to look for when designing for folds

It is easy to assume that the only difference between a tri-fold and a z-fold is the way that the far right panel folds. However, there is a slight variance between the two folds that can be difficult to notice.

Z-fold panels do not fold into each other, so these panels are all the same dimension. For example, each panel for an 8.5” x 11” sheet will need to be 8.5” x 3.667”.

Z-fold Panels Dimensions

Tri-fold panels cannot all be the same dimension because one of the panels folds into the sheet. If all were the same length, then the sheet would bow and not be able to lay flat or the edge of the panel would bend. For standard 8.5” x 11” tri-folds, panels 1 /2 and 3/6 would both be 3.688” wide and panel 4/5 would be 3.624” wide.  However, there is no standard for exact tri-fold dimension, but designers usually allow at least .06” on the panel that will be folded in. 

Tri-Fold Panels Dimensions

Let us know if you have any questions!

If you have any other questions about folds, our team is here to help! We offer fold design templates for standard dimensions that you can download on our website. Before placing your order with us, you can verify that your file is designed correctly by submitting a complimentary file check! Otherwise, please call us 1-877-649-5463 and a customer service representative will be happy to help you!