The Difference Between Tri-Fold and Z-Fold

Tri-Fold brochure

It is easy to assume that the one and only difference between tri-fold brochures and z-fold brochures is the way that one of the panels one the brochure 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 or brochure template.

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Understanding Tri-Folds

You may be wondering “What is a tri-fold?” 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.

Tri-Fold brochure

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 includes (from left to right): Outer flap, back cover, front cover. Side B includes (from left to right): Inner front, inner center inner flap.
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 are stuffed into an envelope. The page will easily open to view the content when the consumer is holding panel 1 and 3 of the brochure design.

Z-Fold brochure

The z-fold’s panels are a little more straightforward than tri-fold’s. Side A of z-folds 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 of the brochure design will usually have related content to the corresponding panel 1.

Z-Fold Panels.  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.
Side A Side B

What to look for when designing for folds

It is easy to assume that the only difference between tri-folds and z-folds 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-folded 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. In a 8.5" x 11" brochure, each panel is 3.667"

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. In a 8.5" x 11" brochure, the "flap" panel is 3.624", back/center panel is 3.688", and the front panel is 3.688"

Let us know if you have any questions!

If you have any other questions or need more information about a folding style, our team is here to help! We offer fold design templates for standard dimensions on brochure size 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!


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