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Beamreach Book Printing

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Book Typesetting and Page Design

So you’ve written all the content for your book and maybe you’ve got some photographs or drawings as well. You are right to be concerned about the elements of making your manuscript actually look like a book. There is, as you suspect, the potential to make a world of difference to the appearance of your book by putting some professional thought into the many subtle, but important elements of page design and typography.

What kind of things are we talking about? What are the elements that go into making a book a pleasure to read, to help your reader flow through your book without noticing how easily they are absorbing the information you are wanting to impart on them?

Page size and orientation:

page size
Page Setup dialogue box in Microsoft Word

Take a look carefully at other books that are for sale in the market that you wanting your book to enter. It is important to match your readers expectations with the book they are looking at. It may sound obvious, but larger is not necessarily better. A guide book might have to fit in someone’s pocket. A smaller size page will create a thicker book, which may give a higher perceived value than a thinner, but larger sized book.

A book of portrait pictures would be great using a portrait format book (ie height greater than width), but if there is text to accompany the photos, a landscape format might work much better.

It is important that a cookery book should be able to stay open at a page without being held. This is more likely to be possible if the book is wider than it is high, particularly with some types of binding.

If the book is likely to sold from a bookshelf, it may not get positioned correctly if it is a significantly different size or orientation to its competition. Conversely, if it is too similar in size to its competition, it might not get noticed.

A square format book, enables other layout formats to be used, that are more difficult with more traditional sizes, such as multiple columns and larger margins which can be utilized for special features.

Always speak to your printer before you decide on the page size because of the many cost implications associated with producing different book sizes. You need to be sure about the exact page size before any page layout (formatting) is commenced, as changing the page size after formatting means having start formatting all over again.

Photo / image appearance

image layoutSome images are more important than others, some are of a better quality than others. Some are high quality, but are limited by their resolution. Do you sit an image in lots of white space, does it line up with the text above and below, does it go right to the edge of the page or does the text wrap around it? Does the image itself require traditionally square edges within a black thin boarder (key line) or should the image be a different shape or have softer borders. Once you have worked out a basic page design, there will always be images that break the rules of your carefully thought out formatting rules. Careful consideration and technical knowledge can help to decide how best to display every image to its best advantage.


The reader of your book is an expert in picking up on the subconscious rules that you embed in the design of your pages of your book. They will quickly pick up on any inconsistencies in headings, style or features and this will inevitably have an adverse effect on their reading experience. Once you create a style it is important to stick to it wherever possible.

Font choice

There are now literally hundreds of different fonts available. Fonts are split into 2 categories:

serifs on fontsSerif: Serif’s are small, sometimes curly lines used on the ends of characters. Examples of serif fonts are Times New Roman, Garamond, Rockwell, Courier and Bodoni. They are commonly used for body text because many people think they are easier to read.

Sans Serif: (Without Serif) are typefaces without little lines attached to characters. Examples of sans serif fonts are Helvetica, Futura, Arial and Avant Garde. Sans Serif fonts are commonly used for headings and titles because they are good ‘attention grabbers’. More contemporary style books also use sans serif fonts for the body text.

The finer details of choosing a font are very much down to personal preferences and can help to give a book its own unique feel.


Often overlooked, margins, coupled with line lengths are very important for the readability of your book. It is important to create the right balance between text and white space that matches the content and thus helps to formulate the desired mood of your book.

Text falling too close to the page edge will feel uncomfortable to read and text too far away from the edge of the page will feel lost and equally uncomfortable for the reader. It is useful to experiment with a full sized mock up before committing to starting your page formatting. Many people consider that line length should be between 50-70 characters (or about 9-13words) for optimum readability.

inside margins for binding
The type of binding will affect your inside margins

When calculating margins for page designing, I always take into account the type of binding of the book. This is because some types of binding allow the pages to open up better than other types of binding. On such occasions, it may be prudent to create a larger inside margin than outside margin so that the text appears to be balanced on the page. This is particularly important on the first and last page of a book, where a glued hinge cause page area to be lost.

Other choices to consider:

Page numbering

Front matter (Prelims)

Back matter (Poslims)

Interesting features. E.g. photo frames, shadows, note paper, post it notes, backgrounds

Do it yourself?

If you’re confident that you know exactly what you want your page to look like and you have access to Word processing software like Microsoft Word, Open Office or Apple Pages, then why not design your book yourself. Most of these packages have the capability to handle all the above features well when producing a book with only text. However once you have pictures / images in your book, you will get much better control over the final quality of your images using professional software such as Adobe InDesign or Quark Express. Other advantages of using professional software when producing a book with images are: smaller document file sizes, better typographical options, more special features, such as shadows / feathering, advanced page numbering, prevention of text reflow from page to page, total control over printing related features such as overprinting, CMYK colouring, bleed, colour management and most importantly creating Print Ready PDF files.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any of the above or suggest improvements to my blog.
David Exley

Written by David Exley
David has an Honours Degree in Printing and Packaging Technology and has worked in design, technical and sales roles in both the Paper and Printing industries for over 20 years.

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Choosing the correct paper for your book is a decision that should not be rushed – I pick up many books only to notice that the choice of paper is in conflict with the content. This might not be so obvious to the novice, but often there will be something that is difficult to put your finger on about the feel of a book that doesn’t make it feel just right. Once your book is printed, it’s too late to have a discussion like this, but all too often it is only after a book is delivered that these subtle details are picked up on, buy you or your reader. This is a conversation that needs to be had during the book planning stage, ideally before the artwork is created, so that the pages can be designed and the book created with the choice of paper in mind.
Whilst thinking about paper choice, sometimes just seeing a blank paper sample can be misleading. Yes the surface might feel smooth and the paper might look nice and white, but have you thought about the following:
Will the print show through too much from the other side (opacity)?
Will the book be too thick or too thin (caliper)?
Will the book be too heavy to fit within a certain postal band (grammage)?
Will the type of paper restrict your choice of binding method?
Will the text be easy to read on this paper or will it reflect too much and give an uncomfortable glare (finish)?
Will the pages turn easily or will the paper want to resist being flicked through (grain direction)?
All paper is to an extent opaque, ie if you illuminate it from behind you will see the light! If your paper is too translucent, the print from the image on the reverse of the paper will show through interfering with the readability of the content. This can be helped to a certain extent by page layout and choice of backgrounds. Uncoated paper has better opacity than the same grammage of coated paper. Mechanical paper has better opacity than woodfree paper at the same grammage. In general the higher the content of sizing or coating in the paper, the more translucent the paper becomes, so if you are concerned about show through, there are lots of alternatives than just increasing the paper weight.
Example of mottling
Solid ink areas exhibit mottling when printed on paper with poor paper fibre dispersion
If you are wanting to print areas of solid ink there are definitely some papers which should be out of bounds because unless you are looking for an unusual effect you will generally want to achieve a smooth, mottle-free result. Printing onto a paper coating generally gives a smoother result than printing directly onto paper fibers, but some papers are made more consistently than others, eg the dispersion of the fibers is more uniform or the coating or sizing is applied more evenly. So a non-uniform paper can cause unwanted results such as mottling.
Coatings / sizing and paper finish:
The application of coatings to the surface of paper, which became popular around the middle of the 20th Century, has generally been a good thing, because overall it improves the printability of the paper. By printability, I mean that pictures look punchier, ink dries faster and it is less susceptible to being scuffed and the surface feels smoother. From a printers point of view, coated papers use less ink and presses can be generally run at much faster speeds. So you would think that everything looks rosy, from a production point of view and indeed coated papers are the most commonly used papers for printing and are also the cheapest and I suspect that most printers would prefer to print on coated papers all day long. However, there are some key disadvantages to printing on coated papers – especially when you look at it from the book publishers or readers point of view:
Coated papers are thinner than their uncoated equivalent. This is not good if you want to increase spine width.
Coated papers are more flimsy than their uncoated equivalent. This is not good if you want to give a more substantial feel to your book.
Coated papers are weaker and more prone to tearing than uncoated papers. Not good if you are producing a book that is going to take a lot of hammer or you are concerned about ultimate longevity for archive purposes.
Coated papers do not adhere to a glued binding as strongly or as permanently as uncoated papers. This is because the strength in a binding comes from the glue adhering to the actual paper fibres themselves, not the coating.
Coated papers have more glare or light reflection than uncoated papers (especially gloss and silk finishes). This is definitely not desirable for reading text. Indeed, too much glare can cause reading to become uncomfortable for some.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many cases when using coated papers is the best and only option and some of the disadvantages can be removed by using a heavier coated paper, or a coated paper with a matt finish, but make sure you have looked at all options first.
Mechanical or Woodfree?
For solid wood fibers to be broken up into a fluid water solution, so that they may be squired onto the wire of a paper machine, all the fibers have to undergo a multi-stage mechanical mashing and filtering process. This process can be significantly helped by introducing chemicals to aid the breakdown of the fibers, make the fibers whiter by bleaching and at the same time dissolve any unwanted glue called lignin which holds the wood fibers together.
Papers produced with the aid of these chemicals are called Woodfree papers. They are whiter, and stronger than the equivalent mechanical paper. Woodfree papers will also not turn yellow with age as it is the lignin glue that is responsible for this characteristic.
Papers produced without the aid of these chemicals are called Mechanical papers. Mechanical papers are off white, and are weaker than woodfree papers. However they have 4 significant advantages which are especially relevant for producing bookwove novel papers: Firstly, they are bulkier (thicker) than the equivalent woodfree paper. Secondly, they have better opacity than the equivalent woodfree paper, thirdly their off white colour is more desirable for reading comfort than a bright white paper and lastly they are considered to be more environmentally friendly than woodfree papers because their manufacture does not involve chemical bleaching.
Many traditional bookwove papers use mechanical paper or a mixture of woodfree and mechanical pulp to produce the paper (Part-Mech).
Cover papers
I am talking here about soft back covers, not hardback covers.
A common complaint I hear is: The cover of my book I’ve just had printed is just too flimsy. It annoys me to think that publishers and authors alike are using a printer that doesn’t address this simple matter.
I suspect that problem arises because of a common misunderstanding: Some people assume that Grammage (or paper weight) is equal to stiffness. This is not true. Much more important is the type of board being used for the cover.
The idea cover board material is one side coated board. As the name suggests, this board only has coating on one side – the outside of the cover. Because it is only coated on one side this paper is upto 50% stiffer than the equivalent matt or gloss coated paper. Therefore a 250gsm one side coated board is more than adequate for standard a softback book, whereas a 250gsm gloss coated artpaper would be woefully flimsy. One side coated board has another advantage in covering softback books – the binding glue sticks to the uncoated reverse of the board more permanently than a coated board.
Occasionally, is is necessary to print colour images onto the inside of a cover, which is when it is inappropriate to use a one side coated card, because colour does not reproduce well on the uncoated reverse of the board. In this case, to achieve the same stiffness as a 250gsm one side coated board, you need to select at least 300gsm, more preferably 350gsm matt coated board. Some digital printers struggle to print above 300gsm, so it is important to be aware of these issues up front.
Digital Printing Papers
Some digital printers are severely restricted by the types of paper that they can put through their machines, so it is essential to check with your printer that they are able to satisfy your requirements specifically with regards to printing books. Many digital presses must use papers of significantly lower moisture content than papers used for conventional litho printing. This can make them more susceptible to books demonstrating “wavey” pages on the foredge (the edge of the book opposite the spine), especially if paper with the wrong grain direction is used.
Environmental Factors
Having worked for and visited many paper mills in Finland and seen first hand the pride that these companies have in managing their forestry stocks to ensure that they do not run out of trees and how they ensure that by planting 3 trees for every 1 that is cut down, I was convinced that paper produced by such responsibly managed organizations was indeed a truly sustainable resource. The argument then naturally moved on to there being no good reason to recycle paper, especially as the process of returning enough waste paper to the mill for recycling and then the chemical intensive process of de-inking paper was in itself very environmentally unfriendly. My feeling has always been that recycling paper is much more useful for getting waste paper out of landfill sites, than it is for preventing de-forestation. True recycled papers (using post-consumer waste) are available, although they are much more expensive.
Wherever you see the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) logo you can be reassured that all the companies involved in the chain of supply to bring that paper to you have been certified as managing tree resources in a sustainable manner. Ask us about using paper that enables you to print this logo on your publication.
Common Book Printing Paper Grades and their uses:
Matt Coated Paper: Books containing high quality colour or black and white imagery alongside large areas of text.
Silk Coated Paper: Books containing high quality colour or black and white imagery alongside small areas of text.
Gloss Coated Paper: Books containing high quality colour or black and white imagery alongside minimal areas of text.
Bookwove: MonoBooks containing predominantly text with minimal imagery.
Bulky News: Mono Books containing only text.
Woodfree Offset: Mono Books containing predominantly text with some line imagery. Sometimes used to print books containing colour or black and white imagery alongside large areas of text where a dead matt effect is required.
Smooth sized woodfree (Pre-print): Mono Books containing predominantly text with some line imagery. Sometimes used to print books containing colour or black and white imagery alongside large areas of text where a dead matt effect is required.
One side coated board: Cover board of choice for paperback books.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any of the above or suggest improvements to my blog.
David Exley

Written by David Exley
David has an Honours Degree in Printing and Packaging Technology and has worked in both technical and sales roles in both the Paper and Printing industries for over 20 years.

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How to achieve a beautiful printed result – FM Screening
Are you looking for an edge on the quality of your book or catalogue? FM (or stochastic screening) could be the answer.
To enable an image to be printed it must be broken up into a matrix of dots – called a halftone image. Traditionally the process of converting an original photograph into a halftone was done photographically with a halftone screen and the number of lines per inch (the resolution of the screen) was called the screen ruling. The higher the screen ruling, the higher the resolution, and therefore the smoother the image would be. However, as the screen ruling increases, so the image becomes more difficult to print, requiring digital screening, better plate making technology and higher and higher quality printing presses.
Today the vast majority of printers use a halftone screen ruling of up to 200 lpi (lines per inch) which is widely accepted as the best compromise of quality and economics of production. However there are still some limitations with this, which are particularly visible when reproducing patterned fabrics or fine lines and this is where FM screening (or stochastic screening) provides significant advantages.
Whereas the ink dots in halftones are equally spaced and variable in size, in FM screening, the dots are variably spaced, but equal in size, and this results in a much smoother image, more detail and the elimination of moiré patterning.
FM screening is not for everyone or every occasion, and it inevitably involves the printer in very tight control of their production variables. But it does create a printed wow factor, particularly when combined with stunning photography.
For more information or to discuss the possibilities for your project, please contact us.

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