Paper is manufactured in hundreds of sizes, from huge rolls used by newspapers to small pre-cut pages used by laser printers and photocopiers.
When specifying page sizes, you will be concerned with the finished size of a piece, rather than the sheets of paper a printer might use. These sizes are divided into metric series: A, B or C. There are also Imperial (non-metric) series.
The A series is the most commonly used range of sizes, for stationery and general printing. The B series is used for larger items such as posters, wall charts and maps. The C series is used for envelopes.
The A series of sizes is based on a sheet of paper with an area of one metre square. Each of the smaller sizes are proportionally sized: for example, the length of an A4 sheet is equal to the width of an A3.
The B and C series follow the same principles as the A series but to different dimensions.
B sizes are useful as intermediate sizes when the proportions of A sizes are too great. C sizes are used for envelopes and enclosures (items that are put into envelopes).
Information on a page can be presented in two ways: by portrait or landscape.
A portrait orientation is one in which text runs to the length of the page.
A landscape orientation is a page where the text runs across the length of the page.
The size you choose for a particular job will depend on what you intend to do with the finished piece. For example, if your printed piece is to be mailed in a standard business envelope, you will probably not choose to use an A1 sheet - it would need to be folded to fit the envelope (and be too bulky) and would be too difficult for someone to unfold and hold comfortably.
On the other hand, if you were designing a poster, you would not want to use an A5 page, because it would be too small for large type sizes, and difficult to see the poster from a distance.
When you design an A4 sized newsletter of 4 pages the finished piece will actually be printed onto both sides of one A3 page. This is folded in half to create a folder of four A4 pages.
Paper can be folded in many ways to create various finished sizes. The illustration on the next page shows some of the more common folds. There are many more - it depends on your imagination.
White space placed around text on a page creates five distinct areas. These areas are called the header, footer, left and right margins, and the live area.
The header is located at the top of a page. The footer is located at the bottom of a page. The left margin is located on the left side of a page. The right margin is located on the right side of a page.
The live area is all the space left on a page within the frame of the margins that will contain text.
Each of the preceding examples has discussed a single-sided page. This simply means that the text is designed to be printed on only one side of the paper.
Often you will design pages that are to be printed on both sides - these are called double-sided pages. These pages will still contain headers and footers, margins and a live area, however, the side margins have different names, and perform slightly different functions.
When pages are double-sided, it may mean that a number of pages will be printed and the finished document will be bound in the margin between two facing pages.
The term facing pages refers to two pages - one a left-hand page, the other a right-hand page - that face one another in a book or other folded publication. The margin between these two pages is known as the inside margin (or binding margin). The margins on the outer edge of these pages are called the outside margins.
Binding is the process of fastening together and covering the pages of a lengthy document such as a book, catalogue, manual, report or magazine.
This is is the most popular method of binding booklets. In this process the publication is opened in the centre, thin wires are pressed from the cover through to the centre, and then closed. The wires are inserted exactly in the crease, or saddle, which is why this form of binding is referred to as "saddle stitching". Saddle stitching allows the booklet to be opened flat, is economical, and can be used for magazines or small books.
For thicker books that cannot be firmly bound with saddle-wire stitching, side-wire stitching is used.
This process uses wires that pass through the centre of the publication from the front page to the back where they are closed. This binding process does not allow the publication to be opened flat, as the wires constrict the opening of pages.
Another method for binding thick books, is to sew folded sections of pages (called signatures) with strong thread. After printing pages are formed into sections which are collected together with stitches to hold the signatures together and then sewed again through the back to keep the signatures in place. To cover the threads that are exposed in the spine, a cover (usually of heavy board or cloth) is glued to the spine.
Mechanical binding, using coils, spirals or loops, requires that the cover and pages be punched with holes near the binding edge, so that metal or plastic wires or bands can be woven through the holes. This method allows the publication to be opened flat, and allows more of the image area of a page to be used since the binding does not require wide inside margins.
Loose-leaf binding uses ready-made folders that contain semi-circular metal rings to hold the pages into place. Pages are hole-punched and can be rearranged in the folder, or added to at any time.
Perfect binding is a process used to replace sewing for books and other lengthy documents. Pages are glued together and a cover applied to hide the glue. This method is less expensive and faster than sewing, and is considered to be of higher quality than any other form of binding.
Margins used on a page will usually not be equal in size. For example, a book will have an inside margin that is wide enough for the binding, and perhaps a wider outside margin to balance the text on the pages.
The footer margin might also be wide, so that it can comfortably hold text, a logo, or a page number. Or instead of placing the page number (or folio) in the footer, it might be better in the header.
In some designs, particularly those with only one column, the left margin of a single-sided page (or the outside margin of a double-sided page) might be larger than the other margins to give the page more white space, or to extend the numbers of pages in the document.
This wider space could also be used as a place to display important information, such as a quotation.
Whichever margin format you select, the most important aspect to remember is balance. If the outside margin on a left page is set at 20 mm (.7874") from the page edge, then the outside margin on a right page must mirror this.
The live area is a guide to where the main body of the text, and pictures may be placed. The text or pictures may be placed over the edge of the margins; or even over the edge of a page.
When an image is spread over the edge of a page, this is called a bleed, because ink from the printer bleeds off the edge of the paper. There is no damage to the printing press, because the pages are actually printed on paper that is larger than the finished, or trim, size. When the page has been printed it is cut down to the size required, and the image is cleanly cut at the page edge.
The live area can also be divided into other sections - called columns. Columns are vertical areas of a page that contain text or pictures.
An A4 page can be divided by any number of columns, although usually only as many as five. For pages with more than five columns, the text needs to be set at very small type sizes, otherwise only a few words can be printed in each column.
Columns require white space between them so the structure of a page is easy to see. This space is called a gutter.
If columns of text were placed on the page with no space between them, the page would be very grey and difficult to read.
A gutter that is wider than the margins is too wide: so the gutter dominates the page.
One that is so narrow that the columns of text run into one another is too narrow.
There may be occasions when using a simple structure of two or three columns per page is not adequate. In this instance, columns can be mixed. A simple example of this is when a title (or heading) is centred across two columns.
Depending on the capabilities of your software, and the type of publication you are creating, you may want to mix other column structures.
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