Fabulous Folds

Jan 8, 2013

Amid the excitement of getting a brochure printed, it can be easy to forget about the last step: folding. However, correct folding of the paper is an important part of a printed piece. Incorrect folding can result in a piece that doesn’t lie flat or margins that look a little “off” because the designer didn’­­t take the mechanics of folding into account.

The number of ways you can fold a piece of paper can be mind-boggling so it helps to know a few of the terms and limitations associated with folding. In discussing your project, you need to think in terms of panels. A panel is the two-sided section of the printed piece that is defined by the fold. The standard “three-fold brochure” most people are familiar with is technically a six-panel, letter-fold brochure.

In terms of folding, the flat size is the size of the piece when it is laid out flat. The finished size is the size of the piece when it’s folded. The standard six-panel, letter-fold brochure has an 8.5×11-inch flat size, but the finished size is 3.75 inches.

As you might imagine, almost all folding is done by machine. The type of machine determines the type of standard folds you have available for your project. Note that because it’s mechanical, folding is not an extremely precise science. Many machines work with tolerances of 1/32 of an inch so you need to take that “fudge factor” into account when you plan your design. If you have a large sheet that folds several times, the accuracy of the first fold affects the subsequent folds.

If the first fold is off by 1/32 of an inch, the next one multiplies any variation, shifting the second 1/16 of an inch, and the third 1/8 of an inch and so on. It’s therefore important to lay out your design to accommodate these possible shifts.

In designing, also remember that if one brochure panel needs to fold into another, you need to make it slightly smaller (We always suggest 1/8” but if needed can work with 3/32”). If you don’t, you will end up with telescoping, and your folded piece will not lie flat. Telescoping happens because the panels are too long and push against each other causing the brochure to “telescope” up into a curve.

During the estimating and job write-up phase, Action Graphics creates the most ideal layout to fold with the paper grain – especially on a heavier text or cover stock. However, there are times where the size and design of a piece does not allow us to lay out the piece so the fold is with the grain. Paper has a definite grain direction because when it is manufactured, the fibers align themselves parallel to the direction of movement on the machine. Ideally, you want the folds to run with the grain of the paper. If your design doesn’t allow for us to produce the job “with the grain” for folding, there may be some cases of ink cracking, especially in areas with heavy ink coverage. If you are concerned that your project may not fold “with the grain”, feel free to contact us and we can help direct you as to your options to help minimize ink cracking.

When you create your design, you don’t want the fold to run through important visual elements. To plan for  folds, always create a folding “dummy.” It’s much better (not to mention less expensive) to discover design problems on your own laser proof than after it has gone to press.

More Insights To Enjoy:

+ Ready for Take Off? Prepping Your Files

+ Step into Style Sheets

+ A Paper Primer

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