_A close up of an open Smyth sewn hardcover book with a black ribbon bookmark nestled between the pages.

When you think of binding, you likely think of the most common binding styles:

The one with the coil — like the Hilroy notebooks you used in grade school.

The one with the glue — like your latest paperback novel.

And the fancy one — like your favorite hardcover journal.

Before you begin the design on your own journal project, you’ll want to have a discussion with your designer about binding styles. Every binding style has its pros and cons. Let’s take a deeper look at the most common binding styles for journals.

But first…

What Is Binding?

Binding is the joining of leafs or signatures together — AKA your printed pages — with either wire, glue or other means. 


Top 5 Book Binding Styles For Your Custom Journal

A lined spiral bound notebook next to a wooden pencil on a red background.
This notebook is spiral bound with a metal coil. Spiral binding causes the pages to step up when the book is open.

Spiral Binding

Pages are gathered together, holes are punched, then a plastic coil is threaded through the holes to bind the pages together. 

Pros: A quick and inexpensive binding style.

With coil binding, you can fold the cover back on itself so you can focus on one page at a time. A spiral bound book will lie completely flat when opened.

Plastic coils are available in a variety of colours. The most common being black and white.

25 different coloured plastic spiral coils arrayed in a rainbow shape.
Plastic coil is available in many different colours.

Cons: It can look cheap. Especially when using plastic coil. Consider how you want your clients to feel when they receive your journal.

When opened, the pages of a spiral bound book do not align. One side will shift higher than the other. This is called stepping up. Crossover images are not recommended with this style of binding.

You can’t print on the spine of a spiral bound book.

Cost: One of the least expensive binding methods.

Best Uses: Workbooks, manuals, journals, notebooks

close up of a black wire-o binding

Wire-o is a versitile binding method that allows from the use of different paper weights, sizes, and special die cuts. 

Wire-O Binding

Wire-o binding is a more versatile method of coil binding. Wire-o coils are metal coils that have a distinct double loop as seen in the image above. Unlike spiral binding, wire-o pages do not step up when the book is opened.

Pros: Wire-o binding offers the most design flexibility. It can accommodate different paper weights, sizes, fold outs, and die cuts.

The wire can be partially or fully concealed with a paper cover. This allows you to print on the spine.

Wire-o bound books will lay completely flat and the pages do not step up when opened. This allows for crossover images.

Like spiral binding, the pages can fold back on themselves.

Cons: There aren’t any major cons for wire-o binding. The finish isn’t as sophisticated as some of the more expensive binding styles. But, it’s still a great option depending on your desired look and feel.

Cost: Low – mid range. Wire-o binding is generally inexpensive. But, using various papers, sizes, and folding techniques can increase the cost.

Best Uses: Workbooks, manuals, journals, notebooks

The centre spread of Printspiration Magazine sitting open on a wooden table. Peeking out from underneath you can see the green covers of more issues of Printspiration Magazine.

Saddle Stitching 

Pages are gathered together, folded, then stapled through the fold. Saddle stitching works best for books that aren’t very thick. Field Notes uses saddle stitching for their popular 48 page notebooks.

Pros: Budget friendly. Most print shops can saddle stitch in house. This makes saddle stitching an efficient and cost effective binding method.

Cons: Thickness limitations. Number of pages and paper thickness will determine whether your book can be saddle stitched.

Saddle stitched books are not very durable. They do not work well as a long-lasting memento. 

You cannot print on the spine of a saddle stitched book..

Cost: Low. Saddle stitching is the least expensive method of binding.

Best Uses: Workbooks, manuals, journals, notebooks, catalogues.

A perfect bound novel with the pages being fanned open

Perfect Binding

Perfect Binding uses adhesive to bind the pages of a book together. Pages are stacked in order, then glue is applied to the spine which is then attached to the book cover.

Pros: Perfect bound books have a very clean and sophisticated finished look. 

Because they are uniform in size, they are easy to stack and pack on shelves and in boxes. 

You can print on the spine of a perfect bound book. 

Cons: Perfect bound books do not lay flat when opened. 

The spine of the book must be at least ⅛ inch thick. 

The thicker the book the harder it will be to keep the pages open. Keep this in mind if you intend for your clients to write in your perfect bound book. 

Cost: mid range. Perfect bound books are 

Best Uses: Novels, journals, notebooks

_A Smyth swen case bound book with red cover. Opened flat on a white table.

Smyth Sewn + Case Binding

Also known as hardcover books. Smyth sewn and case binding are technically two different types of binding. But together they’re considered the highest quality book binding. As the name Smyth sewn implies, these books are bound by sewing the pages together with thread. The bound pages are then placed in a cardboard cover, called a case, to create a hardcover book.

Pros: Very strong and durable, these books are made to withstand frequent use and handling. 

Smyth sewn books open flat and the spine can be printed. 

You can use materials like cloth and leather on the cover to create an even more impressive journal. A ribbon bookmark, elastic band closure, and headbands can also be included.

Cons: Smyth Sewn Case Bound books are the most costly and time consuming binding method.

Cost: High. The most expensive type of binding.

Best Uses: Novels, journals, coffee table books, photo books.

Customize your own Classic Branded Journal.

Choose Your Binding Style

Talk to your designer about how you want your clients to feel when they interact with your journal. Whether you’re creating a quick and dirty resource or a print asset meant to deepen your client connection, the binding style will help set the tone for the experience.

Now it’s your turn to share! Which binding style would you choose for your own journals and why? Drop your answer below so we can discuss.

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