Printing & Design Tips: February 2004, Issue #31

What is Shingling?

What is "shingling," also referred to as "creep" or "feathering," and why should you care? Mastering the concept behind these arcane terms will infinitely improve your saddle-stitched books.

Shingling, or creep, refers to the fact that the trim margin of inner pages of inner signatures of saddle-stitched books are actually narrower than pages in outer signatures.

Keep in mind that each inner signature is nested (or inserted) in each successively outer signature. In effect, this means that each signature wraps around a slightly narrower signature. Said differently, each sheet is nested into a larger bundle (or wraps around a smaller bundle).

Be aware also that heavier paper stocks increase the difference between the width of inner and outer sheets (and signatures). And, the more signatures you nest one into the other (the longer the book), the more pronounced is the effect of shingling.

So what? Well, if you have positioned folios, for instance (or any other repeating visual element) near the face margin, and you haven't adjusted for creep, the folios in the center of the book, after the book has been trimmed, will be closer to the margin than the folios at the beginning or end of the book. If your margins are too tight as well, copy can actually be trimmed off completely. This could be catastrophic.

So what can you do to avoid this? Subtract 1/32" from the face margin (move everything this far toward the gutter margin) within each successive, interior signature. Keep each signature internally consistent, but make this change from signature to signature.

Another little trick for compensating accurately for creep starts with your obtaining a blank paper dummy from your printer. Request that this paper dummy be created with the exact weight and finish of paper you will use and at the exact page count with the signature breakdown you will actually print (i.e., the combinations of 8-page and 16-page signatures). Now, drill a hole in each corner of the live image area and then disassemble the paper dummy to see how these holes shift from signature to signature (and then account for this shift in the electronic files for the book). As an alternative, use a razor blade to make a 1/2" cut vertically into the folded paper dummy about an inch from the saddle-stitched bind-edge. Again, when you open the pages anddisassemble the paper dummy, you will see the exact amount you must shift the margins to account for creep.

Since signature page counts may fluctuate within a book (from 4- to 8- to 16-page signatures, for instance), and since paper thickness and finish affect shingling, ask your printer to check your work if you feel unsure of the accuracy of your compensation.

For those of you designing perfect-bound books, there's good news. The pages of a perfect-bound book, unlike those of a saddle-stitched book, are all the same width. Therefore, you needn't compensate for shingling when designing this kind of book.

Watch for Flopped Photos

Most of you will scan your own photos for most jobs. Scanners are cheap enough and of sufficient quality for most people to scan their own images for most applications. However, if you are producing a publication with large, high-quality photos that must be true to color (with no variance), you may choose to have your printer scan and perhaps even color correct your images.

This is the time to check the printer's proof closely to make sure the image was not inadvertantly flopped. If your image isprinted--essentially--backwards, in some cases this may cause no problems. However, if there is a logo printed backwards in the image, or if there is a sign in the background with words printed backwards, your final printed piece will embarrass you. It happens. Printers make mistakes. So check specifically for this potential flaw to make sure you avoid it.

For that matter, if you're scanning a transparency yourself, you may inadvertantly load the slide backwards and do the same thing. So make one final check to ensure accuracy.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]