I am putting a text heavy book together, 6in x 9in paper size. (Perhaps related are this and this link.)

Now I look for good font pairings (nice examples are here) and margin settings and line spacing that works well. My current settings are 0.8in top/bottom margin, and then 0.8in inner and 1in outer margin; line spacing 1.3.

What are recommended approaches here, how can I set up visually pleasing pages?

EDIT: I would like to have a clean and simple feel to the book, while the text is readable comfortably. Almost leaning towards sans fonts although I'm not too sure if that makes for good reading comfort.

EDIT: After posting this question and receiving heaps of good comments, I started reading the book "Elements of Typographic Style" which gives answers to pretty much any question this thread raised, directly or indirectly. I'll post whatever typefaces and page settings I chose later...

  • Lynda.com has lots of print tutorials, for all levels. I have had great experience with Lynda tutorials in the past and recommend it as a great resource. Good luck.
    – Jenna
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 23:37

3 Answers 3


Things to consider:

Larger inner margin not outer. A larger inner margin helps prevent text from being crammed into the gutter of the spine. If you don't leave ample margin for the inner side you may find it gets difficult to read text near the gutter with every additional page.

Creep. Creep happens when books are bound. Each signature needs to be slightly wider than the previous signature so that when they fold and overlap the text remains in the same relative position while reading. Basically, inside pages are smaller than outside pages so text has to slowly "creep" to the outside the thinker a book gets. This is primarily a factor when perfect binding but creep can be a factor in some other bindery methods as well. To calculate creep you really need to determine the stock the book will be printed on. Any print vendor can generally provide you with a value to use for creep if they know the thickness of the stock to be used. If you "Google" how to calculate creep (if you are printing yourself), you'll get some general information. If your book is less than 12-14 pages then creep really isn't a factor.

Personal preference is to use a larger bottom margin as well. Visually things tend to drop or sink on a page. By using a larger bottom margin you help the perception that all things are well-placed on a page.

As for line spacing, that really is dependent upon the typeface to be used. 1.3 may be fine for some, woefully lacking for others, and way too much for others still.

  • Thank you for that information! Are you aware or resources that help me understand the finer details of typefaces, text/heading size and line spacing, and general proportions of the page?
    – Jens
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 20:38
  • THat's really a broad subject. There are books, courses, and mountains of information regarding those topics. It's not something which could effectively be answered in a Q&A format such as Stack Exchange sites. You might try narrowing your broad scope questions to specific items and asking those.
    – Scott
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 20:45
  • 1
    "Larger inned margin than outer" is considered wrong historically (and at least for me, this should be a still-true rule). The reason is that two pages when you have the book open should create a nice pattern of two columns of text and 3 visually equal columns of margins. Of course, binding has to be considered, which is larger for glued paperback than for proper hardcover. Therefore I would safely go with 0.8in inner and 1in outer margin. The top and bottom one should then be the same, i.e. 1in.
    – yo'
    Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 10:34
  • @tohecz I'd go with Scott on this one. At the very least I'd discuss with the printer to see if the 0.2 will make a difference.I hate seeing text crushed by an inner margin or a fold. Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 14:12
  • @tohecz: is correct about the margins in a historical context, but I too personally make the inner margin slightly larger. Not a huge deal really: at least it isn't leeches. Regarding "creep", this is important information for hand-making your own books, but Jens should note that in the last 20 years I've designed books, I've never had to make creep adjustments myself: my print supplier handles this when imposing for plates. I do occasionally bind a PDF on copy paper for laffs and creep very quickly becomes a factor.
    – horatio
    Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 18:59

My two pennies; my first education was an apprenticeship in bookbinding... (book-geek, yes)

The classical way to define frames for content on book pages are based on the 5-7; and allow me to point you to CraigMod - he knows what he is talking about:

Image of page layouts

Craigmod - books in the age of the ipad

The construction of these things take into account a visual corrections; just as with passepartous for pictures.

edit: Determening the printing area for books have been going on for centuries. There are two main, classical layouts: Van den Graaf, who took "reverse engineered" old books came up with the 2:3 ratio:

Van den Graaf canon

Another tradition it to base it on Tschichold approximation of the golden section, a ratio of 5:8: Tschicholds canon

Personally; though Scott gave a good answer, I would skip the creep (of pages! not saying Scott is a creep! ;-D). What is a very important element here, though, is how many pages you imagine the book to be, the type of binding and the weight of the paper.

I would never have equal left-and-right and top-bottom margins. The text-rich layout will give a feeling of text "sliding" or falling off the page. Consider the passpartous on well-framed pictures: they are equal left-right, but this is because there is no spine, no paper-bending/folding. The proportions of a passpartou is to have a larger margin on bottom than on the top. This will sometimes vary depending on the picture itself (darkness, colour of frame, passpartou etc), but the bottom should always be a little higher than the top. Some traditionalist say something like the combined width of left-right for the bottom. Personally; I adjust a little depending on the nature of the picture.

Fonts As when it comes to fonts. This is highly subjective. Since your book will be text-rich/dense, I would go with a serif for the main content. There are many lovely and useful serifs out there; you are not stuck with Times New Roman. Personally; I would suggest take a look at Didot, Garamond, Bodoni, Hoefler Text, Palatino.

If you insist on a sans-serif make absolutely sure you use one that is well constructed. There are a lot of rubbish sans serif fonts out there. Guessing you might need æ, ø, å, pay particular attention to these characters. Excellent fonts of either type will actually have a slight variation on x-heights to compensate for a sense of heavyness. This example is Optima by Herman Zapf: notice the o going slllliiiightly lower, and part of the r slightly higher than its own stem. This is a sans serif with a softer feel; a hint of serif. It is one that actually works on longish texts. enter image description here

For headings, quotes and other font elements: either use the same font, or go to the opposite. Be very, very careful about "arty" fonts. As someone said; you do not need a font that looks like dogs, to make the content bark.

Fonts will largely also depend on what kind of feel the book should have. Contemporary? Historic-ish (and if so, from where?) Arty? Avant-garde-ish? I might be a little too font-geeky, but I found a book once, a story from London, set in an italian font some few hundred years later. I had to make an effort not to let that distract me :-D

Line spacing Again; this depends on the font and content. And of course if you have a limit on number of pages. If you decide on a font and a font weight first, you must experiment with line spacing. It is entirely dependent on the font you choose. And... also dependent on wether you use a right-ragged or not.

Sorry if this was overwhelming.

Edit: Quick-and-dirty suggestion.

enter image description here

  • While the links may help (I haven't followed them) I think your answer here might benefit from distilling the basic idea of what "5-7" is. Even if it is not "the" answer, it is still good information in some manner. If I google 5-7, I get bowling, and if I google 5-7 books, I get "goodnight moon"
    – horatio
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 15:40
  • Ah, my apologies. Late-night made 5-8 into 5-7 :-S This IS a pretty conservative book layout, but you could also say tried and tested over centuries. Give me a little time, I will edit some more info in.
    – benteh
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 16:17
  • Thank you so much, boblet! This is exactly the kind of information I'm looking for... :-)
    – Jens
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 22:27
  • Happy to help, Jens. Feel free to ask away, I will give you two pennies worth :-)
    – benteh
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 22:51
  • You may wish you hadn't offered :-P It sounds like the best way to approach that is to simply play around with different typefaces and pairings, vary margin sizes and line spacings. Tweak them, generate the PDF or a printed (double) page, and look at it. There doesn't seem to be a general how-to but just "dos" and "don'ts" directions. I guess that's the best way to approach this?
    – Jens
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 1:02

Aesthetically speaking: as much white space as you can afford; Rule number 1 is that more than 2 typefaces is not allowed; rule number 2 is that rule number 1 is made to be broken at will.

For "saddle stitch" books (folded, sewn/stapled), you want (need) to have multiples of 4 pages.

Squint a lot and make sure some/most of your blocks align or relate in some manner, especially across page spreads. This is the core for the "grid method" without reliance on an actual grid. Similar to typefaces: rule 1 is never deviate from the grid; rule 2 is deviate from the grid only when you know you are.

  • 2
    Rule 3: If you use Comic Sans, the Type Police will break down your door and arrest you. ;) Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 19:51
  • @horatio: "as much white space" as in wider margins and more line spacing?
    – Jens
    Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 22:14
  • 1
    @LaurenIpsum: as sad/funny as the comment is, the original DOC file I received was entirely set in Comic Sans.
    – Jens
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 19:53
  • GOOD LORD - that is --- words fail me...
    – benteh
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 12:48

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