Creating a picture book for print requires understanding how the visual elements and text within the book are to be positioned on each page. This means using the correct margin settings and anticipating how much of the book will be trimmed during print production.
How to Format Books with Pictures
A sound understanding of page formatting of the book is essential if the elements on each page are to be positioned as intended once printed. The size of your book will also dictate the margin size, as a larger book will require wider margins and vice versa. A picture book with visual elements that extend into the margin area will need full colour bleed.
When a Book Needs no Bleed
Self-publishing a book on POD (or print on demand) means understanding trim sizes and how this impacts upon how the elements are positioned on each page of a book. Createspace, for instance provides a range of book sizes you may choose from. Similarly, you can upload a book template with preset margins if you do not wish to do this yourself. Generally, the larger the book size, the wider the margins will need to be. An 8”x5” book will have preset margins (0.33cm for the gutter and 1.9cm for the outer edges of the pages). A little of these outer margins will be ‘trimmed off’ when the book is produced for print. More often than not, these margins will contain nothing but white space, so it will not matter. In these cases, such as in novels, no bleed is needed for the book.
How to Design Picture Books with Bleed
However, if text or images falls within this margin space, such as illustrations or graphics for design effects; part of these elements will be lost during the trimming stage. In this case, you will need to add a little more to the page size of your book file to allow for this trimming. This will preserve these elements on the page. This is known as ‘full bleed.’
Tips on Formatting Books with Images
If your book is a children’s picture book or ‘how to’ book, for example, with graphics that enter the margin space (not the gutter, only the outer edges), you will need to select ‘full bleed.’
But before adding the bleed area to your book, you need to make sure the interior of your book looks perfect; get a good balance between text and image per page. Try out a dummy page and then click on ‘print preview’ to get an overall feel of how each page looks. Adjust settings as necessary. Only once each page looks good should you add the bleed area.
Do I Need Full Colour Bleed?
Once you are happy with the visual appearance of each page, add the extra dimensions to your page format for the bleed. This means adding 0.125” per outer edge of the page (not the gutter).
For example, if your book is going to be 7x10” in size, and it needs full bleed, the resultant page size for your book file (with bleed) is going to be 7.125”x10.25” (2x0.125” for top and bottom of your page and 0.125” for the outer edge). Don’t add any bleed to the inner gutter of your page, as this will not be trimmed anyway. The extra buffer will retain the page elements as intended once the book has been trimmed and produced.
Getting to grips with full colour bleed as opposed to no bleed gets a little getting used to, but needs to be fully understood if the visual elements in your book are to appear as they should when in print.
Bleed or No Bleed in Print Books
Novels and picture books that have nothing but blank space within the margin area (the outer 0.25” of the page) will need no bleed, for nothing will be lost when the book is trimmed. However, if the book has images or graphics that extend into the margin area for design purposes, the book will need ‘full bleed.’ This means adding a little more to the page size on the top, bottom and outer edge of the page to allow for this trimming. In this way, these elements will be retained once the book has been trimmed. As an extra precaution, order a proof copy once the book has been approved. Seeing the book in the flesh will often uncover issues that could remain unseen, even when examining the book preview function.
More Advice on Self Publishing Books
Beginner's guide to publishing on Createspace
Formatting novels for print on demand
Help with writer's block