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3 Mistakes You’re Making Trying to Design Crossovers for Printing

Graphic designers love crossovers in books and magazines. And who can blame them? Those photos, text, or other elements that cross from one page to another look amazing on your screen. In reality, they are problematic on printed pages. Careful consideration must be taken to properly set up these pages! Otherwise, the objects that cross the spine could appear to be misaligned or partially omitted.

Many printers recommend that you never design a crossover. But with careful planning, you can achieve a dramatic page spread with crossover elements. As always, keeping the entire print production process in mind from the beginning of your layout design is the key. To reach crossover success in your final product, you need to stop making these three mistakes.

1. Ignoring the Imposition Implications

Pages of magazines and books are printed in signatures, which means that they are imposed in different ways (upside down, back to back, etc.). This is so that when the large printed sheet is folded, pages two and three will be next to each other with page 2 on the left and page three on the right. In books and magazines, the page on the left is almost always printed in a different position than the page on the right. The exception is the center spread, which has two facing pages printed right next to each other.

Adobe InDesign has an option to view your pages as printer spreads. This can help design a center spread crossover because you can draw photo or text boxes across the pages that will print next to each other. You MUST discuss this option with your account manager before proceeding! Every press in the shop uses different layouts depending on the size of the press and the number of pages in the job. Our prepress department prepares the imposition with specialty software for each different press layout. If you don't work with your account manager (and thereby the rest of the shop), you could be making a costly mistake.


2. Not Considering the Binding Method

There are two main binding methods for books and magazines in a commercial print shop: saddle stitching and perfect binding. You need to know which way your job will be bound to design a good crossover. Why?

Remember our discussion on creep and chasing folds? The short version is that with saddle stitching, printed signatures are nested within each other. This slightly pushes out the inner signatures, causing the inner pages to be trimmed more than the outer pages. Because of this, crossover elements will be moved into the gutter when adjusting for creep, so the middle of the crossover will look strange.

Crossovers are even more problematic in perfect bound jobs because they don't lay flat. The binding makes it difficult to see what's close to the spine, and your crossover elements can disappear into that space.


3. Forgetting About the Digital Version

Ebooks and digital versions of magazines have become popular in the last decade. There are even vendors who will take your print PDFs and create "flipbooks" for viewing online. Crossovers are no issue here, right? Well, they are definitely fine for a flipbook type layout. But with more and more people accessing content on tablets and smartphones, you need to be sure your content is versatile.

Consider how your crossover will look if it is viewed page by page instead of as a spread. Design elements and photos might not look as strange, but text across two pages just won't work. Make sure you consider all uses of your project before you design it.


Crossover Design Best Practices

  • Always create your document the size of the finished piece. This should always be the case for any print jobs, but it's critical for designing crossovers.
  • Try to keep the main subject in images from crossing the spine. You don't want peoples’ faces and heads to be lost in the spine or misaligned.
  • Keep text letters away from the spine. Design the text so that the spine is between words.
  • Don’t use small type as a crossover unless it is in the center spread of the book.
  • Don't use diagonal lines or geometric patterns as crossover elements.
  • In a saddle stitched book, allow for 1/8" of overlap—a safe area, if you will—at the inner gutter.
  • In a perfect bound book, create an overlap of at least 3/8" for a crossover image. You can do this by shifting your image 3/8 to the outside of the page and overlapping the image in the gutter.
  • Don’t design crossovers without talking to the printer first!

Oct 13, 2021 |

Topics: Commercial Print, tips, Printing, Graphic design

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