Instant Book Art and Design FAQs

How do you fold an Instant Book?

Download our instructions for folding an Instant Book.

How do you get the pages to be upside-down when the book is unfolded? I want to do this too!

We use the Adobe Illustrator and InDesign software applications for the layout because they let you put pages into different orientations and control the text flow.

Options for making Instant Books without Illustrator or InDesign:

  • In a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or Open Office Writer, you can try using text boxes (Word, Pages) or text frames (Writer). In Pages, you’ll want to use a page layout document instead of a word processing document. We don’t recommend using tables because they give less control over the placement of elements. However, if you are set on using tables, you can make a 2 x 4 table and orient the text sideways so that the tops of the cells meet in the middle.
  • You can make small pages using a word processing program, print out the pages, and physically paste them onto a sheet of paper that you then fold into an Instant Book (or photocopy and then fold the copy).
  • You can use the Instant Book folding technique on a blank sheet of paper and add words and images by hand.
  • You can draw page guidelines on a sheet of paper, put it under a blank sheet, create your Instant Book by hand on the blank sheet, then scan your design and print it.

Why can’t the cover art bleed (have an image that goes all the way to the edges of the paper)?

Instant Books are designed to be printed on a typical desktop printer such as a laser printer. The printer leaves a white space on the edge where it grips the paper. We print actual size, using standard paper sizes such as letter or legal. To get a bleed effect on a regular printer, we’d have to print on oversized paper, and then trim off the unprinted white edge. That would make printing and folding the books a little less instant.

But, what if I really, really want an Instant Book with a cover image that bleeds?

Contact us about your project and we’ll figure out what that would entail. Some printer models  can print “borderless” images without a white edge on the paper. Usually they are used to print photographs. We might be interested in trying this technique. Our best guess is that if we print this way, part of the front cover images will extend onto the back cover and the adjacent page (page 2 if you count the front cover as page 1). This might look good in some cases.

Why do you print Instant Books on one side of the paper instead of both sides?

When an Instant Book is folded, you don’t see the second side. We normally print on only one side, but it is possible to have instant books that print on the second side. We’ve talked about printing some hidden images on the second side, or even a flyer that you don’t see until you unfold the book.

There are couple of design considerations to keep in mind if you want to print on the second side:

  • Making an Instant Book involves origami-style folds and tearing the paper. It’s important to understand where the tears are when you design the image for the second side. It would be frustrating to create a beautiful flyer only to realize that the tears that allow you to turn the pages of the Instant Book also happen rip right through key words on the flyer or a beautiful image.
  • When printing on two sides with a desktop printer, the alignment of the second side isn’t super precise. You probably won’t notice if you’re printing pages with margins around an inch or so like you’ll see for a memo or letter. In the Instant Book format, small variations in how the printer flips the paper and grabs the edge can show up in unexpected results. If you want an Instant Book to print on the second side, consider a forgiving design that will still look good if it shifts a bit, instead of planning more pages that need to align perfectly with the opposite side. Or maybe your project will turn out to be a different animal than an Instant Book. Maybe it will be a small book that gets printed, folded, stapled on the spine, and then trimmed.

Did you invent the Instant Book format?

Thinking Ink Press did not invent the folding technique. We don’t know who originally invented it. It has been used and passed around in the book arts community for many years.  Our Instant Book designer, Keiko O’Leary, has invented a method of making Instant Books with many more pages, but we haven’t published any books in these formats yet.