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What are page "Sections" in print?

Why are sections important? What is the most cost-effective page count for a magazine? How many pages should your book or catalogue have?

Did you know, page count considerably impacts the final cost of printed products? This is because commercial printers will print multiple pages on the one sheet of paper stock, front and back, then fold, trim and bind to create your final, finished product. Therefore, page count plays a big role in the cost of printing books, magazines and other bound products.

In this blog, we explore what print 'sections' are to help you understand how a bound project comes together and why the final page count is an important aspect to consider as early as the design stage.

For purpose of this blog, let’s assume that we’re working with an A4, stapled magazine.

What is a 'Section' in printing?

Since the finished magazine appears to be just a bunch of A3 landscape sheets folded in half and stapled along the spine to make an A4 booklet, you might think printing these individually as A4 sheets would be the cheapest way, but this isn't the case! Instead, commercial printers take four sets of double-sided A3's (8 x A4 fronts and 8 x A4 backs) and place them in a specific location and pagination on a much larger sheet. This is what we call a 16-page printing ‘section’.

At the start of the below video, you can clearly see one side of 8 x A4’s pages printed on one sheet of stock. The 8 different A4’s on the reverse side make a total of 16 x A4 pages on one single sheet of stock. Each 16-Page 'section' of this magazine is printed one at a time through our Heidelberg Offset Presses (and is a similar concept when printed through our Digital Presses).

Once Printed, this large single sheet is then folded in half three times, down to a slightly oversized A4. Take a look at the below video showing the 16-Page sheet and the breakdown of A4's which make up the folded 'section'.

After being printed, these large sheets of 16 x A4 'sections' are then fed from pallets into our Heidelberg A1 Folders, which are capable of making the 3 folds down to A4 size at an impressive 14,000 sheets per hour! Check out our newest Heidelberg A1 Folder in action in the video below:

Once the 'sections' have been folded down to A4 size, they are stacked as one 'section' per pallet. The pallets then head over to one of our in-house Collate Stitch & Trimmer machines.

The folded 'sections' are collated together, stapled down the centre, and trimmed top, bottom and fore-edge to make a finished A4 product. Below is a video of the Collate, Stitch & Trimmer finishing promotional brochures for Australian Fundraising.

So, what is the most economical page count?

Now that we know what a 'section' is, it’s easier to understand how printing in full 'sections' is more economical to print, fold and bind.

The best page count is a multiple of 16-page 'sections'. So 16, 32, 48 pages etc.

If 16-page 'sections' is simply not possible, the best option would be a configuration of 16-page 'sections' plus an 8-page 'section'. For an example a 40 page book = 2 x 16 page sections + 1 x 8 page section.

To make a magazine of more than 16-pages, multiple folded ‘sections’ are collated together, stapled down the centre, and trimmed to make a finished A4 product

Why is a 16-page magazine cheaper than a 12-page?

If you take the 16-page 'section' we refer to above and remove 4 of those pages, the printing sheet will look like the below image. By removing those blank pages the printing process becomes more costly, time-consuming and produces a lot more wastage. This is why a 12-page brochure is more expensive than a 16-page one. 

We photoshopped 2 pages out of the below image of a 'section' taken from the Silver Magazine to give an example of what happens when you drop from 16-page 'sections' down to 12-page. As you can see, this is not an efficient way to utilise space on a standard-sized sheet of paper stock.

Need more information?

This is certainly a lot to digest, particularly if you are new to designing for print. The friendly Printcraft team have a wealth of knowledge in the print industry, combining over 50 years, and are ready to help you maximise results while optimising cost-efficiency. Whether you need our full services, from design through to mail, logistics and delivery, or just part of the process, we will tailor a solution that's right for you. We would love to hear from you.

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