CMYK RGB HEX PMS? Colour Spaces and Printmaking

This post briefly introduces the two colour modes CMYK and RGB before moving on to the Pantone Matching System. It will then touch on mixing colours in the printmaking and letterpress workshops at LCC. It is meant as a small guide to help you decide when to use which colour mode and how to go about mixing the perfect shade in a print workshop.

Graph showing additive colour mixing on the left: Overlapping circle of blue, red and green. The overlaps are cyan, magenta, yellow and white. On the right, subtractive colour mixing: three overlapping circles in cyan, magenta and yellow. The overlaps form green, red, blue and black.

RGB is an additive colour space. The overlap of its three primary colours, Red, Green and Blue, results in white. This is because the RGB model is based on three light rays which are projected onto a surface.

CMYK, on the other hand, is a subtractive colour space. The combination of its primary colours, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, results in ‘black’ – or rather, a dark, muddy brown. The K in CMYK stands for Key, referring to the key colour or plate.

On Screen

A monitor or TV screen generates three colors of light: red, green and blue. The different colors we see are due to different combinations and intensities of these three primary colors. This means that RGB is used for anything displayed on a screen, so if you are preparing images and colours for websites, they should be in this mode. It has the added benefit of reducing your file size, because it contains one colour channel less. We will take a quick look at channels a little bit further down.

When you import images from your phone, camera or a scanner, they will by default be set to RGB. Most printers, including your standard home printers, can interpret RGB data. They will convert and output it as CMYK, but this will usually lead to duller colours. In order to have control over your printed output, always convert your images and files before printing – ideally while before designing! You can check and change your colour space in Adobe Photoshop under Image > Mode.

Hexadecimals, which you may have come across in web design, are basically shorthand for RGB. A hexadecimal is made up of a hashtag and six character. The first two characters stand for red, the third and fourth for green, and the last two for blue. Values range from 0-9, followed by A-F. F is the most light, while 0 represents the least: so #ffffff equals white, and #000000 equals black. 

Adobe Photoshop Colour picker showing Web Colours and a hexadecimal value of 0000ff, which is intense 100% blue.
Adobe Photoshop Colour Picker for web colours, showing #0000FF

In Print

Digital printing and offset lithographic printing predominantly use CMYK for standard four-colour printing. Modern printers like for example the HP Indigo additionally use orange, violet and white.

All visible colours are made up of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The four colours are printed in detailed patterns of differently sized dots to create the illusion of all colours. When you look closely you can determine the dot sizes and angles at which they are printed.

In order to achieve a real, dark black, designers and printers usually specify a rich black. This is solid black overprinted with a combination of one or all other CMYK primary colours. This can also create hues of warm and cool black.

An image in two halves, the left half shows a print of a succulent plant from an old book. The right half shows an enlarged portion of the plant image, which makes the CMYK halftone pattern visible.
A picture and close up showing CMYK halftones.
Original image from ‘200 House Plants in Colour’, first published 1968 by Zomer & Keuning. Printed offset lithography.
Activating CMYK channels in Adobe Photoshop

The distribution, size and angles of these dots matter. A standard combination of angles is Yellow at 0° or 90°, Black at 45°, Magenta at 75° and Cyan at 15°. When two colors are less than 30º apart there is a risk of moiré. There are lots of resources on the internet about different dot types and screen angles, for example on The Print Guide.

CMYK is not exclusive to digital and lithographic printing – in fact CMYK colour separations, or approximations where they are replaced with slightly or wildly different colours, are common in screen printing, risograph printing and even photo etching. 

The angles you may need for CMYK screen printing or photo etching can depend on additional factors such as your screen mesh, as the wrong angles could lead to Sawtoothing:

Four rectangular boxes of dots. The boxes are angled in increasing increments of 10°. The box on the right shows and uneven edge.
The edge of the last box shows sawtoothing. Image from The Print Guide.

Below are two pieces of work by our own specialist screen print technician Lisa Chappell. Lisa works with four-colour printing across many processes.

Small landscape image with rounded corners. The images shows a four colour photo etching of dark grounds with a sunset.
In Between (2019), photo etching, Lisa Chappell
View of the sky with clouds and sunlight and the reflection of a car. The image is the shape of a side mirror.
Road Trip (2019), screen print, Lisa Chappell

RGB in Print?

There is research into recreating RGB imagery in printmaking, for example using Spectraval pearlescent pigments by Merck Group. These are suitable for screen, gravure and flexo printing. Red, blue and green are overprinted on black to create lighter shades where they overlap.

Pantone Matching System

The Pantone Matching System is a numbering system for colours in graphic design. This system is widely used to define solid colours, for what is also knows as spot printing. In this process, a single colour is formulated rather than mixed by overprinting CMYK. 

There are plenty of reasons why you might use Pantone colours:

  • For more colour accuracy when printing, especially across different jobs, or when different printers being used
  • To define specific brand colours that can always be accurately reproduced through spot colour printing
  • Pantone allows for bright and bold, saturated colours; even neons, pastels and metallics
  • You can colour match accurately across other Pantone Systems – for example for textiles

The Pantone Formula Guides, or fans, are an international go-to reference for colour specification and verification. Each colour swatch has a specific name and recipe, which tells you the base colours it is mixed from. This is what we use in the printmaking workshops to determine how to achieve that perfect shade.

a fanned out Pantone Swatch Book showing neon colours: Pantone 809c, 810C, 811C.
Close-up of the PANTONE Pastels and Neons Swatch book showing recipes.

If you work a lot in inDesign and prepare books for print, my main tip is to set up a Preflight profile that checks for allowed colour spaces and image resolution. That way, you can check the entire document in an instant. I have one set up for print, and one for digital publishing, where only RGB is allowed. You can choose to only allow spot colours for example, if you are defining only Pantones for a print job.

Screenshot from Indesign with the Preflight panel opened
Screenshot from Indesign with Preflight Profiles opened showing a profile called Print. It specifies Color Spaces and Modes Not Allowed: RGB and LAB

Mixing Pantone colours for printmaking

When mixing colours for printing, there are several things that will affect your mix:

  • The type of inks. Oil based and water based inks will require different recipes
  • The mixing medium. in screen printing for example, this will determine the opacity of your ink
  • The printing method. How thick is your layer of ink going to be?
  • The substrate. What you are printing onto? Is it absorbent, like uncoated paper or fabric? Is it glass? Is it light or dark?
  • The lighting in the room will affect how you view colour. Remember ‘the dress’ that went viral?
  • How new is your reference Pantone swatch? If it has been exposed to light and is old, its colour will not be accurate anymore.
A grid of colour swatch tests with their respective Pantone colours.

All of these factors mean that the recipe can only get you so far. To accurately mix your colour, always mix a small amount first until you have your formula right. That way you won’t waste a lot of ink and you will be able to keep your mix simple more easily.

Keep testing as you go along. The easiest way to do this is to have a small sample of your substrate ready. Dip your little finger into the ink you have mixed and then dab it onto the substrate. Keep dabbing your finger, so the ink layer thins out, as this will represent your final outcome more closely. 

Shelves underneath the galley proofing press in letterpress, showing tins of Saphira Pantone inks.
Pantone base inks in the letterpress workshop at LCC

The letterpress workshop at LCC uses the same inks as offset lithographic printing. Our range is called Saphira by Heidelberg, and the workshop stocks all the base colours you need for mixing any Pantone shade.

The Print Guide

Print Curiosities: No. 6 – Valley II by Todd Snap

Pokemon Snap graphic of a turquoise waterfall between rocks viewed from below under a purple sky.
Valley II, 280 x 214 mm, 4-colour Risograph print, 2019

Some may recognise this image from the cult Nintendo game Pokémon Snap. It is one of a set of three risograph prints I bought from publisher Bronze Age in London last year. 

The prints are part of a 4-piece edition accompanying the artist publication Acts of Natural Magik by Todd Snap. According to Bronze Age’s description of the publication, in Acts of Natural Magik ‘The world renowned Pokégrapher turns away from the craft that shaped his career, instead creating a portrait of Pokémon Island; an island of intrinsic and fragile beauty.’ 

Low-resolution graphic of a person with a camera and red hair, crouching on the ground taking a photograph off screen
Todd Snap in action

The images document the island’s varied landscapes and infrastructure, void of its Pokémon inhabitants. Instead, it is full of dramatic, low-resolution pixelated scenery and sunsets. 

Printed on a Risograph MZ 770, the early-age digital colour palette is perfectly reproduced by overprinting just four colours. 

Blue Pokemon Snap graphic of the view from inside a cave up towards an opening with a waterfall.
Cave III, 280 x 214 mm, 4-colour Risograph print, 2019

The Risograph is a digital stencil duplicator. Each colour is printed separately, either from a greyscale digital file or a direct scan. It automatically converts images to half-tones, which results in a naturally grainy print. Sparser dots result in different levels of opacity. The transparency of the soy- and rice bran-based inks make it ideal for overprinting to create different colours.

The stencils are thin and flimsy, and the printing is fast. Both of these factors cause slight differences in registration, resulting in prints with small variations. In Acts of Natural Magik, this appearance brings to mind glitching in computer and console games. The grain of the print echoes the sharp pixel edges of low-resolution artwork, and the bright, mock CMYK colour separation emphasises the 8-bit colour palette of the original image.

Pokemon Snap graphic of bright red lava and a volcano under a yellow sky
Volcano III, 280 x 214 mm, 4-colour Risograph print, 2019
Loupe on top of a risograph print, showing dot distribution.
Volcano III through a loupe

The publication and print editions were printed by Pagemasters. They are a small print studio based in New Cross in London and offer an affordable and high-quality Risograph printing service using only recycled or FSC-certified uncoated papers.

Technicians Rahel Zoller and Daniel Fletcher collaborated with Pagemasters during a remote risograph colour separation and book binding workshop for LCC students.

Publication cover in two tones of dark blue with the text Acts of Natural Magik and Todd Snap in gold
Acts of Natural Magik by Todd Snap. Published by Bronze Age.
Spread of a publication showing Pokemon Snap graphic of a gravel road stretching towards an orange horizon
Acts of Natural Magik by Todd Snap. Published by Bronze Age
Spread with two Pokemon Snap images of gates on a river
Acts of Natural Magik by Todd Snap. Published by Bronze Age

Acts of Natural Magik is currently available in its third edition from Bronze Age – Undercurrents in international publishing. On their website you will find a wealth of affordable artist publications. Bronze Age was founded in 2011 in London and shares its founder Justin and studio space with Pagemasters.

Images of publication cover and full-bleed prints courtesy of Bronze Age.

Inside The Technician’s Toolbox – Part 4: Kath Van Uytrecht

Specialist Printmaking Technician Kath Van Uytrecht shares the contents of one of her toolboxes with us. Kath is a toolbox super fan and has at least three different toolboxes. One might say this is over the top, but Kath claims that collecting and using tools gives the same enjoyment and satisfaction as it does collecting stationery.

Kath’s printmaking toolbox is small standard Stanley Hardware Toolbox, and contains most of the tools she would need in the printmaking area. It has two small compartments on the lid and and a low tray that sits in the inside compartment.

The Contents of Kath's toolbox show
Kath’s open toolbox showing its contents

Kath’s toolbox has two top compartments. The left compartment contains various erasers and a loupe. The erasers are for ‘print aftercare’- cleaning up dirty boarders and marks. Kath uses the loupe to see how deep an aquatint is etching. The right compartment contains two squeegees for inking up plates. Kath uses the cream squeegees for inking up plates with pale coloured or transparent ink so that the rubber of the squeegee doesn’t affect the colour.

The main compartment holds clean sponges and brushes for printing lithographs as well as for dampening paper when there isn’t a paper sink. Clean sponges can also be used for cleaning up borders and paper after they have dried. The compartment also contains different sized flat ended palette knives for mixing inks. There are a range of permanent markers for making registration sheets and a compass for drawing circles. Additionally, there is a roll of masking tape and some very fine steel wool for polishing metal plates.

The removable tray holds a range of etching tools including various needles, burnishers and roulettes. All Kath’s cutting tools are housed here as well as a steel ruler, a pencil and a chinagraph marker.

Kath’s toolbox has been built up over many, many years and contains many specialist and some expensive tools. As much as she enjoys these tools, she stresses that the most important tools are high quality basic ones. Because we use these tools often, they affect your work flow as well as your enjoyment of working. A sharp pencil, steel ruler, fine marker pen, sharp cutting knife or good quality masking tape are all basic tools that can make a big difference when working.

We asked Kath:

What is the one must-have basic essential (most used) tool in your toolbox?

A clean, sharp pair of scissors.

Kath's sharps collection: Scissors, cutting knife, scalpel, paint scraper, and compass cutter. There are also spare blades for each cutting tool.
Kath’s sharps collection: Scissors, cutting knife, scalpel, paint scraper, and compass cutter. There are also spare blades for each cutting tool.

What is your favourite tool?

A paint scraper for cleaning up ink slabs after printing.

It hugely reduces the amount of chemicals needed to clean as well as the clean up time. It’s the best!

Kath's favourite tool is a Stanley brand paint scraper with replacement blades
Kath’s favourite tool a Stanley brand paint scraper with replacement blades

What is the weirdest/quirkiest/most specialist tool you have?

Agate burnisher for burnishing creases out of paper.

Kath's etching and printing tools which include from left to right: a bone folder, agate burnisher, steel scraper and burnisher, two roulettes with different sized dot patterns, square tipped etching needle, sharp pointed etching needle, rounded point etching needle and a pair of jeweller's tweezers.
Kath’s etching and printing tools which include from left to right: a bone folder, agate burnisher, steel scraper and burnisher, two roulettes with different sized dot patterns, square tipped etching needle, sharp pointed etching needle, rounded point etching needle and a pair of jeweller’s tweezers.

Print Curiosities: No.5- William Crozier

Written by Specialist Printmaking Technician, Kath Van Uytrecht

Abstracted garden scene in bright orange, pink, yellow, green and blue.
William Crozier, ‘Garden’, Carborundum.

‘Garden’ is a limited edition print that was commissioned to accompany a special book publication about the work of William Crozier (1930-2011). William Crozier was an Irish Scottish artist that studied at The Glasgow School of Art. His work is often associated with bright colourful landscapes. In 2019, Flower’s Gallery had a retrospective of his printed works. The gallery also has a selection of paintings that you can view on their website.

The book titled ‘William Crozier’ details the artist’s work from the past fifty years of his life. It was designed to offer ‘substantial critical attention to an artist well known within the UK and Irish art worlds, and gives new insights into the still under-written history of figurative painting in Britain.’

The book contains critical texts and many colour reproductions of his work. The hardcover book is housed in a bright yellow slip case and additionally contains the limited edition print.

Book with garden print and yellow slip case.
‘William Crozier’ by Crouan, Kennedy and Vann, 2007. With limited edition print ‘Garden’ and yellow slip case

‘Garden’ is a small multiple plate print made with carborundum. Carborundum is a technique where grit is added and mixed into PVA glue. The paste is then painted directly onto the printing plate creating textured painterly marks. These marks emboss into the paper when printed. The grit is porous and can hold a lot of ink. The result is a textured print with intense colour.

‘Garden’ was made and printed at Graphic Studio Dublin with Master Printmaker Robert Russell. There were only one hundred and twenty five prints made in this edition. I love this print for the intensity, depth of colour and the amount of textured detail that is contained in such a small print. It also reminds me of my time working at Graphic Studio Dublin. Meeting the artists who collaborated with the studio was a highlight. I will always remember William Crozier for his kind and gentle manner.

I’ve done some awful prints and had worse ideas.

Now and then whilst sleeping, I get some really fantastic ideas for making images that no one has ever seen or done before, printed in a new way that will wow the creative world. For me it’s about the process, the journey, how you get there, the idea and not so much how it will look. How convenient of me.

Why go and buy something that’s pre-made when you can create your own unique version? Take AirFix Models for example: they never fit together as you see them on the box. The transfers were crap and would never stick to the model. My Spitfire looked decrepit. Like it had been in a dog fight (Labrador) before taking off.

It was about the thrill of making something from scratch, developing something new that you hoped would turn out amazing, even better than the picture on the box!
I’m sure all this has something to do with growing up in the 1970s.

For some reason those amazing, drowsy ideas involved overprinting my apparently amazing designs. When I say ‘overprinting’, I mean ‘blocking out’ the design underneath with a solid colour. So that no one on earth can see it!

At the moment I’m working from home and don’t have access to my extensive back catalog, but luckily here’s a couple of examples of where my tiredness took me. The first print is a Xmas Card. A total success of repurposing old prints from teaching+dreams idea.

My closest work mates, friends and family all said that they really loved it, whilst I watched them tear the envelopes open!

A Screenprinted Xmas Card.
Black over existing print. 2021 Xmas Joy!

Excuse the lockdown photography skills.
The next and last example of overlaying solid colour was done with White. At a push it’s a 5% White, multi printed to give a layered look, almost like 3D construction. Again it’s about the journey and so the 20+ colours are all paper stencils amongst other things.

A Screenprint showing examples of transparent layered white colour.
Transparent White over printing. Paper stencil Screenprint.

All jokes aside, printing flat areas of colour can be a great way of blocking out parts of your print you’re not happy whilst creating new bits that you are!

Enjoy your journey!

Featured Graduate: Julia Blom

Julia Blom picking up a can of ink from a shelf.
Julia from Blomworks

1. Tell us about yourself. Have you always been interested in art and design?

Growing up in the Netherlands, design and creativity was always around me. In my family there are landscape architects, photographers and writers, and that was reflected in for example the furniture, books and art in everyone’s home. And of course it was everywhere in the culture too, in the stamps, bank notes, posters for exhibitions. It’s all part of my Dutch heritage which I didn’t actually realise until I studied Design for Visual Communication at LCC. It definitely influences my minimal designs and love for typography. 

Going to LCC was a career change for me, I found myself stuck in a job and wanted to get away from the computer. I loved using the fantastic facilities at LCC and went to lots of bookbinding, box making and print workshops. For every assignment I would want to make something.

Framed letterpress print. Two large characters printed in orange and blue. Hanging on a wall above a coffee table and radio.
Orange and Blue, Blomworks

2.  How did you get started in letterpress?

It started when we studied designs that were made before the computer was invented. I would look at these beautiful typographic examples and think: how on earth was this made? I really enjoyed learning about this as well as kerning, composition, type setting. A lot of things come together for me in letterpress: my love for typography, the nuances of language, and the logistics and mathematical element which meant I could apply my skills from previous jobs.

When you find what it is you love doing, I think you have no other choice then to continue with it in some way. After I graduated, I started volunteering at the London Centre for Book Arts and the Type Archive. A little while later, I created a website and started selling my work.

3.  Where do you find inspiration?

In letterforms and in language. This can be from conversations or those snippets of a chat you hear. Yesterday I walked past two neighbours and all I heard from their conversation was that one said to the other: ‘and you know if they say anything silly…’ and the other replied: ‘yes, then I just let it go’. I love those little moments. Then I think: maybe I can use that in a print. 

My work is about confidence, love and breakup, and mental wellbeing. They are of words you continuously want to be reminded of.

Letterpress print reading 'whoever is dating you is very lucky', on a silver tray with wine glasses and nuts.
Dating You, Blomworks

4.  What does your current work setup look like?

At home I have a proofing press that I use for smaller work and commissions. I print larger work at the London Centre for Book Arts where they have two Vandercooks and a Stephenson Blake. I also have a day job which I enjoy, I use different skills there and have lovely colleagues.

5. Looking back on your time at LCC, what advice would you give to yourself, if you could travel back in time?

Experiment more! I often had thought out a design in my head and have it planned before I started making. Sometimes, it’s good to try something out and see where it takes you. 

6.  Where can we see more of your work?

Have a look at my website or instagram. The exhibitions I had booked have been postponed. My folded print We stumble into being will soon be sold at the Whitegrid gallery in Berlin. 

If you have any questions, get in touch via Julia’s email

Framed letterpress print. The print is folded intricately and hangs in a square black frame. Viewed at an angle.
We Stumble Into Being, Blomworks

Inside the Technician’s Toolbox – Part 3: Izzy Smithson

Overview of Izzy's Toolbox. A pot of paintbrushes. A pot of pencils. 2 pencil cases with various pens. A watercolour pallet. A packet of oil pastels. A metal ruler, scalpel and loose pencils. PVA in a bottle. Photographs, coloured paper scraps in a pile.
Izzy’s tool kit

Printmaking Support Technican Izzy Smithson shares her sketching and bookbinding toolbox with us.

Izzy has adapted this toolbox as a travel case as she no longer has access to her permanent studio. This therefore creates a focus on the core items that are the buildings blocks of her practice. She can move this toolbox between work and home, creating work wherever the circumstances take her.

We asked Izzy:

What is the one must-have basic essential (most used) tool in your toolbox?

Swann-Morton Scalpel, Muji Gel Ink Ballpoint Pen, Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil.

I use these in every drawing, sketch and collage I do, which then transforms into other processes.

A scalpel, muji gel ink pen and drawing pencil on a blue background.
Swann-Morton Scalpel, Muji Gel Ink Ballpoint Pen, Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil.

What is your favourite tool?

Pencils! My favourite pencils at the moment: Muji Blue Pencil, Polycolor Koh-I-Noor Red & Purple, Faber-Castell Polychromos Dark Indigo, Black Chinagraph Marker, Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil.

a mixture of coloured pencils, with a chinagraph marker and drawing pencil.
Muji Blue Pencil, Polycolor Koh-I-Noor Red & Purple, Faber-Castell Polychromos Dark Indigo, Black Chinagraph Marker, Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil.

What is the weirdest/quirkiest/most specialist tool you have?

My Brother printer (A3 printer, scanner…. Best purchase post-graduation) and my collection of images that I keep, chop up, use as a reference and go back to for collage.

Print Curiosities: No.4 – Chisato Tamabayashi

Print Curiosties: No.4 is selected and written by Specialist Printmaking Technician, Kath Van Uytrecht

There should always be one work of art in your collection that simply invokes a feeling of joy. Pop-up book ‘Airborne’ by Chisato Tamabayashi, instantly puts a smile on my face. The book consists of six full page pop-ups, illustrating the journey of a hot air balloon. The simple narrative, bright colours, pop-up surprises and interactive sliding tabs, remind me of some of my favourite childhood picture books.

Open page of a book depicting a large group of hot air balloons, of different sizes, colour and pattern. Some of the hot air balloons are pop-up and appear to float as the stick up from the page.
Final Pop-Up Page from ‘Airborne’ by Chisato Tamabayashi. Artist’s Book.

Chisato is a paper and book artist that studied Graphic Design at London College of Printing. She also holds an MA in Communication Art and Design at the Royal College of Art.

Like children’s picture books, Chisato’s artworks do not contain text. In an interview in Voice (2015) she explains: ‘I believe that visual language is universal, so hopefully the narrative I’m suggesting in my work can communicate through the imagery alone or take people along on their own imaginative journeys.’

Chisato illustrates and prints every part of her books. ‘Airborne’ provides the sense of awe and satisfaction that comes from something well designed and constructed. For ‘Airborne’, Chisato screen prints all the pages and separate parts for each pop-up piece. She then carefully cuts out each element. Once this process is completed, she constructs the pages together and hand binds them into a book. Painstaking care and patience is needed in every step of the process. It is this care that translates into a delightful tactile experience by the reader.

It is important to Chisato that the reader experiences this tactility. ‘I think tactility is very important and maybe that’s why I choose a book format. To enjoy an artist book, you have to touch the book, go through it at your own pace, feel the paper, listen to the noises (sometimes my pop-up pieces make noise!) and enjoy the images.’

Read the full interview with Chisato in Voice, an online art and illustration magazine.

Follow Chisato on Instagram to see her latest work, or view her portfolio on her website.

How to prepare a print ready artwork for printed pages

Understanding how to set up a document on Indesign can be confusing the first few times you try, but it is the best program to use to design and format the content for your books. Here is a guide on how to prepare your print-ready artwork.

How to set up your document?

Open InDesign and select file/New Document. Here is an example of an A4 Portrait book with 48 pages. (48 is the minimum number of pages needed for a multi-section binding)

Screenshot of the InDesign file set up showing the correct set up for an A4 document with 3mm bleed and 15mm margins
  • Choose your page size and the orientation. (Here we are doing A4. The size is 210x297mm)
  • Set up the margins all around with a minimum of 10mm on top, bottom and outer edge. I suggest using 15mm all around as a safe start.
  • Check carefully if your binding will require a larger margin. For example – Japanese binding will require a larger margin so that you have space to sew. Very thick books might also require a larger margin as you get towards the centre pages.
  • Set a minimum of 3mm bleed all around the pages.

How shall I set up my pages?

Your first page inside the book will always be on the right hand-side.
Below you can see the order of your pages. Please start your layout with the 1st page of the content. If you want to print your cover you will need to make a separate document and print as separate files. 
You will also need to include any blank pages where needed. You will not be able to ‘add in’ any blank pages during the binding process, unless you are perfect binding or single sheet sewing.

Screenshot of InDesign showing first three pages of a document
Screenshot of InDesign showing first three pages of a document

Why did we set up margins?

The binding edge (where the pages will be bound together) on your pages will alternate from left to right to left to right.

Screenshot of InDesign demonstrating the binding edge
Document demonstrating the binding edge

As mentioned above, in Japanese binding, we pierce the holes along the spine (binding edge). These holes can be up to 10mm into the page. It is very important that you leave enough margin on the binding edge inside of your pages so your content isn’t cut-off, or sewn into the spine. I would recommend a minimum of 20mm.

All the document settings can be changed at any point, and can be set to affect the whole document, or a particular page

Screenshot of InDesign showing incorrect use of margin
The text will get trimmed on the edges

The above right-hand side page has no margins. The text will get trimmed off on the edges.

Screenshot of InDesign showing correct use of margins, with 20mm on the binding edge and 15mm on all other edges
This page has 20mm margins on the binding edge and 15mm margins at the top, bottom and outside.

This page has 20mm margins on the binding edge.
It also has 15mm margins at the top, bottom and outside.

As mentioned before, the size of margin on the binding edge can change depending on the thickness of your book (the amount of pages). Especially with Japanese binding, the thicker the book, the larger the margin needs to be.

If you are concerned, you can always email us at and we can look over your document, or give you some advice.

Why do we need bleed on the document?

To print a full bleed image, the printer will print on a larger sheet and trim it down.
If you want an image to be full bleed, you need to allow space for the image to “overflow” off the page.

You should always include bleed on your document, as it is needed for document imposition. We recommend to leave 3mm bleed all around the pages.

Screenshot of InDesign showing incorrect use of bleed
document set up with no image in the bleed

This page has a full-page size image on it but has not been extended to the bleed. When trimming, some white borders could appear on the edges.
These edges happen because the sheet can shift slightly inside the machine during the printing process. 

Screenshot of InDesign showing correct use of bleed, with image extended to outer limit
Document set up with image extended into 3mm bleed all around.

This page has 3mm bleed all around. The bleed is shown by the outermost line around the document. You will need to extend your images up to, or beyond, this line if you want to have them printed full bleed. In Indesign the black line all around the page shows where we will trim, and will be printed as crop marks.

Screenshot of InDesign showing both correct and incorrect use of bleed

Here is a close up of the two documents set up.

The top page has not been extended to the bleed.

The bottom has been fully extended to the 3mm bleed.

Now you are ready to export your PDF.

Make sure you export as a High quality print PDF, and remove the crop marks. Use the document bleed settings (this should have been set at 3mm).

InDesign export set up

At LCC we don’t include the crop marks so we can work out the pagination. This can change for different print companies and printing techniques, so double check with your printer to see how they prefer to work.

Now you are ready to bind!

You can find tutorials on the Book Arts-Learning resources page of this website, and on on our Moodle page, where you can also book an online 1:1 with a technician. Alternatively, you can email us at

You can also attend a workshop on File prep for book binding, with Esmeralda in the Digital Space.
This workshop goes into preparing files in more depth and can be booked here :
You can also ask any questions, or organise a 1:1 with Esmeralda at

For Printing enquiries, you can email Claire in Reprographics at

This post was made with the help of Folio Atelier, a bespoke bindery based in Margate.

Featured Graduate: Neelam Bhullar

The Monarch Butterfly, photo-etching. Circular image filled with Monarch butterflies in a monotone copper colour
The Monarch Butterfly. Photo etching.

1.Tell us about yourself. Have you always made art?

Like many artist’s creativity has always been a part of me from a young age. My mum would always get me craft kits, glitter and colourful pens which all contributed to my creativity and helped me to grow as an artist.

2. How did you get started in printmaking?

I wanted to learn about printmaking which I noticed I hadn’t done much of throughout the first two years on the degree, at the beginning of my third year I spoke with the technicians about learning some of these techniques. The intaglio process was what I was most drawn to having produced a few plates, eventually I fell in love with the process and found myself making as many plates as I could in the remainder of time I had left on the course. I feel like learning all these techniques has helped me to develop my art in new and exciting ways.

3. Who are your biggest influences?

I find many artists influential, some of my favourites would have to be Yayoi Kusama, Edvard Munch, Hieronymus Bosch, Andy Warhol, and Gilbert & George.

4. Where do you make work now that you’ve graduated? What does your current work setup look like?

In the near future I’m looking to produce work at open access print studio’s as a starting point, I have many ideas constantly flowing through my mind which I wish to see through and continue to learn more about printmaking in the process. My current work setup consist of a small work space which serves me well for all my research and initial stages of my image making, my desk is usually a mess when I’m image making which I quite like as I feel it helps me to put a range of ideas together, sometimes they happen by accident.

Illness and Identity. Photo-lithograph. Mono-tone circular image with collaged figures and abstract shapes and textures.
Illness and Identity. Photo lithograph.

5. Looking back on your time at LCC, what advice would you give to yourself, if you could travel back in time?

My only regret was not getting into the print workshops earlier. During my time in the workshops this year I have seen a pathway to producing work which I would have never imagined. Having learnt so much in such a short space of time due to the help of the technicians, I will continue to apply everything that I have learnt to my work in order to strengthen my practice. I have developed a passion and fascination for print and the techniques it has to offer which has become an essential part of my practice.

6. Where can we see more of your work?

Instagram: @nbhullar19

Photopolymer print in made during Return to Make. The image is in a sepia tone and depicts collaged nude figures amongst snow drops and other flora.
Photopolymer Print made during Return to Make