Popular bookbinding techniques in a nutshell

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Are you struggling to decipher Japanese stab, Coptic, and perfect bookbinding techniques? Man, I can relate.

At first, it seemed as if all bookbinding styles were way too similar, making each method difficult to tell apart. In hindsight, I think part of the challenge was all of the scattered information on the subject. Also, no YouTube back then!

That said, I’ve created this frill-free guide, including bite-sized explanations as well as the pros and cons of popular bookbinding techniques every beginner should know of!

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Bookbinding techniques

Keep reading to learn about some of the most popular bookbinding techniques every bookbinder, beginners and up, needs to know about!

Looking for more beginner-friendly resources? Check out our guide to bookbinding for beginners and our other bookbinding guides and tutorials.

1. Saddle Stitch binding

Staple Stitch binding_bookbinding techniques
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Also known as staple binding, booklet binding, fold/staple binding.


  • Quick and cheap
  • Excellent for small booklets and magazines
  • Pages lay flat when open


  • Not suited for a large number of pages
  • Spines aren’t very durable
  • Lining up staples requires practice

Saddle stitch binding is a simple and cost-effective method that involves folding sheets of paper in half and stapling them along the folded edges.

This is a very beginner-friendly technique because it’s quick and easy and only requires a few materials, such as paper, a bone folder, and a stapler.

But while all about simplicity, this doesn’t mean you can’t mix things up by adding colorful paper, cardstock, ribbons, beads, and more. The main challenge of this technique is aligning staples evenly, so be sure to practice before taking on your final projects!

2. Perfect binding

Perfect binding_bookbinding techniques
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Also known as adhesive binding, soft cover binding, and paperback binding.


  • Ideal for medium-weight projects
  • Professional-looking finishes
  • Time-consuming but easy to do


  • Not as durable as hardcover binding
  • Pages may fall out over time
  • Not ideal for very thin or very thick books

Perfect binding uses glue to assemble pages and attach them to book spines. You can spot this technique on softcover paperback books, magazines, catalogs, and more.

In this case, binding requires bookbinding glue and, ideally, a bookbinding press to ensure glued pages dry in place. If you don’t have a bookbinding press, don’t worry; you can DIY alternatives, whether a stack of heavy books or even clothes pins!

Mastering perfect binding requires a steady hand for glue application, neat trimming, and aligning pages. And don’t forget: always use acid-free bookbinding glue to avoid icky yellow stains over time!

3. Case binding

Case binding_bookbinding techniques
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Also known as hardcover binding, cloth binding, edition binding, library binding, and case-bound binding.


  • Professional-looking outcomes
  • Ideal for thick books
  • Very customizable


  • Comprises of more elements and can get expensive
  • Unsuitable for thin booklets
  • Time-consuming

Case binding involves constructing a sturdy case or cover for a book, which is then attached to a book block. In other words, you know those beautiful hardcover books you ohh and ahh over? These are it.

Commonly used on photo albums, journals, art books, coffee table books, and more, case binding demands a more elaborate toolset and skillset. You’ll glue and sew when case binding, so accurate proportions and measurements are everything.

This is also a lengthier, more meticulous approach to bookbinding since it usually comprises more elements like decorative endpapers, book cloths, and headbands. Make sure you have a good collection of bookbinding tools and supplies before starting!

4. Smyth-sewn binding

Smyth sewn binding_bookbinding techniques
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Also known as section-sewn binding, thread-sewn binding, and sewn binding.


  • Durable finishes
  • Pages lay flat when open
  • Suitable for projects of all sizes and weights


  • Requires lots of steps
  • The sewing process may present a learning curve
  • Can’t edit once sections are bound

Smyth-sewn binding requires sewing folded signatures (groups of pages) with thread, which are then attached to book cover spines.

This is one of the most durable, versatile techniques and is ideal for all project sizes and weights. It is, however, one of the more intricate, time-consuming approaches to the craft, so you’ll need to build skill and precision as you learn.

Since bookbinding thread is at the heart of this technique, make sure you opt for quality materials, like waxed linen thread. Smyth-sewn binding is the perfect choice for books meant for frequent use since they easily endure tear and wear like a champ!

5. Japanese binding

1Japanese Stab binding_Bookbinding techniques
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Also known as stab binding and side-sewn binding.


  • Unique, decorative technique
  • Pages lay flat when open
  • Perfect for small volumes of pages


  • Not the most durable
  • Takes time to master
  • Not for thick books

If centuries-old techniques are your thing, you’ll love Japanese binding. This bookbinding style originates from Japan and features simple, decorative sewing patterns to create aesthetic and functional booklets.

One of the perks of this technique is that it allows for books to lay flat when open, making it perfect for journals and sketchbooks. These projects usually incorporate solid or patterned book cloth, high-quality paper, and thread.

While minimalistic in appearance, this stitching style comes in different designs and will require skill and repetition to master. However, there are simpler variations that beginners can take on with the help of a couple of tutorials!

6. Coptic binding

Coptic binding_bookbinding techniques
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Also known as chain stitch binding, Coptic stitch binding, and chain binding.


  • Age-old binding method
  • Pages lay flat when open
  • Best for projects with fewer pages


  • More complex
  • Less sturdy since there’s no spine
  • Not ideal for heavy books

Coptic binding is one of the oldest forms of bookbinding. It uses a series of interconnected stitches to bind pages together and is easily recognized for its exposed spine.

There are variations of Coptic binding (see below), from basic to more intricate stitch patterns. In addition, these books lay flat when open, making them perfect for journals, scrapbooks, and sketchbooks.

For this bookbinding style, you’ll be doing quite a bit of sewing, so I suggest starting with smaller projects before moving on to bulkier books. This type of binding may require occasional repairs, so have some bookbinding tape at hand!

7. French stitch binding

French link binding_bookbinding techniques
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Also known as French link stitch binding.


  • A more aesthetic approach to standard Coptic binding
  • Long-lasting
  • Lays flat when open


  • More advanced
  • Exposed spine may not suit all purposes
  • Usually requires repairing over time

French link binding falls under the Coptic binding category and involves lacing a ribbon or cord through a series of loops on the spine of a book. This translates into an elegant criss-cross-like pattern that adds visual appeal and texture.

Know that this is a slightly more advanced bookbinding style. Therefore, understanding the basics of Coptic binding first (featured above) is best before attempting it. Bookbinding kits are a great way to start learning!

This stitching style gives booklets a unique touch, making French link-bound booklets a fantastic creative gift.

8. Wire-o binding

Wire o binding_bookbinding techniques
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Also known as ring wire binding, spiral wire binding, wire comb binding, twin loop binding, double loop binding, wire binding, and double-o binding.


  • Pages lay flat when open
  • Best for medium-sized projects and up
  • Practical for everyday use


  • Cannot edit after binding
  • Not advised for tiny booklets
  • Requires binding machine

Wire-o binding uses metal wire threaded through holes to hold pages together and is one of the most popular bookbinding techniques. Yes, I’m talking about your typical spiral notebook!

From calendars and documents to school reports and music sheet booklets, wire-o binding allows projects to lay flat when open, making convenience and practicality one of its most significant advantages.

Unlike artisan techniques, this method requires a binding machine and crimping tool. It doesn’t use thread or glue, so remember, pages may tear easily. That said, go with other bookbinding techniques if your goal is to create booklets for sentimental value!

9. Comb binding

Comb binding_bookbinding techniques
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Also known as plastic comb binding, coil binding, and wire comb binding.


  • Easy to edit/remove/add pages
  • Cheap
  • Suitable for most project sizes/volumes


  • Pages can be ripped out easily
  • Requires a binding machine
  • Plastic spines tend to deteriorate over time

Comb binding involves punching rectangular holes along the edges of a stack of paper and inserting a plastic comb spine through the holes.

Much like wire-o binding, you’ll spot comb binding just about anywhere, whether at home or work, on manuals, reports, cookbooks, and others. This technique also requires using a binding machine and is best for functional vs. aesthetic purposes.

The upside? This is one of the cheapest forms of binding (given you have access to a binding machine!). Its biggest perk is that you can adjust the spine at any time to edit, add, and remove pages quickly and easily in just a matter of seconds.

10. Accordion binding

Accordian binding_bookbinding techniques
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Also known as concertina binding, folded page binding, zig-zag binding, and pleat binding.


  • Creative bookbinding technique
  • Great to display and showcase artwork
  • Requires minimal supplies


  • Requires organizing content beforehand to ensure everything lines up well
  • Not as durable vs. standard bookbinding techniques
  • Larger projects can be time-consuming

Accordion bookbinding entails folding paper in a zig-zag manner that resembles, well, an accordion! It’s a trendy bookbinding style commonly used for children’s books, journals, and even photo albums.

You can use simple paper or decorative cardstock for the pages as well as all kinds of fabrics, from soft cloth to leather, for covers. Be creative!

This is a more unusual take on bookbinding that requires shifting gears from more standard styles. Know that the challenge will be planning your layout well to ensure the correct page sequence and direction, which can be tricky at first!

That’s it for this illustrated guide to bookbinding techniques every beginner should know! Do you have a favorite? Let everyone know in the comments below!

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