Accordian Folds

Typically, accordian folds are simple zigzag folds with six panels and two parallel folds that go in opposite directions. Each panel of the accordian fold is exactly the same size, so no adjustments need to be made to a document layout to accommodate this fold, as you might need to do with other types of folds.

Also known as Z-folds, accordian folds are similar to the pleats on the musical instrument known as an accordion (note the different spelling).

Tri-fold brochures, business letters, invoices, and monthly statements commonly use an accordian fold. This fold allows an address at the top of a typical portrait-style letter or invoice to show through a window envelope, avoiding the need for address labels.

Sizing the Panels for an Accordian Fold

Person making an accordion-folded document
Lifewire / Maddy Price

Unlike folds where some panels have to be smaller to nest properly with each other, with an accordian fold, the panels are all the same size unless you are using one of the variations described below. This makes it much easier to set guides, margins, and gutters during page layout.

Variations and Other Six- and Eight-Panel Folds

Variations include half-accordian folds where one panel is half the size of the others and engineering folds where one panel is twice the size of the others. Eight and 10-panel accordian folds are also common.

Note that a six-panel fold may be described as a three-panel while an eight-panel may be described as being a four-panel layout. Six and eight refer to one side of the sheet of paper while three and four are counting one panel as being both sides of the sheet. Sometimes "page" is used to mean a panel.

These are other commonly used folds that often get confused for accordian folds:

  • C Folds or letter folds are a common six-panel spiral fold for brochures and newsletters.
  • Double Parallel Folds produce eight-panels.
  • Gatefolds have six panels, with the middle panel double the size of the others.
  • Double Gatefolds have eight panels of approximately even size with two ends folded in.
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Your Citation
Bear, Jacci Howard. "Accordian Folds." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, Bear, Jacci Howard. (2021, July 30). Accordian Folds. Retrieved from Bear, Jacci Howard. "Accordian Folds." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).