Where Pages Meet in the Middle

gutters alley page layout
Although often both referred to as gutters, the space between columns is really an alley. | Design & Layout | Alpha Index of Full Glossary:. # | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | XYZ

The inside margins closest to the spine of a book or the blank space between two facing pages of a newsletter or magazine is known as the gutter. The gutter space includes any extra space allowance needed to accommodate the binding of books, booklets and magazines. The amount of gutter needed differs depending on the binding method. The term "gutter"  is sometimes used to refer to the space between columns of text in a page layout, but that space is more accurately referred to as the alley.

When preparing digital files for publication, a designer may or may not need to adjust the gutter width. Check with the printing company that is handling the production for specifics. Because the adjustments for saddle-stitching are complicated—they vary on each signature of pages and are determined by the thickness of the paper—most print shops handle creep adjustments for their clients. However, the gutter adjustments for three-ring binder pages or side-stitched booklets is a single measurement applied to each left and right page. The print shop may want you to include that measurement in your digital files.

What Is Creep?

In saddled-stitched publications, sets of pages are nested one inside another before being stitched. Then the outside "lip" is trimmed to apply an even edge to the booklet. As a result, the outside margin must be larger and the gutter smaller on the centermost set of pages because it sticks out the most and is trimmed the most.

Without this adjustment, the image on the page appears to be off-center when compared with other pages in the booklet. This movement of the image on the page is referred to as creep, and each set of pages in the booklet with the exception of the first has a different amount of creep space added to its gutters.


Other Types of Gutter Adjustments

Most people are familiar with adding additional gutter between facing pages that are inserted into a three-ring binder to accommodate the holes that are drilled in the pages after printing. Booklets that are side-stitched or bound with combs, coil or wire also need additional gutter space. Check with your print shop to see if it requires a specific amount be included in your digital files.

Some types of binding require no adjustments to the gutters. Perfect binding, often seen in hardback books, requires no adjustment because the page signatures are assembled one on top of another instead of being nested. Neither does a four-page newsletter, which has gutters but no binding requirement.