PDF booklet printing

Booklet layout

I shared previously about how to create a small booklet using blank sheets and a simple binding technique. In this post I’ll discuss how to create a booklet from an existing PDF.

The easiest way to make a booklet is to take a sheet of paper and fold it in half. You now have a 4-page booklet. Each side of the sheet contains 2 pages.

Layout for a 4-page booklet printed on one sheet

If you add a second sheet, and fold both sheets together, you suddenly have an 8-page booklet.

Layout for an 8-page booklet printed on 2 sheets

The arrangement of pages becomes increasingly complex as more sheets, and therefore more pages, are added.

Layout for a 20-page booklet printed on 5 sheets

Prior to software that automatically calculates page layout, printers had to manually setup pages. Since each folded sheet can hold 4 pages, the total number of pages had to be calculated before any set up began.

Traditionally-bound books are comprised of multiple multi-page booklets. Each booklet is a “signature” and all of the signatures are sown together and reinforced with cloth materials and flexible glue.

Traditionally-bound book with 5 signatures (booklets)

Printing PDFs as booklets

Adobe Reader now makes it easy to print booklets from a PDF, but the ability to print a PDF as a booklet is only available from a computers running Windows and Mac operating software. It does not work on my iPad.

At the printer options screen, choose “Booklet.” If the total number of pages in the PDF is not divisible by 4, Adobe will add blank pages at the end of the booklet pages.

Print options screen – Choose “Booklet”

Things to consider

The page size of the PDF (typically 8.5 x 11 inches) will be halved when printed as a booklet (because two pages are printed on one side of the sheet). The booklet size will be 5.5 x 8.5 inches.

If you are printing a PDF someone else created, unfortunately you can’t change the font size. However, if you create the PDF, then you can use a larger font (16-18 pt) that will look too large when using standard printing (one page per sheet) but perfect for a printing as a booklet.

For folding and binding purposes, the maximum number of pages should be 32, which is 8 pages. I prefer a maximum of 24 pages (6 sheets) because I print on thicker paper. You’ll need to experiment.

If you have a longer PDF that you want to bind as a multi signature book, you can print smaller page ranges. For example, for a 120 page PDF, you could print 1-20, 21-40, 41-60, 61-80, 81-100, and 101-120. This is not necessary for shorter PDFs to be bound as a booklet.

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