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Creating Your Own Photo Book

30th June 2014 General Articles

Albums and folios are a perfect way to display your work. Although there are a lot of photo book publishing companies to choose from these days, that each offer a simple and easy to use interface…really none will provide the control, quality and satisfaction that printing your own will bring. By creating your own book directly, you can take the guess work out of getting it done by another party – you can be certain that the paper used is exactly what you want, the colours are as you envisioned, and the final pages are printed without error before getting the final book bound.

This guide will demonstrate how to make your own photo book using fine art materials.

Before starting, you’ll need access to the following things:

  • An inkjet printer and ink– we’d suggest any of the Epson Pro Series Printers. These are currently, when all is said and done, our favourite inkjet printers and use Ultrachrome HDR inks that are pigment based (thus archival), and offer a very wide colour gamut, and deep velvety blacks.
  • Fine art paper – our pick would be Hahnemühle’s 220gms Photo Rag Book and Album which is available in A4, A3+ and A2 in 25 sheet boxes. This paper had a defined grain direction which is perfect for making books (ask your binder for advice on this!).
  • Hahnemühle Protective Spray to seal the printed pages – this provides an extra layer of protection and prevents any ink transferring to other pages.
  • Image editing software – of course we use Adobe Photoshop for all of our image editing work
  • Layout software – our pick would be the industry-standard – Adobe’s InDesign, which offers almost limitless layout options.
  • A custom book binding service – binding your book is really all about personal preference (style & form etc) & also based very much on your location. We suggest you find a good local book binder and discuss the various options available with them.

The process:

Firstly you will need to create a page template to place your images onto and set your printable area guidelines. In Adobe InDesign open a new document and set the number of pages required, page size, and the margins and gutter.

NOTE: You must keep in mind the size of your paper and how many pages will be printed on it in a booklet form i.e. 1 A3 sheet will be 4 sides folded in half. You will then need to make sure you have a total amount of pages that can be divided by 4 (unless you leave some blank ones at the end). See below for some diagrams that help make this clear.

From here all you need to do is drag your images into the layout on the pages you want within the margins. Consider setting up handy guidelines to keep your pages looking consistent.

Once you’re happy with your book it's time to print. Go to the file menu and select ‘Print Booklet’. You will need to make sure all the correct printer settings for your paper type have been selected before printing, then choose the booklet type you are wanting to print it as.

NOTE: There are a few different ways to print a booklet depending on how many pages you have and the way your binder has requested. Again, see diagrams below, and also practice with mock ups on cheap plain paper to check you have this right before your print your final pages. InDesign takes care of most of this for you though.

  • 2-up perfect bound – this is where your pages are printed double sided in four page booklets ie 4-1 & 2-3, 8-5 & 6-7, 12-9 & 10-11, etc and bound together.
  • 2-up saddle stitch – this is where your pages are printed double sided as one booklet ie 12-1 & 2-11, 10-3 & 4-9, 8-5 & 6-7 and bound together.
  • 2-up saddle stitch in multiple booklets – this is used if you have a lot of pages. You can split the book into a few sections and print each as 2-up saddle stitch and bind together. You can select the page range in the print settings ie 1-12 first, then 13-24, etc until your entire book is printed.

After all pages have been printed spray them with Hahnemühle Protective Spray to protect the pages from dirt, fingerprints and moisture.

Once the pages have dried overnight, they are ready to take to your binder to have bound and finished.

One of our customers, Bernard Milford, created a beautiful photo book using Hahnemühle Book and Album. He had his book bound as a 2-up saddle stitch in 4 separate booklets as requested by his book binder, due to the weight of the paper. Overall he had 48 pages in his book – 12 sheets of A3 paper, with 2 pages on each side folded in half to create an A4 book. To go into detail, this is how the first booklet of pages were printed and bound together. Simply follow the same method for the other three.

1st booklet – 12-1 & 2-11, 10-3 & 4-9, 8-5 & 6-7

2nd booklet – 24-13 & 14-23, 22-15 & 16-21, 20-17 & 18-19

3rd booklet – 36-25 & 26-35, 34-27 & 28-33, 32-29 & 30-31

4th booklet – 48-37 & 38-47, 46-39 & 40-45, 44-41 & 42-43

His final outcome is this simply stunning book – and you simply can’t get the same quality and personalisation from the photo book publishers.

Of course each book is a project in and of of itself and you will need to do some experimenting along the way – but it’s very much worth it if you want to create a substantial folio/book project, which is really a perfect format for gifts, or to document your special projects.

If you make something beautiful, let us know and we can add e.g. your thoughts or some pictures and/or a link to your blog to this tutorial to show other folks what is possible!


Bernard just sent us some info on precisely how he printed his.

"I set up the book in InDesign in its natural order. Next, I exported a pdf of the book from InDesign as single sheets (not spreads) with the High Quality Print preset. When I opened this in Acrobat Pro, I went to the print dialogue and chose the booklet option, specifying that I wanted to print just the first 12 pages and to print front side only."

"I then went to the “advanced” window up the top of the print dialogue and chose the IS (naturally!) colour profile for the paper. This resets every time you open the print dialogue, so you have to remember to go back in and select the colour profile every time you print another side. I also checked the paper size and the printer settings in the tabs at the bottom each time I printed another set. Each sheet had to be fed into the printer through the rear feeder."

"Then I printed the first three sheets and after letting them breathe for a while I put them back in the printer in the same order they came out, rotated 180 degrees along the short axis. I went back into the print dialogue and told it to print the back side of these sheets (respecifying the profile). Viola, I had the first section."

"Naturally, the other sections followed on, printing pages 13 – 24, 25 – 36 and 37 – 48. Acrobat handles all the rearranging of pages."

Thanks Bernard!