Binding Post Portfolio Tutorial
Good-sized and nice-looking portfolios tend to be very expensive so when I had to produce one for my last semester in art school, I decided to make my own from scratch.
The advantages of creating your own portfolio from scratch are that you can control the size of your pages and your covers; you can determine the orientation you want your pages to be and the Binding posts will allow you to add or remove pages easily as your portfolio changes over time.
Also, making your own portfolio could show possible clients that you have an eye for detail and care very much about your work and the way it’s presented.
I originally wrote this tutorial based on the portfolio I made for my school work a few years ago. However, you can follow this tutorial to make a customized book of any kind. You could use it as a photo album, notebook or a sketchbook—which is what I will be making for this tutorial.
Please note this tutorial is based on a few different online sources:
Step 1. Pre-plan your portfolio measurements
Start by writing down the following measurements.
You’ll need to do this before you go shopping for materials so you know exactly how much fabric and book board you will need.
First, note your paper size—whether you use a standard paper size or a custom one is up to you. Please see my written tutorial to learn how I used a custom paper size for my school portfolio.
For this book, I decided to use 9 x 12 in Bristol paper.
Now, determine what your printable area will be by subtracting 1.75 in from the width or your paper. In my case, my printable area is 9 x 10.25 in.
The printable area is very important as this is the area that will be visible to someone looking through your book. The 1.75 in space on the side is where you will be punching the holes for binding and it will not be visible once you assemble your book.
Now you need to determine the size of your spine and front and back covers.
Make your covers 1/2 in. taller and 1/2 in. wider than your printable area
Your spines should be the same height as your cover and 2 in. wide.
My covers are 9.5 x 10.75 in.
My spines are 9.5 x 2 in
The full covers, including a ¼ in gutter between the cover and the spine are 9.5 x 13 in
For the cover fabric, add a 1 in margin around your full cover. That’s adding 2 in to the length and 2 in to the width of your full cover.
For the inside fabric, subtract a ½ in margin around your full cover, that’s subtracting 1 in from the height and 1 in from the width of your full cover.
My cover fabric is 11.5 x 15 in
My inside fabric is 9 x 12.5 in
Remember that you will need enough book board and fabric to make two spines and two covers, one full cover for the front and one full cover for the back.
Materials and Tools
1. Book board at least 2mm thick (I used a very thick artboard from Canson I found at Michaels)
2. 2-3 Binding Posts (2 is enough for a horizontal book. Three might be better for vertical)
3. Bookcloth (If you use a cotton print fabric you will also need heat n bond, tissue paper, and a flat iron to turn it into bookcloth)
4. Bone folder
5. Tacky glue
6. Screw punch
7. Metal Ruler
8. Utility blade (you can use an x-acto knife but it’ll take longer to cut through the board)
11. Cutting mat
13. Container for glue
14. Binder clips
15. A few heavy books
16. Paper for inside pages (I’m using Bristol paper)
Step 2. Cut your book board
Start by measuring out your covers and spines on the book board. Mark them with a pencil and use a cutting mat, a metal ruler and a utility blade to cut out your spines and covers. Go slow and be careful. You want your covers to be cleanly cut and the exact same size. You can sand or file down the edges if they’re a bit rough from the blade.
Step 3. Make a hole punch template
Take a scrap sheet of paper the size of your inside paper and measure 1.75 in. from the left side and mark it with a pencil. This is the area where you will be punching holes for the spine. You can place the holes wherever you want but I chose to centered mine 0.9 in. from either side and 2 in. from the top and bottom.
Now use a screw punch to make the holes on the places you’ve marked and use the female part of the binding post to stretch the holes to the right width.
(I don’t recommend using a regular hole puncher, unless you find a binding post whose diameter is equal to or greater than the hole puncher’s diameter. You want your screw posts to fit snugly through the holes so your paper sheets and covers line up perfectly and stay in place).
Step 4. Punch holes into your spines
Line up one of your spines with its corresponding book board on top of your cutting mat. Allow at least a 1/4 in. gap between them. Place your template sheet centered on top of these and line up the 1.75 in. mark you made on your template with the left edge of your cover. Use your pencil to mark where the holes will be on your spine and use your screw punch to punch the holes out. You may need to press your screw punch down and scratch out a couple layers at a time, like I did.
Use the hollow part of the binding post to stretch out the holes to the right width.
Now you can use the first spine you hole punched as a template for the other spine. Stack the two together and use your binder clips to hold them in pace while you screw punch the second spine.
Step 5. Prep, measure and cut your bookcloth
If you’re starting with cotton print fabric the way I am, first you’ll need to prep the fabric to be used as bookcloth. Some fabrics, like vinyl, already come with a backing so you can skip this step if that’s the case for you.
Make sure you wash and iron your cotton fabric beforehand to get rid of any wrinkles.
Then, start by marking your cover and inside fabric measurements onto the back of your fabric. Follow the instructions on the heat n bond packaging to transfer the glue onto the fabric. Next, cut out tissue paper the same size as your cover and inside fabric and iron it onto the back of the fabric—the heat from the iron will melt the heat n bond glue and the tissue paper will be permanently stuck to your fabric. Now you can carefully cut your bookcloth to use for your portfolio.
Lay your spines and their corresponding book boards next to each other on the back of your bookcloth. Allow a 1 in. margin around these with a 1/4 in. gutter between the spine and cover. Make sure you outline the entire spine and cover so you know exactly where they need to be glued own.
Step 6. Glue book boards to bookcloth
Pour a good amount of glue into a plastic or disposable container and mix it with a bit of water. This will make the glue much easier to spread.
Remember to do your covers one at a time to avoid any mistakes. Have a wet paper towel handy in case you do get glue on something important.
Use your brush to apply an even coat of glue to your bookcloth and carefully place the spine down into its marked area. Apply glue to the cover area in the same way and place the book board down in its marked area. Quickly flip it over and use your bone folder to press the book cloth into the gutter between the spine and the book board and smooth out any wrinkles. to prevent the board from warping while the glue dries, Place your cover on a separate flat area and stack heavy books on top of its entire surface
Repeat the same process with your second cover and let both dry pressed down with heavy books for several hours.
Once the glue is dry, take your covers one at a time and cut the corners of your book cloth at an angle.
Apply an even layer of glue to one of the flaps and tightly fold it over the edge. It may take some effort to get it to stick right away, especially if you’re using tough fabric like vinyl. If this is the case, do your best to hold it down and place a heavy book on top for a few seconds to allow the glue to stick. Continue to glue the flaps down one at a time. Use your bone folder to smooth out any air bubbles and press the book cloth into the gutter.
Switch out the boards to allow your first cover to dry flat with books on top, while you work on the second one. Repeat the same process for the second cover.
Allow both covers to dry pressed down by heavy books for a few hours or overnight.
Use your screw punch to pierce through the book cloth (and stretch the holes out, if needed) before continuing.
Apply an even layer of glue to the inside of your cover and carefully place the inside bookcloth centered over the cover. Use your bone folder to press the cloth into the gutter and smooth out any air bubbles. Use a wet paper towel to wipe away any excess glue.
Again, place heavy books over your covers and allow them to dry for several hours or overnight.
Use your screw punch to pierce through your inside cloth and stretch the holes out as needed.
Step 7. Assemble your portfolio!
(If you’re not ready to assemble yet, remember to save the hole punched template you made earlier to use when you’re ready to punch holes into your inside sheets of paper).
Use your paper template as a guide to punch holes into your sheets. Just line up your template with your sheets and use your screw punch to pierce through the holes. You may need to do this one sheet at a time, depending on the width of your paper. Go slow and make sure they all line up perfectly. You don’t need to stretch these holes out. They will adjust to your screw posts when you fit them through. Nobody will see into your spine, so you don’t have to worry about the holes being torn a little bit.
If you want you can use your bone folder to score each sheet so that the sheets can lie flat when clients flip through your book. Score your first few sheets along the right-side edge of your gutter. Depending on the width of your paper and how many sheets you have, you may want to shift over 1/16 in. or 1/8 in. to the right every few pages so your folds don’t stack up awkwardly.
To assemble, all you have to do is sandwich your sheets between the covers. Push the hollow parts of the binding post through the holes on your bottom cover. Stack your sheets in the order you want and push them through the binding posts carefully. Place the front cover over them and screw down the other part of the binding posts. You can use a flat screwdriver to tighten the last bit. They should fit snugly together. You don’t want your covers and sheets to have any room to slide up and down the screw posts. I used 1/2 in. binding posts.
That’s it! Here are some suggestions on how to further customize your portfolio:
Add a pocket to your book (for business cards or self-promotional content).
You can stamp emboss your name or logo to the front cover or inside of your book (Warning: if you used vinyl or plastic fabric to cover your book, the extreme heat you need to create this effect could warp and ruin your fabric! I recommend you test it out first)
Use impact stamps to deboss your name or logo to the front cover. I didn’t look further into this because it sounds pricy. If you try it, let me know how it goes.
If you have other ideas on how to customize your portfolio, please feel free to share.