Basic Breakdown


Basic Breakdown: Binds


You found the perfect paper, but it is offered in various different binds. Do you know what bind best suits your needs? Here is a Basic Breakdown of the different binds out there and some key information on what it means for the sketchbook.


The Four Most Common Binds (and It’s Anatomy)

Hard-Cover Binding

This is one of the best binding techniques and typically one of the most secure. In basic terms the pages inside are sewn together as one or in sections (thread / stitch bind). It is then glued together and then finally glued to the cover’s spine. The cover that is used is typically thick card with some type of cloth over it - providing more quality to the book (also known as hardback). They are the most well-presented books and are highly durable, however, they can be more expensive and weigh more due to the cover itself. 

Can it open-flat? Typically, yes. It is dependent on the cover, things like Khadi and Hahnemühle can easily open flat.

Can you draw across the gutter (bind)? Yes, unless there is additional tape around that area for support. Overall most sketchbooks can do this.

Khadi Papers Hardback Sketchbook 

Khadi Papers Hardback Sketchbook

Soft-Cover Binding

Known as perfect binding, this is one sketchbook that you will have typically seen. It is lower in quality compared to its hard-cover counterpart and pages are glued together with a strong glue. The cover is usually cardboard on the back for more support and a coat or laminated thick paper on the front for protection (also known as paperback). Pages may be easier to tear out and because of the glue will typically leave a straight edge. It is a more economical book but is less durable.

Can it open-flat? Maybe. It is dependent on the pad you choose and how secure the glue is, as in some cases sheets could fall out.

Can you draw across the gutter? No, as mentioned it all depends on the glue. With this style of pad, you would generally not want to do this and just want the use of single sheets.

Daler Rowney Langton Watercolour Pad

Daler Rowney Watercolour Langton Pad

Staple Binding

One of the most economical sketchbooks, staple (or saddle-stitch) binding is typically used for short term purposes. With the paper folded in half, creased and then stapled in the middle to keep the pages as one. This bind, and style of book is similar to a magazine. It can be easily damaged as the cover is typically paper as well. This type of sketchbook also uses a smaller page count and has a fairly quick turnaround in production. 

Can it open-flat? Yes, probably one of the best binds to do this with.

Can you draw across the gutter? Yes, but bear in mind that there will be staples.

Seawhite of Brighton Eco Starter Sketchbook

Seawhite Eco Starter Sketchbook

Spiral / Wire Binding

Using a spiral bind involves a metal or plastic coil to hold the sheets together. The bind is usually one piece that is threaded through punch holes of the paper. One of the benefits for this sketchbook is that it has the flexibility to open 360 degrees without breaking the spine which makes this bind useful for writing.  The wire bind is like the spiral bind with the only distinct difference being separate rings. Both binds do get mixed up with each other because of how similar they are, with the more common term used for both being Spiral Bind. Both binds are economical to make and are very durable depending on the cover. The covers can be a range of hardback and paperback.

Can it open-flat? Yes, as mentioned it can do 360 degrees and can easily open-flat.

Can you draw across the gutter? No, the bind will be in the way.

Pink Pig Ameile Sketchbook


Other Binds


This can either be stitched all the way through or section-stitched which involves each separate section being sewn into the following section all along the spine. Thread is used for this type of bind and is one of the most secure forms of binding. It is also the first stage of the hard-cover bind but can be left on its own without a cover with the stitching exposed. 

Loop Stitched

Similar to a staple bind, however, instead of a metal staple it is a metal loop. This loop is on the outside of the spine so it can easily be secured into a ring binder. 

Tape Bound

An adhesive tape is used to wrap around the spine. This is usually fixed onto a bind that has been stitched together for reinforcement.

Side Stitched

Wire is used to stitch through the cover and pages instead of along the spine. To hide the stitch and wire it is often covered up.

These are the most common binds you would find and want for a sketchbook, however, there are plenty of binds out in the market. 

Basic Breakdown Blog: Bind
Various Binds including: Pink Pig, Daler Rowney, Hahnemühle & Canson


Which Bind Suits Your Need

One thing we haven’t fully covered yet is what art techniques best suit what bind, and well, we can’t really say. Picking the bind that suits you best would really be dependent on your preference of bind and what paper you need.

However, one key question to consider when choosing a sketchbook is, do you easily want the sheets to come out or do you want something that keeps sheets in? Binds that are glued in, like the soft-cover bind, can easily be removable compared to a hard-cover bind. If you want sheets to stay secure in your sketchbook go for a hard-cover or spiral bind. 

We could suggest things like spiral binds are more suitable for writing and calligraphy. However, if you want to do a watercolour in a spiral bound sketchbook and the paper is suitable for watercolour, there is nothing stopping you. That’s one of the best things about arts and crafts; you have the freedom to do what you want, and how you go about doing it, is totally up to you.


We would recommend reading our Basic Breakdown Blog on paper to help with what kind of paper you are looking for. Click Here to view that blog.


Image Credits:

Sandra Manchester