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Color Books: Guidelines & Design Options

Color books are different from black & white books in several ways. In this video, I’ll discuss some of these differences, including color book sizes, page count requirements, design guidelines, and book pricing information. When publishing in color, you’re also going to need to know about CMYK color space and bleed space, so I’ll go over those two terms as well. First, let’s talk about color book sizes.

Color Book Sizes

Currently, Trafford offers two sizes: 8 ½ x 8 ½ and 8 ½ x 11 inches. Our 8 ½ x 11 is a portrait-oriented book, where the binding is on the long side. We currently do not publish landscape-oriented books. If you had a landscape-oriented book in mind, contact a representative to learn how we might be able to adapt your material to one of our available sizes.

Page Count Minimums & Maximums

Color books can be printed with as few as 24 pages and as many as 480 pages. Please note that when we refer to a page we are talking about one side of the paper. A 24 page book, for example, would appear to contain 12 pieces of paper. But since we print on both sides of that paper, there are actually 24 pages of content.

The final page count for your book must be divisible by 4. We will add however many blank pages are necessary to the end of your book to meet this requirement. For example, if your book ends up having 21 pages of content, we will add three blank pages to the end of your book to make it 24 pages total, which is divisible by 4. The last page in your book must be blank. Your book will be perfect bound where the pages are glued to the inside spine of the cover.

Color Book Pricing

Color books are more expensive to make than black & white books, and this is reflected in the book pricing options. The more pages your color book has, the higher its selling price options will be, especially through the retail channel. For this reason, you might want to keep your color book’s page count as low as possible. If you’re publishing a children’s book, we strongly recommend keeping between 24 and 480 pages in order to price your book competitively.

Full-Bleed Images & Bleed Space

When you want an image to fill a page or extend all the way to one or more edges, this is called a “full bleed”. When we make an image full-bleed, we have to take it a quarter of an inch beyond where the page will be cut at the printer. This quarter inch of space is called “bleed space”. Bleed space is necessary because when the printer cuts the final book block, there is a quarter-inch of variance where the blades will fall. Any visual information in this quarter-inch of bleed space will likely be cropped off during the printing process. If you have vital information in the outer quarter-inch of your images, you probably won’t want to make them full-bleed.

When your design team has finished the interior of your book, you will be able to see the bleed space designated with a gray line around the edges of your pages. Anything outside this gray line will probably be cropped off at the printer. If you’re afraid to have the image cropped, then the only other alternative is to keep the image safely within the text margins. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to position images anywhere between full-bleed and the text margins. In most cases, we will encourage you to go full-bleed. At first, you might be a little disappointed to have your images slightly cropped, but your readers will never know the difference, and they’ll love seeing your images fill the page.

Design Options

When laying out the content of your color book, your design team will do the best they can to position your images where they are supposed to go. There are several factors that will determine your book’s layout possibilities.

The most limiting factor is often the size and resolution of the images. For a children’s book, you should submit your images at 300 PPI resolution, and at a size slightly larger than the book you are publishing. If your images aren’t bigger than the final page size, your design team won’t be able to consider doing any full-bleeds.

The shape of your images can also determine your book’s layout. If you submit landscape-oriented images, for example, the design team will have to figure out how best to put your rectangular images into either a square-shaped 8.5 x 8.5 book, or a portrait-style 8.5 x 11, whichever size you have chosen. If you are creating original artwork for your book, it is best if you keep the final page size in mind.

If you intend to place text on top of your images, please do not send them in that way. Send the text and images separately or in a layered file format. If we cannot pull your text and images apart, this could lead to complications or delays in your book’s production. Additionally, if you are putting text on top of your images, please be sure you are giving enough room for the text. Keep in mind that your text should not get any closer than an inch from the edge of your image, or we will not be able to make the image full-bleed.

Another thing to keep in mind is the layout of facing pages, also called ‘double-page spreads’. In some books, particularly children’s books, the text and images are meant to be across from each other, on facing pages. When reviewing the interior your design team has assembled, keep in mind that even-numbered pages will always be left-facing, and odd-numbered pages will always be right-facing. Page 1 for example, will always be a right-hand page. After you turn that page, pages 2 and 3 will be facing each other, and then pages 4 and 5 will be facing, and so on.


RGB stands for “red-green-blue”, the primary colors of light. This is the color space used by image scanners, digital cameras, computer monitors, and all other devices that involve light emitted from a source.

CMYK stands for “cyan-magenta-yellow-black”, the primary colors of pigment. CMYK is the predominant color space used in the printing industry, where colors are not backed by light.

Any color images that appear on your cover, or inside a color book, must be CMYK. It is best if you can convert your images to CMYK yourself, so you can see exactly how the images will look before you send them to us. Otherwise, we will perform a standard color mode conversion on your images to make them CMYK printer compliant.

The difference between RGB and CMYK usually isn’t noticeable in photographs, but you may notice a slight color variation in a rich background color, or in colors that approximate a neon effect. These vibrant RGB colors won’t look bad when converted to CMYK, but they will look different, usually a little more subdued.

Color Matching

Our printers will do everything possible to ensure your book’s colors are printed as accurately and consistently as possible. There is, however, an acceptable, narrow range of color variance that printers use as a guideline. Blues will remain blue and reds will remain red, but you may see a small variance in a color’s brightness or hue, especially in books printed at different times or at different printers. You may even notice such slight differences in other books, greeting cards, or printed materials at retail stores. Slight difference within the allowable variance are a normal part of the printing process.

If you have any questions or concerns about publishing in full color, please contact us at 1.888.232.4444.

Prepare for Publication

Call a publishing consultant today at 844.688.6899 or e-mail Your publishing consultant will assist you along the publishing process, make sure you read the terms and conditions, and take your payment. (We accept credit card, check, or money order). After the submission of your materials, you’ll be on your way to having your book published. Are you looking to sign up for additional marketing services? Call your Marketing Consultant today at 844.688.6899 to get a free consultation on the services that would work best for your marketing campaign. You may also send an e-mail to

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