Color Books: Guidelines & Design Options


Color Books are different from black and 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 these two terms as well. First, let’s talk about color book sizes.

Color Book Sizes

Currently, AuthorHouse 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 We currently do not publish landscape-oriented books.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 book 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 it’s 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 the 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 will have to take it ¼ of an inch beyond where the page will be cut at the printer. This ¼ inch of space is called Bleed Space. Bleed Space is necessary because when the printer cuts the final book block there is a slight variance where the blades will fall. Any visual information in this outer ¼ inch of Bleed Space will likely be cropped off during the printing process. If you have vital information in the outer ¼ inch of your images, you probably won't want to make them Full Bleed.

When the Design Team has finished the interior of your book, you will be able to see the Bleed Space designated with a grey line around the edges of the pages. Anything outside this grey line will probably be cropped 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 probably never know the difference and they’ll love to see 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 larger than the book you are publishing, adding ¼ inch of Bleed Space at the top, bottom, and outside edge of the final page size. 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 ½ x 8 ½ book or a portrait style 8 ½ x 11, whichever size you chose. 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 with image placement instructions in manuscript. Or, you can submit the text and image in a layered file format such as Photoshop. If we cannot pull your text and images apart, this could lead to complications or delays in your book’s production. Additionally, if you’re putting text on top of your images, please be sure to give 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 across from each other, and so on.

Color Space: RGB & CMYK

RGB stands for Red/Green/Blue, the primary colors of light. This is a color space used by image scanners, digital cameras, computer monitors, and all other devices that involve light emitting 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 the 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 is a normal part of the printing process.

If you have any questions or concerns about publishing in full color, please contact author assistance at 1-888-728-8467.