Guide to Case Binding

Case binding is the ultimate binding method for prestigious books with a long shelf life.

Also referred to as 'hardback books', they consist of a printed paper case, unique paper or cloth material as the cover, wrapped around grey board.  This cover is fixed around a thread sewn book block.

Whilst other binding methods, including PUR, are available, our preferred method is thread sewing as we believe it produces a superior product in terms of strength and durability. We produce all our case bound books with thread sewn book blocks as standard. In addition, thread sewing provides better lay flat qualities than a PUR-bound book block and is the more traditional technique for case-bound books.

Case binding is used for various books, including reference books, yearbooks, children’s books, novels, coffee table books, art books, law books, medical books, and most custom books.

The hardback style can be enhanced with the availability of leather, specialist papers and multiple fabrics that can be used to cover the book. These materials and various finishing techniques, such as debossing or foil blocking, give the case-bound book a professional, classy, or artistic look.

The Details of Case Binding

Grain Direction

All paper materials have a grain direction, and it is essential to understand the impact that incorrect grain direction can have on a case-bound book and why it is so important to bookbinding.

The general rule is that all materials that are used to produce a book, for example, paper, cloth, and board, should have the grain running from head to tail in the finished book.

This is not always the most economical way of maximising available sheet space when printing or cutting paper but failure to follow this rule can cause the book and the covers to warp when materials with opposing grains are glued together. This can be particularly problematic when certain endpaper stocks are used; wrong grain directions can cause unsightly rippling or cockling, which can detrimentally impact the first impression when opening the book.

Cover Styles

There are several cover styles for case binding and producing your hardback book. The first is a Printed Paper Case (PPC) printed on traditional materials. Specialist paper-based materials that have textured finishes are available, such as the popular Wibalin, which comes in multiple colours and styles. There is also the option to use fabric, cloth, or leather. These materials don’t allow for classic printing and require foil blocking, debossing, or wrapping with a printed dust jacket.

A second cover style is made of fabric, cloth, or leather. There are hundreds of options to choose from including textured materials and various colours. Generally, these materials are foil-blocked to create beautiful and prestigious-looking covers protected by a dust jacket.

Foil Blocking

Foil blocking can be done in various colours to meet your design brief. Foil blocking is usually applied to the front cover and spine of the book. We have produced many hardback books with intricate foil designs so please ask us for a sample.


Endpapers are the sheets that attach the inside cover to the thread-sewn book block. They typically consist of uncoated paper stock that’s slightly heavier than the other interior pages, as the added thickness allows them to withstand the job of holding the book block in place.

Foil Blocking

We fold the 4pp endpapers and attach them to the first and last sections after sewing the book block.

These are the first pages you will see when you open your hardback book. Depending on your style and preference, they can be printed, coloured, or plain. We often use papers from the GF Smiths Color Plan range.

Dust jackets

A dust jacket is a detachable outer cover that protects the book from damage. It looks much like a traditional soft back cover, though dust jackets require flaps to be folded inside the cover.

Dust jackets were originally designed to protect cloth-covered hardback books in the 1800s. Today, they are a great way to enhance the presentation of your book with beautiful art.

Head and Tail bands

Head and Tail bands are two pieces of coloured fabric on the top and bottom of the finished hardback book. They can be found in either one solid colour or two colours intertwined. They are for aesthetic purposes, to make the book look more pleasing to the eye – by hiding the visibility of glue holding the thread-sewn sections together.

Although they often go unnoticed, these decorative features can add a lovely splash of colour to your book and give an eye-catching, professional finish. They are available in a range of colours and styles.

Marker Ribbons

Practical and attractive, they help readers keep their place as they browse through your book. Available in various colours, they are a more elegant version of a book marker.

This little cloth ribbon (around 4mm thick) is glued under the headband at the top of the book block.

Square Backing

A square-back book finish refers to the book's spine and gives it a clean, flat finish.

Square-back books are finished using the same thickness board as the front and back covers (2750-micron) and allow us to have any print or foiling applied to the spine.


Case bound books are sometimes packaged in a protective housing called slipcases.

Slipcases provide hardback books with extra protection and help enhance the finished product's look. Slipcases often house several books together, such as a series or collection.

When to Produce a Case Bound Book?

This binding choice is most appropriate when the book's longevity, appearance, and perceived value are paramount.

  • High-Value Publications: First editions, luxury editions, commemorative volumes
  • Academic and Professional Texts: Textbooks, reference materials, professional manuals
  • Libraries and Collections: Circulating and historical value books
  • Art and Photography Books: Quality visual presentation books
  • Limited Editions and Collector's Items: Unique design and artwork featured books
  • Corporate Reports and Presentations: Professional and permanent reports
  • Personal Projects and Portfolios: Works by writers, artists, photographers
  • Coffee Table Books: Display and decorative books for shared spaces
  • Special Edition Novels and Series: Collector's editions of popular books
  • Thesis and Dissertation Printing: Academic recognition volumes