How many pages does a magazine usually have?
Updated: Apr 11
To be succinct, there really isn’t an “average” or standard number of pages for magazines. Magazines can range from 32 pagers to 212 pagers with everything in between. With that said, however, most magazines, whatever their overall page count may be, will have a magazine page count that is either divisible by 8 or 4. Why is this? It has to do with the offset printing process and the fact that magazines are printed in what are called “sigs.” A sig is printer parlance for “signature” and a full signature is 16 pages while a half signature is 8 pages. Keep in mind that the 8/16 rule is principally applicable to web offset presses.
A web offset press uses large rolls of paper that are fed into the press; usually a Heidelberg or similar press. Another common press utilized in offset printing is a sheet fed press. As its name suggests, a sheet fed press uses pre-cut sheets of paper (as opposed to rolls) that are fed into the press. With a sheet fed press it is possible to go “4 up” instead of “8 up” like a web press. Essentially, when utilizing a sheet fed press, it is possible to have four page increments instead of eight. Thus, the total page count can be divisible by 4.
It is a rather lengthy endeavor to try to explain “print imposition.” In a nutshell, “imposition” refers to how magazine pages are organized for the offset printing process. In this regard, it is important to understand the difference between a “reader spread” and a “printer spread.” A “reader spread” refers to the order in which the pages actually appear in the magazine. A “reader spread” is sequential. i.e. front cover, inside front cover, page 1, page 2, page 3, etc. In essence, it is the sequence that the magazine is in when you pick it up to read; hence the name “reader spread.” A “printer spread” is how the pages of the magazine are imposed (hence the name “imposition”) for the printing process. A “printer spread,” also referred to as “print imposition” is non sequential. So, what does this mean?
Well, when a magazine is printed utilizing an offset press, there is a printing schematic that determines the imposition (the ordering of the pages) for the printing process. The printing schematic will vary predicated upon the overall page count and whether the magazine is full color, all black and white or a combination of the two. In a “printer spread” page 1 may be next to page 14 and page 7 may be next to page 21, etc. and the overall layout of the pages in a given signature will vary. So remember, as mentioned earlier, the magazine will be printed in “sigs.” Hence, a magazine that has, let’s say, 64 pages, will be printed in “4 sigs” (16 + 16 + 16 + 16 = 64). When you request a printing quote from an offset press, it will make mention of the total number of sigs in your magazine and how they will be printed, i.e. sig #1 1/1 = 16 pages black and white, sig #2 4/4 = 16 pages 4 color (CMYK = Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black,) etc.
Ok, you say, but if a magazine is printed utilizing a printer spread, which is non sequential, how does the final magazine, once it’s printed, come out in a sequential reader spread format? The answer is that, after all the sigs are printed, they usually go through a heater (which dries or “sets” the ink; hence the name “heat set offset press”) and subsequently the sigs are folded. Once the sigs are folded (and then stitched using a saddle stitching machine or perfect binding process), the pages will appear in the reader spread format that we normally associate with magazines.
In summation, it would be prudent to know if you intend to utilize a web press or sheet fed press so that, whatever you ultimately decide in regard to your overall page count, you adhere to the “4 up” or “8 up” sig rule and save yourself some money on your printing quote!
Do you need more information about starting a magazine? Maghshoestring is launching The Magazine Minute to provide free tips on every aspect of starting a magazine!! These informative videos will be located under "Magazine Tips" on the home page. Check out the video below on magazine printing!