How to master the 180 fold.

How to do the 180 fold cover

You may have seen the term ‘180’ or ‘180 base’ being mentioned when someone has posted a photo of their book fold. ‘Done in 180’ it reads, or in the comments, ‘Did you 180 it?’ Many ask this without even knowing what the term means, or they’re asking if they should be doing it to every pattern, like no other method is suitable anymore because they’ve seen this new term.

  When it first started, I will admit I wanted to ban the word from my group (and existence!) because people were using it unecessarily as advice to anyone. ‘Oh, you should 180 that.’ even when it was a beginner, who had done no prior bookfolding, not even a regular fold. (No love, they really should not 180 it. SMH)

But instead of pretending ‘it’s just a phase’ here we are. I thought I best do some research and find out the pros and cons. Which tools work best and which styles benefit the most.

By the end of this post you will know.

  1. What a 180 is and what it actually does.

  2. How to do it.

  3. Which styles benefit the most from the 180 method.

Then you’ll be able to have a go at your own perfectly creased, super neat, smooth 180’s and post your own beautiful photos proclaiming ‘I used the 180 method!’

Week 1 with the Inspire cut and fold pattern can be found here as a FREE taster

Or click the image below for the full course details.

Coming very soon (like within the next few weeks!) will be Lesson 6 – How to do the 180 Cut & Fold method using this vertical hope pattern which matches the original Masterclass designs. (All patterns are included in the course).

The lessons are video tutorials showing every step and full of tips of what to look out for and guide you from choosing your book to folding that final tab.

While you’re waiting for the 180 lesson you could be mastering the other styles, learning what all the terms and abbreviations mean and also picking up some great tips to make the process much easier and quicker to learn than if you were going it alone.

What is a 180 and what does it actually do?

A 180 fold is made by folding each page back (180 degrees!) towards the spine creating a ‘180 base’ for your pattern to be made on. This bulks out the pages giving a wider and more substantial finish. Depending on the design this can double, or even triple the overall width of the open book when finished.

The amount you fold back is really just personal preference or dependant on the tool you use. The colour of the pages and the depth of the margins before text starts can also influence how deep you will want to go. Some people prefer to fold back by 1cm and keep the front of the book clean looking. Then when the design is cut into the book the dark text can help the pattern stand out (depending on margins, more on those later). You may have seen some where quite a lot has been folded back so the text shows on the front face of the book and also on the design. This will also bulk out the pattern a lot more and make it a lot wider and more 3D looking. It works well with some designs but not all.

There’s been a few ways floating around on how to do these over the years. At first we were using card shorter than the page, like when making the embossed style or folding over inset pages. But there was a lot of manual adjustments needed due to how the pages are glued in sections to the spine of the book. You probably tried this way and have ended up here looking for a better way because you’re not happy with the uneven look.

Another is marking/scoring each page at the depth you want to fold it over then going through and folding them all. I never tried this way because it sounded like way too much work for me! It is more accurate than the card inserts though, as long as you line up your ruler or whatever tool you’re using to exactly the same depth each time.

The style I’m going to cover is using the binder bar or spine bar method, folding back by approx 1cm (depending on the slider tool you use) After a few trials (and a lot of errors) on different methods, this one has proved to be an easier one and the most reliable.

Examples of cut and fold styles with and
without a 180 base.

Regular Shadow cut and fold with no 180 base.

500 pages

Shadow cut and fold with a 180 base.

500 pages

Regular inverted cut and fold.

450 pages

Inverted cut and fold on a 180 base.

450 pages

Regular Embossed cut and fold.

450 pages

Embossed cut and fold on a 180 base.

400 pages

Book quality matters!

Before we get to the actual doing you need to make sure the book you’ve chosen is suitable. There’s no chance of getting a perfect, even base for your pattern if your book isn’t good quality to start with.

  • As with any book folding style, check the spine

    • Is it intact?

    • Are there cracks in the glue?

    • Any loose pages or does it look like pages may come away easily with a bit of pressure? All book folding techniques put greater stress on the spine than just reading it, both whilst creating it and also once it’s finished.

  • The front of pages need to be even and smooth. If they’re not smooth before you start, they wont be after you’ve folded either. You will have a lot of manual adjustments to do which may still show afterwards as you will have already damaged the page with a crease in the wrong place. (Do you want to chance it after spending so long on it? I certainly don’t!)

  • How deep is the margin? Some books have very narrow margins, or they look like they will work but then half way through you notice the text is starting to peep into your creases, ugh! So don’t just check the first few pages, have a good flick through the whole book to avoid disappointment. Some books also have a line at the top or bottom of each page which goes beyond the text margin so check that too and decide if you’re happy to have a constant line showing all the way along your pattern detracting from your design, which may or may not be straight, it depends how accurate the publishers were when lining everything up.



The tool

The two methods I’m going to show you use the ‘binder method’ which has been found to give the best results with a perfectly smooth base for your pattern. The difference between these methods is the order the steps are in and how each method is marked up. You may have one of these binders laying around, if not you can find them in stationary shops, some supermarkets or even Amazon or Ebay. They are the spine part of report covers.

Not all binders are the same size though so pay attention to the thickness. The best is between 3 – 5mm width ones with a flat back so the page will always butt up the same amount to the back of the binder, not have space to curl around. 3mm to 5mm is also thin enough to get a nice crisp fold. Mine are approx 4mm, a basic set I bought in Asda for 50p! (UK Walmart)

Tool for 180 fold

Top tip!

If your binder clip doesn’t already have a curved corner, cut one off to make it easier to thread/slide the page in. Only cut one side of the corner off, this helps guide the page in better.

Method 1 – 180 fold in batches, then mark on the fold.

1. Fold 20 pages to start with using the binder bar as shown below.

You could fold the full book but if you’ve attempted a Multi layer or a book with insets before you’ll know that the more pages you have folded, the harder it can be to mark up your pattern with precision! So to combat the struggles we’re going to do them in batches.

Slide from the right if you’re right handed or try from the left if you’re left handed.

*Make sure to work out your start page so you know where your actual pattern is going to start.

More on working out your start page can be found here, including Start page calcualtors.

You can place a bookmark/post it or something on your start page as a reminder of where you need to start marking your pattern, or just write on the top of the page, in case you get distracted after folding your first batch and start marking up on the first page. (it happens!)

2. Once you’ve folded your first 20, get your pattern and mark up your first pages until you run out of 180’d sheets. (If you do have excess pages front and back it’s easier to fold them at the start instead of trying to after as you will have to do a balancing act and not have a flat surface to work on.)

3. Go back to step one – fold another 20, then mark those 20, fold another 20, mark those 20….you get the idea! Doing it this way can also ease the stress on your hands/wrists/shoulders as you’re changing positions more frequently than when you sit for an hour or more marking up hunched over until your neck aches and shoulder blade burns so bad you have stop. (guilty of this often!)

On future books, once you’ve got the hang of it and depending on the thickness of your pages you can try increasing this by 10 at a time up to maybe 50 or so. If you have thinner pages they wont tilt as much than thicker ones so there’s no hard and fast rule here on how many. But don’t increase too much and risk your marks not being as precise, it will show if at the end of each section of pages you’ve done, it gets a little messy. This method takes patience, practice and time.


Method 2 – Marking on the BACK/EVEN page BEFORE folding the 180.

This method worked quite well for me! Although a little fiddly because the first time I used a regular ruler. I think a lefty would be great at this method as my hands seemed to get in each others way? If you have, or can get one of the metal Incra rules with a t-bar type attachment then it would be easier to have the ruler in the book and mark using the .5mm in holes from the edge. Or a regular ruler with the cm marked evenly on each side (see photo) mark from the left side of it instead of having to death grip it .5 cm onto the edge of your book and risk finger cramps (ouch! Why is crafting so bad for your physical health?!)

1. Turn your book the opposite way than you usually would so the odd page is in front of you and the top of the book is facing left. Then mark your full pattern up close the edge of the page. It needs to be within the first 1 cm of the edge because this flips over to the other side.


Method 2 for the 180 - mark up on the even page

2. After marking up the whole pattern (better for us scatter brains to get that done all in one right?) grab your binder bar and do the folding part the same as Method 1’s video demo above, et voila! your marks are now on the right side and ready for cutting. I don’t know why but this ‘felt’ faster for me. I think it was just psychological because usually after folding all the pages you then have to go mark and mark up all the pattern but the marks are already there after folding, YAY!


So there you have it! The magical 180. Are you feeling more confident in having a go now? I hope so! Choose either of the methods to start and see what ‘feels’ better for you. If you do method one make sure you write the pattern page you’re up to at the end of each ‘batch’ so you don’t get lost.

I did try another method, marking further in so the marks still show after the fold. But for me it didn’t feel neat enough. You need to line up your scissors with the mark which is past the folded edge, which plays tricks on your eyes! So some cuts can easily go deeper than other, without adding another step, maybe some card to cut up to or drawing a line. It was lengthening an already lengthy process so I didn’t use the method for a full book.

The 180 method works best on the Inverted cut and folds and the Shadow cut and folds.

Some regular inverted cut and fold patterns can do with that extra bit of bulk to really show off and support the design. For example, if there are sections where there’s only a few marks at the top or bottom of a book then it can make the pages clump together at the opposite end as they have no support. The 180 gives that bit of support so they stand up straighter on their own without the lean to prevent distortions.

Shadow cut and folds work by letting light in to those folded in tabs. The 180 fold provides a sturdier gap to do this so more light gets in and a darker shadow effect is created, which also makes it visible at a wider angle too and not only if you’re standing right in front of the book.

Some people have done them on combination cut and folds and even Multi layers too, but honestly, it’s not needed.

The fold top and bottom on a combination cut and fold acts in the same way to bulk out the pattern and a multi layer already has an embossed first layer and then the second inverted layer adding some more bulk so it already goes wider than usual and has those sturdy creases. Don’t give yourself more work when these styles take so long already!

A regular embossed pattern sometimes benefits, it really depends on the books quality and the design. Highly detailed designs may lose some definition if the pages are too thick and the edges of the design will start to look ‘steppy’ especially if the patttern doesn’t have enough pages or would have enough pages to be smooth as a regular cut and fold but that extra folding can make them steppy, essentially it’s like have 2 pages with the same marks on.

Good quality patterns are also always a requirement for a good quality finished book no matter which style you’re making it. A 180 should not be a requirement for a pattern to look good. As I used to regularly say to those who kept getting disappointed with bad patterns from designers who churn hundreds out at a time.

“You can’t fix a crap pattern with a 180, it just highlights the mistakes even more!”

Happy Folding!

Jo x

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7 thoughts on “How to master the 180 fold”

  1. petra.c.lux

    Thank you Jo. I have tried on a number of books the 180 method and haven’t really been satisfied when I see others meticulous folds. I appreciate your less intimidating approach. I also downloaded your July shadowfolds today and am going to “180 them” lol wish me luck

  2. I haven’t tried the 180 fold yet. But I am intending on folding a large book. The pages are pretty thick. Would a 180 be too much bulk with thick pages? Or would it just be unnecessary?
    Thanks, for the tutorial!

    1. allinthefolds

      It depends, if they’re really thick it’s probably not a good idea, they’ll be tough to crease over properly. If you’d still like to use the book and have plenty of bulk, it could be used for an embossed pattern. (Folding odd tabs in so image is sticking out)

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