I came here to understand why latex had this "odd" habit to set the outer margin wider than the inner in two sided documents.

As many have asked before me, I expected the inner margin to be wider to take into account the binding space. From the answer to those questions I discovere that the outer margin should be wider that the inner and that the inner margin does NOT takes into account the binding space (since it's not universal but depends on the binding type).


I need to give the print shop a PDF version of the thesis ready to be printed. When I went there today he told me that usually the inner margin is wider to take into account the binding and to be equal to the outer once it's bond.

I accept the "outer margin is wider" standard, but I need to add a bit of binding space to my pages. How do I do it?

It's the first time I print a two sided document. If I told something wrong feel free to teach me how to setup (maybe also outside of latex) correctly a two sided document.

Thank you very much

  • 5
    Using the geometry package you can set the bindingoffset=⟨length⟩. The length depends on the page number and binding type.
    – DG'
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 8:51
  • You can read some explanations on page margins in section 2 of the KOMA-script documentation (texdoc scrguien).
    – Johannes_B
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 8:52
  • 1
    latex detects what's an outer and what's an inner margin from the page number: it expects odd pages to be right-side in a double-page spread, even pages to be left-side. this is why macros like \chapter throw a blank page in two-sided mode. it's possible to get this wrong, but if you are using a class that does ‘standard’ \chapter commands (like report or book classes) it's hard to keep it broken(!). we need a minimal example of your problem... Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 9:02
  • You can also see my short explanations on this site: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/183995/…. Note that the French canon des Ateliers I mention already takes into account a binding correction. since the inner margin is a little more than half the outer margin.
    – Bernard
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 9:02
  • 1
    It is far more common in printed works for the outer margin to be wider (it is not for binding, this is the visible white space) the margin is for your thumb to hold the page and for scribbling in. Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 9:31

1 Answer 1


When setting margins for two-sided documents, the deciding question is how a left and a right page look next to each other, not how they look on their own. The right margin of the left page and the left margin of the right page become a single gap between the two type areas here, essentially a "center margin". In chapter 2 of the KOMA-script manual, this is illustrated with the following figure. box construction of classical ninepart division

Now, opinions on good design differ and special cases may require exotic type area settings. However, there are established conventions that have been used by professionals for a long time1 and I think it is best to take those as a starting point. The principles laid out in the KOMA-Script manual are:

  • The type area has the same proportions as the page.
  • Left, right and center margin have the same width.
  • The bottom margin is twice as high as the top margin.

In the image above, this is achieved by dividing the width and height of each page into 9 equal columns/rows. This corresponds to the KOMA option DIV=9. With the geometry package no automatic calculations like this are available, but you can of course calculate the values yourself (or look them up somewhere).

1Of course, there is good and bad typography among professionals as well. I have seen quite some textbooks where the publisher obviously was concerned more with saving space (i.e. money) than with a pleasant layout. (In some cases this is justified. I don't read a lexicon cover to cover, so it does not have to be easy to do so.) However, in most novels for example, you will find a layout adhering to the principles described here. Pick up some books from your shelf and compare.

Ok, so this is why the outer margins of pages in two-sided documents are wider than the inner margins. What about binding?

As you stated, some of the width of your page will be lost to binding, depending on how you do it. This means that the page (which I talked about above) is somewhat smaller than the paper. Since the amount lost is not visible after binding, it does not count to the margins but is a separate value.

  • In KOMA-Script, the option BCOR sets the width lost to binding from both papers together. That is, when you set BCOR=1cm each page is 0.5 cm narrower than the paper. (This is the width of the light gray area in the image above.)
  • With the geometry package, the option bindingoffset sets the width lost to binding from every paper. That is, when you set bindingoffset=1cm each page is 1 cm narrower than the paper.

You can set only these values if you want to keep the default layout of your class but additionally account for binding.

Which value should you use? Ask the person binding it for you. If they don't know, the loss is probably small enough that a BCOR value of 0.5 cm (or a bindingoffset of half that) will be enough. Have a look at samples, if you can. See also this answer.

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