Heirloom Album & Paper Choices

Without all of our album styles in front of you, it can be confusing to tell what the differences are between 100% cotton paper and fine art press paper and what types of papers are available with our different album styles. We've outlined below the main qualities of each so that it is easier to determine the best album for you! Signature Album
  • Full¬†spreads are printed, hand folded, brushed and collected into groups of 8 pages
  • The 8 page signatures are sewn with linen thread and bound into the book casing
  • Available in fine art cotton paper from 7x7 to 16x16
  • Available in fine art press paper from 7x7 to 12x12
Perfect Album
  • Individual pages are printed and collected to form a book block
  • The block¬†is oversewn with linen thread and the spine is adhered to the book casing
  • Available in fine art cotton paper from 7x7 to 16x20
  • Available in fine art press paper from 7x7 to 14x14
Fine Art Cotton Paper
  • Acid free 100% natural fiber (cotton)
  • Giclee printed
  • Not recommended for two page spreads or full page bleeds as pages are delicate and ink should not be touched frequently by fingers or hands
  • Each page must be separated by vellum interleaving for preservation
  • Available for all album types as well as fine art prints
Fine Art Press Paper
  • Acid free wood pulp with a soft, watercolor texture
  • Press printed
  • Recommended for creative layouts, two page spreads or full page bleeds
  • Vellum optional
  • Available for signature and perfect bound album types
We are proud to be a part of a very small number of companies that continues to print on 100% cotton paper via the Giclee process, but we also recognize that due to the delicate nature, it can be limiting. Press printed pages offer the flexibility for more creativity in design. With our two paper options, our collectors can choose the style that fits their work and their client. We hope that you found this post helpful in your decision making, but we always recommend ordering an album print sample prior to purchasing your album so that you can touch and feel the papers in your own hands.

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The Heirloom Album vs. The Perfect Album


One of the questions we answer very often is what are the differences between the various albums we offer - our signature-bound Heirloom Album, our perfect-bound Heirloom Album, and our press-printed Perfect Album. Although all these albums come in similar sizes, with the same fabrics, cases and vellum interleaving options, they are made very differently in the binding process. Importantly, our Heirloom Albums are hand-printed on 100% cotton rag papers in the giclee process, while our new Perfect Albums are printed on 100% acid-free alpha-cellulose wood pulp papers using the best available digital press printers. 

Here is an overview of our current album types:

  • Heirloom Album - Signature Bound
    • 100% Fine Art Cotton Rag Paper
    • Vellum Interleaving
    • Sets of 8 pg Spreads
    • Sizes up to 14 inches x 16 inches
  • Heirloom Album - Perfect Bound
    • 100% Fine Art Cotton Rag Paper
    • Vellum Interleaving
    • Any page count up to 150 sides per book
    • Sizes up to 16 inches x 20 inches
  • Perfect Album - Perfect Bound
    • Fine Art Alpha-Cellulose Paper
    • No Vellum, No Design Limitations
    • Any page count up to 200 sides per book
    • Sizes up to 16 inches x 20 inches


Perfect-bound books (image above) are traditionally printed with the pages cut, blocked and then glued along the spine side. This is similar to most hard-cover museum style art books you can buy today. For our version of a perfect-binding, we add an additional step to the process where linen thread is 'oversewn' through the book along the side to ensure that the pages will not tear or come apart. This makes our perfect bindings stronger than the traditional perfect bound book.

Signature bound albums (image above) are made of full-spread prints that are folded in the middle. Two of these full sheets (8 printed sides) are folded together in a booklet or 'signature' and then combined with the rest of signatures and sewn together with linen thread to create the book block. The reason that signature albums are so coveted in the fine art world is this process of sewing linen thread through folded signatures. Signatures are incredible strong and also allow the album to open much flatter than a perfect-binding. Each page is easy to turn whether you are at the beginning or the end of the album. Although perfect-bound albums do not open as wide, we are not restricted as much by available papers, so our largest books (16x20, etc.) can only be made perfect-bound. The truth is that, in these extra-large sizes, the size of the middle 'gutter' is much less noticeable. 

Because signature bound albums are printed on giant sheets of paper, especially for our album sizes, there has to be a maximum spread size. For us, it is a 14x16 album, which is already very large. So if you are interested in an even larger album, perfect binding allows us to print on a sheet half the size of a signature and thus opens your options.

Our Perfect Albums are bound using the same perfect binding methods as our Heirloom albums, but the text block is printed on acid-free alpha cellulose fine art paper. Because of the printing method, we are able to bind books this way without including a protective vellum interleaving, and because the printing process is less time consuming we are able to offer Perfect Albums at a discount to our other offerings while keeping them best-in-class archival products.

Which is the best choice for you? It depends on what kind of book you are building. We typically recommend Signature Heirloom albums as our 'lay-flat' option, as the binding method allows for the spreads to open more fully, which can be helpful if you are making smaller parent albums where the gutter margin (the part of the book that disappears into the spine) would have a larger impact on your layout. The Perfect Album has the advantage of more flexible page-counts (Heirloom books are laid out in multiples of 8 pages), and there are no pages with visible stitching (the middle of each signature has a white linen stitch that runs down the middle). Our Perfect Albums make great parent albums as well, and are great for clients who prefer to forego the vellum interleaving.

No matter what type of album you choose, you can rest assured that your album will be made with the greatest care, by hand from beginning to end. For more information on how paper type affects album design, please see our blog post on Heirloom Fine Art Papers.

We'd be happy to share photos of any specific differences if you need to see some more detail - just contact us at studio@heirloombindery for more information.

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The Unbound Folio Album

An Heirloom album for the purist. A brand new album experience, the unbound folio album is a nod to the traditional preservation methods for fine art work. Featuring a sturdy linen bound case housing 20 loose large format fine art prints with deckle edges and vellum dividers. Each ultra-thick print features one singular image with large white borders. Designed to garner attention from the first print to the last, we recommend that the artist signs each individual print personally. Available in 8.5X11 and 13×19 with large white borders. The size shown is 8.5x11 light linen a gold debossed olive branch. Photographed in our studio with prints inside by Laura Gordon.

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Submitting Your Images

Album 1

Album 2

Album 3

Gorgeous shots of some of our favorite samples. We love to see images from all of our collectors! Photograph your Heirloom albums on a clean, light/white background and e-mail them to us for a chance to be featured on our blog and social media.

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