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Pop-Up Spreads

Pop-up Paper Engineer Animal Book

This article will provide an in-depth outline of the order process for a pop-up book project. We’ll cover the steps you’ll need to take to get a quote, an estimate of the potential costs, and approximate turnaround times. You can find a step-by-step breakdown of the order flow at the very end.

Another great resource to help you get started is the Movable Book Society. They have a wealth of information about pop-ups, including general knowledge, educational books and websites, and a list of contacts for paper engineers.

Ready to learn? Check out our visual guide on the pop-up book order process, as well as our written breakdown in the page below!

Production Requirements

Because pop-up books are so unique in their manufacturing, they come with some particular production requirements.

  • Binding: Must be casebound (hardcover).
  • Interior Paper: Must be sturdy enough to support the pop-up structures. We recommend 10 pt. cover stock.
  • Order Quantity: Because of how complex and labor-intensive these projects are to manufacture, the minimum order quantity is 500 units.
  • Artwork: You’ll need to work with a paper engineer to design your spreads. We’ll need to see artwork files that are properly marked with the appropriate dielines.

If this all sounds workable for you: fantastic! Let’s talk about how to get the ball rolling with a quote.

Quoting Process

Considering how special a pop-up book can be, it should come as no surprise that the quoting process is just as unique. 

Paper Engineering for Pop-Up Books

Paper Engineering for Pop-Up Books

Paper Engineered Artwork Files

The main thing we’ll need to see is artwork that’s been evaluated by a paper engineer. They’re the ones who are able to add the “pop” to a pop-up. Figuring out the paper mechanics necessary to convert a 2D sheet of paper into a full 3D structure is quite a technical process, and one that will need to be done by a professional. They’ll know what cuts will need to be placed where, how each piece will need to fit together, and which markings to use in the artwork to indicate this all to a production team.

You’ll want to get both the paper engineer and your book designer on board as early in the process as possible, before any illustrations are finalized. Otherwise, your illustrations will likely need to be heavily modified, if not entirely redone. The engineering and artwork should be developed together, with each taking the other into consideration throughout the entire process.


PLEASE NOTE We do not offer these services ourselves, but we do have some contacts we can connect you with to help you get started. They are independent of PrintNinja, and the rate they charge will be completely separate from your quote with us. Reach out to one of our Customer Service Ninjas for more information.


Budgetary Quote

Once your paper-engineered artwork is submitted to us, we’ll be able to provide a Budgetary Quote, i.e. a ballpark estimate for your final production costs. You’ll work with an Account Manager for this stage. In addition to the artwork, they’ll need to know the dimensions of your book, page count, number of pop-up spreads, order quantity, and anything else your project will need. This will also include an approximate shipping price based on your chosen shipping method.

Validation Proof

If the Budgetary Quote works for you, the next step for quoting will be for us to create a validation proof. This proof will be a physically-assembled and bound proof of concept for the pop-up spreads. You’ll also receive a digitally printed, low-resolution copy to review and check that everything looks as it should, or make any changes if necessary. The cost of the validation proof will be determined spread-by-spread based on the total number of pop-ups and their complexity, plus a flat fee for expedited shipping.

Because the validation proof is required for final quoting and production, if any significant revisions are necessary, you’ll need to order another proof.

After you approve the validation proof, we’ll use that final version to determine the exact costs of the full production run.

Potential Costs

If you look at a picture of a house, you might be able to generally guess how much it costs. But if you’re a realtor trying to set a listing price, you’ll need to at least look at the blueprints, see the location, and do a walkthrough first.

Quoting for pop-up books works in much the same way: though we may be able to give a rough estimate based on the artwork you submit and general specs, we’ll need to use the validation proof to get any more exact than that. By creating the validation proof, we’ll be able to determine the production requirements and materials needed for the project in a more direct way.

Here’s a breakdown of what costs you’ll be facing for your pop-up book:

  1. Development: Unless you have the career background to do these things yourself, you’ll need to hire a designer and a paper engineer. You can hire your professionals of choice. The rates they charge will be completely separate from your PrintNinja quote.
  2. Validation Proof(s): Cost is calculated per spread + $100 shipping. This is a separate transaction from the rest of your order, meaning this would not act as a deposit.
  3. Full Production Run: Cost is calculated from the validation proof. Shipping cost will depend on your chosen shipping method and the shipping location. For a very rough ballpark, we’d estimate an approximate cost of at least $40-$50 per book* (including standard shipping) for the minimum 500-unit run. This would mean at least $25,000 total, potentially.

*As with any offset-printed project, your per-unit cost will decrease with the more units you print.

Turnaround Times

It’s difficult to say exactly how long a pop-up book project might take, because much of it will be determined by your order’s complexity, quantity of units, and chosen shipping method. However, we do have some estimates that might help paint a bigger picture for your project’s timeline:

  1. Development: Designing your project with a paper engineer could take several weeks, months, or even a year or longer if you have particularly extensive pop-ups. Remember, this stage will need to be completed before you come to us for quoting and printing.
  2. Validation Proof: 3-5 weeks for production + 1 week for shipping*
  3. Full Production Run: 5-7 weeks for production + 1 week for expedited shipping or 6-8 weeks for standard shipping*
  4. Total: Starting from when your finalized artwork is submitted to us, we would anticipate a total turnaround time of approximately 12-17 weeks*

*Like all of our turnaround times, please keep in mind that we are only able to provide approximations. The production time will depend on your order’s complexity and the total number of units; shipping time will depend on your chosen shipping method. High-volume orders and specialty printing options can also add to your turnaround time.

Order Flow

Below is a step-by-step overview of the order process for a pop-up book. This list begins with the first step you’ll take with PrintNinja, but certainly not the first step for the project as a whole.

1. Fully Designed/Engineered Artwork Submitted

In order to get a final quote, or even a preliminary quote, we’ll need to see the artwork for your project. This step is REQUIRED to continue to the next stages. (That’s why it’s first!) You can send your files to our Customer Service team or directly to your Account Manager, if you have one.

2. Budgetary Quote

After we receive your artwork, an Account Manager will reach out to discuss the rest of the details of your project. They’ll then determine a Budgetary Quote based on your files and the full specs of your book. This quote will be a ballpark estimate, and may not necessarily be the same as your final quote.

3. Electronic Proofing

Your book’s artwork files will be analyzed by our Prepress team, who will provide detailed feedback on any concerns or adjustments necessary to make your files print-ready. Please note that this feedback will be related purely to the print readiness of your artwork and not towards any construction-related issues.

4. Validation Proof Pricing and Payment

From your files, we’ll price out the cost of the validation proof spread-by-spread. This is a separate transaction from the rest of your book order.

5. Validation Proof Production and Delivery

As soon as payment for the validation proof is received, it will be produced and shipped out to you. We will also receive a copy of the proof for comparison and quoting.

6. Review of Validation Proof

If you receive your proof and something is incorrect, you’ll still have the chance to make changes at this stage. Depending on what those changes are, we’ll likely need to produce another validation proof and begin the process again from that step. Otherwise, if everything looks good to you, you can approve the proof for quoting and production.

7. Final Production Quote

The Account Manager will use the approved version of your proof to determine an exact quote for the full production run. Because this can only be determined after your validation proof is created, it may differ from your initial Budgetary Quote.

8. Payment

If you’re satisfied with the quote you receive, you can pay for your order and begin production. Your full order payment is separate from the validation proof payment.

9. Production

Production will begin on your approved project. Your actual production time will depend on your order’s complexity and quantity, though we may be able to provide a more accurate estimate once your validation proof is approved.

10. Delivery

Once production is complete, your order will be packaged and prepared for final delivery via standard ocean freight and/or expedited air freight shipping.

While an advanced project like a pop-up book can present some major challenges, with a lot of planning and preparation, PrintNinja can be your partner in making it happen.

Like what you see? Get a quote.

Since pop-up books are incredibly unique, you’ll need to request a custom quote. Let us know as many details as possible about your pop-up book, such as size, page count, number of pop-ups, and order quantity. Once we get your request, we’ll reach out for any additional details needed to get your custom quote.

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