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What's the Difference Between a Z-Fold and a Tri-Fold Brochure?

Upon first sight, it may seem that the z-fold and tri-fold brochures are identical. They each feature a total of six panels, each side of the page divided evenly into thirds, for displaying information. And upon initial inspection, the fold lines are practically identical.

In fact, if you look at the templates for each, they are identical in layout with a few extremely important exceptions. The front panel is in the same spot on both and the fold lines are the same distance apart on each. But, on the tri-fold brochure template, you’ll notice the center panel is labelled the “back panel” while on the z-fold template, it’s the “inside panel.”

Download one of our PDF templates for your selected Z-fold or tri-fold brochure size below:

So, aside from all these technical differences between the templates for the Z-fold and tri-fold brochures, what are the differences between these two brochures? And what different applications are most suitable for these brochures?

To get an idea of how these templates really work, we recommend printing them out first with a desktop printer, either in color or in black and white. This printed version will serve you by acting as a physical model to help your mind’s eye conceptualize how the final version will work.

A Gif demonstrating how a tri-fold brochure would fold.

We’ve also included GIFs of each (above and below) to show how they fold and to demonstrate some of the possible real-world implementations one could follow to make usage of the unique nature of each folding type.

One way of simplifying the advantages of the z-fold brochure is to say that it’s more for content that you want to compartmentalize. One common usage we’ve seen is for publications that are published in multiple languages. If you were printing a Spanish and English version of your information, this design could work to present both in the same convenient publication.

Since it divides information into three sections on two sides of a page, this design effectively creates three separate compartments that when unfolded unify to create one side of a page. Unlike the tri-fold brochure, however, this design doesn’t necessarily have as much of a “suspenseful” experience to opening it. It is more of an accordion type of effect when pulling this open.

The z-fold brochure also isn’t the most convenient for mailing, which brings us to the tri-fold brochure.

The tri-fold brochure conveniently only has one side that is “open” when it is folded, meaning that there is only one section of the brochure ​that will need a sticker tab to hold it shut so it can be mailed more easily.

This also means that there is one side that is naturally “sealed” since the other third of the page is tucked under the other. This design lends itself to easily being stuffed in an envelope and is therefore a wise idea if you’re trying to send your design out in an envelope.

The z-fold brochure, when being stuffed into an envelope, is easily damaged since its non-folded edges can easily get snagged on the lip of the envelope as it’s being inserted.

To get an idea of the difficulty of inserting each of these designs into an envelope, we recommend manually trying to insert the printed models you made earlier into an envelope to get an idea of why this might be.

A gif demonstrating how a Z-fold brochure is folded, one side is in English the other in Spanish.

Ultimately, when deciding between a z-fold and a tri-fold brochure, it’s important to consider what your end goal is. If you’re trying to most prominently feature a full page spread of something that builds suspense as the audience is unfolding it, we recommend the most popular of the two designs: the tri-fold.

If you’re going for something that can easily compartmentalize information and present different phases of data to someone, we recommend the accordion-style folding z-fold brochure.

If neither the z-fold brochure or the tri-fold brochure meets your needs, there are still many other fold options available. Whether it’s the gate fold, half-fold, half-half fold, flat or no-fold, double parallel fold, roll fold, half tri-fold, or the tri-half fold, there are endless options for how you can fold your brochures.

On our brochure page, simply submit a custom quote request and do your best to explain your desired fold. We’ll find a way to make it work so you get the best quality printing and the best price available.

CG Flyer TemplatesOrder Your Z- or Tri-Fold Brochures Now

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