How to select the best 3-ring binder for your project

By Allison West

From industrial applications to record keeping and storage, a binder is the workhorse of office organizational supplies. You probably think that selecting a good one would be an easy decision. Not so! Binders have become so specialized that there are hundreds of different sizes, styles, materials, colors and accessories to choose from.

Where do you start? How do you know which binder is the right one for your project?

For example, a binder that’s used in heavy industry has different material requirements than a binder used in an office or classroom. An industrial binder may have to be able to withstand harsh chemical materials and the elements; others may require extra inside compartments or clip boards. And what size and style rings should you select? How many pages will you need your binder to hold?

Let's clear up some of the confusion!

Four considerations for selecting a 3-ring binder 

Video - See it in action!

This blog can serve as your "how to" guide for choosing a three-ring binder and will explain:

  • What binders are made from and how these materials impact how you plan to use the binder.
  • The parts of a binder – binder style, cover, rings, ring style.
  • How to decide what size binder you need.
  • Ways to customize your binder with color, covers and accessories.

1. Know what material your binder is made from.

With binders, you often get what you pay for. That cheap cardboard binder you bought at the big box store isn't a great deal if it falls apart after a couple of months.

Your binder’s construction and materials really matter because both determine the binder’s quality, longevity, reuse and recycling capabilities. Your binder should be made with materials that are durable and can perform for years to come.


PacZen binders are made from two materials: Polypropylene and PVC.


Polypropylene This material has boundless applications and multiple eco-friendly compositions, and its performance is outstanding relative to cost. PackZen offers a 100% recyclable polypropylene binder under the UniKeep brand that is a case-style, fully enclosed binder.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) - Vinyl is incredibly versatile and economical, making it a good choice for products that require sturdy construction and easy customization. For some applications, such as heavy duty compliance binders, there’s simply no substitute for vinyl.


2. Consider what the binder will be used for.

It’s pretty disappointing to have any organizational tool not function exactly as you need it to. If the binder will be used in a classroom, will it hold up to constant handling? Is it resistant to dirt and stains? Are the rings easy to open and close?

Binders used for business have other requirements. They may need to be larger, more durable and tough enough to hold heavy files and documents.

Three-ring binders for meetings and presentations don't have to be large, but they may require special cover printing with a logo and contain built-in accessories like pockets, divider pages and business card holders. 


3. Consider the binder size and ring style you need.


The size of your binder may be one of the most important decisions you make. Do you need a very large binder that holds hundreds of sheets? Or do you need a smaller size binder for a specific project? The number of sheets you need impacts the type of rings you select, too.

Use the chart and graphics below to help you make your selection. Remember that the more pages you need to store in a binder, the heavier it will be to flip through large sections at a time. For that reason, the D ring style would be the best choice. 


4. Choose a binder style – Case Enclosed or Regular

case binders

This UniKeep brand binder combines the best of both a three-ring binder and an enclosed case binder.

The distinguishing features of a Unikeep brand binder are its snap-locking case and polypropylene rings. The case provides dust-free, archival-safe protection for your documents, projects and presentations. The rings are made to last for years and won't pinch your fingers when they're opened and closed.

You can choose a case enclosed binder cover with or without a clear overlay. A clear overlay allows you to insert your own special cover and can be removed easily if you plan to repurpose it at a later date. Full-color digital printing directly onto the cover is also available.

Case Enclosed Binders are easy to customize.

In addition to the customization options listed above, you have many other ways to customize a PackZen binder.

  • Binders with poly rings open and close easily, making changing the contents a simple task.
  • PackZen’s full-color digital printing process makes short runs easy and economical.
  • If you prefer metal rings, we can replace the plastic rings with metal in any size or configuration.
  • Add color-edged or plain sheet protectors, polypropylene pockets and tabbed divider pages and binder pages for CDs/DVDs/USBs so the binder holds what you need it to.
  • Adding a logo is a simple branding must!

PackZen Enclosed Case Binder custom options:

  • Colors: clear, white or black
  • Spine width: .5”, 1.0”, 1.5”, (2.0”and 3.0” extreme binders)
  • Sheet Size: 11.5” x 8.5”, 8.5” x 5.5”
  • Rings: poly or metal
  • Pockets: inside horizontal, inside vertical

Regular (non-case enclosed) Binder

poly binders

These metal or poly three-ring binders are made from polyethylene or polypropylene material. Ring binders made with polyethylene are grease and scuff resistant, and they aren’t affected by variations in temperature - they're some of the toughest products on the market.

They are widely used in industrial situations because of their ability to endure intense temperatures and tough treatment in addition to the fact they are water, dirt, grease and oil resistant. Although they're incredibly sturdy, they're also lightweight and exceptionally durable.

Easy Customization for poly binders

Poly binders are also very easy to customize with digital printing, screen printing and foil stamping.

  • Customize by adding adhesive labels or a binder label that’s located on the spine
  • Select either Angle D-rings or regular D-rings
  • Add a variety of sized pockets – horizontal or vertical, business card
  • Adhesive labels can also be added

Vinyl Premium Binders

vinyl binders

Three-ring vinyl binders don’t have to be plain and boring. They can be customized to look distinctive and professional, and can be decorated in a variety of ways so you can create the exact look you want.

Vinyl Binders can be made attractive by using decoration techniques such as full color digital, screen and Litho printing. Foil stamp, embossing, debossing are also available.

There are many beautiful vinyl colors for vinyl. Select a few color swatches from website:

We can also use our equipment to heat seal your covers into the three-ring binder of your choice.

PackZen Vinyl Custom Options

  • Ring Styles: Round D-Ring, Straight D-Ring or Slant D-Ring
  • Ring Capacity: .5”/ 1”/1.5”/2.0”/2.5”/3.0”/4.0”
  • Sheet Size: 11.5” x 5.5” and 8.5” x 5.5”
  • Other options: clear business card pockets; 1 or 2 horizontal pockets, concealed rivets, label on spine of binder, foam padded covers
Design modification with PackZen

If your proejct involves unique custom elements, give us a call. PackZen is very experienced with enhancing designs to accommodate your priorities, whether it’s using custom graphics, sleeve pockets or adhesive pockets. We’ll work with you to design a packaging product that fits your product and delivers to customers.


Our promise to you

We believe so strongly that PackZen binders are the best available that we back our products with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not completely happy with our packaging products or service, we’ll do everything necessary to make it right. This has been our philosophy for over 25 years and continues to be how we set ourselves apart in the industry.


Ready to start?

Contact PackZen with any questions you may have about binders or selecting the best one for your purpose. We’ll guide you through the process, from choosing the best material for what your project calls for; to customization and printing the cover.

Call 877-749-2127 to speak to a PackZen representative or email us at: