How to Select the Right Custom Index Tab

Index tabs add a professional finish to any presentation. The indexes make it easy for readers to quickly find sections in a ring binder or report. A set of custom index tabs with a custom ring binder or report cover creates a complete and attractive presentation.

When ordering custom index tabs it is important to understand a few basic concepts such as tab cut, bank and set. All it takes is a few minutes with this Index Tab Buying Guide and you will be a custom tab expert.

Step 1: Choose the Sheet Size and Tab Extension.

Choosing the sheet size is easy. Your tab sheet needs to be the same size as the sheets filed with the tabs. When specifying sheet size, it is a good idea to distinguish between the height and width and indicate which dimension is the binding edge. The binding edge is the side with the hole punching in it. For example, the sheet to the left would be stated as  11″ h x 8 1⁄2″ w, binding edge on the 11″ side.

The tab extension is the width measurement of the tab. If your sheet is 11” h x 8 1⁄2” w, binding edge on the 11” side, with a 1⁄2″ tab extension, the tabs will extend a 1⁄2″ from the 11″ side of the sheet. The standard tab extension is 1⁄2″.

Note: Make sure that the ring binder or report cover that will hold your contents and tabs has an allowance for your index tabs. You want to be sure your tabs do not stick out of your cover. For example if the sheet size is 11” h x 8 1⁄2” w, binding edge on the 11” side, with a 1⁄2” tab extension, the cover for these materials needs to be at least 9″ side to conceal the tabs.

Step 2:  Cut, Set, Bank

You need to determine the tab cut, the number of tab sets, the number of tabs in each set, the number of banks and the number of tabs in each bank.  

First, let’s look at tab cut. Cut is one tab’s proportion of a sheet.  For example, a 1⁄5  cut tab on an 11″ h x 8 1⁄2″ w, binding edge on the 11″ side sheet means that five tabs will fit the length of 11 inches. A 1⁄5 cut on an 1⁄2″ h x 5″ w, binding edge on the 8 1⁄2″ side sheet will result in five tabs that fit the length of  8 1⁄2″ inches. 

A tab set is a complete group of consecutive tabs that make up the length of your sheet.

An example should help clarify this. Let’s say you are putting together 100 sales kits with eight tabs each. Regardless of tab arrangement, you will need 100 sets of eight tabs for a total of 800 sheets. 

Below are a few examples of how these tabs can be produced. You’ll see that the number of tab sets, the total number of tabs and the number of tabs in each set remain constant. The variation comes in when determining the tab cut, the number of banks, and the number tabs in
each bank.

Eighth Cut Tabs – One bank of 8

Step 3: Select Tab Copy Style and Typeface

Tab Copy Styles

Below is an illustration of the standard tab copy styles. The amount of copy to appear on each tab as well as the holder for the tabs determine which copy style works best. For example, use hanger tab style F or G for easel or platform binders. For very short copy, such as a letter or a number, consider using Style B. Also consider printing on both sides of the tabs – this makes them useful whether the reader is in the front or the back of the binder. 

Tab Typefaces

The tab typeface should coordinate with the other typefaces in the piece you are putting together. Look at the typefaces used on the content pages and the cover to find a compatible type match.

Step 4: Consider Several Tab Options

Mylar® Colors

Mylar® is a trademarked DuPont plastic product. The clear or colored transparent Mylar® coating is applied to the tab and helps protect it from wear. It also makes them rigid for easy flipping. Use colored Mylar® to help different sections stand out. Choose a Mylar® color that best complements the other contents and cover of the project.

Paper Stock and Color

Standard Tab sheets are 90# white or buff index stock. Other index colors include blue, canary, cherry, green, gray, manila and salmon. Check with your representative regarding other colors and weights. An additional charge may apply.

Body Printing or Body Copy

Body printing refers to printing on the body of the tab sheet in contrast to printing on the tab extension. A company logo or project design printed on the tab sheet will dress up the tabs and tie it into the design of the entire piece.

Ink Color

Other ink colors besides black are available. A Pantone ink color match be used to match a logo or design color.

Reinforced Binding Edge

Our tabs are reinforced along the binding edge with a 9⁄16″ clear Mylar®. This keeps the tabs from tearing when the pages are turned.


Standard punching for tabs is 3 round holes, 5⁄16″ in diameter, to fit a 3 ring binder. You can specify other punching options, such as 3:1 or 4:1 coil, twin loop wire or plastic comb.


If you have numerous tabs, you may want to have the tabs collated into sets. Then you are ready to put them in your binders without sorting them.


Shrink wrapping the set in plastic wrap is another option. This keeps the tabs together, helps reduce wear on the sheets and keeps dust and dirt off of them. Shrink-wrapping is especially good for tabs that will be shipped a long distance or stored for a period
of time.