Hands on Data: How to Make Flip Books for Science

Flipbook lowWith the advent of smartphones and tablets, bringing movies to poster sessions is becoming more common than ever before. Even so, a low-tech flip book is still a lot more fun for visitors to use, and it’s easier to pass around a large group. When the session’s over, a flip book can live at your bench indefinitely, ready for visitors with no boot time.

Services on the web will print flip books for you, but it’s simple to do yourself, and you’ll have more control of the process. The rarest reagent required for the following how-to is business card paper. Chances are someone in your lab has some lying around (networking kick?) and at the worst, you can purchase it at any office supply store. It comes in perforated cardstock letter-sized sheets, and can be fed through a normal printer.

You will need:

  • Your movie in .avi format
  • A computer running Windows
  • FlipSuite (a free download)
  • Business card paper
  • A very robust stapler or binder clips

A note on the source movie: as you can see in the animated gif above, the placement of the flipbook binding renders events toward the left of a landscape format movie difficult to see. Whatever movie you prepared will, by default, be right-justified, so it’s best to err toward a square or even portrait format. To make a movie in .avi format, you can use the “Save as AVI…” dialog in Fiji. To reduce filesize, you can use .jpg compression, but beware of going much below a quality of 90 to avoid artifacts.

When you start FlipSuite, you’ll see this screen first:


Use the “…” button (circled in red) to find the directory containing your movie. Once you’ve got the desired file highlighted, select “Flipbook Printer – Just Load Movie” from the Tools menu (red arrow).

A new window will appear, presenting you with lots of options. I haven’t messed with much in the example here, except the “# of cards,” which is primarily because I’d like to avoid the frame interpolation “feature.” 60 cards will fit in a large binder clip; medium ones can only hold about 40.


Visit the “Cover and Back” tab to give the book a title (and maybe a special cover image).

Also be sure to specify the type of business cards you have in the “Card Stock” tab, where you can load templates for popular formats.

Unless you want to print to your default printer, choose “Setup Printers” before you hit “PRINT NOW.” If your driver has the option available, select “manually feed into tray X” as your paper source. In addition to providing the gentlest handling of the perforated sheets, this will prevent anyone sharing your printer from ending up with a surprisingly durable sequencing order form.

Once you’ve got your sheets printed out, stack them on top of one another. If you separate all the sheets at the same time, you’ll be left with 10 individual stacks of cards with frame numbers (or in my case, moon language) on them. Stack the stacks, and your flip book is ready for binding. Tip: if you have blank cards, and your binder clip (or stapler) can accommodate them, put a few at the bottom to make it easier to show the entire movie.


The metal prongs on the binder clip make a convenient hanger for the flip book, allowing you to leave it dangling from a push pin at your posterboard. But beware: I’ve once come back to find that visitors had removed the first few frames of the flip books I’d left hanging there, apparently mistaking them for very tiny handouts. To discourage this, you can remove one or both of the prongs by pinching at the base, making the clip extremely difficult to open, and allowing the book to fit better in your visitors’ hands.


About the Author:

Jessica Polka is director of ASAPbio, a biologist-driven nonprofit working to improve life sciences communication. She is also a visiting scholar at the Whitehead Institute and a member of ASCB's public policy committee.