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How to Paper Tune a Bow: Your Step-by-Step Guideline

Quick Summary

In this article, I want to share a very important step that can either be really easy or incredibly complicated for archery. This step is called Paper Tuning.

It’s something that archers study on their arrow flight with the rips which are created by the arrow on a piece of paper they use.

So, we will answer in detail the question of how to paper tune a bow.

Paper tuning is not the only method to adjust perfect arrow flight, but it is a guideline and a good way to start achieving your accuracy goal.

◊ You will find in this article every detail of paper tuning and a step-by-step guideline that you cannot find in the other paper tuning manuals.

In-depth: Paper Tuning

Some people think this is a process they should do only they purchase a new bow. However, this is completely wrong.

You should make this adjustment every time you change something on the bow, like a new bow sight, arrow rest, draw weight, and, of course, new arrows.

In short, every time you change a parameter that effects your shot.

We are using paper tuning to figure out if there’s anything that doesn’t work properly like rest placement, string twists or nocking point, the D loop, etc.

shape of paper tuning

Paper tuning is just a simple frame with a piece of paper in the middle. The arrow is coming off the bow perfectly straight to the paper and creates a shape behind. This shape is like a snapshot of the arrow’s flight.

As a result, that imprint will help us to find an answer to the question of how to adjust our bow.

The Shape on the Paper

ultimate goal of paper tuning

When you properly shoot through the paper, the arrow will fly and tune/mark the paper. Our main purpose is to see a hole in the center that shows your arrow shafts cuts on the paper perfectly with three framed tears around from the fletchings.

This also shows us; the arrow has a great flight.

You can get different types of tears before your setup such as nock high, nock low, tail left, tail right, and sometimes a combination of these problems.

Once you adjust it perfectly, arrows will come off straight, and that means you’re ready to shoot! (Shape A)

paper tune shapes

Paper tune tears

Shape B is an also tolerable left tail which is ok if you’re right-handed. But your ultimate goal should be to obtain the perfect shape which has a bullet hole in the center.


Before you start any tuning work procedures, be sure to install all accessories you will use on your bow.

Bow Setup

The first thing you should do to achieving well-tuned equipment is to ensure the initial setup of your bow has been done correctly.

After that, paper tuning can be an easy adjustment phase.

Therefore, we suggest you follow our guideline to initial equipment setup and eliminate most of the possible confusions which cause paper tuning problems.

Install the Nocking Point

First, choose your shooting style. For the most popular shooting setups are mentioned below.

  • Recurve bow, using finger release (RF)
  • Compound bow, using finger release (CF)
  • Compound bow, using a release aid (CR)

Clamp-on types are ideal for the moveable nocking point. Position the nocking point on the bowstring about ½’’(1,3 cm) above the horizontal axis for RF and CF and approximately ¼’’(0,6 cm) above the horizontal axis for CR. You can see the shape below.

how to find nocking point

Find the Limb Centers

To be able to adjust the arrow’s position on the bow, you should find and mark the center of the limbs (balanced limb center for the compound bow).

Recurve Bows

To find the center of limbs on a recurve bow, place a piece of masking tape across the inside of each limb a few inches from the riser. With a pen, make a vertical mark on tape in the center of each limb.

Compound Bows

With compound bows, you can use masking tape just like the recurve bows.

  • Precisely, measure the width of the limb and place a mark on the tape in the exact center of each limb.
  • Secondly, measure 3/16’’(4,8 mm) to the left of the mark and this time make a larger vertical mark (for right-handed archers). On the other hand, left-handed archers do the same thing right of the first mark. Similarly, we will use the second mark for arrow centering. 

Consequently, this will compensate for the amount the cam is offset from the real center of the limb. The distance of 3/16’’(4,8 mm) is an average offset difference for most compound bows.

limb center

Adjust the Arrow’s Left/Right Position

Releasing the string with fingers creates a horizontal bending effect on the arrow. On the other hand, using a release aid causes a slight up/down bending effect.

Because of this, the arrows must be positioned differently for each type of release.

It is necessary to adjust the horizontal position of the cushion plunger or let the arrow rest so the center of the arrow will be perfectly aligned with your type of shooting release.

Finger Release

Align the center point of the arrow with the bowstring properly.

Mechanical Release

The center line of the arrow must be aligned with the bowstring when the bowstring is aligned with the balanced limb center beforehand.

Adjust the Arrow Rest

The arrow rest support must be invisible from the overhead view. But be sure enough of the flipper arm is extended to hold the arrow on the rest safely. (RF, CF)

On the other hand, compound bows commonly use the launcher type rests, and it should be narrow enough to allow the two fletchings without any contact. (CR)


The connection between the arrow rest and fletchings is the most common reason for poor arrow flight. 

how to adjust arrow rest

Understanding the Shape Meanings

When you see a shape like this, you can understand where the point of your arrow first hit the paper and how it leaves it.

That shows us how the arrow flies through the target.

understanding of shape meanings

Paper tune tears

In this case, arrow direction turns right and creates a hole in the paper. But its shaft comes from the left relative to the arrowhead.

So, the tail of the arrow enters the paper nearly ¼’’ left from the arrowhead with the fletchings.

To fix this, you should first look at the yoke, not the rest. You see a left tear. So, just add a twist to the left yoke to change the slope of the cam a little. But, remember twisting to that direction, causing tightening.

Don’t Ruin Your Shot

Below are some different reasons can ruin your shot and your accuracy. Make sure that you check the list before shooting.

  • If you’re using a compound bow that has two cams, you should check the cams timing. (It can be only tuned if the cams roll over at the same time.)
  • If you’re using a compound bow that has a solo cam, you have to be sure the yoke is tuned properly. In solo cams, control cable splits and has a form of ’’Y’’. It can impact the shot with the changing movement of the string.
  • You have to be sure to set your bow at the suggested specs properly (brace height, draw weight, axle to axle distance, etc.)
  • You have to be in a good archery form. If you can’t provide consistent shooting during the paper tuning, you can easily make mistakes and the wrong adjustments.

By going through this list and correcting potential problems, you get an immediate indication of potential problem areas and can troubleshoot them ahead of time.

Right or left tears can be easily adjusted by moving your arrow rest to the right or left.

Step-by-Step Guideline for How to Paper Tune a Bow

Let’s start the paper tuning to achieve the best shot. We’ve prepared a step-by-step guideline for you.

Note That!

Your accessories must all be aligned for your arrow to keep its straight flight.

step by step guide paper tuning

You can consider, there are lots of parameters like draw weight, draw length or depending on your choosing arrow types, slicers, bow release, or finger release, like that.

All of these can affect your shot in different ways. So, for stable shooting, you should paper tune every time you change something for your shot.

Another important bit of advice we can give you is to set your arrow rest to be at the center shot that the bow producer recommends.


Archers using mechanical release aids(CR) should consider the reminders below before starting paper tuning.

  • Align the arrow down the center of the bowstring with the arrow point correctly positioned.
  • Position the sight ping over the centerline of the arrow.


  • You have to hang the paper (fixed to a frame or other type of mechanism) so you can shoot through it. If the paper doesn’t stay fixed, your arrow can make a hole in the paper, and the result of your shot will not make any sense. You can fix  the tuning paper from the ceiling, or you can build your own paper tuning system (like a wooden frame that holds the paper stable.) However, if you’re not going to use it constantly, I’d say it’s probably not necessary to build one. By the way, there are lots of different types of paper fixed systems: jigs, stands, rolls, cardboard bow, and all kind of PVC, wood, or types of materials you can build by yourself.


Paper tuning can sometimes be deceiving. For instance, if you use thick paper, it can hide the errors and show you a lesser tear. But on the other hand, thinner papers might reveal a worse tear.

  • Position the center of the paper approximately at your shoulder height.
  • The distance between the point of your stance and the paper is important. The recommended distance is 6-8 feet for this study.
  • Make sure that you have a target behind the paper. It looks silly. But we’re all human. You don’t want to shoot a weapon against something that has just a hair thickness.
  • Shoot through the paper (parallel to the ground).
  • Analyze your shot as comparing the snapshot on the paper with the shapes in the next section.

Some Common Mistakes

Sometimes even if you adjust your arrow rest, you can see the problem is not solved. In this case, you can understand that there is another issue.

A lot of times, it happens because of improper flight due to face contact or because of release.

Except these, there many common mistakes made by rookies. However, you can learn how to avoid them.

Face Contact

If you release the string coming out away from your face, you will send the arrow away all the time, and this will cause your arrow rest to be unable to correct the shot.

In case you have too much face contact with the arrow shaft, it will cause that arrow to get away from your face every time, and arrow rest won’t be able to correct that either.

Moreover, if you draw back and have contact between your chin and the string, your chin can twist the string a little bit, which makes it a tear right. So, if you consistently have a right tear, even if you do everything correctly, the first thing to do is draw your bow back, hold it away from your face and shoot as a test shot and see if it changes anything.

That will help you to find out if you’re using a twist effect with your chin to the string involuntary.

If you’re torquing the grip, then you’re going to find these left and right tears. Even if you adjust the rest, you’ll see the tears on the tuning paper. There are lots of comments on the internet whereby people did everything right and still did not see the result they wanted. In most of these cases, the problem was the grip. Tune is affected by the grip.

High and Low Tears

For the high and low tears, you should move your arrow rest in the same direction as a tear. Even if you move your arrow rest up and down according to high tear or low tear, and if you still have the same tear, it means that your arrow shaft could be too stiff.

If you think this is the case, increase the poundage of your bow just a few pounds and check to see if the hole (the tearing) gets better or not.

Also, you can do the same thing by adding point weight to the arrow shaft.

For High tears; If you still get an error, even after you move your rest up, that indicates the veins contact too much with the rest and are skipping up every time you shoot. Don’t worry. It’s a very common problem that most people encounter.

Tip to avoid a common mistake! 

This is a common mistake that I’ve also made in the past. You have the paper too close to the target. As a result, the arrow goes through the paper, and it touches the target before the fletchings enter. So, that gives you weird and wrong tears. Just don’t do that!

These are the tips and basic steps you should follow to get the best results when paper tuning.

Analysing your Results / How to Adjust the Shot?

After shooting, it’s time to examine the hole the arrow made in the paper. Our ultimate goal is to achieve the perfect shape, which is of the arrowhead and fletchings entering the paper in the same hole.

paper tuning perfect shape

But, mostly, we’ll see different types of shapes before achieving this perfect flight. You can see the types of tears and how they can be fixed by looking at the chart below.

different types of paper tune tears

Tips for Analyzing

Important Note!

For tail right and left adjustments are for right-handed bows. If you use a left-handed bow, you should make the adjustments mentioned above reversed. For the tail right fix, do the tail left adjustments.


If the shape in the paper is much larger on the left or right, most probably your arrow is wobbling horizontally as it flies. This is a result of using an arrow that is too light or too stiff for your bow. In this case, first, you should check the minimum arrow weight of your bow, or use an arrow selection chart to find the correct arrow spine or stiffness for your bow. If you are sure that you are using the right arrows, then try to adjust the arrow rest left or right.

Most Common Tear: Combination of the Ribs

Sometimes you can see a different shape that’s shown below. It can be a combination of the rips.

paper tune tear combination

paper tear combination

In this case, the recommendation is correcting the vertical tear first then work on the horizontal correction. If you still experiencing a tuning problem, we advise you to go to your local archery shop and check the ‘’timing’’ of your cams.

When you achieve a perfect shape on the paper, you’ll be ready for a great shot.

Here’s where things get tricky! 

Your rest may not be the problem. Paper tuning is tuning the bow itself. The most critical factor in paper tuning is your arrow setup. What we’re looking for is ‘’How does the spine of the arrow act as its leaving the bow?’’ It’s not always the bow’s fault when the paper tuning is not going as you want. It might be the arrow.

Our Advise for How to Paper Tune a Bow

We advise you to make a horizontal row of about 5-6 aiming point and shoot a set of 6 arrows.

After that, you should analyze what kind of pattern you get. It shouldn’t be any different type of shape.

If there are, most probably the problem is in your form. If they all the same just continue the row below.

At close distances, shoot 2-3 inches below your aiming point, You will end up with a series of rows of holes. Get little notes on each shot and what you did to adjust the tuning.

After that, you will end up with something you will keep as a solid adjustment for future use

types of paper tune

This question is asked, especially by new archers more than anything else. The bow must be tuned to achieve maximum accuracy. But it is impossible to proceed accurately with the tuning process unless you have a consistent shooting form.

You can test your consistency by shooting groups. After that, you’re ready to move on to paper tuning.

Tip: Another way for an adjustment! 

Move the D-loop up and down until you find the spot for the D-loop where you get the best tears. Sometimes D-loop moving is the most over-looked part of tuning. Often twisting the yolk or moving the rest causes a bigger problem by not doing the D-loop part.

Bonus: DIY advice! How to make a Bow Paper Tuning System

A good, old cardboard box makes one of the best paper tuning system. Plus, you can do it by yourself—homemade. Just cut a hole slightly smaller than a piece of paper in the front of the box and fix your paper over it with standard tape.

Make sure that you’re shooting into the paper parallel with the ground.


Tuning a Recurve Bow by Ed Eliason – Retrieved from. https://d36m266ykvepgv.cloudfront.net/uploads/media/sRi0CJ495I/o/recurvebowtuningguide-edeliason.pdf

Easton – Arrow Tuning and Maintenance Guide – The Complete Archer’s Resource. Retrieved from. http://www.wvac.asn.au/docs/TuningGuideEaston.pdf








Lancaster Archery Supply / NRTR 12 – Paper Tuning (Youtube)

SoleAdventure.com / Bow Setup & Tuning (6) — How to Paper Tune (Youtube)

Bow Life TV / Levi Morgan’s Game Break “Paper Tuning” (Youtube)

LCArchery / Thing A Week #6 | “Paper Tuning 101” (Youtube)

PSE Archery / Bow Setup DVD – Introduction to Paper Tuning (Youtube)


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