WHAT IS A “BLEED” WHEN REFERENCED IN PRINTING?
Bleed is a printing term that refers to printing that goes beyond the edge of the sheet before trimming. In other words, the bleed is the area to be trimmed off. The bleed is the part on the side of a document that gives the printer a small amount of space to account for movement of the paper during the cutting process as well as slight design inconsistencies. Artwork and background colors can extend into the bleed area, but all important information (text, logos, etc.) should remain inside of the trim lines. After trimming (cutting), the bleed ensures that there are no unprinted edges or white borders.
It is very difficult to print exactly to the edge of a sheet of paper/card so, to achieve this, it is necessary to print a slightly larger area than is needed and then trim the paper/card down to the required finished size. Images, background images and fills which are intended to extend to the edge of the page must be extended beyond the trim line to give a bleed.
Bleeds in the US generally are 1/8 of an inch from where the cut is to be made. Bleeds in the UK and Europe generally are 2 to 5mm from where the cut is to be made. This can vary from one print company to another. We ask that all design files be setup with a 1/8 inch of bleed on each side making the final piece a 1/4 inch larger on each dimension. We offer templates that are already set to our required bleed settings in both Illustrator and Photoshop formats for your convenience. You can access them by clicking here.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SETTING UP A PROPER BLEED
It is very important that there be no text or other important content from your design inside the bleed area, as this area will be trimmed off during the cutting process. Add a quarter of an inch (.25″) to each dimension (both the height and the width) to accommodate for the bleed area. This is the same as adding an eighth of an inch (.125″) to each side. In the examples we will give you, we will be using a commonly printed 4″ x 6″ flyer. After the bleed is added the size of the design file that you will submit to us for print should be 4.25″ by 6.25″.
See some common errors in setting up files for bleeds below. As you can see in all of the images below, there are guidelines at the 1/4″ marks. We highly recommend that you use your rules and guides in the design process to better help you observe the bleed areas.
NOT ADJUSTING DESIGN FOR BLEED WILL CAUSE YOUR TEXT TO GET CUT OFF
Take a look at the example below. In this example, the design was setup with the extra .25″ making the design file 4.25″ x 6.25″, but if was submitted like this would yield a terrible result! As you can see, the text extends beyond the guidelines that were drawn at the .25″ marks. The blueish-green lines are the guides dragged on to the artboard to help the designer be aware of the safe design area (sometimes referred to as “live design area”) that you should use for the bleeds in your design. Because the text is extending past this safe area it will almost certainly be chopped off during the cutting process. DO NOT SUBMIT YOUR ART LIKE THIS!
Example of flyer with incorrect bleed.
BORDERS NOT RECOMMENDED!
The example below shows the text and logo inside of the safe area, but has a different problem. This example displays a 4″ x 6″ flyer that has a border in the design. While borders may look good aesthetically in your design, we highly recommend that you NEVER use them in your designs. The reason borders cause issues is similar to the reason we have safe areas. In short, the reason is that it will visibly look unsymmetrical and not look as good as it would if you did not use a border (as the shift is not noticeable to the naked eye). If you would to better understand the reason, read the long explanation below.
Due to the process we use to print (gang-run printing), we print your jobs at the same time as we print other customers of ours. We print multiple jobs using the same stock and printing techniques at once on large sheets of that stock. The large sheets with multiple jobs on it are then cut down to separate the orders. During the cutting process large stacks of prints are cut by large commercial blades. The weight and pressure of the blade causes a slight shift in the stack which results in the cuts at the top of the stack being nearly an 1/8″ off from the ones on the bottom of the stack. This shift can and will cause the borders to not be even on all sides the cards. Some may come out correct depending on their location in the stack, but as you get closer to the bottom the shift will be more and more noticeable. This shift is more significant in prints that have the high gloss UV coating option as the gloss causes the prints to slip even more. When no border is present, this small amount of shifting will not even be very noticeable, but when you add a border the lack of symmetry makes it more visible to the naked eye and produces an unprofessional result.
Example of flyer with borders which cause poor results.
SOMETIMES YOU MAY HAVE MISSED SOMETHING
Please review the example above. This is an example of a 4″ x 6″ postcard or flyer with incorrect bleed. What’s wrong with this? Sometimes some of our clients think that they have sent their files correctly, but we all make mistakes. Make sure to be very cautious that there is absolutely no text or important graphics past the bleed guides. If you miss something like this, it will get cut off and look very unprofessional. To see an example of the correct way to send a file with bleed, refer to the last example on this page.
Example that is almost correct, but still has bleed issue.
THIS IS THE CORRECT BLEED
Please review the example above. This is an example of a 4″ x 6″ postcard or flyer with correct bleed. By keeping to these standards and being cautious about how you create your design, you will be very pleased with the end results.
This is an example of a flyer that is setup properly.