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a bit about bleed

tips & tutorials + Thu, 12 Oct 2017 17:19:20 -0400

what is bleed?

For those who work in print, the answer is already deeply engrained in our daily practices. For those who are new to print, or new to designing for print, the concept—& best practices—may seem a bit unclear at first.

So, what is bleed? In print, bleed is the area that must be trimmed off in order for your design to run to the finished edge without a visible margin. In other words, your design must exceed the desired dimensions for your piece with the understanding that this excess, or bleed, will be removed after print.

In the example above, the Bleed marks indicate the point to which the design must exceed the finished dimensions for the piece pictured. The Crop marks indicate where the piece will be cut or trimmed down to final size. As you can see, 1/8 inch is to be trimmed, leaving the finished piece with no unprinted margins.


how much bleed do i need?

For most basic items—business cards up to small posters—0.125 inches is standard. For larger posters etc. you will want to use 0.25 to 0.75 inches. For very large banners, trade & installation pieces, you will want to allow for at least 1 inch. It is always better to over-accommodate bleed if you are unsure. Make sure that text and elements not meant to bleed are at least 0.125 inches inset from the crop marks.


how do i include bleed in my template?

With most design & layout software, defining bleed is part of the setup when you create a new document. With Adobe Illustrator & InDesign, you can also assign or change bleed via File > Document Setup. You can also use these settings to modify bleed for publications & folded pieces.


why do i need bleed? can't you just cut it right at the edge?

Shift happens, no matter how perfect the alignment & registration on press. Printed pieces are generally cut in volume; not individually. If your design is intended to run to the edge but does not incorporate bleed, you may end up with some fine white margins where none were intended.


my document doesn't have bleed. can you just copy & flip the images?

Keep in mind that a mirrored image is not a continuation of the image. If this tactic is used to accomodate bleed, you may end up with small distortions along the edge of your piece. It is best to enlarge the image or element so that it runs cleanly into the bleed.


can i just fill a color in the bleed area?

Using tools such as the eyedropper to sample & fill are less than accurate; particularly with bitmap images such as .TIFs or .JPGs as the tool will sample an individual pixel. You may end up with thin margins where the color is slightly off, or thin colored margins where a more detailed design element was meant to meet the edge of your piece. Ensure accurate color for a fill by utilizing consistently assigned color swatches for vector data & enlarge or reposition images or elements that are intended to bleed if necessary.


i'm still having trouble. can you help?

Of course! That's what we're here for. Call or email us with any questions. We can also set bleed for you; but, please be sure to send your original file with all links & fonts packaged so that we have everything needed to correctly edit & output your file!

— jm

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