How and why to add bleed

Surely one of the most commonly asked questions in print. When you create a document where the image goes right to the edge of the page you need to add an area of bleed. This is because we print on an over-sized sheet and trim it down to size, or sometimes multiple images are printed on much larger sheets before trimming down to size. It is not possible to cut exactly to the edge of your design so you need to make sure the design “bleeds” over the edge of the finished size area, usually by around 3mm, or a white line can appear where the image is cropped. When we trim into an area of bleed, it means you get a nice clean edge to the print and not a white line. It is standard practice to add 3mm bleed and it should be added to the entire document, not just on the edges where the image bleeds off. You should also leave a safe zone of at least 3mm inside the document to make sure that your text is not too close to the trimmed edge. This is not the same as adding bleed. Remember that the 3mm bleed is OUTSIDE the page and is designed to be trimmed off so make sure your background is extended to fill the bleed area, not just enlarged or you may still end up with some of your image missing. Don’t forget to allow an extra margin on the left hand side of each page if your document is being bound.
To summarise:

  • Purpose of bleed: To ensure a clean edge when printed, include a bleed area that extends beyond the final document size. This compensates for slight inconsistencies during the trimming process.
  • Standard size: 3mm bleed around the entire document, not just where the image or background extends off the page.
  • Safe zone: Maintain a 3mm “safe zone” inside the document to ensure text and crucial elements aren’t too close to the edge.
  • Document binding: Add extra margin on the left-hand side if the document will be bound.

For InDesign or Illustrator:

  1. Step one: Select the bleed option and include 3mm all around when creating your document/artboard.
  2. Step two: Design within this bleed area. Use preview mode to see how it will look post-trim.
  3. Step three: Save the design with all links intact before exporting as a PDF.
  4. Step four: Choose “press quality” during PDF export and ensure crop marks and bleeds are checked. Also, tick the “use document bleed settings” box.

For Photoshop:

  • Canvas size: Manually increase the canvas size by 3mm all around since Photoshop doesn’t have a built-in bleed option.
  • File saving: Save your file as a PDF. No need for crop marks; this will be taken care of during print processing.

For more information email or call 0116 255 4336

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