BLEED is an extra bit of artwork or image added to the sides of whatever you’re printing. This is helpful for any elements or images that goes right to the edge of your printed format.
FULL BLEED is when you’re printing something that goes to all edges of the printed piece.
CROPS are little crosshairs that are offset from the trim line, and indicate the edge of the printed format, which is where the printer should trim the extra bleed off.
TRIM is the invisible line that the crop marks indicate. The printer will cut along the trim lines.
Crops and bleed are important for your professionally printed materials to look their very best.
As such, the bleed is an area where the document image is extended from one side of the paper to another without critical information in it.
If a bleed is not included in document setup, there is a good chance that there will be a gap between the edge of the printed area and the cut line. This will leave a sliver of the paper color to show. This happens because there is a tolerance when cutting the printed piece.
Why do you require Bleeds?
If you’ve ever tried to print a full-bleed image that covers the entire paper (edge to edge), you likely noticed that the printed product had a thin white border on all 4 sides.
This happens because our printers need space along the side of the paper for its little mechanical hands to grab and guide the paper through the printer. The borders of the paper are left white to leave space for these hands, and no ink will be printed on them.
When you send us files to be printed, you definitely don’t want these unfortunate white borders. That’s where crops and bleed come in. The extra “bleed” added to the sides of your artwork will help our printers to easily grab and guide the paper without affecting your artwork.
How it all works
Cutting tolerance is the slight variations that occur when online printing projects are cut down to size. Our cutting tolerance is 1/16″, which means the trim line can vary by up to that much.
Anything that comes within 1/16” of the edge of the cut line could potentially be cut off. Text or other elements that you want to ensure are not trimmed away must be placed more than 1/16” away from the expected edge of the design.
After opening and setting up your InDesign file with the appropriate settings, you will see the guides below indicating the specific trim, bleed and safety margins. See tips on file set up below and in our How to Booklets in the Help Center.
The RED line is the bleed line.
The Black lines are the Cut lines.
The Pink line is the safety line.
The Blue line shows you the edge of the file and where it will be cut.
Bleed Line – content that goes “off the page” extend to this line and will be trimmed off allowing for full bleed images.
*If you need content to be full bleed then you will need to pull that content out to this line.
Trim Line – this is the actual physical edge of the page and your book. This is where we will cut.
Safe Area / Margin – important information should be inside this line.
Crop Marks – These you will add when exporting so that we know where to cut your file.
Once your file is exported as a PDF with the appropriate marks it will look like the image below. You can see the extra space where the red extends past the first set of crop/trim marks.
The printer will trim the extra bleed off (using the crop mark guides) when finished.
Below is an example of a document that is set up correctly, and none of the important information will be trimmed off. The image goes to the edge of the bleed and all the text is positioned in the safety margin.
The bleed on this business card document is .125″. The edge of the document is shown with the black outline (do not include this in your actual file). There is a safety margin shown in pink. This is .125″ from the inside edge of the document. It is important that there is no information outside the safety margin. The red line is the bleed line.
Incorrect Document Setup
This example is not set up correctly. The image does not go to the edge of the bleed and therefore there might be a blank line on the edge of the printed piece. Text is going into the bleed area which will cause it to be trimmed off and unreadable. It is crucial that important information stays inside of the safety margin.
Photoshop doesn’t have simple settings for crops and bleed, but you can accomplish it with a bit of planning, as per these instructions from CreativePro.com
InDesign Document Set Up
We will use InDesign specifically in our example, however, it is very easy to set up bleeds in the other Adobe software. Bleeds of 1/8” are required on anything small like business cards, brochures or saddle stitch booklets that will be cut down.
Bleed Setup in InDesign
NOTE: InDesign defaults to picas. If you type in “.125in” (the “in” for inches is very important), it will calculate that measurement in picas. If you would prefer to work in inches, another solution is to go to Preferences > General > Units & Increments. In the Ruler Units block, the Horizontal and Vertical should have the Inches option selected.
Borders on Artwork – Please NO!
Considering what we just learned about bleeds and borders, you would start designing with a minimum safety margin of .125″.
If you add a border to your artwork, however, it is essential that your safety margin instead be .25″ to maintain border consistency on all sides.
Border thickness is important because if it is too thin, the border may look uneven after cutting, but the thicker the border the better the results. Cutting tolerance is .0625″. For smaller pieces, the shift in cutting tolerance will be more likely and more noticeable.
Take a look at our Artwork Guidelines for more information and examples.