EXAMPLES: Do's and Don'ts
WHY DO WE REQUIRE A BLEED?RESOURCES: Adobe Setup for Illustrator + Photoshop
FULL BLEED PRINTING: Products That Require Bleed
HOW IT WORKS – File Setup – Adobe InDesign – Adding a Bleed Area

The Basics: What is Bleed? 

A bleed is printing that goes over the edge of your designed artwork. It is part of the background that will be trimmed off after the file is printed and helps us cut it down to the finished size.

The bleed is an area where the document image is extended over the artwork area that does not contain important information and will get cut off.

Below you can see the lines in an InDesign document set up for Full Bleed and what each line means.

The RED line is the bleed line.
The Black lines are the Cut lines or Crop Marks
The Pink line is the safety line or margin.
The Blue line shows you the edge of the file and where it will be cut.


Why the Service Bureau requires files with a Bleed? 

  • It is impossible to print exactly to the edge of a sheet of paper or card with our printers.

If you’ve ever tried to print a full-bleed image that covers the entire paper (edge to edge) with us, you likely noticed that the printed product had a thin white border on all 4 sides. See below.

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.


  • To achieve full bleed, 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 the bleed line to make sure this works.

Below you can see a sample file where the area outside the dotted line is what is going to get cut off.

What remains after cutting will appear to go to the edge of the page.


Above is a sample file where the area outside the dotted line is what is going to get cut off.

What if I don’t include a bleed in my file? 

  • Your order may be delayed as we will require a new file.
  • There is a good chance that there will be an area between the edge of the printed piece and the cut line. This will appear white and simply put will not look good.This happens because there is a tolerance when cutting the printed piece.

Cutting tolerance is the slight variations that occur when online printing projects are cut down to size. Paper wiggles!

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.

Full Bleed Printing – Products That Require Bleed

The Service Bureau requires you to apply a bleed on your file if you are submitting anything that is going to be Full Bleed (meaning the image or design element is going to go edge to edge on the sheet) and/or is going to require us to cut it down to achieve this.

Products that require bleed:

  1. Any of our Postcard, Business Card, Exhibition Card options that have elements that will go off the edge of the printed piece.
    *Our Card submission require bleed but no crop marks.
  2. Saddle Stitch Booklets are also a product that has a Full Bleed option. Each of the sized booklets have an option for Full Bleed.
    This means we will require the bleed be set up and exported specifically for printing and cutting those booklets.
    *Our booklet submission require both bleed and crop or cut marks for printing.
  3. Any laser order that would need to be cut down and be full bleed. This means you will submit your order to fit on one of the offered standard sheet sizes – make sure it has room for the artwork AND the crop and bleed marks.You will need to be able to see the crop marks in the preview window.

How It Works – File Setup – Adobe InDesign – Adding a Bleed Area

In order to have a bleed area on your document you will need to set up your file with that area or add it so it is visible before getting too far in your design process.

A bleed area of 1/8” or .125″are required on anything small like business cards, brochures or saddle stitch booklets that will be cut down.
There is an easy way to add a bleed to your existing document or a new document.

The new document window will give you an option under the file size area to put in the bleed information. Make sure it is set to inches and the little lock icon is checked.

Type in .125″ in the Top area and it should populate that number across all for fields for Top, Bottom, Inside and Outside.
We do not need anything in the Slug area.


Click Ok and you will be all set.

If you are starting with an already existing file you will go to the the Document Setup window by going to File>Document Setup.


When the pop up window opens you will see the information about your file including, size, page count, etc and at the bottom of the window is a section for Bleed.

In the first window, type in .125″ and it should populate that number across all for fields for Top, Bottom, Inside and Outside.
We do not need anything in the Slug area.


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.


InDesign – How to Use the Bleed Area

Once you have the bleed area added to your file you will see a red line around the outside edge of your document.

The black line is the edge of your document and where we will be cutting. 

The red line is the bleed line. 



You will need to pull out any images or design elements to the red line that you want to go to the edge of the paper.

This means that anything close to that black line could potentially get cut off and the areas past the black line will be cut off. 

Below you can see we have pulled out the blue gradient in this booklet all the way out to the red line on all the edges.



[ An example of a correctly set up file for bleed.] 


Below is an example of an incorrectly set up file.

Notice the blue gradient is NOT pulled out to the red line. This will result in your order being declined and sent back. We will put your order on hold and ask that you resend a new file. This will delay your order being completed.


[ An example of an incorrectly set up file for bleed.] 


QUESTIONS? Schedule a Consultation or Tour


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.


Borders on Artwork

Begin designing your artwork with a minimum safety bleed margin of 0.125″. If you add a border to your artwork, however, it is essential that your safety margin instead be 0.25″ to maintain border consistency on all sides.

Border thickness is important because if it is too thin, the border may look uneven after cutting.

The thicker the border, the better the results. The cutting tolerance is 0.125″, and for smaller pieces, the shift in cutting tolerance will be more likely and more noticeable.

This means if you have added a border around the edge of your business cards or postcard there is a chance that they will appear uneven due to the cutting tolerance.





If you’re looking for instructions on adding Crops + Bleed to your artwork with an Adobe program, I recommend checking out Adobe’s detailed instructions here for Illustrator and here for InDesign.

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

Bleed Setup in Photoshop

Setting up the correct document size takes a little bit of math. Unlike InDesign, there is not a default bleed setting. For example, if you’d like to create an 8.5″ x 11″ document, there will need to be an 0.125″ bleed on all four sides. Therefore, the document size will need to be 8.75″ x 11.25″ in size.

You will have to manually add guides to show where the printed piece will end.


Go to View > New Guide.