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What is bleed? Why add bleed? How to add bleed?

Bleed, how, when, and why to use it. lots of business cards on a sheet

Many customers get frustrated when asked to supply files with bleed, they feel it is too technical and unecessary. However, it is incredibly important if you want a job that looks good once trimmed.

Any poster or flyer you have seen with text far too close to the edge, has probably been supplied without bleed.

What is bleed

Bleed is an area of (usually) 3mm on each side of your artwork that is cut off after printing. Your artwork should be extended to cover this area. Below you can see an image showing the extended area, the final artwork size and the cut line. Anything important should be kept a minimum of 5mm inside the cut line to give a professional finish.
Bleed area and cutting lines on printed business card

Why add bleed

Adding bleed ensures that any movement when printing doesn't leave your final product with unsightly white edges. There can be up to a 3mm tolerance on some printing machines!
 
This extra overprint allows your print to go right to the edge of the page. The majority of print machines cannot print to the edge, so we print on oversize sheets and then trim down to the finished size.
 

How to add bleed

Adding bleed is easier in some programs than others.

Indesign & Illustrator

Both are very user friendly when it comes to setting up for print. Open a new document and once you have set your page size move down to the bottom of the "document set up" screen and you will see
>Margins and >Bleed in Indesign and >Bleed only in Ilustrator.Showing Page size, Margin and bleed set up in indesign

Margin (Indesign only)

Depending on what you are designing your margin should be set anywhere from 5mm upwards. For smaller items like business cards 5mm is fine. For leaflets, posters and brochures we advise a minimum of 8mm. For booklets you may want to set up "facing pages' and make the margin on the inner slightly larger to allow for the binding edge. This is especially important on wirobinds or perfect binds.

Document set up boxes for Margins and Bleeds

Bleed

Bleed should always be set as a minimum of 3mm on all edges.

When you create your new document and enter your page size, add 3mm all around using the bleed box.

Always check with your printer what their preferred bleed size is. For examples on banners and signage it could be up to 25mm.

It is a good idea to save this as a preset if you will be creating more artwork at the same size in the future.

If you have already started your artwork don't worry, you can still amend this.

Choose "document set up" under the File menu and go through the steps above. Then as long as you have the guides set to show (you can change this under the view menu) you should clearly be able to see the margin and bleed guides as below.

Business Card Set up Bleed, Cut line, Margin

Saving your file

 

Export as a high resolution pdf and ensure the boxes for bleed are ticked.

Photoshop

Photo shop doesn't have the same set up options as the above. The easiest way to add your bleed area is to add 6mm to the height and the width of your document – giving you 3mm bleed area on each side. It is very important to use guides when working like this as it is easy to forget about the bleed and margin area. We suggest setting guides at 3mm in from each edge (bleed) and then 8mm in from each edge to give you a 5mm margin area.

In Photoshop you need to ensure your document is set up as CMYK and at 300dpi at full size. This will give you the best printing quality.

You can then save and send to your printers – just let them know your final trim size.

Need some help adding bleed?

We are more than happy to help. We have a wide range of templates we can send over – or we can set a bespoke template up for your project. We also check all artwork when we get it, then we print a test copy and if it requires any finishing such as folding we run a test of that too.

If we spot a problem at any stage we'll let you know so you can correct it. Speak to our team of designers and print experts today to ensure you get the perfect job