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Don’t Cut Me Off

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Have you ever created the perfect image, just to submit it to a printing company and lettering got cut off, images skewed, or it not turn out the way you expected? This is possibly due to not accounting for the bleed and cut/trim size of the design/image you are having printed. Every company does their bleed printing differently, and understanding the terms, the company’s bleed and trim sizes and how to design for these elements is very important.

What is a bleed?

In printing terminology, “bleed” refers to printing outside the trim size/cut size in order to ensure no white, unprinted line remains on the sheet when the final print is out. The cut size or trim size is where the image will be cut and no important text or images should be beyond this point. All important items should be within the margin zone by at least 0.25” to avoid any risk of trimming important text and designs. For example, if a document is of 10”x14”, it should be setup to print on an area of 10.25”x14.25”. Safety margin zones usually range from 0.1625″ (1/16″) up to 0.25″ (1/4″), all depending on the size of the printer. As a designer, using a wider safety margin of 0.25″ will allow you to accommodate more printers across the board while conserving the beauty of your design.

What is full bleed?

A “full bleed” print is when a page is printed completely from one edge to the other with not even a hairline of unprinted area. Full bleed printing does not actually require any specials tools or equipment. All you need to do is to enlarge the picture a bit and then cut it down to regular size to ensure no margin is left unprinted. However, full bleed printing is still not something that is recommended to be done at home because you will need a bigger printer and you might not have the perfect tools for cutting that the print shops do – like the guillotine cutter which quickly and consistently cuts down your document to the right size.

What is the purpose of having a bleed?

The “bleed” part is usually left out for the printer to allow some space for the movement of the paper while printing. And adding a bleed is usually helpful for printing brochures, posters or other advertisement materials. If a bleed of 1/8 of an inch is not made, any misalignment in the paper can lead to having a white edge on your document which does not give off a professional look.

How do you add bleed?

You can add bleed in almost design and illustration software by setting the dimensions in the settings tab. Although the exact instructions vary according to the software you are using, you can easily get help from online sources.

As you set up your documents and files for printing, be well aware of where your trim edges are, and also keep in mind that there is always a mechanical margin of error when the job is printed and trimmed. To be on the safe side, always keep the important content within safety margins.

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