A quick guide to print bleeds

Unless you’ve trained in printing or graphic design, you’re likely to come across a number of terms and concepts that you may not understand when organising a new printing job.

Though a good printer will take the time to explain these to you, if you can learn a bit about them yourself, you’ll not only save yourself time, you’ll also gain a better understanding of the overall process.

Understanding print bleed could help to speed up the processing of your print job and ensure you get the result you want and give you a professional finish every time.

What is print bleed?

As most printing presses can’t print right to the edge of a piece of paper your product will be printed on a larger sheet than is required. This is then trimmed down to size once it’s come off of the press. In most cases, multiple items will be printed onto a single sheet paper and then trimmed afterwards.

As it’s impractical to cut exactly to size, designs that have elements that fit up to the edge of the page could be left with thin white lines around their edges when trimmed. To prevent this, designers extend the background colour and images on their designs by a further 2 or 3mm - this is known as adding bleed. Now when the printouts are trimmed to size there won’t be any white lines visible.

Do I need to worry about print bleed?

You only need to add print bleed to your artwork if the design extends to the edge of the page. If all of your text and images are in the centre of the design and are surrounded by a plain white background, you won’t need to worry about print bleed as the edges will blend seamlessly into your overall design.

Artwork showing bleed and crop marks

How to incorporate print bleed

To add print bleed to your own design you need to extend your backgrounds and images by 2 or 3mm on each side. When supplying artwork for Swallowtail Print we recommend using 3mm bleed but check with your printer for their requirements.

Most programs used by designers like Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress have the ability to add bleed and crop marks built in.

Adding crop marks and bleed in Indesign

Exporting artwork as a PDF should also allow you to save the file with bleed and crop marks as long as the artwork has been set up as described above.

The safe zone

Along with adding bleed it’s a good idea to place all of the important information in your design with the ‘safe zone’. This zone should be no less than 3mm within the borders of your page, this would then ensure that no crucial piece of information is too close to the edge once trimmed.

To find out more about preparing your product for print, get in touch with one of the friendly Swallowtail Print team.

View related articles and print guidelines

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