In Printing, What Is Bleed?

What is bleed? A question we come across many times a week over the phone or email.

In short, bleed is a printing term that refers to the area that is printed beyond the edge of the finished page size. For example, if you wanted to have a pink background across all of your business card, you'd actually need to extend the pink background over the edge of your final size. This is so that when we perform the final trim of your business cards, we have 0.125" of "extra room" after the trim line.

If we didn't have bleed, and cut down your artwork even a fraction off of the trim line, you'd then have white edges showing on your artwork where you actually wanted pink all the way up to the edges.

So, if you were wanting to print your pink background on business cards, which are 3.5x2" in size. You would include a 0.125" bleed area around all of your artwork, this would make your actual artwork size 3.75x2.25", 0.125" larger on all sides. You'd then extend the pink background to this new size so that it bleeds over the edge of your final trim size. That's where the term bleed comes from.

Pink Document With Bleed

How Do You Print Bleed?

So, now we know that full-bleed printing refers to printing beyond your crop marks. You’re now probably questioning how we can print 6x4" postcards onto a 6x4" piece of paper, but also add 0.125" to the final size dimensions? The answer is simple. As printers, we always print on paper that is larger than the finished size. Then the page is trimmed down to your final size. The most common page size printed on is SRA3; please refer to our blog post regarding SRA3 paper.

Printing A Banner With Bleed Wide Format

Why Do You Need Bleed In Printing?

The real reason we need bleed in printing is actually down to tolerances on machines. As we've mentioned, if we had no bleed area on your business cards, when trimmed down there is a high chance of having thin white lines along the edges. This is due to the possibility of the printer or the guillotine being out of alignment. It only needs to be out by a fraction to show.

Having this bleed area prevents this from happening and ensures having a nice clean trim edge to the cards. This concept is applied across the board for printing, whether it is a flyer, invitation or some business cards. Bleed is always applied, no matter what the size of the print.

How Much Bleed Do I Need?

Normally, the bleed amount for small documents, (business cards, flyers and hang tags) is 3mm. If you're not sure how much bleed you need, just send us a message or drop us a call and we're more than happy to help inform you about the amount of bleed your print would need.

Measuring Bleed With A Ruler

How Do I Add Bleed?

Most industry-standard design software, such as Adobe Illustrator, gives you the ability to add a bleed to your document setup. If this seems too difficult, or your design software doesn't have this, you would want to set up a custom-sized page that is your finished size, plus your required bleed area.

For example, if you were designing a postcard size flyer. Your finished size would be 6x4" with a bleed area of 0.125". So you would want to set your page up at 6.25x4.25", then place a margin or ruler guide along the finished size edge to ensure you don’t place any text in the bleed area as this area will get trimmed down.

Export A PDF With Bleed

If using Adobe Illustrator, when you export to PDF there is a section named ‘Marks and Bleeds’. In this section, ticking "Trim Marks" and "Use Document Bleed Settings" will export your file with the bleed area and crop marks on the document as to where the finished size needs to be trimmed.

If you are unsure on which preset to save your PDF out as, just get in contact with us and we'll be able to help. Saving as "Press Quality" should not steer you far wrong though.

Export A PDF With Bleed