We’ve covered this issue before (read more here), but it’s nice to rehash things every once in while as not everybody knows how to search our blog for prior posts and tips.
First, let’s go over what a bleed is. Bleed is a term that refers to printing that goes beyond the edge of the sheet. It’s tough to print exactly to the edge of a sheet of paper or card stock. While some modern machines print to the edge, most leave a small white border around each printed sheet. So to achieve the look you want — your art going all the way to the edge of the paper — you need to print a larger area than is needed and then trim the project down to size. Content which is supposed to go to the edge of the piece must be extended beyond the trim line (crop mark) to produce a “bleed”.
Our standard bleed settings are 1/8 of an inch (0.125 inches). We ask that you also use a trim area of 1/8 of an inch. What this means is that you should extend your art 0.125 inches past each trim line, and you should also keep important content such as text and portions of images which you intend to show in the final piece at least 0.125 inches away from (inside) the trim line. Why? Because even with today’s incredibly powerful and accurate digital presses, getting art to register in the exact same spot on every printed sheet is impossible. There is always a little movement from sheet to sheet, and we want to avoid cutting into important elements when we finish the piece.
If you are submitting camera-ready art, you need to include bleed areas (art extensions) as well as crop marks (where you want the final piece to be cut). If you don’t do this, your art is not ready to print — we won’t know your intended final size or where to cut!
OK, so let’s use a real world example — full bleed business cards. The final size (after cutting) of a standard U.S. business card is 2 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide. For your document settings, you will want to extend your art 0.125 inches on each side that has bleeds, then add crop marks at 2″ x 3.5″. So if your card bleeds on all four sides the art you submit should be 2.25 inches by 3.75 inches. This is because your artboard or canvas will be 0.125 inches larger on each of the four sides. You will put your crop marks 0.125 inches inside each corner, and you should make sure important elements are kept at least 0.125 inches away from the inside of those crop marks. Look at the image below. The gray area has been extended 1/8″ and the important textual elements are well within the trim area. Because the layout below also includes some white space beyond the bleed area it is actually 2.5″ x 4″. Sending us art like this works just fine because it shows us exactly where to trim your piece.
Now let’s try this with a card that is intended to be a 5″ x 7″ fold-over. If the card has bleeds on all four sides you would set up your artboard or canvas 10.25″ x 7.25″. Did I lose you? The piece will be folded in half, so the final cut size will be 10″ x 7″, then folded to 5″ x 7″. But for bleeds you’ll add 0.125 extensions on every edge. The image below shows how a similar layout looks on a letter size sheet. It’s not quite 10.25″ x 7.25″ because it only has bleeds on 3 sides.
So how did I do in explaining bleeds? Feel free to comment below.