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What is print bleed and why is it important?

When it comes to print, bleed is a crucial element of any design. Without it, your printed image can lose vital elements when it comes to the trimming process, and your document might not turn out as you wanted it to. So let’s take a look at what print bleed is, and how you should use it in the design process, before sending it to be printed.

So, what exactly is print bleed? During the print process, your design will be printed in such a way that trimming will be required. Print bleed is the dead space around the design, to which the printer will trim the product.

It’s important that you provide this, because your printer will need to know exactly where to trim in order to get your document just the way you want it. If you don’t, you could lose part of the document image, resulting in parts of your text or images getting the chop, and the document looking off-centre or out of proportion.

Crop marks and print bleed – what’s the difference?

The bleed is the white margin around the document, whereas the crop marks are the thin lines placed around the edge to tell the printer exactly where to cut. Printers use cutting machines which enable them to cut through several sheets, sometimes hundreds at a time, and so having these marks makes sure that the machine makes the cut as accurately as possible.

Depending on the type of document, the print area might overlap the crop marks by a millimetre or two (hence the name ‘bleed), so that the finished product has the image going from edge-to-edge. This is especially important for things like brochures or catalogues, where there are likely to be more images than text, as you ideally want the images to run right to the edge of the page.

How to set up print bleed

As long as you have an Adobe designer (Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign), you can opt to set your document up with print bleed when you design your document. Usually, you will find an option somewhere in document set-up, where you can also select the measurements for your bleed margins. Make sure you familiarise yourself with these settings – ask your printer if you’re unsure, or contact us here at The Printing Lady for advice.

You will need to be aware of what the correct bleed margins should be for your document, as they are required to be 3mm all the way around in order to print. Always check this before you enter the design process.

A word about images

I mentioned earlier about overlap, and this is something you will need to get to grips with when you’re dealing with images. If your image is required to meet the edge of the page, don’t butt the image to the margin edge. Make sure you overlap it into the bleed area (again, check the margin size). Otherwise, there’s a danger that you will get a narrow white edge on the document – remember, the printers guillotine cannot cut right on the edge, and this is why we need the print bleed in the first place.

Creating bleed is a small but vital step in creating the perfect print product. Remember to include it in your next print document. If you require further guidance, please do give me a call, I’d be happy to help!

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