One of the most common mistakes made by rookie designers when it comes to print design, is not providing bleed in their print ready files. A good printer will reject the file and ask you to resubmit it with a bleed. However, a lot of online printers won’t even notice the issue due to their automated systems and will print your file with some disastrous results. This can cost you money and time.
What does Bleed mean?
Bleed allows you to run graphics to the edge of the page. This is done by allowing the graphic to go beyond the finished sheet edge and then the final product is trimmed to finished size. The typical amount the document should be extended is 1/8 inch but some printers like it to be more, closer to 1/4 inch. It is best to reach out to the printer you are working with and ask them what they want.
Say you are designing a standard business card at the size of 3 1/2 inches by 2 inches and you have a color background or graphic you wish to have go all the way to the edge of the cards on every side, you would need to extend the document to include the extra 1/8 inch. This makes your document size 3 3/4 inches by 2 1/4 inches. This ensures that the color or graphic will go to the edge and you won’t end up with any white lines at the edges.
Here is an example of what I am talking about.
This same process is done with other print marketing products such as brochures, rack cards, post cards, posters, and lawn signs. Those are only a few examples of other products. The process translates to anything you are designing and have graphics or color all the way to the edge.
Design software today typically has a final document size and also a setting where you can add bleeds. InDesign, the design software I use, has it right in the "New Document" dialogue box. You put in the measurements you want for each side and it creates a frame just outside the final paper size to show bleed.
Why is Bleed necessary?
While printing presses are pretty good at keeping a very tight registration to create nice crisp images, there are some variations that can not be prevented. A slight paper shift or even machine vibration can cause things to move a bit. If a bleed isn’t there then it would most certainly show a white line at the edge. This can make the print piece not look professional. By having the bleed, it makes it so that when the job is trimmed to remove the bleed there is no issue like this and guarantees the graphics or color background goes all the way to the edge.
While most printers use the term bleed, it can also be known as print bleed, bleeds (plural), and full bleed printing. Be sure to talk to your printer and they’ll be happy to help you out. After all, not having to reject a file makes their job easier and keeps things flowing through their production process.
A Little Tip: I suggest you add bleed to all sides of your document, not just the edge where you might have a graphic or color going to the edge. This will help prevent any issues when exporting and your print image will place correctly for the printer. Sometimes if you only add it to a single side it can throw off the placement.