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What Are Bleeds in Printing?

Updated: Jan 31

If you are interested in pre-press printing, graphic design, or the printing business overall, understanding the importance of bleeds in prints is crucial for the final work. Experienced prepress techs say bleeds can make or break the design. So, what are bleeds in printing?


To ensure there are no flaws in the final work, the designer must follow safety and precaution rules, including considerations for bleeds.

This article will walk you through the basics of the bleed, what is bleed in printing, the key elements in the pre-press design, the importance of bleed in printing, the potential hazards, and why do we need bleed in printing. 


What Is Bleed in Graphic Design?


Bleed in printing, by definition, means printing a design or other art piece over the expected edges of the printed piece. Additionally, all printed designs such as text, color blocks, or photo elements must extend at least 0.125” over the trimmed edge of the piece. Therefore, everyone in the printing industry should know what is bleed in graphic design.


But why do I need to know about the trimmed edges of the piece? There are three borders relevant to printing – margins, trim, and bleeds. Okay, but how does bleed work in printing and graphic design? To understand bleeds, you first need to understand what each of the terms mentioned above means and refers to.


  • Margins: This is the space between any important element in the design (text, images, logo, etc) and the trim borderline. The recommended space should be at least 0.125” of margin between the element in the design and the trim line. 

  • Trim: This is the size of the final piece. Depending on the product, the tech experts or cutter operator will trim the final product appropriately. You may also find it as a safe zone. There are specific standard trimming rules for all different designs, as you will see below.

  • Bleeds: This is the space that exceeds the trim size or the safe zone to avoid end-product flaws. It’s also known as the bleed area.


Besides this, there is also full-bleed printing, a term that often confuses many potential prepress techs. This term refers to printing projects on larger sheets and then getting them trimmed. No printing machine prints the entire project to the fullest. There are always missed spots somewhere. To avoid this, designers must add full bleed print.


What Are Bleeds in Printing

The Importance of Bleeds in Printing


Another important question you need to address is why is bleed important in printing.


Bleeds in printing are important because they prevent potential flaws in the final design, such as unprinted areas, white spots, or asymmetrical looks. Printers on their own cannot print the final design flawlessly, no matter the printing technique, especially on larger sheets, as mentioned above. To that end, you mustn’t skip this step of the printing process.


Now that we’ve established what are bleeds in printing and their importance, we can proceed to standard trim sizes and how to ensure your design bleeds are in popular design programs and graphic design tools.


Standard trim and bleed sizes


There are specific standards for design pieces that correspond with the latest technology or cutters and printers. Here are the numbers for the most common commercial products:


  • Business card: 3.5”x2”

  • Flyer: 8.5”x11”

  • Postcard: 5.5”x8.5”


Once you create this, the standard bleed size should not be smaller than 0.125”. 


How to Add Bleed in the Most Popular Graphic Design Programs


Every design program or tool has a different method of implementing the bleed in the project. Below you will have information on how to add bleed in Canva, InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.


  • Canva: Select the menu bar and open the view setting. Click on Show Print Bleed, and you should see a dashed line on the edges of your design. Note that the bleed margin on Canva is fixed, and you cannot readjust it. 

  • InDesign: This is the best program for print. You can add bleed and margins in the Document Setup. Note that you may have to drag the margin and blinds up to 0.125” from all sides. The lines remain throughout the design process so you can create appropriately.

  • Photoshop: Although this is not the most sustainable program to use for graphic designs, you can add bleed in Photoshop. To do so, you need to open Image and Canvas Size. Remember that here, the units are in millimeters. Increase the width and height by 6 mm to reach the equivalent of 0.125” bleed.


How to Add Bleed in Photoshop

Conclusion

If you’re a graphic designer, marketer, or interested in the printing business, you have to know what are bleeds in printing. As you’ve seen in this article, bleeds eliminate all potential end flaws of the final design. Bleeds have specific sizes you must add to avoid asymmetries of white spots, and you shouldn’t go below 0.125”. Aside from bleeds, the design must be proportional to other borderlines like the margin or trim.


Finally, setting bleeds in design programs or tools is a must practice. The most popular program for printing design of smaller or larger commercial products is InDesign, but you can also use Photoshop and only use Canva as your last resort.


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