What is bleed and why do you need to add it to your designs before sending them to print?

August 03, 2010

There are a lot of different factors that you need to take into consideration when you are preparing your designs for print. You need to consider which files your printer will need, the fonts and colours used in your files as well as many other factors involved in the printing process. One very important element that you also need to think about is bleed.

What is bleed?

Bleed is a word that you may have already heard used at the printers. Bleed is actually a fairly straightforward concept however, you would be surprised at how often it is misunderstood. Bleed is fairly difficult to explain plainly so please, bear with me. I am going to try to be as clear as possible.

Bleed is a section that is added to a design that extends beyond the area of a design that you want to have printed. Bleed is added to a design so that when a particular design is printed, it continues all the way to the edge of the page. Adding bleed is essential if you want colour, a photograph or a design to be printed all the way to the edge of a page. If you do not include bleed in a document to be printed, a white border may appear around the edges of that design.

bleed example

In the picture above, the green area represents a business card design. This is what you want to have printed and the bleed area stretches outside of this. Before sending your design to print, you must make sure that your design extends outwards to include this bleed area. In other words, the green area must cover both the area of your business card and the bleed area.

Let’s say that you want to have business cards printed with a red background. Before sending your business card design to the printers, you have to make sure that your document is prepared with a bleed. Why? Well, when a printer prints one of your designs, the printer will print it on a piece of paper that is larger than your original design. In the case of your business cards, a printer may print many copies of your business card design on the same sheet of paper. After your business cards are printed, the printer will stack up all the sheets of paper with your business cards on them and he or she will cut your business cards down to size with a large cutting machine. If you didn’t add a bleed to your business card design, a printer would have to make sure that he or she cut each of your business cards perfectly and exactly or else, some white would appear around the edges of some of your business cards. In reality, cutting is often a little bit off so you need to add a bleed to your designs in order to ensure that, even if the cutting is a little bit off, your design will continue to the edge of the paper.

Below is an example of bleed added to one of our business card templates that is available on Pixellogo.com. The area inside of the black square is the area of your actual business card. Notice that the red background of the design extends beyond this to include the bleed.

Business card example with bleed from Pixellogo.com

All of our business card templates available at Pixellogo.com are already set up with bleed however, it is important that you understand this concept in case you ever need to add bleed to another one of your designs in the future.

Here is a free sample to download and see how its built, click here to download.

If you are sending a design to print that does not extend to the edge of the paper, you do not need to add bleed however, I recommend that you always add bleed to your designs so that it becomes a habit and that way, you will never forget to add it when it is needed.

Remember that it is particularly important for you to consider the bleed area of a design if you are using any pictures or designs that you would like to run to the edge of your paper. Be careful when choosing the photos to be included in a design and be sure that you choose to use photos where you are able to cut a little bit away from the edges.

In general, most printers ask for your documents to be prepared with a 1/8 inch bleed however, this number can vary from printer to printer and country to country so it is best if you ask your local printer how much bleed he or she wants before sending your final document to him or her for print.

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