Bleed for commercial print documents

Bleed should be added to all print documents that have a block of color or image that goes right to the edge of the page.

What is bleed? Bleed in the commercial printing world is 1/8th of an inch (0.125 inch) of extra space outside the trim size of your document. In most programs, there is a setting when you first create your file where you can specify the bleed for that document.

Why do we need it? If there wasn’t bleed in your document for a block of color or image that goes right to the edge of the page, when we trim or fold the page there might be a fine white line showing. When we trim your job we usually have a stack of paper about 2-3 inches high. Our cutters slice down through the stack. Even though we put tons of pressure (literally) on the sheets to hold them in place, there is still the possibility the sheet may slip. If the sheet slips and there is no bleed, you may end up with a white line just at the edge of your page.

If your job die cuts, we might ask for a ¼ of an inch (0.25 inch) of bleed. In die cutting the process is not as precise as cutting and folding. A die can, in extreme cases (which are rare), shift an 1/8 of an inch. By asking for the ¼ inch bleed, we can avoid a white line from showing up. These cases are rare, but occasionally we will ask you to add the additional bleed, just to be safe.

When you send us open files, we can make this adjustment for you, provided there is enough image to cover the bleed. But if you supply us with PDF files, you will be responsible for making sure the bleed is correct. We can’t add bleed to a PDF file.

We want your files to look their best when they are done. So, if we seem to be adamant about bleed being on your files, it is because we know you won’t be happy if that white line shows up. So, bear with us, we want your printed pieces to look their best.

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15 Things we wish every designer and client knew

  1. Photoshop and Illustrator are excellent programs, but they are not designed for creating entire brochures or booklets. Please use a page layout program such as Quark or InDesign.
  2. Check your panel sizes. A tri-fold brochure does not have three equal panels. Paper weight affects your panel sizes. Please keep your text at least 1/8th of an inch away from all trims and folds. (Check out our folding guide for accurate panel sizes.)
  3. Spell Check and Proofread. Spell checking is very important. Do not rely on the spell checker in the program. They do a great job, but don’t understand context, “there” and “their” are both spelled correctly, but are they used correctly?
  4. Design backwards. Know what your binding method will be, know if there will be folds, panel sizes, die cutting, etc. These have specific requirements that will affect how you layout your file. Finding out you don’t have enough margin for three-hole drilling at the printer can be costly.
  5. Talk to your printer. Once you have a grasp on what you want, talk to your printer. You may find that with a small adjustment to your design, we might be able to save you thousands of dollars. Sometimes by reducing a trim size, you can get more pages up on a sheet, which can be a significant cost saving.
  6. Your monitor is not color accurate. Never hold an item up to your monitor and try to match the color. The color you see on your monitor will almost never be what the color looks like printed.
  7. Do not impose your documents. Please just send us single pages. Let us do the imposition work. Depending on what machine it prints on and the paper, there may be specific settings we need to set up.
  8. Bleed and crop marks. These aren’t optional, they are required. If you send a PDF without these, we will ask you to do it again. If the program you are working in doesn’t support bleed and crop marks, you are using the wrong program.
  9. Do not copy and paste art into InDesign, place it. If we need to make alterations, which we often do, we may not be able to edit art that has been copied and pasted.
  10. Include all your fonts and links with your open files. We can’t print without them. It is not illegal to send your printer your fonts. (A guide for file submission.)
  11. High Resolution images should be at 300dpi. Check the Effective Resolution in InDesign once you have placed an image. It should say it is greater than 300 dpi. If it is below that, it is not high resolution and may not reproduce well.
  12. Keep text at least 1/8th of an inch away from the trim of your document. Anything closer stands a chance of being cut off. Especially if you have not figured your panel sizes correctly.
  13. Not all fonts are created equally. Some inexpensive fonts will not print, no matter what you do. Some have licensing restrictions that will not allow them to be used for printing.
  14. We print in CMYK not RGB. Please make sure all your colors and images are CMYK. If not, we will convert them and the color may not be what you expected.
  15. Don’t select PMS colors for CMYK printing. The color you select, will not be what gets printed.

If you are looking for other pointers or information about printing, visit our knowledge library.

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