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Print Design: Don’t forget to use Bleed


Printdesign requires certain specifications to make sure that your work will be printed correctly. If graphics or images in your layout make contact with the border of your graphic document, you’ll need to use ‘bleed’.

The term bleed  is used for all graphic objects overlapping the border of your document, this is the area of artwork that is extended beyond the actual dimensions of your design. It is used to avoid strips of white paper showing on the edges where the document will be cropped after printing, should the batch be misaligned when cut to size. The bleed in your document gives the cropping some room for error.

So, when working on a print design with images, backgrounds and graphic objects against the sides of your pages don’t forget to use bleed. In this article we’ll take a closer look at the proper settings for your bleed, crop marks and margins.

Two Kinds of Bleed

A bleed can be a full bleed or partial bleed. “Full bleed” is printing from one edge of the paper to the other without the standard borders by which most personal printers are limited. This is useful for printing brochures, posters, and other marketing materials. Often the paper is trimmed after printing to ensure the ink runs fully to the edge and does not stop short of it (source: Wikipedia).

Another term is “partial bleed”, which is where only some of the graphic objects overlapping one or more of the edges. Although this process can create relatively unique print designs, it is limited in terms of design flexibility.

Crop Marks or Trim Marks

For every job you sent to the printer you need to place crop marks on your document. Crop marks are the lines that are placed around the corners of the document and show the printer where to cut the paper. How far the crop marks should be from the document border is something you should discuss with your printer, for most jobs 3 to 6 mm is fine.

Note:  Crop marks are usually hairline or 0.25pt in thickness and are set in Registration Black.

Margin or Safety

Just like with bleed, images that you don’t want to risk getting clipped should stay within a margin, sometimes referred to as a “safety”. Again, consult your printer for these measurements. Just as with bleeds, you can set up guides to help stay within your margins.

Print Design - Bleed

Bleed Settings

Standard measurements for the bleed in Europe is 3mm and 1/8″ in the United States. The sizes can be different per printer, if you’re not sure then just ask.

The bleed settings in Illustrator and InDesign are quite the same: add an extra 3mm per side to the definitive (cropped) print-size. In InDesign you can find the settings when opening a new file: see the options for Page Size, Margin and Bleed. If you already have a document open in InDesign you can find them in the file > document setup dialog.

There are no bleed settings availlable in Photoshop. In other words: bleed is not a native element in Photoshop images. However, it is possible to create a bleed by adding the bleed size to the document size. For instance if your final print-size would be 297mm x 210mm (iso A4) you would add 3mm to all document sides, making the image 303mm x 216mm.

Bleed Sizes

Country/RegionDocument/methodMeasured inBleed
EuropeStandardMillimeters (mm)3mm – 5mm
EuropeOutdoor (x-large)Millimeters (mm)10mm – 50mm
JapanStandardMillimeters (mm)3mm – 5mm
United StatesStandardInches1/8″
United StatesDie-cutsInches1/4″

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Want to learn a little more about designing for print, be sure to check out a previous post: The 7 Deadly Sins of Print Production. As always, if you have any questions then do not hesitate to get in touch by posting a comment below.


Author: Jan Rajtoral

Jan Rajtoral AKA Gonzo the Great is the Founder of and Designer at gonzodesign, providing design services across the full spectrum of Brand Identity, Graphic Design, Print and Advertising Design & Website Design.


on this article: “Print Design: Don’t forget to use Bleed”
  1. Hi Tents,

    Forgetting to use bleed is one of the most common mistakes in Print Design.

    I also have made that mistake in the early beginnings of my graphic career ;-P

    Thanks for your comment, much appreciated! Cheers & Ciao ..