Bleed Won't Kill You

Bleed Won’t Kill You

Written on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 in Essentials

For a seasoned designer, setting a bleed is like opening a bottle of water. But there are still a lot of people who don’t provide one in the files they send to the printer.

In most cases the printer will adapt your files so they can be printed without any problems. Problem solved? Yes, but every printer I know charges a hefty price for changes to be made.


Let me first say this, bleed is only applicable when working with a background other than white. Nevertheless, everyone who designs for print should understand this concept.

When your work is trimmed or cut to it’s final size it’s nearly impossible to cut exactly around the edges. So if we don’t have bleed, this could result in fine white lines around your print work. The white lines being the original color of the paper.

To avoid this we add some “extra” background (bleed). Most printers ask for a minimum of 3mm or 1/8″. We add this to all sides, so our final file will be 6mm or 1/4″ taller & wider. This amount may vary, so be sure to double check this with your printer.

For instance, we’re making a standard business card. So our final, trimmed size is 85mm wide by 55mm tall. When we add our 3mm bleed to all sides we get a size of 91mm wide by 61mm tall.

Bleed Won't Kill You

In the image above you can see a diagram of what we’re talking about. The final size of our business card, the bleed, and something else… A safety zone. Like we said before, it’s nearly impossible to cut exactly around the edges, so we can’t put any critical information in the safety zone or it might be cut off.

We do the same as before, only this time we deduct 3mm from all sides. If we look at our business card, we get the following. Our final, trimmed size is 85mm wide by 55mm tall, so our safety zone is 79mm wide by 49mm tall. Keep all essential information like text and page numbers in the safety zone and you’re good to go!


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One Response to “Bleed Won’t Kill You”
  1. John says:

    Very, very useful! Thanks.