What is bleed? | Learning Hub | Fineline Print & Web

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Without doubt, the number one problem by miles when customers supply their own Artwork is caused by something called bleed.

But what is it and why to printers keep banging on about it? And … more importantly, how can you set up your own artwork ready for printing commercially?


So, first off …


1:  What is Bleed?

Bleed is simply the edge of the paper or card which is trimmed off after printing and leaves you with images or background graphics which run to the very edge of the page. 

Bleed has to be there because printing presses don’t or can’t print to the very edge of the paper.

Try this for a little exercise on your desktop printer and you’ll see what I mean.

Create a document with an all-over background image or a photo which extends all the way to the edges. When you print it out you’ll see a small white border around the edge of the sheet.

To get around this, commercial printers simply print on an oversize sheet and then trim off the unwanted edges after printing.

But, here’s the thing. When a pile of paper is trimmed down, the guillotine blade can move around a bit. Ok, that movement is tiny but if you tried to trim to the very edge of the background colour there’s always the risk of leaving a teeny sliver of a white edge around your document.

To avoid mishaps, it’s usual to add 3mm extra all around which allows the guillotine operator plenty of room for manoeuvre.

And that 3mm margin is called Bleed!

2:  Adding Bleed to your document.


Now that you’ve mastered what bleed is, how do you go about adding it to your document?

If you’re using professional design software then a few clicks of the mouse and it’s done. 

But what if you’re using something like Microsoft Word or MS Publisher?

Well, fortunately for you and your printer, you can add bleed - but … the techies at Microsoft HQ haven’t made it easy!


3:  Adding Bleed in Microsoft Word

For this exercise, let’s add bleed and trim marks to an A4 leaflet. With your document open …

  • Select “Layout” from the top menu bar.
  • Select “Size” then “More Paper Sizes” which will pop up a “Page Setup” box
  • Click on the “Paper Size” drop down and select “A4”
  • Change the width to 216mm (this adds 3mm bleed to each side) and the height to 303mm which adds 3mm bleed to the top and bottom of your sheet. As you do this, the size will change to Custom which you can ignore.
  • And finally, to add Crop Marks select “File” from the top menu bar.
  • Select “Options” from the ribbon menu on the left. 
  • When the Word Options dialogue box pops up, select “Advanced”.
  • Pull down the slider bar on the left until you see “Show Document Content.
  • Simply tick the “Show Crop Marks” box and you are done!


You’ll notice that the page is slightly offset to the left so don’t forget to centre everything on the new page size!


4:  Adding Bleed in Microsoft Publisher

For this exercise, let’s add bleed and trim marks to an A4 leaflet. With your document open …

1: From the top menu bar select “Page Design” then “Size” and then “Custom Size”

2: From the “Create New Box” box select the “Target Paper Size” drop down box and select “Custom”.

3: Change the paper size from Standard to Custom which allows you to amend the paper size to add bleed. For a portrait-oriented sheet, the new size will be 216mm x 303mm and click ok.

You’ll notice that the page is slightly offset to the left so don’t forget to centre everything on the new page size!


When you are happy that your document is ready to go to print …


4: From the top menu bar select “File” then “Export” the “Create PDF”

5: From the pop-up box go to the “Save as type” drop-down and select “PDF” and then “Options”.

6: When the “Publish” box pops up the default setting should be set to “High Quality Printing” which is the selection you want.

7: Click on the “Print Options” button at the bottom to bring up the “Print Options” box.

8: Make sure you tick “Crop Marks” and “Allow Bleed” which you’ll find under Printer’s marks. Pressing Ok and OK again to brings you back to the “Publish” box and pressing “Publish” will save your PDF 


So, there we have it. 

This looks a lot more complicated than it is and if you practice the above routines a few times you’ll see how easy it really is. And … you’ll be able to send your print ready files out to production satisfied that you’ve got it right.


I hope this quick skim through has been helpful and thanks for dropping in,


But before you go …

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