Bleed is a printing term that refers to one or more printed elements that extend to the edge of a finished document, with no white margin. To successfully achieve bleed on a finished document, the artwork is designed with elements that extend beyond the finished dimensions of the document. The artwork with the extended design elements is printed on an oversized sheet; the “excess” portions of the extended design elements are trimmed off when the paper is cut down to the required finished size.

Bleed allowance is the “excess” portions of the design elements that extend beyond the finished dimensions of the piece. Bleed allowances are generally 1/8 of an inch (.125”) beyond where the final cuts are made. Crop marks are added during the design process to show the location of the final cuts. A safe zone is located 1/8 of an inch (.125”) inside the final cuts; all important design elements (including all text) should be located within the safe zone to ensure proper appearance after final trimming.

The bleed allowance is necessary to accommodate a number of manufacturing limitations inherent in all printing and bindery processes:

  • Inability of the press to print all the way to the edge of a piece of paper
  • Very small differences in the location of the printed image on the paper
  • Very minor variability in the cutting process

The example below shows how to properly design a document with bleed. Some key points include:

  • The red and blue lines shown in the Bleed Example below are not actually part of the design, but are included only to show the locations of the final finished edges and the safe zone.
  • The crop marks show where the final finished cuts will be made, and are included as part of the design. They are cut off during final trimming.
  • All portions of the image outside of the crop marks will be cut off, and will not be part of the finished piece.
  • Keep all important design elements, including any text, within the safe zone (located inside of the safety line).