In this guide we will explain what “bleed” is and why it is required. It will also explain how to add bleed to a design. The final part shows eight examples of designs without a correct bleed area and instructions for how to correct them.
What Is Bleed and Why Is It Required?
When graphics continue to the edge of a sheet of paper bleed is required. This is because a commercial printing press cannot print to the edge of a sheet of paper. Instead multiple products are printed on much larger sheets of paper and then cut down to size.
It is impossible to cut exactly to the edge of your design a little over print on each side is required. This overprint is called “bleed”. Any document that is being professionally printed will require a bleed area and a safe zone providing the print runs to the edge of the document.
How Much Bleed Do I Need?
The industry standard is to have 3mm of bleed on each edge and a 3mm safe zone inside. This means that the length of each side will be 6mm longer. For example an A4 sheet when lined up correctly with bleed will be 216mm x 303mm. It will then be cut down to its finished size of 210mm x 297mm. The table provided at the end of this article contains the correct dimensions of most standard documents lined up with a bleed area.
What Is the Safe Zone?
The safe zone is the 3mm inside of the cutting edge in which no text or important information should be placed. Any graphics in this area risk being clipped when cutting. Across the following pages we will show you examples of documents with suitable and unsuitable bleed and safe zones.
Diagram Showing Bleed and Safe zone
In the diagram below you will see that the illustration extends to the edge of the bleed area and there is no text in the safe zone. The correctly lined up flyer is displayed on the right hand side.
Examples of Common Mistakes
The following section of this article shows common mistakes with setting up bleed as well as methods for correcting them;
1. No Bleed Area or White Bleed Area
Problem – The document has no bleed area, printed “as is” the document will have random white lines on edges as printing and cutting tolerances cannot be compensated for. Solution – extend the image into the bleed area or move text in by 3mm to allow for a bleed area.
2. Text Is in the Bleed Area and Safe Zone:
Problem – The document has a bleed area and safe zone however there is text inside the bleed area and safe zone. If cut as is text outside safe zone is likely to be cut off. Solution – move the text inward by 6mm. (3mm for bleed area + 3mm for safezone).
3. Text Is in the Safe Zone
Problem – The document has a bleed area and safe zone however there is text inside the safe zone. If printed “as is” the text in the safe zone could be cut off or clipped. Solution – Move text inward by 3mm.
4. The Bleed Area Is a Different Colour to the Edge of the Design
Problem – The document has a bleed area however it is not a continuation of the background design, it is instead a mustard yellow. If printed as is there are likely to be random yellow lines on edges of the finished product. Solution – Make the bleed area a continuation of the background design.
5. Object Touching the Cutting Line Does Not Extent to the Edge of the Bleed
Problem – The terracotta coloured box containing the text touches the cutting line but does not extend to the edge of the bleed area, if printed as is there could be random blue lines along the edge of the box. Solution – Either extend the terracotta box to the edge of the bleed area or move the box so it’s edge sits within the safe zone.
6. Object Is Halfway Between the Cutting Line and the Safe Zone Line
Problem – The terracotta coloured box extends halfway between the cutting line and the safe zone line. If printed as is the box may touch the edge on some flyers and not on others.
Solution – Either extend the terracotta box to the edge of the bleed area or move the box so it’s edge sits within the safe zone.
7. The Object Does Not Fully Extend to the Edge of the Bleed Area.
Problem – Much like the about issue, the terracotta box containing the text does not extend to the edge of the bleed area. If cut as is some flyers may appear with a thin blue line at the edge of the terracotta box. Solution – Either extend the terracotta box to the edge of the bleed area or move the box so it’s edge sits within the safe zone.
8. Not Enough Bleed
Problem – The design does not have enough bleed area. If cut as is there may be random white lines around the edges of the finished product. Solution – Either extend the background image to fill the bleed area or move the text and objects on the document in by 3mm to create more bleed area.
I Am Unable to Correct My Document?
If you are unable to correct your document there are two options.
1.) Print with a border – We would be able to print your document with a 6mm white border (or any colour you prefer). We use 6mm is to ensure even borders on each edge.
2.) Have the design professionally rebuilt – a professional graphic designer would be able to create a new design for you with a correct bleed area and safe zone.