Commercially printed documents such as business cards, postcards, and flyers are usually printed on paper larger than the final document size. The products are then cut down to size. When printing on a large press, slight paper shifting can occur and minor nudges can happen when the blade hits the paper during the trimming process. If your printed materials are designed to have ink print all the way to the edge, you need to include what is called “bleed” in the printing industry. Bleed ensures that even if the paper is nudged 1/32 of an inch, you don’t end up with a fine white line at the edge of your document.
Bleed refers to the graphics that extend beyond the final document trim size. The extra space provided by the bleed makes sure that the graphics will reach to the edge of the page after the product is cut to size. We have set up a tutorial below to show you how to set up your own document bleed settings so you can be certain that your prints will be completed to your exact specifications.
We recommend using professional design software, such as InDesign or Illustrator so that you can set up your page using the system tools to designate the document size and the bleed size, so that when you save your final file, the software will place the crop marks. Manual line drawn crop marks can result in inaccuracies on the press.
1. Open Adobe InDesign, Go to File > New > Document (or press “Ctrl + N”)
2. A New Document dialog box will open. Enter the size you need for your document (in this case, we are setting up a generic business card. Click the “More Options” button to reveal the bleed and slug section.
3. Click the link icon next to the bleed fields to link the bleed size. This will ensure that your bleed area is equal on each side of the document. Even if your design does not require bleed on all four sides, your document should still be set up with equal bleed on all edges.
4. Add a minimum of 1/8th inch of bleed. It’s always a good idea to check with your print provider in case they have different bleed requirements.
5. Click the “Ok” button to open the new document.
6. In the new document, the red line is the outside of the bleed area. The black line is the trim or the edge of the printed piece. The area between both sets of lines is the bleed.
7. Add your text and graphics to the document. As a general rule, keep text and important graphics 1/8th inch from the trim lines to ensure that they won’t be affected by any minor machine nudges.
8. Expand the background graphics to the edge of the bleed area.
9. You can preview your document by pressing “w” which allows you to see the document exactly as it will print.
10. When you are finished editing the graphics and text and you have saved your InDesign file, click File > Export (or press “Ctrl + E”)
11. A dialog box will appear asking you to save your document. Pick a file location and click “Save.”
12. An “Export Adobe PDF” dialog box will open. Click the “Marks and Bleeds” category on the left column.
13. Make sure the box next to “Use Document Bleed Settings” is checked (if this item is missed, you will only save the contents on the inside of the trim lines). Checking the “Crop Marks” box will allow you to see where the printer will cut on the document.
14. Click “Export” to finish the process.
15. Find and open your new PDF to make sure everything looks correct (The best part is that the crop marks can be removed easily in the PDF format in case the print technician needs to make adjustments).
When you are done reviewing your PDF, it is ready to send to the printer. The print technician will be grateful that you are so well-versed in setting up your documents too! If you have a custom job that requires a more detailed bleed setting, don’t be afraid to ask your print provider for advice. At United Reprographics, we’re always happy to work with your project each step of the way.