What is bleed?
Bleed refers to a background color, graphic, or image that extends to
the edge of the finished paper size and beyond. It's difficult for
printing equipment to apply ink up to the cut edge of a sheet of paper.
So an extra .125" (3mm) margin is typically added on each side of the
design, enabling the background color, graphic, or image to extend past
(i.e., "bleed off") the paper's final trim edge. This extra bleed area
will be cut off the printed sheet. For example, a letterhead sheet that
incorporates bleed in its design will be 8.75" x 11.25" before being
trimmed to a finished size of 8.5" x 11".
In contrast, a piece with no bleed keeps all the printed elements a
minimum of .125" (3mm) away from the edge of the paper on all four
sides. Nothing is printed to the finished edge of the paper.
What is the trim edge?
Bleed vs. No Bleed
The illustration on the left
shows a page printed with bleed, before trimming. When trimmed, the
finished piece will have color or graphic content extending to the
finished, cut edge on all four sides.The illustration on the right shows
a page designed without any bleed. When trimmed, the finished piece
will have an unprinted border on all four sides.
A sheet with bleed is larger than its finished size. The "trim edge"
refers to each edge of the sheet after it has been cut to its finished
size. Any printed elements that extend beyond the trim edge will be cut
off in the process of reducing the paper to its finished size.What is the safety zone?
To avoid being trimmed off, text and other important matter must stay
within a "safety zone" that is is a minimum of .125" (3mm) away from the
trim edge. Any design elements that extend beyond the safety zone risk
being cut off in the process of trimming the paper to its finished size.
For example, the safety zone for an 8.5" x 11" letterhead would be
.125" smaller on each side, or 8.25" x 10.75".
How do I create bleed in my design?
Bleed Before and After Trimming
The illustration on the left
shows a document designed with bleed (finished size plus an extra .125"
(3mm) on each side). Because minor variations can occur when cutting the
paper to its finished size, to avoid being trimmed off, text and other
important matter must stay .125" (3mm) away from the trim edge (the
The illustration on the right shows the printed piece after
trimming. Note the last "e" in "Example" has been cut in half because it
extended past the safety zone and into the trimming area. Some of the
artwork has been cut off for the same reason. Any elements that extend
past the safety zone risk being lost in the process of trimming the
paper to its finished size.
To create bleed in your design, simply make sure the background color,
graphic, or image you want it to bleed extends off the the final trim
edge of the page by .125" (3mm).
If you are creating your file in an application such as Photoshop, you
must make your document height and width dimensions .25" (6mm) larger
than your final trim size. For example, if the finished size is 8.5" x
11" then make your document 8.75" x11.25". Position guides that are
.125" from each edge. For design purposes, these guides will represent
where the paper (and any of your design elements) will be cut.
Position any background color, graphic, or image that you want to bleed
so they extended past your guides, all the way to the outside edge of
the document. Remember, the extra .125" will be cut off after your piece