Designing for Print: Bleed

Though we design graphics for print, some of our clients find it more cost-effective to use alternate means to get design. We’re okay with this because we offer print fulfillment, for designs that we did not create. But, all graphic design isn’t created equal.

Many factors go into effective print design that goes beyond the look of the design itself. These include – color space, file and image resolution, right file types and formats, file size, raster filters, and more. If any of these are incorrect in your “print-ready” file, your design project could end up costing you more than you had originally intended to spend.

So, let’s talk about bleeds. We get print orders all the time that have incorrect bleed specifications. Most of the time, the “print-ready” files are submitted without a bleed at all, resulting in charges above the cost of print.

So, what is bleed?

Bleed is printing that goes beyond the edge of the finished size and trimmed off. Any time a print requires that images or color run to the edge, bleed is required. To be sure your final product matches your design, it is best to include a bleed for products that require trimming.

How is bleed used?

When you order business cards, postcards, invitations, flyers, magnets, door hangers, bookmarks, brochures, or other marketing materials, multiple copies of your file are printed to a large sheet of paper. Your product is, then, trimmed down to its finished size. Most of this trimming is automated and the printer sets their machines to trim based upon the product’s finished size specifications.

When your file does not meet the bleed specifications, you end up with a bad print result. This could mean that text is too close to the edge or gets cut off. To avoid this, we adjust the file to add a bleed so that you can get what you asked for.

When is bleed not necessary?

A bleed isn’t necessary for files that you will print yourself, take to Staples or Office Depot, will print on standard paper sizes without any color or images that run to the edge, or do not need premium paper stock to produce. This could include letters, full-page flyers, full-page folded newsletters or basic trifold brochures.

Avoiding print problems

To avoid issues with bleed, tell your designer that you need your file with the bleed applied. If they do not know what a bleed is, you may want to have your files designed elsewhere. Different printers have different bleed specifications, so it’s always best practice to 1) check with your printer before having a design made or 2) be sure that your designer knows how to design for bleed.

Need help?

Our print partner requires a total bleed of 1/8”, or .125”, which translates to a bleed of 1/16”, .0625”, on each side. The bleed for large format printing varies by product substrate. Unsure about the print-ready specifications for your next project? Reach out to us and we’ll help you out.

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