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Printing Terminology: What’s Bleed In Printing

Time: 2024-05-17 Hits: 89

In this guide, we are explain the meaning of bleed, no bleed, trim line, safe zone, and guide you how to calculate and set up bleed for printing.

In the realm of printing, whether it’s for books, card decks, brochures, posters, or any printed material, understanding the concept of bleed is critical. Bleed in printing may seem like a technical detail reserved only for graphic designers and print professionals. But it’s an essential component for anyone looking to produce high-quality printed materials.

What’s Bleed in Printing

bleed in printingBleed in printing refers to the area that extends beyond the trim edge of your print material. In simpler terms, it’s the portion of your artwork that will be trimmed off once your item is printed and cut to its final size. This extra margin allows for a buffer during the cutting process, ensuring that your design or image extends to the very edge of the print material without any unsightly white borders.

This concept might be easier to understand when you consider the mechanics of printing and cutting. Even with today’s advanced technology, cutting isn’t always 100% precise. Slight shifts can occur, which might lead to white edges if your design stops exactly at the trim edge. That’s where the bleed comes in. By extending your design into the bleed area, you ensure a clean, edge-to-edge appearance in the final product.

Moreover, bleed in printing is not just about avoiding white edges. It’s also about the visual impact of your printed materials.

Full bleed printing, where the design covers the entire surface area, can significantly enhance the aesthetics. It makes your materials look more professional and eye-catching. Whether it’s a vibrant background color, an intricate pattern, or a panoramic photo, extending your design into the bleed area ensures that your vision is realized without compromise.

Why We Need to Set Up Bleed Before Printing

Setting up bleed before printing is not just a recommendation; it’s a necessity for professional-quality print materials. The primary reason is to ensure that after the cutting process, each piece looks exactly as intended, with no unintended white borders. This preparation step is crucial for achieving a polished, high-quality finish.

Another reason for setting up bleed is to accommodate the inherent variability in the printing and cutting process. Printers and cutters, even the most sophisticated ones, have tolerances that must be accounted for. Through designing with bleed, you’re providing a margin of error that helps to absorb these variances, ensuring that the final product meets your expectations.

Furthermore, setting up bleed is also about practicality and cost-effectiveness. Imagine printing a large batch of brochures or business cards without accounting for bleed, only to find that slight shifts during cutting have left them with uneven or white edges. The cost of reprinting, not to mention the delay, could be significant. By setting up bleed from the start, you’re helping to avoid these potential issues, saving both time and money.

Standard Bleed for Printing

The standard bleed for printing varies slightly depending on the type of product and the printer’s specifications. But, a common rule of thumb is to set a bleed of 0.125 inches (or 3 mm) on each side. This measurement is generally sufficient to account for the slight variances in the cutting process, ensuring that your design extends fully to the edges of your printed material.

For hardcover(case bound) books, the recommended bleed may differ. Usually, hardcover book covers recommend add 15mm bleed to each edge. To make sure the cover artwork was printed, folded and wrapped on the grayboard to hold everything together. The inside pages of hardcover books are used standard bleed (0.125 inches) on each outer side.

How to Set Up Bleed

Setting up bleed in your printing projects is a straightforward process, but it requires meticulous attention to the details of your design and the specifications of your printer. The first step is to determine the amount of bleed required for your project, which, as mentioned, is typically 0.125 inches (3mm) but can vary.

Once you know the required bleed size, you need to adjust your document settings accordingly. This involves extending the design elements that reach the edge of the page beyond the final cut line by the specified bleed amount.

In design software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign, you can set up bleed during the initial document creation phase or adjust it in the document setup settings.

set up bleed in Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesign

Setting up bleed in Adobe InDesign is a straightforward process. When creating a new document, simply enter your desired bleed measurements in the ‘Bleed and Slug’ section of the ‘New Document’ dialog box.

If you’re working on an existing document, you can adjust the bleed settings by navigating to ‘File’ > ‘Document Setup’ and entering your bleed values there.

InDesign allows you to visually manage bleed, ensuring that your design extends beyond the trim edge as needed.

set up bleed in Adobe IllustratorAdobe Illustrator

In Adobe Illustrator, the process is similarly user-friendly. Upon creating a new document, look for the ‘Bleed’ settings option where you can input your desired measurements.

For existing documents, these settings can be found under ‘File’ > ‘Document Setup’. Illustrator provides a clear outline of the bleed area, helping you extend your artwork appropriately.

Adobe Illustrator also allows you to visually manage bleed, ensuring that your design extends beyond the trim edge as needed.

set up bleed in Adobe PhotoshopAdobe Photoshop

Photoshop requires a slightly different approach. As it doesn’t offer a specific bleed setting during the initial document creation phase. Instead, you need to manually calculate and add the bleed area to your document size.

For example, if your final print size is 8.5 x 11 inches and you’re using a standard 0.125-inch bleed, you’ll create a document that’s 8.75 x 11.25 inches. This accounts for the bleed on all sides. Guides can then be placed to mark the bleed edge, ensuring your design extends beyond the intended cut line.



We also provide templates or guidelines that you can follow to ensure your design is set up correctly.

Bleed vs No Bleed in Printing

When comparing bleed printing to no bleed printing, several key differences become clear, affecting the decision of which method to use based on the specific needs of your project.

bleed vs no bleedDefinition

Bleed in printing involves extending the design beyond the edge of the final printed page to ensure a clean, edge-to-edge appearance after trimming.

No bleed in printing means the design stops at the edge of the final print size. Leaving a white border around the edges unless the original paper size matches the final size exactly.

Advantages and disadvantage

The primary advantage of bleed printing is the professional, seamless look it offers, allowing for full-page imagery without borders. This method is ideal for books, brochures, business cards, banners, and other marketing materials where a visually striking appearance is key.

The disadvantage is that it requires more precision in the design and cutting process, potentially leading to slightly higher production costs.

No bleed printing, the advantage is simpler and often cheaper. But limits the design possibilities and can result in products that look less polished or intentional. The white border might not always be desired and can detract from the design’s impact.


The appearance of bleed printed materials is generally more professional and visually appealing. The design freedom it offers lets creators utilize the entire page, enhancing the overall look and feel of the printed item.

No bleeding, since with whitespace or margin, gives the printed matter a bordered appearance, may not appeal as with bleed printing.

Apply case

Bleed printing in printing is typically used for professional-quality documents, marketing materials, and any printed matter where a high impact is desired.

No bleed in printing might be sufficient for informal documents, internal communications, or any project where the white border is not a concern.


Trimming is a critical step in the bleed printing process, as it removes the extra bleed area to achieve the final size. This step must be done precisely to ensure the intended design is not compromised.

In no bleed printing, trimming might still occur but with less critical impact on the final appearance.

How to Calculate Bleed for Your Project

calculate bleed for printing projectCalculating the bleed for your project involves a simple addition to the dimensions of your final product. For most projects except hardcover book, we specify a bleed of 0.125 inches, you will add this amount to each side of your document. For instance, for a square format 8.5 x 8.5 inch children’s book, you would add 0.125 inches to all sides, making the document size 8.75 x 8.75 inches in your design software.

It’s key to ensure that any design elements intended to reach the edge of the page extend into this bleed area. Conversely, you should keep critical text and imagery well within the safe zone, which is typically set inside the final dimensions, to avoid being cut off.

Calculating and applying bleed correctly is a vital step in ensuring the high quality of your printed materials. It allows for a margin of error in the cutting process, ensuring that your design intentions are preserved in the final product.

Common project trim and bleed sizes:

Trim size Size include 0.125″ bleed

(paperback and most products)

Size include 0.59″ bleed


5.5” X 8.5” 5.75” x 8.75” 6.68″ x 9.68″
6” X 9” 6.25” x 9.25” 7.18″ x 10.18″
6” X 6” 6.25” x 6.25”  7.18″ x 7.18″
7” X 7” 7.25” x 7.25” 8.18″ x 8.18″
8.5” X 8.5” 8.75” x 8.75” 9.68″ x 9.68″
8.5” X 11” 8.75” x 11.25” 9.68″ x 12.18″
8” X 10” 8.25” x 10.25” 9.18″ x 11.18″
6.625” X 10.25” 6.875” x 10.5” 7.805″ x 11.43″
A4 (8.3” X 11.7”) 8.55″ x 11.95” 9.48″ x 12.88″
A5 (5.8″ X 8.3”) 6.05” x 8.55” 6.98″ x 9.48″
A6 (4.1″ X 5.8”) 4.35” x 6.05” 5.28″ x 6.98″
Playing cards (2.75″ x 4.75”) 2.95″ x 4.95”
Tarot cards (2.5″ x 3.5”) 2.75″ x 3.75”


What’s Trim Line

The trim line is the final size of your printed material after it has been cut. It’s where the printer aims to cut your document, separating your finished product from the excess bleed area.

The trim line is a critical element in the design process, as it defines the actual boundaries of your printed material. Ensuring that your design accounts for the trim line, with all essential elements (like text and key visuals) well within it, is crucial for achieving the intended result.

What’s Bleed Line

The bleed line, conversely, marks the boundary of the bleed area. It’s the line to which you should extend your background images or colors to ensure they reach the very edge of the trimmed material.

The bleed line is essentially your design’s outermost limit during the pre-cut phase. Ensuring that any variances in the cutting process don’t result in unwanted white edges or borders.

What’s Safe Zone

The safe zone is the area within the trim line where all your crucial design elements (text, logos, essential graphics) should be placed to avoid being cut off.

Typically, it’s recommended to keep these elements at least 0.125 inches away from the trim line to ensure they’re not affected by any cutting inaccuracies. The safe zone is your safeguard, ensuring that the vital components of your design remain intact and legible in the final product.

Understanding and utilizing the concepts of bleed in printing, trim line, and safe zone are fundamental to achieving professional, high-quality results. Whether you’re a seasoned designer or just starting out, mastering these elements will ensure your printed materials always meet, if not exceed, expectations.

If you need any help for file set up or other issues need to assist, feel free to contact our team of printing experts, we are here to help.

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