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To bleed or not to bleed. Is that even a question?

To bleed or not to bleed. Is that even a question?
January 22, 2018 YD SiteAdmin
In Marketing

To bleed or not to bleed.  Is that a question?  

Ask any printer, the concept of “bleed” comes up daily.  Explaining it, faking it, adding it, requesting it, requesting it again, it’s always about the bleed.

If you’re looking to get something printed, the question, “is their bleed?”, will eventually come up.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I totally knew what to say to that question when I first started in this industry, but I can officially say now, I get it. The reality is if you haven’t been trained as a designer (and frankly even if you have) the concept of bleed can seem down right intimidating.  Here is my no-nonsense approach to explaining bleed.

The reason for bleed on a document is to avoid having white borders.

It sounds sort of silly saying that out loud but that’s the truth.  Printed material generally looks more professional when the background seemingly extends off the page.  The white border screams, “I printed this on my home computer” and let’s your audience know you were in a hurry or just don’t care.  There’s nothing worse then sitting down at a fancy restaurant and the menu has that white border all around (ok, there is a lot worse than that, but you know what I mean) or how about walking into a “if only someday” million dollar home open house and seeing the flimsy property brochure with a border and bad folding skills?


The only thing I’m thinking is that the real estate agent is going to make a killing on this house because they aren’t spending any money on the marketing, that’s for sure.  Note to self, do not use this agent to sell my house.  Check.

So, what does the term bleed have to do with the dreaded white border?

I don’t really know who came up with the term bleed, but I get why.  If you think about your home computer and when it’s print head moves from side to side, it stops short of the edge of the paper. Because it is spraying ink or toner down on the paper you can imagine the mess if it kept spraying that ink past the paper and on to the print rollers themselves.  It would cause all sorts of buildup and eventually the print head wouldn’t be able to work at all.  In my mind (which is a little warped) it’s like your printer would be bleeding ink.  Get it?

The way to get around this is to print on larger sheets of paper then after the document is printed you cut off the excess paper, so the ink appears to run off the edge. Of course, if you want to print your standard 8.5” x 11” real estate flyer at home you are going to have a hard time finding 8.75” x 11.25” sized paper and that’s where professional printing companies come in.  You can, of course, do this on your own but remember you’ll need to cut down your document after it has been printed.

How do I set up my document to account for the bleed?

Getting your document set up to account for the bleed really depends on what software you are using and whether you are going to print it yourself at home or want to work with a professional printing company.  Let’s tackle the DIY’ers first.

Most folks that want to do it themselves are generally designing documents in Word, Powerpoint, Google Sheets, etc.  Let’s pretend you want to print an invitation and mail it.  Invitations are usually 5” x 7” in size and you’ll easily be able to find envelopes that fit that size.   In your software of choice, set the page size to 5.5” x 7.5”, that will leave you with a .25 “bleed area” that can be cut off after you print. Simple, right?


I’m so not going to print this at home so how do I set up for the printer?

Again, setting up bleed correctly depends on the software you use.  In short, however, you will need to set up your artboard (that’s just a fancy way of saying page size) to include those extra “to be cut off” inches of your document.  You then go about creating the document to the size you require and then “stretch” the document out to the artboard bleed size.  Instructions on how to do this are linked here and this goes through the nuances of the various versions of design software you may be using.  

Now, if you are the type of person that reads the owner’s manual of a car, a more technical explanation is linked here (insert link to Amber’s document).

Let’s recap some terms to remember

What matters most is deciding what size you want your document to be after it’s printed and cut.  That is called the trim size.   However, you need to make your document page size (or artboard if your fancy) to include a minimum of 1/8” (.0125) bleed on each side, so 1/4” (.25) larger then your intended trim size.  In the DIY example above, I added .25 to each side so the actual document as a whole 1/2” larger and that’s fine too.  In order to make accurate cuts, the 1/8” bleed is just the minimum printers will accept.

Hopefully this has demystified the whole concept of bleed and now you can go forth and great excellent looking documents.  So, when you think to bleed or not to bleed, you’ll realize that is not even a question!  Just do it!

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To bleed or not to bleed. Is that even a question?
To bleed or not to bleed. Is that even a question?

Ask any printer, the concept of “bleed” comes up daily. Explaining it, faking it, adding it, requesting it, requesting it again, it’s always about the bleed.

Read more