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What is print bleed? A definitive guide

If you’re sending a print job to a printing company, chances are you’ll be asked to leave some space on the design for bleed. But what is print bleed, and how can you avoid getting caught out? Read on for our definitive guide to print bleed, and how to ensure it never becomes an issue.


Print bleed explained

Put simply, bleed can be defined as ‘excess’. It is the area on a design that can be trimmed off after printing without negatively impacting the design by cutting bits of it short. No printers have the capability to print right to the edge of the page, so the print design must specify three zones.

The simple design below illustrates how to best set up your bleed on a design.



An example of print bleed

The Safe Zone

Firstly, you need to have a line surrounding the ‘safe zone’. On the above design, this is the red line. This line is the innermost cut that the printer could make.  This should be placed around all the important information and imagery on your design that you absolutely cannot have removed. So, for example, the safe zone would have to surround all of the holder’s information on a business card.

The Cut Line

Secondly, you need a cut line, the line where you’d like the cut to be. On the design  It is best practice to allow for 3mm either way, so this should be 3mm away from the safe zone.

The Bleed Zone

The third, and final, zone is the bleed zone. This is between the edge of the design – shown here in black - and the cut line. This needs to be two things. Firstly, it needs to be expendable, containing no important detail or information. Secondly, it needs to contain colour and design, so that if the cut occurs in the bleed zone, then you are not left with white space surrounding your design.


Potential pitfalls (and how to avoid them)

To print industry folk, bleed is a fairly simple concept, though it can be confusing to those outside the industry, and people will frequently make mistakes. Here’s a few potential print bleed pitfalls to avoid.


Important information outside the safe zone

If you place important design flourishes or information outside of the safe zone, they could get axed. Even if you place them inside the cut line, you could still end up with important parts of your design being cut. Best practice is to draw your safe zone line around all of the vital information, and place your cut line 3mm outside it.


Bleed zone differs to the rest of your design

Some people choose to mark out their bleed zone by leaving it white, or filling it in with a colour. This is a bad idea, as the bleed zone is there to provide a bit of extra design, as the cut can occur within this area. Take a look at our example design above. If we were to fill the bleed zone with block yellow colour, we could end up with a yellow border around the final printed design. Not a great look.


No bleed zone or safe zone specified 

Warning, you’re playing with fire if you do this. If you’re leaving it to the printer to decide where to cut off, don’t be surprised if the final result doesn’t look exactly how you’d hoped it would.


Instant Print W1 are based in Fitzrovia, at the heart of London. Get in touch with us here to get a quote.


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