Bleed is a technical printing term used to describe when a document designed for printing requires content to run off the edge of the page in order for it to appear as it was intended when printed professionally. A bleed occurs when the artwork or content of a printed product extends beyond the trim area, which is the designated edge of the page that will be cut down to the finished size when printed.
Content should therefore be extended and set to run outside the trim area of a page in order to ensure that there are no abrupt white lines due to trimming too close to text, graphics or image elements. This feature is vital for any professional print project and applies to all digital, screen and litho printing.
What is an inherent bleed?
An inherent bleed is created when the artwork and the content of a printed item, such as a brochure or poster, extends beyond the trim area, resulting in an impressively extended edge to the design. For artwork to have an inherent bleed, it needs to have been set up with that intention prior to submission. This is done by increasing the size of the document before submitting it for printing, as opposed to simply importing and wrapping artwork at the edge of the document – which can help fix any inconsistencies but is not a reliable solution. For example, if a brochure is suppose to be printed on a page A4 size (210mm x 297mm), then the artwork should be created on a canvas that is larger – the bleed allowance should add 3mm onto all four sides of the document (making 216mm x 303mm) – and any content, such as text, should also be extended to fit within the bleed allowance.
What is a bleed allowance?
The bleed allowance is an area that extends beyond the designated trim area where any artwork, objects, text or images overlap the edge of a document. When creating your document for print, you will have to allow for the ‘extra bleed’ area within the artwork so that it can be trimmed down after printing.
The standard bleed allowance is typically 3mm. This allows for any trimming errors that may occur during the printing process, as any inconsistencies that arise from cutting too close to artwork or objects can be overcome by using the bleed allowance to extend the content – this ensures that it looks professional when printed.
Therefore, in order for your project to have a seamless bleed, your extended artwork should flow off the edge of the page with the same colour, texture or tone – this can be achieved by either making the background of your document extend beyond the trim area so that anything placed on top of it (images, text etc.) will automatically have a similar tone – or by placing the elements of your artwork in the bleed allowance so they are all extended in the same way.
How to set up a document for bleed (print): best practices
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Setting up a document for bleed (print) is an essential requirement when creating artwork for print and there are some key steps and best practices that must be followed. To ensure your artwork looks professional and is ready for professional printing, follow these steps:
1. Start by creating your document with the correct bleeds. In order for the artwork to bleed off the edge of the page, its canvas must be larger than the trim area, – so make sure that the document is 3mm wider and taller than the intended trim size (if the trim size is A4, then the artwork should be 216mm x 303mm). Use the correct bleed dimensions when setting up your document with no margin; this will allow for the maximum amount of artwork to flow off the edge of the page without compromising any vital aspects of the design.
2. Draw a guideline to represent the trim area. This will help you visualise what will remain after the artwork has been cut down to its proper size. It is crucial that no important artwork goes beyond this line.
3. Make sure the background of the artwork extends beyond the trim area. This can be achieved by either making the background layer of your document a darker shade than the trim area (creating a ‘false’ bleed), or by extending an existing artwork or design outwards to cover the bleed area. This will ensure that any images and objects placed on top of the background have the same tone or colour when printed.
4. Any elements or objects that you place on top of the background should overlap slightly past the trim area. This will allow the artwork to have a consistent appearance when cut down to size after printing.
5. If you have any text, make sure that all elements, such as the font size, character spacing, line spacing and leading, extend beyond the trim area, taking into account the bleed allowance of 3mm. This will ensure that any text looks professional and retains its clarity when printed.
6. When saving or submitting your document for printing, make sure to use the correct bleed settings. This will vary depending on the supplier, but is usually a PDF file with all elements of the artwork, including fonts and images, embedded into the document. The bleed settings should also be set to 3mm, so the document is ready to be printed with a professional finish.
By following these steps and best practices, you will be able to create artwork for printing that runs seamlessly off the edge of the page, creating a professional and impressively extended design.