What’s “bleed”?

What's Bleed? | Emily Layne Designs Blog

I run into this problem a lot. If you’re not in the printing world, you probably don’t know what bleed is.  I didn’t know what it was until I went to college and started my printing classes. I do think it’s important to explain though, especially if you’re creating your own artwork for invitations, greeting cards, flyers, or really any printed material. Even if you’re just shopping around and ordering printed products, it’s important to know some basic terminology.

Bleed is the outside area of the page where the artwork goes over the edge of the paper. So, why is this needed? Say you’re creating an invitation that has a red background on the entire sheet. Because the color goes all the way to the edge of the paper, you’ll need anywhere between 0.25″ and 0.125″ bleed on all four sides. The diagram below shows a 1/8″ bleed using the red line around the document.

What's bleed? | Emily Layne Designs Blog

Now, the next concept usually doesn’t register with people initially purely because we’re so used to pressing print on our home computer and spitting out a document or picture. Professional printing is much, much different. Let’s use our full bleed, red background invitation example. When a piece of paper goes through a printer or a printing press, the machine has to grip on to the paper to apply the ink. Because of this, ink cannot be placed in that area. So, to get a sheet of paper to have full color, you have to print on a larger sheet and trim it down.

So, if we have a 5″ x 7″ invitation with a full bleed red background, we’re probably going to print it on a 8.5″ x 11″ sheet with 2 invitations per sheet. (Laying out files on a larger sheet is called imposition and we’ll cover that topic another day!) Now you can print your invitations with 0.125″ bleed, trim it down and have a full color card!

Having bleed run off the sheet helps when trimming so you don’t have any white edges. Even though commercial cutting equipment can be very exact, it’s not perfect and having tiny white edges around your artwork is not pretty!

Keep this concept in mind when ordering any products you have to print yourself. Make sure your graphic designer ALWAYS sends you files with bleed if the artwork goes all the way to the edge of the paper! This will save you a ton of time and headache!

Are you interested in more graphic design concepts? Let me know in the comments below!


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