What Is Bleed & Why It Matters

What Is Bleed & Why It Matters
By Nicholas Svizzero

Let’s start out by talking about the physical printing process of any size document. When a document is printed, it is extremely difficult for the machine to line up that document 100% exact to that paper size (for this example, let’s say 8.5 x 11 inches). More often than not, the paper shifts as the printer operates and a multitude of errors ensue that makes for a poor cut of the print material. You can tell almost instantly when a designer hasn’t properly affixed bleed to document, as one or more sides can see the unintentional underlying paper. As a note, bleed isn’t needed for digital artwork.

Below is a list of terms that come into play when discussing bleed:


This is your final document size. In the example of 8.5″ x 11″, the size is 8.5″ x 11″.

Safe Area

This is your “print-safe” area inside the Trim mentioned above. As such, it needs to be smaller than the trim, which could range from .125″ to 1″ smaller (on all sides). In the example of 8.5 x 11 inches, the size is 8.25 x 10.75 inches centered within the 8.5″ x 11″ document.


Bleed refers to the portion of your design that extends past the Trim size. What!?! Yes, you need to make your designs extend past the allotted Trim size in order to avoid seeing the underlying paper. When the printer cuts (to the Trim), any mis-cuts will be handled by the bleed, so it is imperative that you extend the image or color out past the trim area to avoid any possible mistakes. Now, the main question is just how far to you pull it past the trim area? More often than not, print shops and printers will indicate just how far out you should pull it (always go by their specs for their machines). However, if no bleed is stated – ALWAYS INCLUDE IT. This cannot be stressed enough. A good rule of thumb is that it can be as little as .0625″ past the Trim to .5″ past the Trim on all sides. At Bosse Studios, we tend to standardize to .125″ on all sides unless specified. In the example of 8.5 x 11 inches, the size is 8.75 x 11.25 inches centered beyond the 8.5″ x 11″ document.

A common pitfall most inexperience designers fall into is if a client informs you that they require, for example, a “.25″ bleed” from their printer. If the term “on all sides” isn’t specified, that .25″ bleed refers to the total bleed. This would require you to take the total bleed and divide it by two (example: .25″/2 = .125″). This would be the bleed that needs to be applied to all sides. The bleed size of a 8.5″ x 11″ document requiring a total bleed of .25″ is 8.75″ x 11.25″.

Crop Marks

Marking placed outside the Bleed area indicating where a document should be cut to the Trim area.

Below is a graphic depicting all of these terms:

Hopefully, Bosse Studios was able to assist you in navigating exactly what bleed is and how to implement it in your pre-printed designs. If you require any further assistance or want to take a class regarding graphic design near Boston, MA, contact us today at 781.337.8500 to schedule your appointment.

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