How to get your artwork right – Document Bleed

2nd Jun 2023

When we receive artwork ready for printing the number one issue we come across is documents which don’t have bleed setup correctly. Proper document bleed is essential to getting a good finished result, so if you’re not sure what bleed is, or how to apply it to your documents, read on…

What is bleed?

In commercial printing it’s not possible to print right up to the edge of the paper. Instead documents are printed on larger sheets of paper (often multiple documents on each sheet) and trimmed out afterwards to the finished size. In order to allow for the trimming process, any graphics which reach the edge of the document must extend beyond the final page area in order to achieve a neat finished result. If this is not done properly there’s a danger of an uneven white border appearing around the finished item which won’t look good.

The industry standard for bleed is 3mm around each edge. Generally it’s best to stick to this standard, otherwise the artwork could be considered the wrong size and that could lead to the document being trimmed incorrectly.

How to add bleed to your documents

The good news is that it’s not too tricky to add bleed, here’s how to do it.

Adobe Indesign

Indesign has built in support for bleed. When you create a new document take a look in the ‘bleed and slug’ panel. Set the bleed for top, bottom, left and right all to 3 mm. You can leave the slug at 0 mm. You can also edit the bleed settings afterwards in the ‘File > Document Setup’ menu.

You should now see a thin red line running around just outside the edge of each page, this marks the outer edge of your bleed area. If you can’t see it try selecting ‘View > Grids & Guides > Show Guides’. You now need to drag or scale any graphics which touch the edge of your page until they reach the red line.

Remember that this extended border you’re creating will be trimmed off, so any text or important graphics should stay comfortably inside the page area – if you want to check how the trimmed document will look switch to ‘View > Screen Mode > Preview’.

We’re almost there, but we still need to output the PDF correctly. Go to ‘File > Export’ and choose Adobe PDF format. Give your PDF a name and click save, then you will see the export settings. We recommend you choose ‘PDF/X-1a:2001’, but after you’ve selected your preset you need to go to the ‘Marks and Bleeds’ section, check Crop Marks and also check ‘Use Document Bleed Settings’.

That’s it, if you take a look at your finished PDF you should be able to see the crop marks in each corner and see your graphic extending beyond the crop – you’re ready to go to print.

Microsoft Publisher

In Publisher it’s not possible to add bleed guides, so you’ll need to just drag or scale any objects which reach the edge of the page until they extend beyond the page by 3mm. You can use the ‘Format Picture > Layout’ panel to check your measurements.

Once you’ve positioned all the elements and your design is complete, you can check the finished result by opening up ‘Print Setup’, changing the printer name to ‘Adobe PDF’ and choosing ‘Print Preview’ from the bottom left.

Now you can output your final artwork. Go to ‘File > Pack and Go > Take to a Commercial Printing Service’. Choose the ‘Commercial Press’ option and make sure ‘Create a PDF’ is checked. Open the printing options and check both Crop Marks and Allow Bleeds (you can leave Bleed Marks unchecked). Change your paper size to custom and add on 2 cm to the width and height. For example if your document is A4 (21cm x 29.7cm) change the width to 23 cm and the height to 31.7 cm. As you do this you should be able to see the crop marks appear in the corners of the preview.

Now click OK then Save to save the finished artwork. If you open your output zip file you should have a publication.pdf which is ready to send to your printer.

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