My printer asked if my file “bleeds” – what does that mean and why do they care?
If you think of the term bleed in the typical intransitive verb form, it seems a very strange word to describe a print term, indeed. However circa 1937 the word bleed began to be used as a noun to describe printing to the very edge of the paper. The problem is that virtually all printing presses need at least an eighth of an inch gripper area for the printing press to grab the sheet of paper and hold it in place as it is being printed on. Therefore, if you want the artwork to go all the way to one edge (or all of the edges), we must print larger than the size you specify and then cut to the exact size you want.
Looking at the graphic above, you can see an example of artwork with bleed accounted for on the left. If you send the file on the right to us, we will have to have at least an eighth of an inch border around all the edges since we cannot print to the edge of the paper. Sometimes we are able to edit your file, but sometimes the designer is the only one with access to the background image. If you want to get the modern, full-bleed look, make sure your designer accounts for bleed in your artwork.
The graphic and text above gives some of our business card design specifications—but the content makes sense for all printed items. We now take all Adobe Illustrator and InDesign files in Creative Cloud and previous versions. If you had a 4” x 6” postcard, for instance, the file size would need to be at least 4.25” x 6.25” to account for the bleed. It’s not really something you have to worry about, but to quote you accurately it is something we have to take in to account.
Just one more graphic to reiterate my point (not to scale):
- The cut line
- The bleed line
- The safe zone
In this graphic, the designer has extended the graphic far beyond the bleed zone, and that is fine, too!
Do you have questions about bleed, cut lines or the safe zone? What are some other print topics that you have questions about?