What is Bleed in Graphic Design?

When printing a poster, business card, or any other graphic, it's a good idea to leave a bleed in your work. So what is bleed in graphic design? Essentially, it's the extra space that extends beyond where you plan on cutting the page. In most cases, anything you print will need to be trimmed, and a bleed ensures that your finished work looks exactly as you planned it. Below, we've shared how to create a bleed with your favorite design software, and why the practice is crucial for professionals. 

What is Bleed in Graphic Design?

Every printer has its own quirks, and some are less precise than others. To ensure that your entire graphic makes it onto the page, designers generally leave ⅛" of extra space (and 2-5mm in Europe) on each side. The graphic may extend into the "bleed area", allowing you to trim it to your liking, so that you avoid having an ugly white sliver on the edge. When you cut a design down to its intended dimensions, anything inside is called the "trim area".

How to Create a Bleed in Illustrator

When loading a new Illustrator project, a dialog box will appear with sections for "Height" and "Width". Here, you can enter the desired dimensions (in inches) for your finished project, after it has been trimmed. 

In the same box, you'll find another section called "Bleed", which is also measured in inches. For most projects, you'll want to enter "0.125" for all four bleed areas (left, right, top, and bottom). Finish by selecting your Color Mode and Raster Effects (we recommend "CMYK" and "300ppi"), and then press OK.    

How to Create a Bleed in InDesign

When loading a new InDesign document, you can specify the trim area in the "Page Size" section. Then, look for a section called "Bleed and Slug". If you can't find it in the main window, click on "More Options". In most cases, you'll want to enter "0.125" (i.e. ⅛") for all of the bleed values, so that you leave enough space for print errors.   

How to Create a Bleed in Photoshop

When launching a new Photoshop document, you'll have the opportunity to enter "Full Bleed" dimensions. Consider how large you want the project to be, and then add an extra ⅛" (and sometimes more, depending on your printer) on each side for your bleed area. 

To keep track of your trim area while working on the project, enable rulers by selecting "View" > "Rulers", and then drag in each side ⅛". Now, you'll be able to distinguish where the bleed area begins. 

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