Bleed is a printing term that refers to design that goes beyond the edge of the actual page size. This extra printed area is trimmed off after printing and gives us a little wiggle room to account for movement of the paper and design inconsistencies. Using bleed makes sure that after trimming your piece has no unprinted edges.
If any element in your document layout makes contact with the document border you will need to use bleed.
Building With Bleed
Let’s say you’re working on a brochure containing images that will print right up to a page edge. The trick is to place these elements so that they run over the edge where the document will be cut after printing.
If you are creating your design with Adobe’s InDesign or Illustrator, you’ll find the bleed process painless to set up. Under file/document setup, you have the option of creating bleed guides. By inputting 0.125 for the bleed, these programs create a red guide around your page, an indicator of just how far you should be extending your images and color fills. You can still have bleed without this visual aid, you’ll just need to be a bit more attentive to your settings when exporting a pdf. When bleed is included in your file, the document size remains unchanged but your output, with the bleed included, will be 1/4” wider and taller. And, more importantly, you the designer, will be happier!
How Much Bleed
One eighth of an inch (.125″) is the ideal amount of bleed for any one side of an image, graphic, or colored frame. Your final file will not only be one-quarter of an inch taller and wider, but should include crop marks to show where bleed areas will be trimmed off after printing. An 8.5″x11″ file will still maintain these physical dimensions and should be created as such, but the pdf for the file will measure out at 8.75″x11.25″.
Why Use Bleed
Document bleed gives the final cutting some room for error. The paper itself can expand or contract, the stack of printed documents may have a bit of wiggle to it when on the cutter, document folds may take up space causing panel size changes. By adding bleed where needed, you can be sure that the printed, cut, folded and finished document will have perfect color with no surprises.