Date posted 17 November 2014

'Bleed' is an important element of creating print ready artwork. Professional designers will always extend the background beyond the edges of the finished document by an additional 3mm. This insures your final print is edge to edge without any of your text being cut off and avoiding any ugly white borders. At we require just 2.5mm for business cards each side for other products its 1.5mm each side so a total of 3mm but often other printers will ask for a more.

The full story

We have all been there, we want to create a flyer or poster and fire up our editor and create a blank document of our finished size. We spend hours getting the wording correct, images in place and even call in the grammar police to check everything is OK. Everyone is happy so we then hit the print button and fire off a copy to our desk top printer and we have white borders around the edges.

Yes we can trim the white off but firstly that makes the print smaller than we intended but also it dammed difficult to cut right along the edge so we cut off all of the white space. It's at this point it dawns on you that if only you had made the background a little larger then you could cut into background avoiding the problem.

Problem also is that most domestic printers cannot print larger than the standard #sizes, or if they do the paper costs can be outrageous. Commercial printers you will be pleased to know suffer the exact same problem; however they have learnt to overcome the problem by simply printing onto larger sheets of paper allowing the print to be larger than the finished size. For example if you where printing a A3 poster will print the poster onto a size called SRA3 (a bit like A3+) A3 dimensions are 297mm x 420mm where as SRA3 is 320mm x 450mm which allows for this oversized print.

There is however a 2nd problem faced with high production press printing and that is of image creep. The image can and does shift slightly on each page printed. It does not matter which printing process you go for be it litho or digital for all printers will suffer with the image moving slightly from page to page and if your design does not contain bleed then those ugly white borders will appear but sometimes randomly every few prints due to the shifting problem.

The 3rd problem is at the finishing stage, on a print run all the sheets of paper are stacked and placed into a guillotine. This is not some small hobbyist single sheet cutting device but a large extremely powerful machine capable of cutting though several telephone directories or fingers at once. Although a guillotine operator will stack your sheets of paper carefully there will of course be slight differences in their position. We may be only talking about a small percentage of a millimetre but coupled that with image creep and the whole job can be ruined at a single press of a button.

The Solution

The easiest way to overcome all these issues is too simply to extend the background past the point of your finished design. So if your plan is to create an A3 poster don't start with a A3 blank page but make it slightly larger. Here at we require an overall bleed of 3mm so instead of creating your document 297mm x 420mm make it 300mm x 423mm. The extra 3mm (1.5mm each side) while allow the print to move slightly and also allow the cutting of your poster to insure there is no white borders on any of the edges and any coloured backgrounds will go right to all the edges perfectly.

Positioning Text

As well as bleed being important, you should also be aware that you need to keep your text away from any edges, For a A3 poster as a general guide your text should not be any closer to an edge than the full bleed (3mm in this case). Just as the cutting can cut outside your design it can also cut inside as well, if your text has been placed to close then there is a danger of text being cut in half or even lost if it's small enough and placed too close. So if the bleed is 1.5mm the bare minimum you should place your text is 1.5mm from where the cut will happen. From a design point of view text on the edge of the document or poster never looks cool, your marketing message needs air around it to be effective, although the closest you could go to an edge is 1.5mm it is normally best to come in a lot more than that. On a large A3 poster it would not be uncommon to have the closest text 20mm or more from any of the sides.

On something smaller like a business card then 3mm to 5mm from the edge is normal. This may seem quite a large area but its really not when you see the finished product.