Print basics: How to achieve better print results with bleed


Avoiding white edges with InDesign and Photoshop

We deal with data mistakes on a daily basis and often receive faulty print data. As a result customers become dissatisfied because the product doesn’t come out as they’ve planned it. To avoid such printing issues we start to share some basic tips & tricks for correct data setup.

Today we start with a simple, but very important topic: bleed.

Here’s an InDesign CS5 example with bleed for a double-sided business card for downloading.

Every commercially printed artwork needs 2 mm (0,079 inches) bleed on each side in order to compensate for unavoidable cutting irregularities. Basically it is an area of tolerance which you add to the size of your layout. If you take a business card with 85x55mm as an example you setup the file with 89x59mm to get the 2mm (0,079 inches) tolerance.

All elements directly located on the edge of your design and backgrounds are extended by 2mm (0,079 inches)on each side. So, if the cut happens a millimeter outside the original format no one will see a difference. Elements and typography not to be cut should be placed about 1.5 mm (0,059 inches) away from the bleed area.

Use bleed with InDesign in 2 simple steps

1. If you’re familiar with Adobe InDesign you can setup the bleed area with very little effort. You do that right at the start, when you create your document.
Simply choose “More options” and insert 2mm (0,079 inches) for “Bleed” on each side. With the option „Margins“ set to 1.5mm (0,059 inches) you get an orientation in which area to place elements you don’t want to be cut.

While designing your print product always create backgrounds so that they cover the outermost bleed area and place objects sitting on the edge so that they reach into this area as well. Never place text elements beyond the 1.5 mm (0,059 inches)margin.

2. Gratulations, you’ve already done the most important part! When you now export your data into a printable pdf file go to the “Marks and Bleed” tab where you make sure that “Crop Marks” and “Use Document Bleed Settings” are checked.

So, you see that it’s mostly a question of forgetting the bleed instead of it being too complicated.

Apply bleed with Photoshop

We recommend preparing print data with a layout program like InDesign but if you don’t have the resources it’s equally easy to achieve it with Adobe Photoshop.

We again use our business cards. Open a new document. To the normal print size of 85x55mm you add bleed on top, which means in this case a total size of 89x59mm. Be careful to choose the color mode CMYK and a resolution of 300 pixels/inch.

As we don’t have automatic bleed margins in Photoshop we define the bleed area with the help of guides. Simply left click on the side and top rulers to drag out a guide, which you place 2mm (0,079 inches) inside the edge of your canvas. The 1.5mm (0,059 inches) text safety margin works the same, only at 3.5mm (0,14 inches) from the canvas border. If rulers are not visible open it with “Cmd+R” (MAC) or “Ctrl +R” (Windows). With a right click on the ruler you can define the measure. For setting bleed and margins you should use mm and zoom in to get a precise placement.

When exporting the Photoshop file you don’t have to care for bleed and margins as they are simply part of the design.

That is how you achieve perfect print products without any bleed failures. Stay tuned for our next article on printing basics


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