Bleeds & Safe Area?

Everything you put in front of a potential customer leaves them with an impression of your business.  So you want your marketing materials to look professional so customers and prospects have a positive impression of your business.  The best way to do that is to hire a professional designer.  A profesional designer will produce a creative and polished piece that will leave customers with the best impression of your business.  But let’s face it, sometimes due to budget or timing reasons we can’t always use a professional designer.   So this article and the ones to follow will give you a few suggestions as to what you can do to make your designs look as professional as possible.

Having been in the printing business for the past 20 years, we at Jiffy Photo and Print have seen all kinds of projects with all variety of problems.  These series of articles will sum up the problems we see most frequently and provide suggestions on how to correct them.  Future articles will discuss fonts, use of colour and more.

This month the topic is Bleeds & Safe Area.  Most printers and presses cannot print to the edge of a sheet of paper; there must be a white margin around the edge.  So what happens if you want a background or a colour to go to the edge of the page?

For large print runs, if we want a colour to go to the edge of a page we print the artwork on a bigger sheet of paper and cut it down to size.  In fact we often print a lot of smaller pages on a larger sheet to save cost.  For instance with business cards (2” x 3.5”) we print them 24  cards on a 12 x 18” sheet and cut them out.

Another factor that we need tomark vermeer 1 consider before I explain bleeds and safe area is that machines are not 100% accurate all the time.  Even on the most accurate printers it is possible that the position of the image on the page may vary by up to a millimeter from page to page.  Sheets may not stack up perfectly when being cut and sometimes not all of the sheets in a pack of paper are exactly the same size.  All this means is that, if you print a series of pages with an image on it and then put them in a cutter and cut a stack of 100 sheets right on the edge of an image you will end up with a selection of your sheets cut right on the edge, some will be cut into the image and others will be cut away from the image creating a white edge between the cut and the image.

Using my above example if you have something right at the edge of your image that you don’t want to lose it could get cut into (notice the ‘t’ in the graphic above).

How do we prevent these issues?  We do this by using bleeds and safe areas.  A bleed means you carry any background or colour past the cutting line so if the registration is off you won’t get a white edge.  The safe area simply means that you keep anything that you don’t want to get cut off a safe distance away from your cut line so that if the cut is a little bit on the inside you won’t lose anything important.

In the diagram to the right magenta line is the safe area, the green line represents the finished size of the piece when it is cut properly.  The blue line is the bleed this is how far your background should extend beyond the cut line.  The green shape in the top right corner is not setup to bleed it only extends to the cut edge so if the card is not cut accurately there could be a white edge. mark vermeer 2 The blue shape at the bottom right is setup properly the colour goes past the cut line by 1/8” so the sheets are not all registered 100% accurately when it is cut and the blue colour will still go to the edge of the sheet and there won’t be a white edge.

How much bleed and safe area do you need?  It depends on a number of factors so check with your printer before you start setting up your project but typically it is between 1/16” and 1/8”.

I hope you have found this helpful.  Next time we will talk about fonts in your print project.

If you have any question regarding bleeds or other printing related topics contact Mark Vermeer at Jiffy Photo and Print, 420 Hazeldean Road in Kanata –  or  We are a full service print company with 20 + years experience in the printing industry we have a full time Graphics Designer on staff to help you with your projects and can handle all of your printing needs from simple copies to books, flyers, sales literature, banners and small signage to trade show displays and much more.

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