What is a Bleed in Graphic Design?

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Art director, Mehemed Fehmy Agha, designed the first full bleed image for a 1930’s issue of Vogue magazine. The photograph was notable because it went up to the edge of the magazine page without leaving any borders. 

What’s the Benefit of a Full-Bleed Image?

Designers like Mehemed Fehmy Agha established the bleed system to capitalize on the visual impact a full-page design can have on readers. 

Bleed vs. Trim Edge

The term “bleed” refers to the amount of design that crosses the trim edge on a piece of printed paper. A “trim edge” is the small margin of paper the printer holds on to while printing your design.

The Process of Creating a Full Bleed Design

After printing, the print shop will cut along the trim edge to remove the additional bleed content. Once this printer handhold is gone, the photograph will extend to the edge of the page seamlessly.

Why Do Printers Need a Bleed Margin? 

Printers use these bleed margins to anchor the paper. They cannot print a full-page design on their own. If they did, it would create a smudgy mess inside the printer by depositing color off the paper’s edge.

How Big Should Your Bleed Be?

When you’re creating a full bleed visual, the amount of bleed needed will depend on the project. A ⅛ inch bleed is satisfactory on most pieces; however, more oversized items like outdoor banners can require a bleed of up to one inch.

Ask Your Print Shop for Help

If you’re not sure what size your bleed should be, ask your print shop. They will help you with exact measurements, so your final product turns out exactly right.

Preparing Your Design for Full Bleed

Additionally, design programs like Adobe Illustrator and InDesign have detailed bleed setting options. They allow you to input the exact bleed size for your particular project.

Preview Your Full Bleed Design Before You Print

These programs also provide space markers to show the trim lines. Viewing the design in preview mode will show what the finished design will look like with the bleed removed.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Printing Full-Bleed Images

One mistake people make when printing a full-bleed image is to add a white border to the bleed. This extra border could potentially result in an unwanted tiny white border around the finished design. 

Don’t Put Text Too Close to the Edge

Another no-no is putting important text or images too close to the safety margin area of the design. The trimming process may remove these letters. Watch out for this, especially if a file’s dimensions need to be expanded for a document redesign to include bleed.

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