trim, bleed & safety!

: trim, bleed & safety!

In addition to having the correct color, size, resolution and file format for your project, you’ll want to make sure that your page is set up correctly so it prints perfectly!

To do this, you need to become familiar with some printing terms: trim, bleed and safety. They sound little scary, huh? I mean, we all want to be safe and don’t want to bleed when we trim!

Well, these terms refer to the treatment of ink at the cut edge of a finished piece. The terms originated with offset printing (printing presses that use ink and metal sheet rollers). In this process, ink is applied to a sheet of paper that gets cut down to the size of your final printed piece.

I not only define these terms below, but also give you the 3 easy steps so you can setup your pages to print perfectly!

Want a FREE 8.5″ x 11″ PRINTABLE that already has the bleed and safety guides marked in their own layer in Illustrator? Download it here:

FREE PRINTABLE

Before we can tackle setting up the trim, bleed and safety in a file, let’s first define what these terms are.

trim

The trim is where the edge will be cut. It is essentially the final finished size of your piece.

bleed

The bleed is the area housing artwork that is extended beyond the edge so that there is no visible margin.

Printing is an imprecise mechanical process where things can shift over time, especially when printing in high volumes, so to ensure that there is some leeway built-in for the slitter to cut each piece, artwork is “pulled out” over the edge so that elements “bleed” off the trim edge.

How much bleed should you pull out? Well, best practice is no less than 1/8” (.125”) beyond the edge of the piece, but it’s not uncommon to see as much as 1/4” (.25”).

1/16” (.0625”) may be a little tight for a printer to reliably hit each time and 1/2” (.5”) is overkill. If your printer requires a 1/2” bleed, it’s time to get a new printer!

How do you know the extent you’ve pulled out your bleed? Well, just pull out guides from your rulers and set them .125”-.25” away from your document’s edge.

safety

The safety is the area that’s well inside the trim edge and typically marks the area where all essential elements that cannot risk being cut off, such as copy, should be within.

Anything inside the safety margin is guaranteed to never get trimmed away (or so you hope!) A good rule of thumb is to be at least 1/4” (.25”) in from the trim edge.

While the terms trim, bleed and safety may have originated with offset printing, they are still very much needed even in digital printing so it’s imperative you take them into consideration if you want your projects to print perfectly.

graphics grrrl design red_divider
graphics grrrl design red_divider

Okay, so now that we have defined those basic terms, try to see if you can create a file with a bleed and safety in your design program of choice (such as Illustrator or InDesign) using these steps:

  1. trim–make a new file that is the size of your final size.
  2. bleed–show your rulers (WINDOW/SHOW RULERS) and set guides .125” away from the edge all the way around your page.* This will be where you extend any artwork that you wish to appear all the way to the edge of your layout.
  3. safety–just as you did with the bleed, give yourself guides approximately .25” in from the trim edge.** This is where you’ll want to keep all vital information for your layout, such as copy.

*Conversely, you could make a shape that is the size of your document +.125” all the way around for the bleed and convert this shape to a guide or put it on its own guide layer set not to print
**Conversely, you could make a shape that is the size of your document -.25” all the way around for the safety and convert this shape to a guide or put it on its own guide layer set not to print

bleed

comp

After you have your file setup and design your layout within the parameters of trim, bleed and safety, then what? Well, then it’s time to print it out and make a sample, silly! This sample, also known as a “comp,” or composite, will show you how something such as a brochure would actually fold and really appear once printed. In this example, you would print out both sides of the brochure and then use spray mount to glue the sides together before cutting.spray mount adhesive glueYou can buy spray mount here!

Making a comp is really helpful in order to get a feel for how the final finished piece will look, so you can get approval on it BEFORE you release it to the printer for actual printing.

If your comp is smaller than a letter sized (8.5” x 11”) piece of paper, this is pretty easy. But what if you want to print exactly a letter sized piece of paper and avoid the annoying white margin? To do this, you’d need to print to a larger piece of paper such as tabloid (11” x 17”) size and cut it down.

Want a FREE 8.5″ x 11″ PRINTABLE that already has the bleed and safety guides marked in their own layer in Illustrator? Download it here:

FREE PRINTABLE

But how do you know where to cut? Well, whether your project is smaller or larger than letter sized piece of paper, you’ll need to utilize crop marks.

crop marks crop marks

Crop marks are tiny black lines you can add to your layout to indicate where the trim of the document is so your printer (or you, if you’re making a comp) will know where to cut.

bleed safety trim

 

If you’ve ever saved a pdf of your layout and selected a print preset, you may have seen these tiny lines on both the horizontal and vertical edges of your layout. If you placed a ruler on these lines, extending it from the top vertical line down to the bottom vertical line, you take an X-Acto knife and cut along the ruler’s edge, and repeat this on the other vertical side, and both horizontal edges so that ultimately you would have cut out your comp. Or, you can line up the crop marks using just a paper cutter (which may be a safer alternative if you don’t have a steady hand and firm grasp of the ruler when using X-Acto blades!)

X-Acto You can buy an X-Acto knife and blades, metal ruler and self-healing mat here!

You don’t have to draw these lines in your file yourself, you simply select them when you save your pdf in your design program of choice (Illustrator, InDesign, etc.)

PDF settings

In your pdf dialog box, you’ll also see other option you can select:

registration registration mark

Registration marks print outside the trim area of printing. They can include bullseye targets, crop marks, plate information, etc. These marks allow the printer to accurately align the separate cyan, magenta, yellow and black plates on press and better align where to trim.

If you’ve ever seen cheap tabloid newspapers where the images look blurry, it was because these plates were not in alignment, or registered, on press when printed.

color bars color bars

You can opt to include color bars in your pdf to your printer. On press, your printer can ensure the color accuracy of your artwork by measuring the values in the color bar with a tool called a spectrophotometer.

document info

You can include your document’s filename, file type and date (including time stamp!) This is helpful for rev control to ensure that the most up-to-date version is being printed.

In general, when I provide artwork to a printer, I include my native file (in Illustrator or InDesign for example) where I have the document setup to be the trim size, extended a bleed .25” beyond the trim, and ensured all my copy is well within the safety area by at least .25”. In addition, I also include a pdf with this bleed and ALL of the printer marks listed above.

When I create a pdf that is to be viewed online or printed out on office printers, I create a reference pdf that simply ends at the page’s trim edge and does not include ANY printer marks.

Have any questions? Feel free to ask away in the comments section!

graphics grrrl design red_divider
graphics grrrl design red_divider
trim, bleed & safety! Click through to get your FREE PRINTABLE that already has the bleed and safety guides marked in their own layer in Illustrator! ~graphics grrrl
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