What is a bleed? How does color get printed to the edge?

When you look at a brochure, poster, or business card, that has color printed to the edge of the paper, you probably don’t think about how it is produced. If you’ve ever printed a powerpoint slide and seen a white border around the page, it’s because most printers have physical elements guiding the sheet thru the machine creating a non-printable area where there is no ink or toner.

In order for the color to “bleed” to the edge  of the paper, the piece has to be printed larger on a larger piece of paper, and then trimmed to the intended size. Graphic designers set up bleeds (the color going past the area where the paper will be trimmed) and crop marks (lines that indicate where the paper should be trimmed).

In the images below you can see the back of our business cards as an example. The cards have the cranberry color printed across the card, bleeding on all edges.

Image with crop marks and bleeds

Close-up of crop marks and bleeds

You can see that the color extends past where the trim will be and the crop marks show where the card has to be cut.

Final, trimmed image

If you’re working with us on a design project, in the final stage of the design process you might receive PDFs for approval that include crop marks and bleeds. That means we have already prepared the file for the printing press. The trim marks are not part of your design but will help ensure that the colors goes right to the edge of your piece.