Bleed is one of the most misunderstood concepts within print.

Often tuition courses are misleading due to reliance on old information that is no longer relevant, often designers have only ever produced for the screen or web so don’t understand the concept, and often the concept is understood but the application is not.

This article is designed to give you in-depth understanding of the concept of bleed.

If you are an experienced designer and simply want to check our requirements, you may visit our Quick Artwork Guide here to check over the requirements.

If you are attempting your own design for the first time, then this article should tell you everything you need to know.

Starting with your 300dpi template, you first need to understand the concept, then a little about why its a requirement, and finally, some notes on the application.

Lets take our logo for an example. If you want this to be the final finished product:

Bleed - Desired Image

Then the artwork you need to supply would look like this:

Bleed - Supplied Image

You’ll notice the document has wider edges.

To illustrate this better, here is the same document with guides at 3mm from each edge.

Bleed - With Guides

These pink lines are the Trim lines. This document has 3mm bleed, i.e. each trim line is 3mm from the edge. As you will surmise, this means that we will trim at these lines to give the desired outcome in picture 1.

This in a nutshell is the concept of bleed.

The reason why a document needs bleed is to do with the way sheets of paper are cut.

As you’ll see from the image below:

guillotine example

When a stack of paper is cut, the paper is pushed away by the guillotine. This can result in slippage of the sheets. While this is only in the order of 0.1-0.2mm or less, there are two possible outcomes:

  • the cutter moves inside the document
  • the cutter moves outside the document

In our example above, if the cutter moves outside the document, the additional bleed of dark blue, allows the document to remain dark blue right to the edge. If the bleed was not there, you would see white paper, which does not look professional.

If the cutter moves inside the document, our example would still be OK. But imagine the artwork was set up too close to the edge:

Bleed - Too Little

In this example, if the cutter moves inwards, it will trim off some of the lettering. In addition, there needs to be area in which to grip the document and here there is none.


  • You should have at least 3mm between your logos, text and desired content and the trim edge.
  • There should be a further 3mm between the trim edge and the bleed edge.
  • This area should contain the same document background.

In the application of preparing artwork for print, item 3 is perhaps the most important. In all the examples we’ve shown above, if there was not enough bleed, one could simply add more plain dark blue to the document to make more.

However, if the document has a photographic background:

Bleed - Photo Background

…at this point you can see it would be very difficult to add more photograph to create an area within which to trim. The correct version of this document would look like this:

Bleed - Correct

In this document:

  • The logo is 6mm from the outside (bleed) edge.
  • The logo is 3mm from the pink trim lines, which are 3mm from the bleed edge
  • The background extends all the way to the bleed edge

So you can see the basic requirements. The issues can come if you haven’t planned for this. Here are some examples and possible fixes. Do remember you can simply send us your artwork for a Detailed Artwork Check.

Items are too close to the edge/there is no bleed, but the background is plain

Send us the files, we will add more plain colour for you. There would be no charge for this.

Your logos and text are very close to the edge of your artwork

Do you have a layered or editable file? If so, you can increase the Canvas Size or Artboard, and extend the background photo to fill the area. If you cannot manage this, you can send us the layered files using a file transfer service such as Dropbox for us to edit. Order our Artwork Helper add-on now, or when you place your print order.

Your background image is precisely positioned and cannot be stretched

If you cannot add any more background, because you cannot move the background file, the only options are to add a white, black or other colour border, to create more bleed margin from scratch, or to use less bleed. We can assist with this; order our Artwork Helper add-on now, or when you place your print order.

Creating more bleed: Items are too close to the edge/there is no bleed, but the background is detailed/photographic, and the artwork is flattened

If you are in this position with no recourse to layered artwork, there are several options. The first is to carefully extend the background. Duplicating it outwards, reversing, stretching, or fading the colour out can give enough additional area, especially if you use less bleed. We can assist with this; order our Artwork Helper add-on now, or when you place your print order.

Using Less Bleed

The reason we ask for 3mm from the trim edge to the logos/text/content is that even if there is cutter slippage (and bear in mind this is only on a very small percentage of print), your nice even borders will stay nice and even. If for some reason you’ve misunderstood the print sizes, or made your borders uneven, 3+3mm (3mm trim-edge, plus 3mm bleed), allows us to shift your artwork imperceptibly to correct for this.

However we CAN operate with substantially less bleed. Our cutters are very accurate, guillotine slippage is very minimal, and what we are really seeking to avoid here are small items with complex backgrounds, such as flyers, business cards and leaflets, with items less than 1.5mm from the edge. We can cut with as little as 1mm bleed, and keep your borders accurate down to 0.5mm but this is not good practice and we can’t be held unaccountable if you authorise us to go ahead with such items.

With an Artwork Helper check we can almost always rectify, fake out, or draw more, background; but if text is right to the edge and inseparable, then it becomes a labour-intensive task.

Finally, you should not include crop marks, registration marks or “printer’s marks” on your document. For an explanation of why, read our article on printer’s marks, coming soon.