Bleed versus no bleed? If you have ever had something printed, this is more than likely a question you have been asked before. Our three on-staff designers ask this anytime they start a project. It is an important question that deserves some looking in to.
The image below shows an example of one business card with a bleed and another without. The card with the bleed is on top. Simply put, a bleed means that the color goes all the way to the edge of the printed piece. Since the bottom card's design doesn't have any color that goes off the edge (or uses the color of the paper), it is a non-bleed print. Non-bleed prints can be designed and sent over to size.
So why does this make a difference when you are printing?
Almost all printers out there leave some white space around the print. It is very difficult to print right to the edge of the paper, so for us to achieve the look of the color going all the way to the edge, it requires the print to actually be printed at a larger size and then cut down to the correct size. Often times we will get prints with the design going to the edge, but not past it. This isn't enough. If we were to print that and cut it to size you would still get a white edge, even if it was a sliver of it. We also do not like to blow up an image to account for the bleed size, as this can cause wanted design elements like text to get cut off. For a true, professional looking bleed, the design needs to go past the edge, like the image below of a printed piece.
The two marks on this paper are crop marks. These tell us where to cut so that you get a product in the size you requested. As you can see, as we cut on each of these lines, we will be cutting through the green, ensuring the color goes all the way to the edge.
On most prints with bleeds, we require at least a .125" bleed. This ensures that enough of the image is printed outside and gives our cutters room to make adjustments as needed. If you are sending us a pdf that is ready for print, please make sure your designer has not only included this .125" to each side of the design but has also exported the pdf to include the crop marks. If you are having us design something for you, please send over all images with this extra space in mind.
If you have any questions for us, please let us know in the comments or call us at 801.295.7009, and let us know what other questions you would like answered in future installments of Printing Tips with Signature Press.