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What Does “Bleed” Mean in Printing? UK Size Standards Explained

In printing, “bleed” refers to an image, usually either a logo or background photo, that extends beyond the edge of a printed page. Whether you’re designing a brochure, flyer, or business card for your company, it is important that you understand what “full bleed” means and how to properly account for it in the design process.  

Accounting for bleed is an important part of graphic design because it helps create a clean edge on a finished product; if an image only extends to the end of the page, there is often a thin white “border” around the edges when printed, which can detract from the document’s overall look. 

How to Account for Printing Bleed

If you design a document with a white background, you don’t need to worry about bleed. The white border on the printed page will blend into the background! However, if you decide to put a background color or image on your document – even something like a small logo in the corner – it’s important that you design a page with bleed in mind. 

This means you’ll need to adjust the size of your design area, and you’ll need to be careful about the layout, font sizes, and graphic sizes on your page. In this guide, we’ll provide you with a few simple tricks that will help you design beautiful, clear documents – full bleed and all – every time. 

Page Size and Print Bleed

When you design a page that utilized printed bleed, how much extra space do you have to work with? Not very much: most printers only allocate an extra 3mm on all sides to account for bleed. The only exception to this rule is large format posters, as printers usually allow an extra 0.25 inches (or 6.35mm) on all sides as the bleed area. 

If you create your document with a program like Adobe Indesign, you can set up a bleed area by using the “Document Setup” menu. The program will likely adjust your project to allow for a standard 3mm bleed area, but you can always customize this area if your project has specific requirements.

Once you’ve set up a bleed area for your new document, you might notice that there are three separate lines on the page. These are:

  • The safe zone, or the innermost border of the document, where the bulk of your design will go on the page
  • The cut lines, or the lines the printer will use to cut your page down to size (make sure these are the proper size for your project)
  • The bleed area, or the extended area for the background image.

If you have all these sections clearly marked, you can begin designing your document.

Layout

Page bleed is never meant to be seen by the consumer. While your printed pages may often be slightly larger than the traditional size, but they are cut down to the proper size soon after. Because of this, graphic designers must make sure that their documents are laid out properly, and that no critical information falls into the bleed area.

When you design your document make sure all your important information (such as your company logo, letterhead and the text copy for the document) is in the “safe zone”: at least 3mm inside of the cut lines. Remember, your flyer or poster won’t be effective if the key information isn’t visible, so it’s essential that you prevent your logo or ad copy from drifting too close to those cut lines – and definitely keep them from creeping onto the bleed area!

Font Size and Graphics

Using the proper page size and layout are certainly important if you want to design a document with printing bleed, but they aren’t the only elements to keep in mind. It’s also important that you use clear, legible fonts, and that you place them properly on the page. 

Play around with different font sizes and style options (serif vs. sans serif, automatic vs. custom kerning) until you find a look that makes you happy. The finished product should reflect the tone of your business, be easy to read, and sit comfortably on the page (not right against the border).

Similarly, it is absolutely critical that your company logo is fully visible on the page – and if your page utilizes bleed, that may mean making a few adjustments. For example, let’s say you want to place your company logo in the corner of your page, but doing so will mean cutting off a portion of the business name and address. How do you solve this problem? Adjust your logo so that the image extends to the bleed area, yet the copy falls within the page safe zone. This will achieve the nicest-looking finished product and ensure customers see your logo!

Finally, the last thing you need to keep in mind during the graphic design process is image resolution. All printed documents, no matter their size, should be sharp and clear, which means they need to reach a certain level of ppi (pixels per inch). The following table gives you an idea of the minimum pixels required to have crystal-clear images for documents of different sizes:

Document
Type
Page Size 
(without bleed)
Page Size 
(with bleed)
Pixels at 300dpi
(without bleed)
Pixels at 300dpi
(with bleed)
Business
Card
8.5 x 5.5 cm9.1 x 6.1 cm1004 x 6501075 x 720
A4 page29.7 x 21.0 cm30.3 x 21.6 cm3508 x 24803579 x 2251
A3 page42.0 x 29.7 cm42.6 x 30.3 cm4961 x 35085031 x 3579
A2 page59.4 x 42.0 cm60.0 x 42.6 cm7016 x 49617087 x 5031

Try to stick to these pixel guidelines any time you design a printed document for your business. 

Creating High-Quality Prints

Graphic design concepts like bleed might seem overwhelming to the novice designer, but with our help – and with some user-friendly design software and qualified online printers — it is easier than ever to create beautiful business cards and other documents for your business – both with and without printing bleed. So, get out there and start designing! Your next great poster, brochure, or business card awaits.