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Full Bleed Design: How to properly design bleeds

Published time: 2012-04-18 11:03

Improper design of full bleed is the number 1 cause of delays when customers order prints. It is essential for the customer to know what full bleed is, and more importantly, how to properly design for it, when ordering prints. This document was written to quickly and simply outline and explain to customers in detail what full bleed is and the necessities of designing for full bleed.


Full Bleed Printing – Printing to the edge of the paper with no margins

Design for full bleed – Two important rules

    • Add bleeds – extend the design dimensions 1/8″ on all sides.
    • Account for safety margins — no critical text or images within the safety margins

Common mistakes when designing for full bleed

    • Adding a white border as the “bleeds” of the design.
    • Putting critical text in the safety margin and/or full bleed area.
    • Expanding the file to increase the dimensions.
    • Adding cut marks.

Design dimension chart



It is incredibly important for file check department to receive properly designed files to guarantee a quality and timely production for an order. Turnaround times for orders placed on the site assume that submitted files are designed correctly. Incorrectly designed files, including files not designed properly for full bleed, will delay an order.


Full Bleed Printing

Full bleed printing is printing to the edge of the paper so the final result has no margins. If a file is not prepared for full bleed or is not requested to be printed full bleed, there will be a 1/8″ white border margin on all sides. An example of a printout with no bleeds and full bleed can be shown in the example flyer below.

However, files that are to be printed for full bleed (no margins) need to be specifically designed for full bleed.


Designing for full bleed

When designing for full bleed, the design must have “bleeds” and “safety margins” (safety margins will be explained later).

Add bleeds — extend the design dimensions 1/8″ on all sides

The bleed is the extension of the print by 1/8″ (0.125″) on all sides of a document that won’t be in the final printed product. Therefore, if an 8.5″ x 11″ document with no margins was desired, the designed file must be 8.75″ x 11.25″.

An example of the above flyer with no margins that was originally designed as 8.75″ x 11.25″ with 1/8″ bleeds on all sides is shown below. The area outside of the dotted red lines is the bleed of the image.

The reason for extending the design 1/8″ on all sides for full bleed

The most common mistake when customers submit files they want printed full bleed with no margins is submitting a digital file that is designed with the same dimension as the desired printed file (e.g. submitting an 8.5″ x 11″ digital file to be printed as 8.5″ x 11″ with no margins). These customers typically ask “why do I need the extra 1/8″ added?” The reason why is twofold:

All printers have a very slight print shift when printing a file. 
Therefore, the document that’s being printed needs to be printed on a larger sheet of paper so the printer can print the full dimension of the document without having to worry about very minor shifting errors. Since the printer prints on a larger sheet of paper, the paper needs to be cut to the proper dimension of the file. Without a larger sheet of paper, the resulting print edges might have white slivers after cutting. Therefore there needs to be 1/8″ bleeds in order to account for standard print shifts so no white slivers show after the cutting process. The dotted red lines in the full bleed 8.75″ x 11.25″example picture above are the cut mark lines.

Account for safety margins — no critical text or images within the safety margins

Safety margins are 1/8″ margins inside the cut line of a design. The safety margin area is between the orange and red dotted lines. The safety margin area is the area in the main print area that runs the risk of being cut due to the error tolerance of the print shift. No critical text or images that must be on the printed document can be in the safety margin area because they run the risk of being cut.


Common mistakes when designing with full bleed

Adding a white border as the “bleeds” of the design.

One of the biggest mistakes when designing full bleed is adding a 1/8″ white border around the design to give the file “bleeds.” This is not a proper way to design for bleeds because the bleeds actually have to be part of the design. Minor printing or paper cutter errors may shift the paper very slightly when cutting, which means that a section of the full bleed area will be part of the final print. If the full bleed area is white, then the final print might have a white sliver on the edges after printing.

Putting critical text in the safety margin and/or full bleed area.

Another big mistake when designing full bleed is putting critical text and/or images in the safety margin area. Anything within the safety margins runs the risk of being cut off during the trimming process. Therefore, if any essential text or images are in the safety margins, they might get cut off, and the desired result will look bad. It is common for people to put page numbers in the safety margins, which puts the numbers at risk of getting cut off slightly. In this version of the MGXCopy flyer, text has been placed within the safety margins in 3 locations. After the printing and cutting, the text was cut off in all 3 locations.

Expanding the file to increase dimensions.

Often times customers will submit a design without full bleed (for instance, 8.5″ x 11″) which needs to be redesigned for full bleed as an 8.75″ x 11.25″ design. The quick fix that customers most often do is expand the document so it fits to 8.75 x 11.25.” While this may work in some instances, more often than not, the design ends up having critical text and images within the bleeds and/or the safety margins. If a document is expanded to meet full bleed requirements, make sure there is no critical text and/or images within the bleeds or the safety margins.

Adding cut marks.

Cut marks are not recommended when designing for full bleed. Cut marks are technically part of the full bleed design, and any cut marks within the bleeds may show up in a final print after the cutting process.

Design dimension chart