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What is full bleed printing and why do I need it?

Published time: 2014-05-02 09:45

Forgetting to design for full bleed printing is one of the leading cause of “file design errors” for MGX Copy customers. It is popular type of file design, and one which requires some extra work be done for the designs.

Customers place their order for printing, upload their files, and then get an email from our customer service department saying “Dear customer: I’m sorry, but it looks like your file needs bleeds!” This surprises many customers—after all, they feel like they’re submitting a “regular ol’ print job”.

So what is full bleed printing, and why does it surprise print customers so frequently?

First, let’s define “full bleed printing”

Full bleed printing is sometimes called “edge-to-edge” printing. You need full bleed printing if any part of your file design touches one of the sheet edges (see Wikipedia about Full Bleed).

In other words: if you can’t draw a white margin (it has to be 1/8” on all 4 edges) around all four edges of your printed sheet, you need to design extra “bleeds”.

We see full bleed printing used in all kinds of printing: magazines, business cards, flyers, brochures, posters, and more! Things that are usually not printed full bleed are like usually office printing/documents: manuals, presentations, forms, proposals, etc.

Why are printing customers surprised when they need “full bleed”?

This is a question that we ponder frequently. For us doing the printing, it is so obvious that full bleed printing is necessary. But new customers are often puzzled by the importance of full bleed.

Let’s start with the mechanics of the printing process: printing equipment simply can’t print edge to edge.  The machinery requires a small amount of space to help feed the paper through the paper path.

The other element of surprise is actually software’s fault: they make it too easy for you to make a mistake. Most design and publication software—from Microsoft Word to Adobe Photoshop—allows you to really easily drag an image all the way to the edge. Easy for software to do, difficult for printers to do.

A common full bleed design warningHave you ever tried printing a file at home with an image dragged all the way to the edge? Your printer complains, doesn’t it? “One or more margins are set outside the printable area of the page.” Sound familiar?

All presses—even if they’re much larger and much more sophisticated—are limited by the same fundamental problem. There is a “printable area” on every sheet, leaving a white margin.

So what to do next? (Full bleed design is actually quite easy!)

Well, if you want full bleed printing, it’s actually quite easy!

The way to get edge-to-edge printing (full bleed printing) is to design and print a slightly larger image, and them trim off the edge. For a thorough explanation of how to do this, check out another article: How to properly design bleeds.