Bleed is a word that is thrown around a lot with printers and designers, and while most print buyers are very familiar with the concept, it is often forgotten about when it comes to placing an order.

So to begin at the beginning, what is bleed? Put simply, bleed is the part of the design that goes beyond the cut area. If it’s beyond the cut area then why is it needed? In an ideal world bleed wouldn’t be needed because every cut would line up perfectly with the edge of every print. But we do not live in an ideal world. Even using a very advanced digital cutter, such as a Zund, bleed is still a day to day necessity of print.

What happens if I don’t have bleed?

Not supplying the correct bleed can impact different materials in different ways. With banner vinyl PVC it won’t have much of an impact as they are finished by hand (using heat welders), so the finisher is working to the finished size line, and any bleed is folded over the back. But with items that are just trimmed to size (ie there is no hand finishing involved) such as mounted foamex, or stickers there can be a small amount of shrinkage in the material during the print process so when it comes to cutting you end up with a white strip along the edge of a print.

What can I do to create bleed?

We always recommend bleed is created at the design stage and the designer either uses the right template or follows the guidelines for that particular product. Not all products are created equal, so there are different bleed requirements for different materials.

In the event it can’t be created at source, which does happen from time to time, there are a couple of tricks you can use depending on the type of design.

  • For a vector design with a solid colour background, its as easy as taking a drop colour and adding a box with the extra bleed to go around the original design.
  • If there are tricky vector gradients and the design can’t be easily extended then sometimes it is easier to choose a neutral colour near the edge, take a drop colour and then add a box around the edge for the bleed. Although this isn’t ideal its safer than having no bleed at all.
  • With a raster image it can be tricky to create bleed but there are a few options. You can increase the size of the image slightly so it fills the bleed area, but it is important to be aware of any text / logos etc disappearing into the bleed. Another option is to choose a neutral colour from the design and add that colour around the edge of the print for bleed. The last option, and this really depends on the type of design being used, is to create a mirror image of the edge of the design around the entire picture. For obvious reasons this works better with some designs than others, but with certain designs it is a quick and easy way to create bleed when the image itself can’t be edited.
How much bleed do I need?

This depends entirely on the product being used so we always recommend you check the template or guidelines with your printer before spending time creating bleed. Even if you are a printer yourself it is worth checking first as everyone works to different standards and tolerances when it comes to cutting.

Our solution

We designed our website to have all of our artwork templates on the product pages to help customers understand exactly what bleed is needed. Where it’s a variable size product we also created our our artwork guideline PDF which explains what is needed, as the tolerances for bleed are different for individual materials. As part of our preflight and proofing process we always check that there is enough bleed with every job, and if we can resolve any issues we will, otherwise we’ll advise on how you need to edit your artwork.