Are you just plain boggled by print terms? Do you ever look at a print spec sheet and you’re all like, “Bleedin’ what?” or “Who’s this guy, ‘Crop Mark’?” or “This isn’t the Bosnian War — why does there need to be a SAFE area in my design?”
It can be difficult to navigate all of the print jargon. I think these terms can be best explained using a real-life scenario, so let’s go ahead and paint a picture together...
Say you’re placing a full-page ad in a magazine, and your ad has a photograph that you want to go RIGHT up the edge of the page with no white space. Well you, sir or madam, are going to need a bleed. The bleed is the area of your print document that extends beyond the dimensions of your actual design that the printer will ultimately trim off when creating your finished piece. Remember that your ad will be printed on a piece of paper bigger than its actual size, so the bleed gives the printer a little bit of room for error when trimming (so you can avoid any pesky white paper edges that aren’t supposed to be there). The reality is that sometimes print runs can be just slightly misaligned when cut to size, because, hey, nobody’s perfect!
Now, how do you add a bleed? You will need to create an area in which the photograph (or any other colored element) can bleed onto. This means creating the document at a slightly larger size, and then extending your artwork onto that extra space. Every printer is different, but standard bleed is typically 1/8 inch. This means that if your ad is meant to be 5-by-8 inches, you will need to create the document at 5.25-by-8.25 inches. That’s it! Your beautiful ad is now ready to be safely printed. Which reminds me…
What is the safety? The safety is the imaginary zone within which all critical elements (text, logos, etc.) must be kept. Anything left too close to the edge of your design may be cut off during trimming, so a safety area is critical to remind you to keep certain design elements away from the abyss. A safety line is typically located 1/8 inch inside the final trim line on all sides. Better safe than sorry (and left without the last digit of your company’s phone number!)
And finally, the trim line: don’t worry, this one’s easy! The trim line is simply the line that shows where your document is going to be cut. If your ad is going to be 5-by-8 inches, your trim line should be along those exact dimensions—right smack dab in the middle between our friends Bleed and Safety. And, if you’re dying to know, this is also where those crop marks go. Side note: Every printer is different—some will request that you send your print files with crop marks included, while others prefer to add their own. Just be sure to ask.
Hey, look at you! Now you’re good and ready to create perfect print-ready documents (or at least understand what your designer is talking about).
Words About Pictures (WAP!) is an ongoing blog post series designed to help our clients (that’s you!) better understand the many creative quirks or qualms they might encounter during a project.