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Expert Advice

Ask a Smartpress Expert: Full Bleeds & Partial Bleeds

I’m still new at creating my own print files. What exactly is a bleed; and when and how do I use a bleed in my digital print files?

A bleed is a printing term that refers to part of a digital print file that extends beyond the edge of the printed sheet before it is trimmed. The bleed is supposed to be trimmed off and when it is, the result is a printed piece of the intended size. It is very difficult to print exactly to the edge of a sheet of paper and the bleed makes this a non-issue.

A bleed might not always be necessary for a digital printing project. They are mainly needed when elements of the design are meant to touch, align with, or appear to extend beyond the printed area.

bleed and crop marks for digital printing

bleeds and borders for smartpress digital printing projects


Bleeds give the printer a small amount of space to account for movement of the paper and design inconsistencies, so the final trimmed result doesn’t have any unintended spaces between the artwork and the edge of the paper. Failing to provide bleed information and crop marks when they’re needed can result in finished pieces showing a thin area of white on the edge.

Many print jobs require a full bleed. A full bleed is needed when elements of your design run to or past the edge of your document on all four sides. These are often colorful, borderless designs that include little to no white space in the final trimmed result. Full bleeds are useful for printing brochures, posters, and other marketing materials.

correct bleed and crop marks for digital printingA partial bleed doesn’t have the same coverage as a full bleed. For a partial bleed, design elements extend past at least one, two, or three edges. Partial bleeds are needed when elements of the design don’t extend beyond all four edges of the paper.

There are some projects that require no bleed. If design elements of your invitation, tri-fold brochure, business card, or other digital printing project are in the center and don’t extend to the edge or beyond your safety margins, a bleed may not be necessary.

It’s pretty easy to set up bleeds in the major design programs. Bleeds of 1/8” are required on anything small like business cards, flyers, brochures, sell sheets, newsletters, or booklets. For larger items, such as signs, posters, tradeshow graphics and the like, 1/4″ bleeds are needed.

incorrect bleed and crop marks for digital printingNaturally, with a bleed, crop marks need to be included on all four corners of the document. If you have a need for a margin, ensure that everything that’s needed stays within it so it doesn’t get cut off in the trimming process.

Take a look at our post about setting margins for print projects before getting started on bleeds. Once you have margins and bleeds figured out, the pre-press process will be easier and your digital print projects will look just as you want them to.

Have a question about online printing that you would like to have answered? Leave your question in the comments below or email us at customerservice@smartpress.com and we will do our best to answer your questions.


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