Getting print ready? Don’t forget your crops and bleeds…

Sounds a bit brutal, doesn’t it? Visions of scythes and hatchets and blood everywhere. But if you want to get your printed material right first time, then getting your files marked up with crop marks and a bleed area is critical. So, with that said, what on earth are we talking about?

What are crop marks?

You’ve probably seen them occasionally even if you didn’t know what they are. They’re thin lines in the corners of a layout that denote where the edges are, and they’re of great use to a printer when it comes to knowing where to trim what’s been printed.

What is a bleed area?

If your design has an edge (or more than one edge) that is meant to print right up to the side of the document, then your file needs to allow for a bit of leeway in the printing and cutting process. This leeway is what we call a bleed area, and is often at least 3mm beyond your crop marks.

But, what do we mean when we say ‘if your design has an edge’? Well take a photograph, for example, a block of background colour, or even a drawn picture. If the printed colour area needs to show right to the boundary of the paper or the fold, then you need a bleed area for it.  What happens if you don’t do this? It’s possible that you’ll get a white line showing along the side, where the paper you’re printing on is showing through. And in truth that looks a little unprofessional, so using a bleed area will stop it happening.

Surely the sheets of paper limit this?

In short… no. Professional printers aren’t like your printer in the office. They don’t necessarily have a tray for a ream of A4 sheets. Instead, a professional printer may use far larger sheets of paper, even if they’re cutting it down to A4. So crop marks and bleed areas are the best way for them to ensure the end result looks just how you want it to.

An example

So, if you’re designing something that’s to print A4 size, here is an example of the dimensions your design needs to be set to:

A4 is 210mm x 297mm
210mm + 3mm to the left + 3mm to the right = 216mm
297mm + 3mm to the top + 3mm to the bottom = 303mm
Total Document Size = 216mm x 303mm

Your crop marks will indicate cropping for 210mm x 297mm, and the bleed area will ensure that if the paper moves even just 1mm during printing/trimming the final result will still look neat and clean.

If you need more guidance on how crop marks and a bleed area should be set for your next printing project, then please do give us a ring. We’ll help you get it right, so when you send the files through to us… you can just sit back and get excited about the final result!

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