CQ Blog

What’s the Big Deal? It’s Only an 1/8 of an Inch!

Posted by Martha DiMeo on December 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment

If you have ever sent a print job to the printer only to have it rejected because the bleeds were insufficient, you probably understand what the title of this post is all about. If you are new to print production or design and have no idea what the title is referring to, read on. I hope to save you from unnecessary frustration and disappointing results.

What’s A Bleed?

The issues of bleeds comes into play whether you are designing a business card, a one-page flyer or a magazine cover. If an image or graphic element is intended to “touch” the edge of the page, the element must be large enough so that it extends past the trim line into the area called the bleed.

The standard size of the bleed area is 1/8 inch. The purpose of this additional image area is to allow for variance in the trimming process.

InDesign makes it easy to make sure images are large enough to cover the bleed area. In the New Document dialog box there is the option to set the bleed width. When this option is selected, a guide is created outside of the final document trim dimensions. Simply open all picture boxes to that guide line. If the photo does not fill the picture box, you’ll know the photo should be enlarged. Additionally, you can use InDesign’s Preflight Check feature to warn you if bleeds are insufficient (Window menu> Output>Preflight. Then on the fly-out menu select Define Profiles>Document>Bleed and Slug Setup).

When working with templates provided by a printer—for example, templates for business cards or postcards—the templates have the bleed area build into them. As pictured in the example below, the template provided by 4by6.com provides guides to easily confirm the photo meets prepress requirements. In this example, I added an extension to the top of the photo to keep the girl’s head within the safe area–as indicated by the orange line.

printing template showing bleed requirementsIf the photo does not extend to the bleed line, you run the risk of having a white edge caused by the variance in trimming. Pictured: ChromaQueen promo postcard printed at 4by6.com
© Belongs to Respective Image Owner

What if the Photo Is Just not Big Enough?

Although it’s only a total of ¼”(if the image bleeds on both sides of the document) sometimes the photo is just not big enough. This can be solved in one of two ways. First, the photo can simply be enlarged a few percentages. The second solution is to add an extension in Photoshop. This option is most often used when the photo isn’t quite large enough to even reach the trim line or when increasing the overall image size would cause an undesirable crop of important elements in the picture–i.e. the top of someone’s head.

Creating image extensions for bleeds in Photoshop can be quite simple if it’s a nondescript picture element, such as a solid colored background that needs to be extended. It requires a bit more skill and effort if the area to be extended contains important picture elements or the background has a gradation of tones.

Before / After example of image extension to accommodate bleed requirements The edge of the flowers and palms were added to accommodate the extension for the bleed.
© Belongs to Respective Image Owner

Attention To Detail

With all that goes into the design and creation of a printed piece, the issue of bleeds can be easily overlooked. Attending to this small detail at the layout stage will save the time and frustration of having your job flagged at the printer. But most importantly, (should it slip through the cracks at the printer’s) it will save you from the disappointing results of having unsightly white edges when the image was intended to bleed.

© Martha DiMeo 2014



Creating image extensions is a service ChromaQueen provides. We are happy to check both your layout and image files. Contact us at 617-855-8474 or use our Upload File interface for a complementary review and quote.

Learn More—Creative Use of Image Extensions

Creative use of image extensions can play a key role in page design and layout. See the previous post Formatting Photos for Page Layouts to learn more.



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One Response

  1. Martha DiMeo says:

    It should be noted, this is not a production issue of concern only for graphic designers. Photographers printing promotional materials need to be aware of bleed requirements as well.

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