Bleeding Paper

Does it bleed?

Anytime you have a commercial printing project you are going to be asked the question, “Does it bleed?”  Somewhat of a strange question, especially if you aren’t ready for it. What does your printer mean when they ask about a bleed? A “Bleed“(at least in terms of printing) is all about how you want the image to look when it is on paper. Would you like the image to run right to the edge of the paper, bleed, or have a white border, no bleed?(The border doesn’t have to be white, it will be the color of whatever paper you are using.) The image below illustrates the difference between the two.


On the left you see the border on the edge, on the right no border.  You can also see there is the cut line on the page with a bleed. The cut line is there because if you would like your image to bleed it needs to be printed on a larger sheet of paper than what the final image is. To have a bleed you will need to print .25 in. wider and taller than the final image. So, if you want to have a bleed on an 8.5X11 sheet of paper you need to print on a 8.75X11.25 sheet of paper. The excess is then trimmed off to give you a finished product of 8.5X11 with color all the way to the edge. If you think about it, the page without a bleed is also trimmed, it is just the image that is trimmed instead of the paper.

Just print to the edge of the paper.

“Why can’t my printer just print to the edge of the paper?” Unfortunately paper doesn’t always run perfectly through the printer, and if you are trying to print right to the edge every spot that gets missed will really stand out (especially if you are using solid colors). If the printer does make it all the way to the edge, you will have over spray, getting ink on the rollers. This would then transfer onto the next page, making a mess. For a much cleaner and finished look you need to run the image on a larger sheet.

When dealing with a commercial printer your project typically runs on larger sheets of paper that are then cut down to size. For instance, if you need something that is 8.5×11 your printer might use 11×17 paper(or much larger), you get two pieces out of each sheet. (This speeds up printing and lowers your cost.) If you add a bleed you need to extend the image to 8.75×11.25 to print it. Now that sheet that got you two prints can only do one.

There also will be more cuts to make to trim off the paper with a bleed, than if you without. The image below shows the layout of three images printed on one large sheet with and without a bleed. To trim the image without a bleed you need six cuts, to do it with a bleed you need eight. Again, this is not a gigantic difference, but it can add up for larger jobs.


One thing to remember; even  if only a small amount of the image bleeds, it still has a bleed. There isn’t, “some of it does and some doesn’t”, or “it’s just the banner across the top of the page”. It still requires the same prep and page size to print it.  Even if it is just a small portion of the image bleeds, the project bleeds. The fact is, if you would like to have a bleed on you project it will add to the price of any project. It will most likely not be a huge difference, but exactly how much will depend greatly on the size of the project.  

Should it bleed or not?

As we have said, having a bleed will increase the cost of doing a printing project, but most likely not by a life changing amount. Whether or not you want a bleed really comes down to your design choice, and  when you do your design you should know what a bleed is, because you will be asked. In the end if you are thinking about putting a bleed on your project, why not go for it and spoil yourself, “YOLO” or something like that.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us here.


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