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I'm designing a flyer, but having trouble fully understanding the concept of bleed. I've read countless articles on the subject, and have setup a 3mm bleed which my background extends into while my text does not.

However, what I'm unsure about is whether it is a definite thing that the bleed will be trimmed during the printing process, or whether this is just a safety measure against mistakes by the printer?

If the bleed will most definitely be trimmed, then while all my text will fit on the page, it doesn't leave a whole lot of breathing room between the text and the new edges of the flyers, so the implication is that the body text of my flyer (currently Open Sans at 14 pts) will have to be made smaller and brought in a little.

Currently my closest text to the edge is about 8mm away from the bleed line.

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    The concept of bleed exists purely to avoid white borders around the edges if there are any tiny mistakes (eg +/- 0.1mm which may be very hard to calibrate for but obvious to the human eye) in printing. How bleed works physically depends. Some silk-screen printing process or inkjet printers will actually allow you to print outside your paper so the bleed fixes any alignment mistakes as the paper is handled. For most industrial printing process the bleed area will be trimmed. You are not supposed to consider the bleed to be part of your design (it's physically not on the paper) – slebetman Jan 31 at 7:29
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    Always consider that the bleed WILL be trimmed, for the safety of your artwork. – Luciano Jan 31 at 10:24
  • Bleed exists because of tiny uncertainty in the trimming step. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Feb 2 at 0:38
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There are 3 areas...

  • Trim
  • Safety
  • Bleed

Trim is the final delivered size of the piece.
If you order an A3 flyer, then the trim is the dimension of the A3 (29.7 x 42.0cm)

Safety is the margin inside the trim.
The area between the trim and where the actual content (text) starts. In most instances you'll want to leave at least 6 or 7mm between your content and the edge of the page (trim) to ensure nothing gets chopped off during the trim.

Bleed is the area outside the Trim and is "extra".
Nothing which is important should be in the bleed area. The bleed areas should only encompass extra bits of anything which you want to print to right up to the edge of the page (trim).

When trimmed, the paper can shift slightly. It's typically very accurate, but not always the same from job to job. It's best to not plan on a trim hitting some exact spot. The final dimensions will be correct, but the printed art may shift up/down/left/right slightly based upon where it's trimmed.

The Safety area compensates for a slightly shifted trim on the inside.
The Bleed compensates for a slightly shifted trim on the outside.

enter image description here


the new edges of the flyers

This is interesting.... "new" edges in what way? The edges of your flyer should not move. They are the Trim size. Any bleed should be extended outside the trim size. The edges should never be "new" really.

You do not mention what software you are using in your question. That may be the issue, or momentary hurdle.

When using software, in most instances, the Document size will be your Trim size. Then you add a 6-7mm inner margin and set a 3+mm outer bleed. Generally there's an area in the Document Setup to add a bleed amount...

enter image description here
enter image description here

It will look different based upon what software and what version you may be using. However, it's generally along the same type of thing.


The oddball here is if you are using raster editors such as Photoshop because Photoshop has no bleed feature in relation to the canvas like other software. You won't find a bleed area like the images above in Photoshop.

In such a case, you would increase the width and height of the canvas to 2x the bleed amount (1x top + 1 x bottom = 2x -- then the same for width). So if you have a 10x10cm document and need a 3mm bleed, you'd change the canvas to 10.6x10.6cm.

But you want all your content to be within the "safety" area.. so you should set guides inside the canvas to accommodate the 3mm bleed and a 6mm margin, although I'd use 7mm for the margin to make it easer and set a guide 10mm from each edge. Then all your important content needs to be within those guides to be safe.


Probably went overboard in explaining.

Note that I'm American. Therefore, using cm/mm is not normal usage for me. I did my best to use cm/mm above because that seemed appropriate based upon the question. I actually use imperial measurement ( .125" Bleed, .25" margin ) or preferably picas/points ( 1p6 bleed, 2 or 3p margin ).

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  • I noticed a "slug" term in the screenshot. Could you add a link to explain what it is and how it's different from "bleed"? – user1306322 Feb 2 at 5:42
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    @user1306322 this question is not about "what a slug is" Adding such information would merely dilute this answer regarding bleeds. If you have a new question, please post it as a new question. – Scott Feb 2 at 10:59
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Yes, the bleed will be completely trimmed. If you create an A4 flyer (210mm x 297mm), then you'll have to deliver at least 216x303 to your printer. That will get produced, and be trimmed to 210x297 again.

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In other words, whatever value you set for the bleed, that will be excess paper going outside your design and which will be physically cut off in production.

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  • I don't think this graphic is too useful, because it simplifies too much. One wouldn't draw a black line and cut side the line. That's exactly the process which isn't that accurate. Instead we have the crop marks ~ 5 mm outside of that area to allow tolerance. – Thomas Weller Feb 3 at 9:27
  • Ok, looks like we're better off without that graphic after all :) Hopefully the OP will do some research on this, as the issue is well explained in many places. – Lucian Feb 3 at 9:38
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Bleed is an important concept whenever your printing process includes cutting pages. If this is the case then you can be absolutely certain that the page will be cut, but what you cannot be certain of is that the dimensions of what is cut will be exactly what you ordered, nor that the cut will be centred correctly.

Bleed is specified to allow you to safely handle these uncertainties. All print shops will try to cut the pages as specified, but it's safest to assume it won't be perfect. If the printer specifies a 3mm bleed then that means they're confident that they won't be off by more than 3mm, but they could well be cutting at 2mm or 2.5mm off from your design. And if they cut outside the left by 2.5mm then that means they might be cutting on the inside of the intended page area by the same amount on the other edge. So you have to design your content prepared for the possibility that each edge could be off by up to 3mm inside or outside from the ideal page dimensions.

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    If you're prepared for cutting errors that big, either your standards are very low or you have your print produced at a dirt cheap place. If I notice trimming error of a millimetre or more, I ask for a refund. – Vincent Jan 31 at 23:36

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