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I'm trying to get a grasp on bleeds in Scribus. I've created an A4 document (W:210mm x H:297mm); all margins are 14mm, and the bleeds are set to 5mm.

The first thing I find confusing is that with this setup, the measurement tool says that the bleed-to-bleed length is 210mm, meaning that's the whole A4 width. If an image is supposed to extend past the bleeds, that means I would have to print my document on a larger paper size, and trim it down to A4, right?

But, let's say I scale down the document size from 210x297 to 200x287 (keeping the same margin and bleed settings). According to the measurement tool, the bleed-to-bleed length is now 200, which is, again, the specified width of the document.

However, let's draw a teal rectangle extending into the bleed area, and a blue rectangle extending up until the bleed area. If I export the document to PDF, and ask Scribus to put bleed and crop marks, I get this:

enter image description here

Now, the marks aligned with the blue rectangle are the crop marks. The dotted marks are the bleed marks. Again, since the whole document size is 210mm - this means from one end of the teal area to the other - there's again additional whitespace, extending beyond the A4 dimensions (the white area).

I'm really having trouble understanding how to properly set the bleeds, the document size, and how to know where I'm supposed to cut the document to get the desired effective document size.

  • Hi there and welcome to GDSE. You talk about a black and a blue rectangle. I clearly see a blue and a teal rectangle ... Is it just a mistake or am I missing something? – Wolff Mar 21 at 23:51
  • Sorry, had f.lux on, clicked wrong color, and didn't notice! Edited! – Potato Mar 22 at 13:37
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I'm not very familiar with Scribus (I just installed and tested it), but the principle is the same in all layout programs.

Document Size is the final size of the cropped document. In your case, if you want to make an A4 document, you should simply set the document size to A4 (210 x 297 mm).

Bleed is the extra area (usually 3-5 mm width) added around your document to make it easier to cut after printing.

Crop marks (aka. trim marks) are added to show where the document is to be cut. If you connect the crop marks with lines you get a rectangle the same size as your document size.

Bleed marks just show the outer bounds of the bleed and are, in my opinion, never needed (I work at a print house). They are just confusing and can be turned off. Some people say that "it's always good to add them", but I've never been presented with an explanation.

The additional whitespace is not to be worried about. It's simply added uniformly around the document so the crop marks can have some length and not just be a tiny dot on the edge of the bleed. The whitespace can be different depending on the application used. It has no significance. The document knows it's own final trimmed size.

Margins are really not directly connected to these technical matters. They are just visual guidelines you add to help keeping everything in your design aligned. You don't have to use them. If you set up a 14 mm margin it simply means that any object you snap to the margin will be 14 mm from the edge of the paper after you've cut it.

You say that if you measure the "bleed-to-bleed" length of your A4 document you get 210 mm and that it puzzles you because you thought that "an image is supposed to extend past the bleeds". That must be a misunderstanding. The bleed is the (in your case 5 mm) area around your document. The image isn't supposed to extend past the bleed but into the bleed. The bleed is cut off. I think you are measuring from "trim to trim", inside the crop/trim marks, the final width of the document. The bleed lies outside that.

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  • Thanks for the thorough explanation, and sorry for the confusion I've caused with mismatching colors. So, basically, if I want my final, cut document to have A4 dimensions, I do have to print it on a larger sheet of paper, and cut it? Because, if I'm understanding correctly, the added whitespace still extends beyond the document size? I.e. it is added on top of the specified document size (A4) in my example, to be able to show the trim marks? And the final part about into v past the bleed area seems to be what I'm getting at. Now i see that I've been mixing area and mark a bit. – Potato Mar 22 at 13:48
  • Yes, you need to print on a larger sheet if your document has objects which touches the edges of the paper. Most printers can't print to the edge of the paper. If you have white margins all the way around your document you can just print on A4. – Wolff Mar 22 at 14:21
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    Okay, cool! Thank you for taking the time to explain this :) – Potato Mar 22 at 14:51

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