One thing makes sense to me: Current mass-printing techniques don't allow us to:

  • Print to the page in perfect alignment
  • Trim the page in perfect alignment.

So that explains why we keep important things out of the bleed and trim zones. The printers tells you:

  • bleed area, meaning "this is the maximum area which is not safe due to the paper misalignment."
  • trim area, meaning "this is the maximum area which is not safe due to blade misalignment."

But then, beyond that, there's a third zone (see yellow zone below) which our printer gives us, "safe text" which is further in than bleed and trim, it's as if there is a third margin for error where it isn't safe for text to be printed. Why is this? What is the third margin of error which is accounted for by keeping text outside of this third zone (shown in yellow below)?

enter image description here


4 Answers 4


That diagram and description is wrong.

Here is a representation.

1) Paper

You can not print all the way to the end of the paper. You need a small margin so you can hold the paper to transport it, and you don't make a mess with the ink that is not succesfully printed on the paper.

2) Cut marks or trim

You can clearly see where the trim should be with the cut marks. The trim is not a "zone". It is an exact mark.

3) Bleed and lets call it "Internal bleed"

You can have a small missaligment when you trim the paper. If you cut to the left of my image, you have an outer safe area, called bleed. If you cut a little to the right its better that you do not have important information there. That space I will call it for now "Internal bleed" where you can have a mistake. After that is the safe zone.

The red part actually does not have a special name. It is just a space where it is not safe to have information... Not safe zone? Im calling "internal bleed" becouse in my opinion has to be the same size as the bleed. Again I can cut a little to the left or a little to the right.

4) Margin. At the end does not matter the bleed part after the cut. It is on the trash now, but if you force your design too much to the border, any diference on this trim can be noticed. The bigger this margin is you will notice less an error of 1 or 2 mm on the trim. This margins are a design issue, not a special requirement for print.

When you trim the paper you can have a small rotation on the print related to the border of the paper:

Again both zones arround the ideal trim line are to have a cut that does not show either white paper or to cut importan text.

In ideal conditions you do not have this rotation. That is why you need to define a "Squad" (I am not sure of the correct term in english), where you know the cut of the paper is "perfect".

You use that side as the reference of all the processes. In the image says that that part can be misaligned, but the ideal process is that you "clean" all the 4 borders of your stack of paper to exactly the same size. Removing irregular borders.

I never considser a sheet of paper the size it should be, but 4 mm less on each side. A 91 x 61 cm sheet I think of it as a 90.6 61.6 cm.

You need to take extra atention when you have for example a brochure of multiple pages, becouse each internal folded pair of pages need a bigger Not safe zone.


OP is right as to why the safe zone exists, and right to be puzzled by this diagram.

The printer seems to have sent a bad visualization that uses a thick yellow border to outline the safe zone, which is inconsistent with how they marked the trim area border (i.e. without any outline).

I would ask suggest asking the printer (politely, tactfully) whether the yellow means anything, and share it back here. If it is just bad visualization, I'd suggest to the printer they fix it to avoid confusion.


Its so important information like your company name or phone number doesn't get partially trimmed off or even placed right up against the edge of the paper after the trim takes place. Just like the bleed area ensures that if the trim is a little off to the outside you won't get white areas, the safe zone is for if the trim is a little off to the inside.

And your definition of "bleed" area being about print misalignment isn't really accurate. It's not so much print misalignment as much as blade misalignment or the paper moving slightly during print.

  • I'll fix the bleed definition. But on "blade misalignment" in your definition of bleed, I thought blade misalignment was restricted to being in the domain of trim, not bleed?
    – J.Todd
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 20:29
  • And if "trim" is the maximum area where the trim inaccuracy can occur, why can't I put the text anywhere within the yellow zone, just so long as it doesn't touch the trim-zone edge? Its a big deal because one of our printers gives us an entire half inch or more of that yellow zone inside of the trim, and that's a lot of wasted space especially when you have a disclaimer which could go a little closer to the edge of the paper.
    – J.Todd
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 20:31
  • Sorry to elaborate further, but what I'm trying to ask about your answer is, why have a yellow zone for trim and bleed issues if the other two zones cover those? Why not just make the non-safe areas due to trim and bleed bigger?
    – J.Todd
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 20:35
  • 2
    @JonathanTodd Your graphic is poor and makes no sense. If you made it then its poorly constructed, if your printer gave it to you then its still poorly constructed. Trim is not an area, its a line and can also be referred to as the trim line or cut line. As for why the printer wants such a large margin, you'd need to ask them.
    – Ryan
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 20:42

The yellow zone is simply a "safe margin."

As you know, it means don't put anything important there because there might be variation in the trim.

For example: some designers add borders around their design; there's a minimum of thickness for that kind of concept otherwise some borders could look thinner than others because of the variation in the trim. That zone is not only important for the texts but also for some elements of the design like the border I mentioned above. If there's a variation in the trim, it will be a bit less obvious if there's more white space between the safe area and the edge of the paper because the edge of the paper serves as a visual guide that will make the asymmetry more noticeable.

When there's a print project done, sheets need to be "shaken' on a special machine, aerated, and with the help of gravity they get in almost perfect piles. Then they will be fed to the press, stacked on pallets, and moved again to the trimmer. The guy on the machine will then take small piles of these huge sheets, add some measurements to the machine and cut. Some trim machines are not digital; if the operator isn't precise, there's a few millimeters here and there that can disappear on different piles. Most of the time, the sheets need to be shaken again before that operation. So as you guess, there's a lot of manipulation along the way that can cause some variation at every phase, depending on how careful the operators are. And then, there's the binding or other operations that also demand a certain safe zone.

There's also the quality of the paper, how it was stored, the humidity level, how "fresh" the stock is, coated or uncoated (coated can be more sticky), what's the size and quality of the press, etc.

With digital printing, it's even worse; the prints often have a small 1-2 degree angle misaligned and nothing is truly straight.

Pretty much everything is done manually and as anything manually, there's variations and higher risks of mistakes too. The safe zone makes the job of all these operators faster and easier; because technically, they can print and trim very precise design but that also requires more time. So it's not true nothing is ever perfect. But perfection has a cost that not many people are willing to pay :)

That graphic the printer gave you is confusing. some little arrows to point at the real trim and bleed line would have made a better guide.

Like this, for example:

Example guide for margin, bleed and trim size

By he way, that safe margin should ideally be minimum 1/16", ideally 1/8" and more from the edge. And some small press might even require more on one side because of the "gripper" zone.

If your printer requires a safe margin of 1/2", that can be because of the type of binding (eg. books, magazines), that can be because he's lazy and/or more economical, that can be because he's outsourcing, that can be because his machines are old and can't retain their alignment, that can be because of the kind of press, etc.


How can I determine how much bleed to use?

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