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Let's say for business cards, is it better to add bleeds at document setup, or to just make the artboard bigger?

Personally, I've been adding the bleed to the artboard, and when saving the print quality pdf the bleed would be part of the design, and would be visible when uploading the design to an online print service like VistaPrint.

On the other hand, when I added bleeds at setup, the outputted .pdf didn't show the design in the bleed area in Preview. So, how are the design elements in the bleed area handled?

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Generally speaking, as long as your output is the same then it really doesn't matter. It's just a matter of preference and convenience.

The inbuilt document setting makes things much easier and is a lot less error-prone, since you don't need to calculate the total dimensions yourself or create your own guides etc. You can easily change the amount too, just by changing, say, "3 mm" to "5 mm" in the document setup dialog; rather than recalculating the total dimensions and readjusting guides etc.

You can then easily output your artwork with or without any amount of bleed (you're not limited to the amount you enter when you set up your document), with or without crop marks or registration marks etc. without changing a thing in your artwork; just by changing some tick boxes on export...

PDF dialog Marks and Bleeds

The PDF save dialog from Illustrator. The "Marks and Bleeds" tab allows you to change the bleed amount and which marks will be included in the output PDF.

As for VistaPrint... They're, from what I hear, not the most reliable print service. If you have trouble with their uploader, then that's probably something to take up with their customer support (just make sure you're exporting your PDF with the correct bleed first).

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  • That's a good point about convenience, and calculation errors. OK, so from your answer I concluded for myself that as long as I'm dealing with a printing company, they won't care if my file is set up with bleeds or if my artboard is just bigger. – sashaikevich Jul 19 '17 at 13:50
  • Thing is, my clients usually deal with VistaPrint (might not be the best, but it is the cheapest), and having tested VP just now, it seems that design elements in the bleed area are just invisible. So when VP shows the area that will be trimmed off, it's not filled with the design I extended into the bleed, but rather with the design that I had in the safe area. Which means a part of my design will get cut off :-/ – sashaikevich Jul 19 '17 at 13:54
  • @sashakevich one thing to consider: bleeds that are equal on all sides are the same aspect ratio to the original art. As someone who receives random ads to aggregate in book form, at least 25% are not sized correctly ever. If I get one with only crops, but too big, do I assume a bleed or do I assume they did their setup wrong, and set it to trim size? Always set the bleed, and always or give bleed and crop marks. Don't make the operator guess or interrupt their workflow to check. From your perspective as a client, it is a bad idea to allow them to make decisions about your intentions. – Yorik Jul 19 '17 at 14:25
  • @sashakevich I would speak to vistaprint customer service if their uploader doesn't recognise the bleed in your PDFs... regardless of who/where you're printing you should always get file requirements, but it shouldn't matter how your bleed is created as long as it is correct. – Cai Jul 19 '17 at 15:20
  • @Yorik unfortunately a lot of these cheaper online services (I havn't used vistaprint, but I have used others) make you use an uploader that expects no marks and does a crappy job of showing you the correct preview size etc (and it's often so automated that no one will actually see it until it's too late and/or they don't care)... which is why they're 1. so cheap, and 2. notoriously bad – Cai Jul 19 '17 at 15:23
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It's definitely better to build a document to the final trim specifications with bleed added. This allows you to work while being able to constantly preview the final design by hiding guides and bleed content with the shortcut w in InDesign. It also allows you to correctly export a document with trim and bleed marks, which are very important in press printing.

Unfortunately, the [Press Quality] preset doesn't include any printers marks or bleed settings. So make sure and turn those on during the PDF export process like Cai mentioned.

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