Understanding Bleeds in Printing

Categories: Artwork Guidelines

Bleeds In Printing

Today I am going over a commonly misunderstood part of the design process for preparing artwork for your Banners and Displays.  I am talking about ‘Bleeds In Printing’.  Sounds kinda harsh right?   It’s not.

Off-Set Printing Bleed Space

Actually ‘Bleed Space’ is actually pretty straightforward.  This is the extra area around the edge of your artwork that is required during finishing.  In Off-Set Printing, bleed is commonly used to ‘chop’ a stack of printed out business cards, flyers, etc.  A cutting machine will cut the entire stack making the process MUCH faster.  If you didn’t have extra bleed space and you had a color background, there is no way the cutting process would be accurate enough to cut right on the line and you would end up with little white ‘stringers’ where there was no ink applied.

Large Format Printing Bleed Space

Bleed Space in Large Format Printing for Signs, Banners, Dye Sublimation, etc is used for different purposes but the principle is still the same.   This space is used during the Finishing Stages of your banner, sign or display.  Here is a look at some of the common Finishing Options that bleed comes in VERY handy:

Fabric Dye Sublimation Printing 

For certain products like the EZ Tube Displays, the fabric graphic is like a pillowcase with a front and back material that is stitched and sewn together.  Having Bleed Space allows for an extra amount of printed material around the perimeter than can be sewn together with the back side without ugly white Stringers.

Overlap Prints

Another common use of bleed is combining two prints or more together.  Let’s say you have an extra 1” of Bleed Space around the perimeter of your banner.  If you hang two banners together, you can use that 1” to overlap the banners together so that the design flows from one design to the next using Double-Sided Banner Tape.

Hemming and Grommets

Another popular Finishing Option is Hemming and Grommets for Vinyl or Fabric Banners.  This process makes the banner edges stronger and provides a way to hang it with zip ties or hooks.  By adding bleed to the edges when designing the banner gives the extra printed material that can then be used during the finishing process to add the Hemming and Grommets by turning over the edges and sewing them.  This extra bit of color assures that any design won’t have those ugly slivers of white if the folds are sewn perfectly together.

Adding Bleed in Your Artwork

One of the easiest ways to make sure your artwork file has the proper amount of bleed is to use a template.  From Business Cards, Banner Stands, and most other small AND large printing, artwork templates are provided by your print supplier.  This is something that is commonly found on their website.  Before starting, make sure you have downloaded this.  If you can’t find it, I recommend reaching out to your printer to request the proper template.

The next step is to open the template in the recommended program like Illustrator, Photoshop, or InDesign.  Keep the template as it’s own separate layer because when you’re all done designing, you will want to hide or delete the template in order to save your file and send to the printer.  Design right on top of the template.  For your background, make sure you extend all the way to the very, very outer edge of the bleed line. To the Right, you will see a section of a layout that was properly prepared.  This is an example of the artwork being stretched to the outer edge as seen in the cut-out revealing the template underneath the artwork.

Sometimes a customer will send over artwork that stops just short of the bleed line.  I think sometimes it’s easy to for new designers or customers not familiar with preparing artwork for print that the bleed space is an area that should remain empty.  In reality, this space is very important, and the background should extend all the way to the outer edge.  View the image to the right to see an Incorrectly prepared file that stops short of the bleed line.

You might think, well ok if the file stops just short of the bleed, the printer can easily fix this by just scaling the artwork bigger to cover it.  In some cases, yes but in other cases that won’t work.  If the file is already flattened, then it will scale the entire design including any logos, text, etc.  The position can change and sometimes create artwork that ends up important information in the wrong areas.  So this really should be done in the Native Artwork File that is still editable.

Hope this helps!  Happy Designing!

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