Ok, so you have started this great project and you have a picture or some graphics all the way to the ends of the page. You send in the PDF and get a reply back. “Hello, in order to properly print this item you need to resubmit the file with bleed.”
So..What is bleed?
Bleed is a printing term that refers to printing that goes beyond the edge of the sheet before trimming. In other words, the bleed is the area to be trimmed off. The bleed is the part on the side of a document that gives the printer a small amount of space to account for movement of the paper, and design inconsistencies. Artwork and background colors can extend into the bleed area. After trimming, the bleed ensures that no unprinted edges occur in the final trimmed document.
It is very difficult to print exactly to the edge of a sheet of paper/card so, to achieve this, it is necessary to print a slightly larger area than is needed and then trim the paper/card down to the required finished size. Images, background images and fills which are intended to extend to the edge of the page must be extended beyond the trim line to give a bleed.
Bleeds in the US generally are 1/8 of an inch from where the cut is to be made. Bleeds in the UK and Europe generally are 2 to 5mm from where the cut is to be made. This can vary from one print company to another. Some printers ask for specific sizes; most of these companies place the specific demands on their website or offer templates that are already set to their required bleed settings. (Wikipedia)
At Alphagraphics we ask files with bleed to extend them the standard .125 or 1/8 inch.
Fake bleed in designing a printed piece?
As described above it is very hard to cut a piece at an exact margin without a defined border or bleed. In some cases we as printers can extend the file to bleed in order to make the correct cuts. However if the image is extended beyond the margins creating bleed the images can become elongated and distorted.
It is best to create the bleed into the design of the printed piece.
Bleed vs. borders
The largest advantage of bleed is visual impact. An image or picture that goes end to end looks finished and professional. Bleed takes a larger paper that is cut to meed the needs. For example: A flyer may need to be 8.5 x 11 inches. If the piece requires a “full bleed” that is an image that goes end to end, a 9 X 12 or 12 x 18 (if the image can be printed 2 up). Remember, the margins need to be extended .125″ or 1/8 inches beyond 8.5 x 11 and be cut down to 8.5 x 11. (Trim) Thus, larger paper and a cutting fee are needed to get you the 8.5 x 11 full bleed piece. A little more expensive but worth it for the impact.
A bordered piece, as in our example, can be printed on an 8.5 x 11 (or 2 up on 11 x 17) no muss no fuss. Typically the piece is designed to look like a picture or a poser that has a framed image. These are great if you have no background or limited graphics. This little video explains the concepts a little more in depth.