Document Preparation Guide


What is bleed and why is it required?

When graphics continue to the edge of a sheet of paper bleed is required. This is because a commercial printing press cannot print to the edge of a sheet of paper. Instead multiple products are printed on much larger sheets of paper and then cut down to size. Because it is impossible to cut exactly to the edge of your design a little over print on each side is required. This overprint is called “bleed”. Any document that is being professionally printed will require a bleed area and a safe zone providing the print runs to the edge of the document. The diagram below shows a correctly lined up business card with 3mm of bleed and crop marks. The crop marks show the line that the guillotines must cut to. The bleed is the area outside of these marks. Please note we do not require you to put crop marks on you design.

How much bleed do I need?

The industry standard is to have 3mm of bleed on each edge and a 3mm safe zone inside. This means that the length of each side will be 6mm longer. For example an A4 sheet when lined up correctly with bleed will be 216mm x 303mm. It will then be cut down to its finished size of 210mm x 297mm. The table provided at the end of this article contains the correct dimensions of most standard documents lined up with a bleed area.


Safe Zone

What Is the safe zone?

The safe zone is the 3mm inside of the cutting edge in which no text or important information should be placed. Any graphics in this area risk being clipped when cutting. Across the following pages we will show you examples of documents with suitable and unsuitable bleed and safe zones.

Diagram Showing Bleed and Safe zone

In the diagram below you will see that the illustration extends to the edge of the bleed area and there is no text in the safe zone. The correctly lined up flyer is displayed on the right hand side.



Is my artwork the right quality?

One of the questions we are commonly asked is “it looks fine on screen, why won’t it be ok to print?” The technical answer to this is that a screen will only display a document at 72dpi where when printed you will see 300dpi. Dpi (or ppi) stands for dots per inch or pixels per inch. Generally images and graphics are made up from small dots (pixels), dpi refers to the number of these dots per inch. An image made from dots is called a raster image. There is another format called vectors, these are graphics made from equations and will never distort at any size.


While it’s not particularly easy to show the differences online, to the right is an example of the same body of text saved at 72dpi and 300dpi resolution and then scaled to the same height. As you’ll see on the left example, this has required upscaling, which has resulted in pixelation. To really see the difference, we’d recommend downloading the example pdf ‘clicking here’ and printing out a copy to see an effective difference in size and pixel (dot) density.