Guides for Setting Up Bleeds on Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop CS6, QuarkXpress and Word
Label design is a vital element of packaging and branding. Its role is to capture the customers’ attention while giving them potentially life-saving information, all in a minute’s fraction. Design details are important, and they can make or break a label’s appearance.
An important technique in incorporating art in your labels is bleed printing. Here, we talk about what bleeds are, their importance, and how to set them up in a few commonly used applications.
What Are Bleeds?
Bleed is printing past the edges where a label or any printed document is to be trimmed. In the US, bleeds usually extend by 1/8 of an inch (0.125”) beyond the trim line. In Europe, they can be as close as 2 mm and as far as 5 mm from the border, depending on the user’s preferences. The region within the trim lines is the safe area, where graphics and text should be found intact.
A full bleed is when the entire printed area goes beyond all the trim lines such that there’s no visible margin on any side of the finished work. This technique is normally seen in brochures, magazines and business cards. Many custom label makers also use it.
Bleeds make room for possible paper movement during printing. Paper movement can create visible printing errors that can tarnish a label’s appearance. To eliminate them, designers plan for printing on a larger area, then trim the excesses afterward.
Note that office printers and printing presses use preset paper sizes, e. g. 4” x 6”. Both the bleed and safe areas should be printed within their limits. For example, if you need an 8.5” x 11” signage with full bleed, you’ll need a bigger sheet of paper, like an 11” x 17”, and a wide printer, then trim to the desired size.
What Are the Advantages of Bleeds?
Below are the major advantages of bleed printing.
- It eliminates unwanted printing errors that can diminish a label’s appeal. Without bleeds, uneven margin sizes or slanted white spaces will become very obvious and off-putting to viewers.
- Conversely, bleeds ensure that your label design and colors are prominent.
- You’re in control of the printing outcome when you get rid of a possible error source.
Though few, bleeds’ impact on design is immense regardless.
How Do I Set Up My Printer For Bleeds?
It depends on the program you’re using, as not all have bleed settings or are even appropriate for graphic design.
For example, digital graphics need to be created on the computer using the CMYK color system. This ensures that the printer translates the graphics’ colors as they appear on your screen. Without this feature, the software will use the RGB (red, green and blue) or HSL (hue, saturation and luminosity) mode, which will render printouts duller than what you see on your PC.
To illustrate these points, we’re tackling five design or graphic-enabled programs that have variable combinations of these features. They include Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop CS6, QuarkXpress and Microsoft Word.
How to Set Up Bleeds on Illustrator
Illustrator is an Adobe program specifically created for graphic design. It uses the vector format and is great for single-page artworks, like labels and business cards. It has both CMYK and bleed options.
Below are the steps in setting up your printer for bleeds using Illustrator.
- Creating a new design on Illustrator
- At the top menu, click “File” then “New.” You will be taken to the “New Document” window where you can name your file and input your desired print settings right away.
2. On the “New Document” window, input your desired page size, making sure to select “Inches” under “Units.”
3. Under “Bleed,” type “0.125” in all the bars for the top, bottom, left and right bleeds. Click the locked chain icon beside the right bleed bar to lock these settings and make sure they’re equal.
4. Under “Color Mode,” choose “CMYK.”
5. Under “Raster Effects,” choose “High (300 ppi).” Leave the preview mode at default. Click “OK.”
6. To view the bleed and trim lines while you’re designing, click “File” then “Print.” On the “Print” window, select “Marks and Bleeds” on the left panel. Under “Bleeds,” check “Use Document Bleed Settings,” which will autofill the bleed settings.
7. You will now see red lines surrounding your document. These are the bleed lines. Extend the edges of your work to these lines.
8. To check if your text falls within the safe zone, you’ll need to see the trim lines. To make them appear, click on your artwork, go to “Effect” at the top menu and select “Crop Marks.” The trim lines will show up. Adjust accordingly.
9. When you’re done, save your work as PDF. Click “File,” choose “Save As…,” name your artwork and change the file type to PDF.
10. You will be led to the “Save Adobe PDF” window. Under “Adobe Format Preset,” choose [PDF/X-1a:2001], which is recommended for printed artwork. Click “Save PDF.”
11. The screen will now show your saved artwork together with the crop marks. All of them will appear in the hard copy. Before you print or send the PDF file to the printing shop, check the trim lines first if they’re positioned right where you want them.
- Printing a saved file on Illustrator
1. Open the file on Illustrator. At the top menu, click “File,” then go to “Document Setup.” The “Document Setup” window will appear.
2. On the “Document Setup” dialog box, choose “Inches” under “Units,” then set the bleed to 0.125 on all four sides. Click the locked-chain icon, then click “OK.”
3. Click “Effect” and find “Document Raster Effects Settings.” Make sure that “Color Model” is set to “CMYK” and that the resolution is set to “High (300 ppi).”
4. To add crop marks to your saved file and hard copy, do steps 6-11 above.
How to Set Up Bleeds on InDesign
InDesign is another Adobe graphic design software with CMYK and bleed options. It is similar to Illustrator, but it is better for multi-page creations.
Below are the steps in setting up your printer for bleeds using InDesign.
- Creating a new design on InDesign
1. At the top menu, click “File” then “New.” The “New Document” window will open.
2. On the “New Document” dialog box, change the units to inches when you hit “Presets” and click “OK.” Select your desired page size.
3. Click “More Options” on the right panel so the bleed options will appear. Under “Bleed,” type “0.125” as the value on all sides. Click the locked chain icon beside the bleed bars. Click “OK.”
4. To view the bleed and trim lines while you’re designing, press “W” on your keyboard. This works when you have no object selected. It will let you view your bleed and trim lines. Adjust the edges and text of your label accordingly
5. Export your work as a PDF file. Click “File” and choose “Export.” In the “Export” window, you can name your creation and change the file type to “PDF (Print).” Click “Save.”
6. Next, you will see the “Export Adobe PDF” window. Under “Adobe Format Preset,” choose [PDF/X-1a:2001].
7. On the left panel, click “Marks and Bleeds.”
8. Under “Bleeds,” tick “Use Document Bleed Settings.” This will autofill the bleed settings. Under “Marks,” check “Crop Marks.” Click “Export.”
9. The next screen will show the PDF form of your artwork and its crop marks. Again, double-check the crop marks’ positions before printing or sending your work to the printing shop.
- Printing a saved file on InDesign
1. Open the File on InDesign. At the top menu, click “File,” then go to “Document Setup.” The “Document Setup” window will be shown. Make sure that the bleed options are visible by clicking “More Options.”
2. Set the units to inches, then set the bleed values to 0.125 on all four borders. Click the locked-chain icon, then click “OK.”
3. To add crop marks to your saved file and hard copy, do steps 4-9 above.
How to Set Up Bleeds on Photoshop CS6
Photoshop CS6 is an Adobe application that is best for editing and printing photos. It does not have a bleed option, but it does have the CMYK color mode.
Below are the steps in setting up your printer for bleeds using Photoshop CS6.
- Creating a new design on Photoshop CS6
1. At the top menu, click “File” then “New.” This will take you to the “New” window. There, you can set “Color Mode” to “CMYK.” You can also specify the dimensions and units of your label. These dimensions are for the final cut and do not include the bleed. Click “OK.”
2. Click “View” at the top menu, then click “Rulers.” This will make the top and left-side ruler guides appear. Dragging the rulers will create the label’s safe zone for you. Drag the top ruler until it meets the top edge of your label. Drag it again for the bottom edge. Drag the left-side ruler to create the left and right borders.
3. At the top menu, go to “Image” and click “Canvas Size.” The “Canvas Size” window will appear. Under “New Size,” tick “Relative” to set the width and height to zero. Here, you can type 0.25 inch under both “Width” and “Height,” then click the middle portion of “Anchor.” Click “OK.” All these will extend the canvas by 0.125 inch on all sides while keeping the guide lines in the same place. Extending the artwork to these new canvas edges will create the bleed zone. You can write your text within the original guide lines.
4. To add trim lines to your printout, go to “File” then “Print” and “Print Settings.” Under “Printer Marks,” check “Corner Marks.” Click “OK.”
5. Save your file as PDF. Click “File” then “Save As….” Name your file and choose “Photoshop PDF.”
- Printing a saved file on Photoshop CS6
- Open the file on Photoshop CS6.
- Click “Image” at the top menu and change to CMYK.
- Still on the “Image” menu, click “Image Size.” The “Image Size” window will appear. There, you can change the document size. Specify your final label size there.
- To add crop marks to your saved file and hard copy, do steps 2-5 above.
How to Set Up Bleeds on QuarkXpress
QuarkXpress is a graphic design program that can be used for both single- and multi-page projects. Its newer versions have both the CMYK and bleed options. There are three ways to set up bleeds using this software.
- Method #1: Setting up bleeds by changing the print settings
- At the top menu, go to “File,” then click “Print.” The “Print Layout” window will appear.
- Find “Bleed” on the left panel and click. The bleed options will appear. Check “Clip at Bleed Edge,” click “Symmetric” for full bleeds and type 0.125” under “Amount.”
- Method #2: Setting up bleeds when you export the file as EPS
- At the top menu, click “File,” then “Export,” then “Page as EPS…”
- The “Save Page as EPS” window will appear. Click “Bleed” on the left panel, choose “Symmetric” under “Bleed Options” and type 0.125” under “Amount.”
- Method #3: Setting up bleeds when you export the file as PDF
- At the top menu, click “File,” then “Export,” then “Layout as PDF…”
- The “PDF Export Options” window will open. Click “Bleed” on the left panel, click “Symmetric” under “Bleed Options” and input 0.125” under “Amount.”
How to Set Up Bleeds on Word
We all know that Microsoft Word is not a design program. Still, many people use it, particularly non-professional graphic designers, if they have nothing else.
Microsoft Word has critical limitations that may cause printing errors when one used for design. They include the following:
- Typography changes when using different computers to view a Word file. They occur whenever a label designer chooses a non-standard font on his original work, then he accesses it with a computer that has only system fonts. Some default fonts are Arial, Calibri, Courier, Georgia, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana, which are all safe to use on any Microsoft-run computer.
- The software relies only on RGB and HSL, not CMYK.
- Its maximum resolution is less than 300 ppi, and this will make hard copies appear pixelated.
- It does not have a bleed option.
If you want to create bleeds on a Microsoft artwork, you need to build them into the page size and margins.
1. Find “Page Layout” at the top menu and click it.
2. Click “Size” then “More Paper Sizes” at the dropdown menu. This will take you to the “Page Setup” dialog box.
3. On the “Page Setup” menu, you will be taken to the “Paper” options. Find “Paper Size” and choose “Custom size.” Specify your label’s dimensions, adding the bleed values. For example, to make a 3” x 3” label, add 0.25” to both the width and height. So you will type “3.25 inches” under “Width” and “3.25 inches” under “Height.” This will let you extend the print area by 0.125” beyond all four boundaries.
4. In the same dialog box, go to the “Margins” options. Under “Margins,” input 0.125 inches as the value of your top, bottom, left and right margins. Click “OK.”
5. Windows will flash a reminder saying that you’re printing beyond printable areas. Click “Ignore.” When you start working on the page, Windows will automatically limit your graphics and text within the margins, which will serve as the trim lines. You can extend your artwork to those margins.
6. Save your file as PDF. Click “File” then “Save As.” The “Save As” window will open. Name your file and choose “PDF” under “Save as type.” Click “Save.”
In summary, we just explained what bleed printing is and how important it is in graphic design. We also showed how to set it up using different programs, namely, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, QuarkXpress and Word.
It is a straightforward process for some programs, but not in others. Additionally, when setting up bleeds, one needs to be particular about other aspects that will impact the label’s final form, such as color modes, typography and resolution. We hope that we have helped you today with these tips.