Gustavo Baner from ColorCopiesUSA

Gustavo Baner


Date Published: 2020-03-01// Updated: 2020-07-29

Topic: File Preparation

Why did we develop this complete guide to the preparation of files to print with bleed?

Having worked with thousands of business owners and their creative teams, we know that this topic is important. Bleed is one of the topics that more headaches create for anyone producing artwork for print. As opposed to artwork for web, files for print output require some additional considerations. In this article, we will focus on the preparation of bleed. This is a guide that is as complete as possible. Different software tools operate differently so you might still need to research specific actions for each design tool.

In a previous article, we explained what is bleed. Please check that article that is part of the Technical Knowlege section within the Printing Academy index. Here is a link to that article "What is Full Bleed in Printing"?

A quick overview of what is required to have a printed piece that bleeds

To reintroduce the concept of bleed and understand what is required in a file, we will start with an example.
The image displayed below shows a sheet (there is a white background to it) on top of which, a  picture of a landscape is printed. The trim/crop/cut (all three names are equivalent in this application) marks are shown as well. 

The final size of this printed sheet is set to be as follows:  8.5" wide x 11" tall
It is clear from this image, that the piece has to be printed in a sheet that is larger than the 8.5"x11", only to be trimmed. In this case, the size of the sheet is at least 9"x12" so that there is enough space to print the trim marks. The printed piece itself is in this case 8.75"x11.25".

On the picture, you see that the printed picture extends beyond the trim marks.
Why does the image go beyond the expected trimmed size? Because if it was not set like this, once the paper is trimmed, a thread of white paper might still be visible. As every other manufacturing process, there are variabilities that we have to account for. 

file preparation to do color printing with bleed
The final print is 8.5"x11"
The printed image size is 8.75"x11"
The sheet of paper is at least 9"x12"

Setting up the Microsoft Word and Adobe Illustrator to create a file with bleed.
How to fill in the dialog boxes in different platforms. What to input?

Many graphic artists will use Adobe tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator. A good number of other creatives will use other tools such as Microsoft Word, that don't require a steep learning curve. We will show a couple of examples in a couple of software design platforms how to set those files so that you can create a file with bleed and trim marks.

Step #1 - How to determine the full size of the image to be printed

Our experience tells us that if the area beyond final size of the piece is 0.125" (in fractional notation, it is 1/8") on each side,that is enough extra-printing to prevent white from showing-up

The suggested Width for your artwork
is calculated as follows:
Add 2 times 1/8" to the final size of your piece.
For this example: 8.5"+2x1/8"
which is the same as 8.5"+2x0.125" which equals 8.75"


The suggested Height: 
Calculates in the same way, 11" + 2*1/8" which is the same as the decimal notation, 11"+2*0.125". This is equal to 11.25"

Tip: Never do this to solve the lack of bleed in your artwork:

What's the biggest error some designers do?: Stretch the image to artificially create bleed.     This is a mistake because stretching the image will result in part of the image being in the bleed area that will eventually be trimmed. Trimming removes part of the image so it results in a final piece that is different to what was expected.
Often times the copy gets to bee too close to the edges or can even lose an important portion of the document

Step #2 - How to set up these values in the graphic design software?

We will show the process for the following two design platforms:

A - Adobe Illustrator
   / B - Microsoft Word


Adobe Illustrator



AI - Illustrator:  Create a New Document in Illustrator. 

screen show in Word on how to select the size of a document


AI Adobe Illustrator:   This is what the artboard should look like.

screenshot of Adobe Illustrator artboard after having created a document with bleed



Microsoft Word

As the versions of this popular software evolved, so did the menu organization. Therefore some options might be in a different place in your version of the software. In this case, we are referring to the 2020 version of Office 365.

  1. The following screenshots and captions should help you to create your document. 

Step #1 - Create a New Word Document - 

image shows how to start a new Microsoft Word Document


Step #2 - In "Layout" menu, choose Size

screen show in Word on how to select the size of a document


Step #3 - in Page Setup, choose CUSTOM SIZE

screen shot of  Microsoft Word Document showing how to select a custom size of paper


Step #4 - Assign the Width and Height and press OK

input the desired size in the block input screenshot Microsoft Word Document


- Step #5 - Under the "Layout" menu select "Margins" and "Custom Margins"

How to change the margins in Microsoft Word Document


- Step #6 - Set the margins as indicated and press OK

input the size of the margins in the block input in Microsoft Word Document


- Step #7 - Word might think that your are making a mistake, but it's OK. Just IGNORE

click the ignore button to set the dimensions that you need Microsoft Word Document


- Step #8 - This is what your artboard should look

this is how the artoboard should look Microsoft Word Document


- Step #9 - The yellow square will contain the artwork that will be delivered to you.

the area in yellow indicates the area that becomes the final document  Microsoft Word Document


- Step #10 - Export as a PDF: This is what you should get

export as a PDF to get the final document  Microsoft Word Document


Creating files that should print with bleed requires some care
Most clients are challenged by the preparation needs and decide to create documents with a white border instead. In doing so, they are probably losing some potential in terms of the quality of engagement that the piece could create

If your creative teamis havinga hard time, a team of creatives that can produce a full bleed piece that matches your expectations.

Just feel free to call us at 1-877-421-0668