Printing Explained: What Are the Differences Between Bleed, Trim and Safe Area?
Your design is ready to be printed. You’ve checked and double-checked your file. Now you send your file to the printer and anxiously wait for the first copy to finish. But when you finally get the proof, something seems off. The first print is a little wonky. It looks like the printer didn’t quite get the settings right or perhaps you missed something. If you’re anything like most non-graphic people, you’ve had this happen to you a few times. But as soon as you learned about the different terms that are part of the print process, things went a lot smoother. This article will help you understand the different intricacies of the print process and what you can do to ensure your designs are impeccably printed.

What is a print job?

A print job is basically sending a digital file to the printer. Depending on the actual job (business card, presentation, postcard, etc..) the printing company may require different guidelines to prepare your file or their printers so you’ll want to confirm prior to designing.
Your digital artwork file communicates to the printer what colors, dimensions, cuts, etc are needed to print the project so it is important to get it right the first time.

What is the Bleed Area?

The bleed area is the area of the page where the borders of the paper meet (or don’t meet, if you’re printing digitally). It’s the part of the page where your design is not printed. When you’re in print-preview mode, you can see the borders of the page, which can help you see if your design is cropped too close to the bleed. The bleed area is often set at 1/8” or 1/4”. This is so that you can create designs that are comfortably within these border dimensions without having to worry too much about the design being cropped.
For instance if you wanted a graphic or background color to extend to the edges of your project you will want it to meet the bleed area.

What is the Trim Area?

The trim area is the section of the page where your design will be trimmed (that is, where the paper is trimmed to make a finished copy). The trim line indicates the final size of the product. The trim size is usually determined by the paper size and is printed as a guideline. Trim sizes don’t always match up with the bleed area, so if you have a design that extends past the trim area, you’ll have to do some trimming before you start printing.

What is the Safe Area?

The safe area is the area of your design where the printer won’t cut. This is based on the maximum dimensions of your design and the specifications of the printer you’re using. This can be especially important if you’re designing for a print book or a poster-sized piece of art. A book usually has a 6” x 9” maximum dimension, but you want to make sure the text or important elements don’t extend past that boundary.

Tips for a successful print job

  • Make sure you contact the printer to find out how to prepare your file prior to designing
  • Make sure all the critical elements (text, images, logos, etc.) are placed within the safe area, so that they are not trimmed off when the product is trimmed to the final size.
  • Make sure your file resolution is at least 350 dpi. A resolution of 350 dpi means 350 dots per every inch in the design.

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