In this article I will tell you all about bleed and crop marks. These two terms are used when you design for print. Setting up your file correctly before going to print is very important. I hope that graphic design students or anyone wanting to learn more about print design will find this article helpful.

What are bleed and crop marks? | Print design tips

What is bleed?

Any image that runs to the edge of your page needs to be bled off. The bleed area is the area that extends beyond the safe area. You need to include a bleed area because the paper is likely to shift when it gets printed and it can cause white borders around your image. The bleed area is just excess image that gets printed, but it gets trimmed off.

How much bleed is required?

Usually 3mm bleed is required but it can also be up to 5mm. Ask the printer how much bleed they require if you are not sure.

How do you setup a document with bleed?

So let’s say you are designing a business card that requires bleed. A business card might be 90mm x 50mm. You need to add 3mm to the top, bottom, left and right sides. So you need to add 6mm to 90mm. And 6mm to 50mm. Your final document size that you need to create is 96mm x 56mm.

To remind you where the final printed piece will be, draw guidelines and position them 3mm inwards on each side.

explain bleed in print design

The safe area

The safe area is where all your important elements like text should go. No important elements should go outside the safe area. This is also called the live area.

What are crop marks?

what are crop marks in print design

Crop marks are small lines that show where the actual document is and where the paper needs to be trimmed by the print worker. Crop marks are usually hairline thickness and are set in Registration black (C100 M100 Y100 K100).

Crop marks can also be called trim marks.

How do you setup crop marks?

To setup crops in Illustrator and InDesign, read this very helpful article by Chris Spooner.


To learn more about bleeds, crops and print design, read these articles:

How to setup files for printing | The Design O’Blog

10 Tips to make your design files print-ready | Graphic Design Blender

Printing and prepress basics | vectortuts+

Printing prepress dos and don’ts – Graphic Design School