09.09.2010 Printing Self-Help 2 Comments

Cut Area, Bleeds, and Safe Zone Demystified

Have you ever sent off your sparkling new design to the printer and in return received business cards or other printed products with parts of the text or images cut off?  Generally, the problem is someone along the line did not pay attention to the printer’s measurement guidelines for cut area, bleeds, and safe zone. It happens to everyone and it can be an expensive error to correct.

Our goal is that your printed products come out right the first time.  However, we cannot hold up our end of the bargain if you and your designer do not pay attention to a few important details. Like any industry, there are some terms [jargon] in printing whose meaning may not be readily apparent.  Therefore, here are some important printing definitions to help you save time and money by avoiding an expensive reprint of your business critical documents.

What is the Cut Area?

The cut area [sometimes referred to as the trim area] represents the finished dimensions of your printed piece after the printer cuts/trims it.   Makes sense right? In the case of a standard business card, the cut or trim area measures 2” in height and 3.5” wide.  Naturally, this translates to the intended dimensions of whatever piece you are designing such as 6” x 9” postcards or an 8.5” x 11” flyer.  In the image below the first dotted line inside the yellow area shows the cut/trim size.

What is a Bleed?  Does it Hurt?

Bleeds only hurt if you ignore them. In actuality, it is an area that extends beyond the cut/trim size of your design.  A bleed is a required part of your design when you want a color or image that runs to the edge of the cut area.  Although printing and trimming technology has advanced over the years, it still is not an exact science.  Therefore, there will always be a very slight variation in the final trim size of printed items. It is only a fraction of an inch but for best result keep this in mind.  If the color in your design only runs to the edge of cut/trim area and the actual cut goes just a hair outside that line, then you will end up with a white strip on that edge.

Allowing for the minimal variation in trim size, Heritage Printing requires a 1/8” or .125” on each side of a document for the bleed.  In total, this will add a quarter inch to the full dimensions of your design because the bleed is applied to all sides.  In that way, a 2” x 3.5” standard business card becomes 2.25” x 3.75” when designed to include a bleed.  In the same way, your 6” x 9” postcard would need to be designed at 6.25” x 9.25” to include a 1/8” bleed on each side.  In the image below – the bleed area is shown in yellow.

What is the Safe Zone?

Due to the minor variation in cutting and trimming tolerance that we mentioned earlier, the safe zone describes an area within the cut/trim line where you can be sure important text and graphics will not be trimmed.

Here at Heritage Printing and Quick Copy we request that you allow a 1/8” or .125” inside the trim line, on all sizes, for the safe zone.  In the image below, the safe area is shown in white – make sure you keep all essential text and images in this space as anything in the blue area could be trimmed off.

diagram showing bleed, trim lines and safe areas for printing

We hope we have helped demystify some printing jargon and streamlined your future printing projects. As always, the team at Heritage Printing and Quick Copy stands ready to answer all your questions.  We also employ a talented graphic designer who lives, eats, and breathes cut areas, bleeds and safe zones.  Feel free to call or email us if we can help you in any way.   If you are looking for a quote on a new job, you could also complete our brief request form here.

2 Responses to “Cut Area, Bleeds, and Safe Zone Demystified”

  1. AmyNo Gravatar says:

    This post is very well-written and even made me chuckle, so I featured it on my blog for the benefit of my clients. Thanks for taking the time to explain these important terms.

  2. admin says:

    Amy, thanks so much. Glad you liked the article, we hope your clients find it helpful too!

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