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Crop Marks and Printing Bleed

What Are Crop Marks?

Crop marks (also known as trim marks) are thin lines printed in the corners of the artwork. These are to mark where the work needs to be cut after printing. A print job is produced on a sheet of paper that is larger than the final size required. The reason for this is to allow for the various processes that are involved, from printing to finishing. The crop marks appear on all color separations that are used in the job. They and are also used as a guide for where the graphic image or color finishes and indicates the bleed area. Crop marks are required regardless of whether the job contains graphics or colors that extend beyond the print area.

The crop marks are generated in the page makeup software when producing the print-ready pdf format artwork. Professional software has the facility to add these crop marks automatically, although they can be customized for size.

Crop marks and bleed

When Should Crop Marks Be Used?

Every commercial print job requires crop marks or trim marks in order to ensure that the final job is cut to the correct finished size. The printed work on the sheet may contain single or multiple images. For example with an 8.5″ x 11″ flyer that is repeated 8 times on one piece of printing plates to maximize productivity. Without crop marks, there is no way of accurately identifying where the trimmed area should be.


How Do I Add Crop Marks in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign?

Each software program has various methods of adding crop marks. This can also change depending on which version of the software is being used.

It is possible to manually add crop marks. But we recommend that the automatic crop mark generation features. All the professional software offer, you can use. Commercial printers require files to be supplied as pdf files with the correct crop marks and other information included.

There are often several ways to create a pdf from each software program and it is important to use one that provides a proper print-ready file. For example, a pdf can be created from many of the Adobe software products by using ‘Export’, ‘Save as’ and ‘Print to pdf’ options. These main options as having several sub-options that will include crop mark details such as the weight (thickness), length and offset of each mark. As a general rule, the default settings for high-resolution print will produce the correct result. To check your settings, open the final file you have created in a pdf viewer such as Adobe Acrobat.

Before starting any print project, ensure you understand both how to set up the initial artboard and how to create the final print file. Ask your print supplier how to achieve this and then save the settings for future use.


What Is Bleed in Printing?

When graphic images run to the edge of a job, it is necessary to extend the area printed beyond the crop marks. This allows for variables during the printing process. This printed area beyond the crop marks is called the bleed. A print job is produced on stacks of sheets of material that are moved around the various processes in the factory, from the press to the finishing department. Small movements in the stack mean that a degree of tolerance is required in order to eliminate the possibility of a thin white border on the trimmed job. Bleed allows for this eventuality and ensures the final print job is reproduced as required. It needs to be applied manually when creating the artwork. This ensures any graphics, images or background colors extend beyond the intended trim area.

It is necessary to have an understanding of what bleed is and why it is required. It is also important to know how to set up the initial artwork in the page makeup software. As with crop marks, the correct setting for bleed has to be selected when generating the print-ready file.

Here Is the Video How You Do Bleed And Crop Marks for Your Artwork.

How Much Bleed For Printing?

As a general rule, bleed is set to 3mm or 0.125″, but this can vary with different print processes.

Once the final print file has been generated, normally a pdf, it is prudent to open it in Adobe Acrobat or similar software. Then you can run a visual check on the crop marks and bleed areas.


Why Do I Need Printing Bleed?

Printing bleed is required to allow for small variations in the printing and finishing processes that, without bleed, could cause the job to be reproduced incorrectly. It can be complicated, or simply not possible with some jobs, to add printing bleed after a pdf file has been created. It is important to understand why this is important and how to apply it.


How Do I Apply Full Bleed Printing?

First of all, it is important to check with your printer how much bleed is required for your project. The standard amount of printing bleed is 3mm or 0.125″ and this is normally the default in professional software. However, this can vary with certain print processes and particular jobs.

When you set up a print job in a vector program, such as Adobe Illustrator or InDesign for example, you have the option to set the bleed when then the artboard size is specified. Then, when you are laying out the graphics you need to ensure any colors, images or graphics that are designed to print to the trimmed edge of the job actually extend beyond the artboard by at least 3mm or 0125″. This has to be done manually. It is also worth noting that any important image, text or graphics matter is placed too close within the trimmed area either for the same reason as to why printing bleed is required.

Pixel-based software, such as Adobe Photoshop, is slightly more complicated. You will need to create a canvas large enough to accommodate the printing bleed required all round the finished job. By using guidelines it is possible to see where the trimmed size will be and that the correct bleed is applied.