Photoshop How-To: Designing with Bleed
At Same Day Printing we are asked on a daily basis how to set up bleed in Photoshop. Both Illustrator and InDesign files can be set to show bleed areas as a reference when designing your project. Photoshop on the other hand does not have a specific bleed setting that can be applied, so this needs to be set manually.
Quick Question – Is Photoshop best for your project?
Before I begin, I need to note that if you are creating a print document that has any text elements, Adobe Illustrator or InDesign will provide a crisper text output than Photoshop, due to the way software reads the vector file (which gives definition to each and every individual element, as opposed to the raster file produced by Photoshop (which is produces a file basically a single object – not unlike a painting, where software can only tell the outer most edge of a document.
Here is a wire-frame of the same art created in Illustrator and Photoshop, showing the text and shape edge detail the printer can see.
If you only have access to Photoshop, you can use it and if all your settings are correct it will create a nice print, but this software is designed for and best used for editing photos which can then be placed into Illustrator or InDesign.
Note: Photoshop files are not suitable for any print item where shape or font edge needs to be read by the printer. This includes but is not limited to: T-shirts and apparel; shape cut or die cut items; clear stickers requiring white ink.
What is bleed?
Bleed is the term used for print that extends past the edge of the finished design area. It makes your artwork wider and taller than the trim size of the page, helping to ensure a quality finish where an image or a design touches the edge of your print. It is required for all print items, whether it be a business card, flyer, sticker, sign, or any other print item.
There can always be a small amount of movement (up to 1-2mm) during the print and finishing process. This is unavoidable due to:
- Paper, vinyl and other print substrates by nature, stretch and shrink slightly as they heat and cool during the print and finishing processes.
- Printing and finishing is completed across multiple machines. While each machine reads the registration marks of the previous one, there can be a small amount of movement, and this can be exacerbated by any stretch or shrinkage in the media.
If your artwork is the exact size you want the finished document, you may see a fine line of un-printed media at the very edge when the page is trimmed. As you can see in the image below (placed on a black background for clarity) this does not make for a professional finish.
To prevent this, you should always add bleed to your artwork; that is, make your artwork wider and taller than the trim size of the page.
Before you start your project you need to know the size you want your finished piece to be. At Same Day Printing we can cut to custom sizes, so for most products you can choose any size – or you may like to reference our Common Page Size Cheat Sheet.
The size of the bleed required for your project will depend on the product you are printing. View our Bleed & Internal Margin Cheat Sheet if you are unsure of the requirements for your document. For this example, we will work with a 3mm bleed requirement as per our paper and card products
Create the document
Begin by creating a new document in Photoshop, the size that you need your final product to be plus 6mm width and 6mm height. You will need to ensure the following setting in the new document window:
- Change units to Millimetres
- Set width to the width of your finished product plus 6mm (this allows for 3mm bleed each side)
I.e. an A6 postcard is 148mm wide when finished so my width will be 154mm ( 148 + 6= 154 )
- Set height to the height of your finished product plus 6mm
I.e. an A6 postcard is 105mm tall when finished so my width will be 111mm ( 105 + 6= 111 )
- Resolution: 300 Pixels/Inch
- Colour Mode: CMYK 16 Bit
- Background Colour: White
Set Bleed Guidelines
Turn on Rulers by choosing View > Rulers. Ensure your rulers are set to mm – right click on the ruler and choose mm.
Select View > New Guide Layout and enter the following values
- Number: 1
- Width: Blank
- Gutter: Blank
- Rows: 1
- Number: 1
- Width: Blank
- Gutter: Blank
- Margin – set all to 3mm
You will now see guidelines 3mm in from each edge. At the top of the New Guide Layout box you will see a ‘Preset’ dropdown box. Click it and select “Save Preset”. Call the preset “3mm Bleed” – now next time you create a document you can select this preset rather than entering all the details above.
Set Internal Margin Guidelines
We are going to repeat the above steps now to add guidelines to show us where to keep text, logos and other important content inside so it does not get trimmed off or end up visually too close to the edge of the page.
Select View > New Guide Layout
- Select your 3mm Bleed preset you just created
- Change the Margin to 8mm (this will set text in 5mm on the final product)
- Save the preset as “5mm Internal Margin”
- Click OK
Your document now has two guidelines on each side. The one closest to the edge is the final trim size of your document and the one inset further is your internal margin,
Designing your artwork
TIP: If this is a size document you are likely to use again, save a copy of it now to use as a template for future jobs
With guides now in place you can set about designing your artwork. Keep in mind:
- The final printed piece will be trimmed at the outer guides
- We recommend not having borders. As bleed is included to account for movement in the print, if you choose to include borders it’s likely this movement will make borders appear uneven on the finished print.
- For a nice visual finish we recommend you keep elements that do no inside the internal margin, or extend them all the way to the edge of your artboard. The only time this does not apply is if: their distance from the edge is not a critical element of your design; it does not affect symmetry; and if you place it closer than 2mm from the edge, it does not matter if it is trimmed.
Design away – You can use layers, shapes, and anything else that you normally use in your design.
What about trim marks?
As long as your file is set up with appropriate bleed allowance as above, you do not require trim marks.
Saving your file
- Select File > Save As
- File Name:
For your filename, a good practice is to include your Company Name, the finish size that you want the document, and if you will be creating a 2-page document a reference as to if this is the front or back. For our example, this would look like: SameDayPrinting_148x105mm_Front
- Save As File type: Photoshop PDF
- Click Save
- In the first dropdown menu on the print dialogue box select High Quality Print
- Click Save