Essential Prepress Checklist: Bleeds, Crop Marks & Safe Zones
Friday 4 March 2011 | Keith J. Hamilton8 Comments
Happy customers mean more business, right?
That’s why it is important for all graphic artists to provide usable design files to clients in the correct sizes, shapes and formats. If a client has to pay another designer or a printing company to fix your designs, you probably won’t be contacted again.
You need to know how to provide the correct files for designs that are always printed – business cards, stationery, envelopes and brochures. Printed designs will be unusable unless you meet the guidelines described here.
Graphic Design Prepress Checklist
There are a few prepress design requirements that are necessary for all designs that will appear to be printed to the very end of the card or brochure page. Printing machines cannot print up to the edge of a piece of paper, therefore designers must print a design larger than the card or paper, and then provide instructions for where the paper should be trimmed. Just be sure that when you create your design, you do not put text or pictures up to the very edge, or they may get cut.
This is an example of what a business card design should look like:
What do these terms mean? And how do you create a design like this?
Bleeds and Crop Marks
- A bleed is the area of the paper that is trimmed off after printing. All designs that appear to be printed to the very edge of the paper are actually set up so that they print at least 0.125” past the edge of the printed page
- Crop-marks are lines that mark where the paper is to be trimmed
If you need to print to the very end of the paper, just extend the background color or design a minimum of 0.125” outside the final paper trim edge, so the color “bleeds” past the design edges. Here are some examples of how to create a bleed:
- A tri-fold brochure (8.5” x 11”) should be set up so thatthe background design is at least 8.75” x 11.25”
- A standard business card (3.5” x 2”) should be set up so that it is at least 3.75” x 2.25”
The yellow line shows the edge of the card, but the color bleeds past, all the way out to the black line.
Crop marks look like small lines drawn on all sides of the graphics. These marks are used by printers to line up where they should cut, and allows them to cut all edges straight and in the correct spot.
- Stroke color: Registration i.e. 100% CMYK
- Stroke height/width: 0.125”
The yellow line is the edge of the card, where the printers should cut. Since you won’t actually draw
Creating a Safe Zone
In a perfect world, printers would be able to cut every single business card or brochure with laser precision. Here in the real world, every printing facility uses different equipment and not every print shop employee is precise when it comes to printing and trimming. This is where the safe zone comes in.
The Safe Zone is a small bordering area near the edge of the page – the edge where the paper will be cut – that you leave empty. Do not put any text or graphics in this space, because if the printer is off by a fraction of an inch, it could be cut by accident.
- The safe zone for our Tri-fold brochure should be 0.3” inside from the actual size
- The safe zone for our standard business card should be 0.125” inside from the actual size
How do I create Professional Designs?
Professional designers place their bleeds and crop marks in the background beforedesigning an image. They also create an appropriate safe zone so that if a printer is less accurate when trimming the printed designs, the images and text won’t get nicked.
NOTE: These pink, yellow, and black lines on the sample business card are only to illustrate to you how to create designs. When professional designers create designs, they do not actually use these lines on their final designs. They simply use the bleeds, show crop marks, and place text inside an invisible safe zone.