Wednesday December 16, 2015

PDF bleed: why is it so important?

Topics: PDF

Have you ever sent a perfect looking PDF file to your printer, only to receive the job back with unwanted white edges? Then you probably forgot to include a bleed area. PDF files lacking bleed is a common issue encountered by prepress operators. Although some printers will just go ahead and print the file anyway, most printers will contact their clients and ask them to export the PDF again and add bleed to the file. However, some printers have discovered a way to simply add the bleed to the PDF themselves.

Why add bleed to PDF files?

Bleed is the concept of extending images or objects beyond the intended edge of a page. It is important to always include a bleed area in PDF files before printing them, as the final stage of the printing process consists of binding the printed sheets and trimming them to their final size. Although the trimming is usually accurate, it is never perfect. That’s why, without bleed, images and objects that were supposed to be printed until the end of the page could show a disturbing white border.

This example shows a misprint of my business card. Notice the white border at the bottom which is the result of missing bleed in the design file. Makes it look amateurish, doesn't it?

why bleed in a pdf file is important

How to add bleed to PDF files

First of all, make sure that every object you want to go to the end of your page, exceeds the edge of your design in your design application. See the example below: the black line is the trimbox of the design. We don't want an annoying white line underneath the green box at the bottom, so we just extend it a little. The part of your object that exceeds the trim box of the design is called bleed.

correct PDF file bleed

Second, make sure to add your bleed when you export a file to PDF. In this example, we're using Adobe InDesign to export a design to PDF, but other professional design applications will have similar PDF export options. When exporting your file to PDF, go to the ‘Marks and Bleeds’ section of the export dialogue box and enter the bleed measurements under ‘Bleed and Slug’.

Example PDF bleed settings


A few rules of thumb

  • Printers in the US require 1/8 inch on each side
  • Printers in the UK require 3mm of bleed 
  • European printers outside the UK recommend a 5mm bleed

If you follow these guidelines, you'll never run into bleed issues again.

The result of a perfect PDF with bleed


What do printers do to fix PDF file bleed?

There used to be a time when printers had to manually check every page of a PDF for errors, and clients had to go through the hassle of exporting their PDF again to fix those errors – or simply wound up with printed jobs that didn’t live up to their expectations, resulting in unhappy customers and arguments about responsibility and payment. Enter PitStop Pro. PitStop Pro is a preflighting tool that automatically detects pretty much every possible error in a PDF and allows printers to easily edit PDF files to correct any errors, including bleed. Did you forget to add bleed to your file? You can count on PitStop Pro for perfect print ready PDF files without having to bother your customer or send the file back, extending your deadline!

Fix bleed issues? Use PitStop Pro!

Enfocus support engineer Jeff has written a technical blogpost that shows you how PitStop Pro fixes bleed issues!

Check out the article


About Andrew Bailes-Collins

PitStop Pro 2018

Andrew Bailes-Collins is Senior Product Manager at Enfocus.

He graduated from what is now the London College of Communications and went on to serve an apprenticeship as a compositor. He has worked for a number of vendors in the printing and publishing sector, including Scangraphic, Apple and DuPont/Crosfield.

Andrew has been Prepress Manager for several high-quality printing companies in London, managing the change from conventional production techniques to digital. An early adopter of computer-to-plate and PDF workflow, Andrew then worked at OneVision Software for ten years. Initially based in the UK, before rising through the company to become Head of Product Management Europe at their head office near Munich in Germany.

Andrew joined Enfocus and moved to Belgium in 2011 and is the Senior Product Manager responsible for the PitStop family of products. He is also the Technical Officer for the Ghent Workgroup and Co-Chair of the GWG specifications sub-committee.

Read more about:

Sign in or create an Enfocus ID to post comments