Let it Bleed: Designing With Bleed Area in Mind

Planning bleed in your print layout
One of the most common issues we encounter daily in our ImageSmith prepress department with incoming files concerns bleeds – or rather, a lack of bleeds! When designing and proofing, it is easy and tempting to ignore bleed allowances as we concentrate on the look of a finished piece. However, additional unexpected costs can be incurred when a bleed area has to be “created” from your digital files, or when printing on a larger paper size that exceeds your quoted specs is required to accommodate a bleed area. It is, however, very simple to avoid these costs and confusions when creating PDF files for your print provider.

Basics about bleeds
A “bleed” is any image (including text, color, etc) that extends off the edge of the printed piece. No press can print exactly to the edge of a piece of paper, especially over the course of a run of hundreds or thousands of sheets. Therefore if you have designed a bleed, your piece must be printed on a larger size of paper and then cut down to your finished size. This may or may not incur greater costs for the production of your piece, so you should be aware of this before printing begins and your printer should know in order to accurately quote your job. Good communication with your print provider from the beginning of your project, as always, can save you lots of time and money.
Design: Bleed vs. Bleed Area
When designing your bleeds, your artwork or text must physically extend over the edge of your document size, onto the surrounding pasteboard. When first setting up your document, provide a bleed area of .5 inches on all sides. This will give more than enough room for the elements to bleed. The “bleed” itself is the part of the picture, text or design that actually extends past the finished edge. As for the distance the artwork needs to extend over this edge, ImageSmith suggests .25 inches as adequate. So the actual bleed does not completely fill up the bleed area.

Exporting to PDF
Even though you design a bleed correctly in your document, exporting a pdf that does not include the bleed area will defeat the purpose!. Choose the PDF/X-1a:2001 preset in your PDF dialog box, and under the “Marks and Bleeds” tab, be sure to click “Crop Marks” and “Page Information” and to enter .5″ in the Bleed section, as seen in the accompanying diagram. If your Document Size is 8.5 x 11, you will be creating a pdf that is 9.5 x 12 – including 1/2 inch on all four sides to accommodate your bleed.
Keep in mind that your pdf will always be larger than your finished document size if you have accommodated for bleed area.
Call on ImageSmith for any advice or questions you may have about desktop publishing or digital file submission tips. It’s one of the ways we earn our stripes!

Installing Your Own Window Graphic

Many of our customers prefer to install their own window graphics onto their vehicle or entrance doors, so we would like to give you a few brief tips to make your project easier. We will print your window graphic on an over-sized media to make your installation easier. We recommend using two people when installing. Make sure you are in a warm place, between 45 and 90 degrees F, so that the adhesive can bond properly. Also make sure you completely clean and dry the glass surface before installation.

Clean the glass surface

  • Use soapy water to remove any residue
  • Rinse the glass thoroughly, making sure there is no soap residue
  • Make you do not use any chemical based cleaning solution during this process


  • Unroll the graphic carefully
  • Position the graphic on the glass using masking tape to hold it up on the glass
  • Carefully remove the backing material starting from the middle, either top to bottom or left to right
  • Be careful not to stretch the material as you apply pressure to the film with a squeegee
  • To smooth out any air bubbles, gently peel the film off the glass and reapply as in the previous step

Finishing Up

  • Working from the center out, gently rub the entire surface with a soft cloth
  • Cautiously, trim all of the excess material around the window with a sharp razor blade

If you prefer not to go it alone, you can always call ImageSmith at 828-684-4512 or Contact Us via our website. We will be happy to perform the graphic installation for you.