What is a bleed

In printing, I’m often asked “What is a bleed”? Sometimes I’m tempted to answer “Well occasionally when a pressman is changing plates on a press, the sharp corner of the plate will nick his finger causing a bleed which can wind up dripping on the printed product”. But I don’t answer that way, because in fact, it’s a very valid and intelligent question. So a brief explanation is as follows:
When the graphic or design of a printed product extends beyond the borders of the finished cut size, it is called a bleed. Lets say a standard business card which measures 3 ½” Wide x 2” High has a graphic design that extends beyond the aforementioned size. That bleed area, as it’s called, usually extends only 1/8” beyond the finished size and usually the cards will have what’s called crop marks or cutting marks printed on the sheet, which tells the bindery department exactly how to trim the card. Bleeds can be found on nearly any printed product these days from Letterhead to Envelopes, Post Cards and many more.
To have a closer look, here’s a link showing a card with a bleed and a card without. An illustration of bleed.
Bleeds can often  cost you more money when printed on certain products. This can often occur when quantities are small and here’s why!  Let’s say you want a letter size 3 panel brochure printed on a nice sheet of stock and you want to have your design or graphic bleed. No printer whether printing on a digital press or a full litho press can print edge to edge on a letter size sheet. He must buy or use an oversize sheet say 9” x 12” instead of 8 ½” x 11”. This usually costs more money than the letter size sheet and then there is, the additional trimming to take the sheet back to letter size.

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