Why you should have bleed in a PDF file

Prepress 2 min read , February 23, 2021

by Andrew Bailes-Collins, Senior Product Manager, Enfocus

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 PDF bleed for 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?

missing bleed in a pdf file

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.

proper bleed in a pdf file

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’.

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.

correct pdf 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

Tips and Tricks