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Monday, February 10, 2014

Offset Printing: File Prep Basics

As many of you already know so much more goes into the printing process than a simple
FILE > PRINT. When setting up files for offset printing there are many things that need to be taken into consideration.  Two of the most important things include bleed area and safe zone. 

The purpose of the bleed area
After printing, every job goes through some sort of finishing process; trimming, binding, folding etc. With each step in the finishing process there is a certain margin of error.

Imagine taking this sheet (left) with 4 flyers on it and trying to cut perfectly along the edge of the flyer without any white showing when you are done. Oh, and don't let any of that green from the top of the flyer show on the bottom of the other flyers.  Even the smallest fraction of movement could result in a sliver of white showing along the outside edges of the finished product, or cause some of that green to show up along the bottom of the flyers.

Adding bleeds allows us to reduce the margin of error during the finishing process.

Setting up bleeds
Some printers have different standards for bleed, but at GH we require 1/16" (.0625") bleed area on each edge, for example an 8.5 x 11" flyer would actually have a document size of 8.625 x 11.125" to account for the 1/16” bleed on each edge.

Many design programs (like InDesign or Illustrator) have a specific section for indicating the amount of bleed area you need.

For example, the snapshot to the left is of InDesign's New Document Window. At the bottom there is a specific field to enter the amount of bleed on each edge of the document. 

 *Something to watch out for: When you are exporting to a PDF from your design program make sure your PDF settings include document bleeds.


Other programs (like photoshop or publisher) you actually have to set your document size to include the bleeds. 

Remember, simply stretching your background color or image past the document size does not automatically add bleeds to your document. You must either specify the bleed area in the settings or build them into the overall document size. 

Safe zone area
As mentioned before, there is always some margin of error that comes with each step in the printing process. Safe Zones are another tool used in the print industry to help reduce that margin of error. 
At GH we recommend that all non-bleed elements, such as text or photographs be at least .125” from the trim. Keeping text and non-bleed graphics within this area will ensure that these elements are not trimmed off.  

Side note: On booklets the safe zone is increased to .25"

Want to be sure that your artwork will fit our guidelines? Contact your sales rep, they have templates for many of our standard sizes and if your project doesn't fit one of the standard templates we would be happy to create a template for you!

If you have any file set-up questions please feel free to comment below or check our full list of artworkguidelinesOtherwise stay tuned for more tips directly from your favorite GH design team!
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