Watch The Bleed!

Watch The Bleed!

What is bleed in printing? Seriously, this is very important. But it can be very confusing.

Full bleed printing is printing to the edge of the paper so the final result has no margins. When you use this style of printing, a graphic or image expands to the absolute edge of the page with no border or white space.

I’ll venture to guess that for 99.99% of the scrapbook pages you create this will be the case. But, did you know that we need to understand bleed while we’re creating? Let’s look at why.

Printing Scrapbook Pages

Text Copped At Bottom

I’ve recently begun printing all of the scrapbook pages I’ve already created for my grandchildren. I do have a printer of my own that will print 12” x 12” but it’s not efficient or economical for bulk printing. To give you an idea of bulk…I’ve recently printed close to 200 pages.

Trust me, I’d probably still be printing if I was doing it myself. And I don’t even want to think about how many ink cartridges I’d have gone through. I don’t mind printing layouts in a piece-meal fashion. But I do try not to print pages that are either “graphically” intense or have lots of extremely dark sections/colors. Those will drain ink cartridges in a flash.

When I print my pages here at home, I can manage the “print area” myself so I don’t lose any important text. When using a printing service, things are very different. They control the print area.

There are a lot of printing options for us digital scrapbookers. I use Persnickety Prints. You can find information on some other printing services on my “Resources” page. And you need to know what their recommendations are for managing “bleed”.

Note: The above layout is one I created a few years ago when I wasn’t truly aware of just how careful I needed to be. For more details about this layout, you can find it in my 2020 Personal Gallery.

So What Exactly Is Bleed?

At the top of this post, I gave a short answer…bleed is printing to the edge of the paper with no margins (no white edges).

There’s really more to it than just the “bleed”. When designing for full bleed, the design must have “bleed” “trim” and “safe zone” margins.

Bleed Trim & Safe Zone

Bleed, trim and safe zone are terms within the printing industry that relate to the tolerance levels that must be allowed for. Even the most sophisticated equipment has a variance when printed media is cut to size and shape.

And that’s where things get a bit fuzzy (no pun intended 😉). In general bleed & trim have to do with cutting. I’d like to think that most printing services for digital images (scrapbook layouts included) are using paper already cut to size. Just as I do at home. But we all know what happens when we assume, right?!?

Regardless, if you’re planning to print a photo book vs. individual pages it will be extremely important for you to understand these terms.


The “bleed” is the area of the design that will be trimmed off when your artwork is cut to its final size. All elements of your design that extend past the ‘trim’ are said to “bleed” off.

The bleed’s purpose is to make sure your design reaches past the finished “trim” by 3mm on all edges so that you don’t see any unsightly white edges on your final product. This would also come into play when binding.


The “trim” is where the guillotine is set to cut the paper, vinyl or other material, the bleed and safe zones are to allow for any variation. The bleed is the outer limit and whatever background color you have should go past this to avoid any white or other unprinted color to show. Again, a consideration when binding.

Safe Zone

The “safe zone” is the area inside the trim that will be kept clear from guillotine blades, so text or sensitive information should be kept within this area. Anything falling outside the “safe zone” may result in design elements being cut off.

Confused? You’re not alone. This all makes it sound like we need to be creating layouts bigger than our standard 12” x 12” (or whichever size you use) right? Yikes!

Don’t panic yet. But I can tell you this, if you look at that cute layout of my grandkids “baking” you can see how my journaling is very close to the bottom of the page. Guess what? The very bottom of the letters on the last line were ever so slightly trimmed when this page was printed.

And I also have a habit of including the date the layout was actually created somewhere on the page. Generally, very near the bottom and usually blended in so you can hardly notice it. Well, on some of the other pages I printed…that was cut off. Not a big deal but it certainly made me think about all the lovely page edges I use on layouts!

And The Solution Is…

Photobook Overlays

Years & years ago, Wendy Zine created these lovely overlays to address this very problem. She (and all of her products) have since retired. Good news, Vicki Robinson Designs has been given permission to continue selling Wendy’s overlays and you can find them in Vicki’s shop at Oscraps.

These overlays couldn’t be easier to use! Simply open your 12×12 layered file and then drag the overlay for the printer or book size you want on top of your layout. You’ll instantly see where your page will trim and what will be in the safe zone. Resize or reposition your photos and journaling if needed. Then, delete the overlay. When you upload your final image to your printing service, their software will resize the page for you! It really is THAT easy!

There are 25 PNG overlays in a variety of sizes each set to correct margins for multiple printing services.

Here’s an example of a generic 12” x 12” overlay included in the set.

Sample Bleed Overlay

I do want to make you aware that this set of overlays may not seem inexpensive. In my opinion, it’s well worth the price to ensure all of the important stuff on my scrapbook pages will show up when they are printed.

That doesn’t mean you couldn’t come up with a “safe zone” on your own. But it would likely be complete guess work. There are various “typical” measurements out there for bleed, trim & safe zones and I’m certain it can vary based on the printer.

One generic recommendation is to use a safe zone that is anywhere from 1/8” – 1/4″ on each side of your layout to ensure all the “good stuff” gets printed. I don’t know about you but I’m not sure I want to risk guessing!

Disclaimer: I am in no way being compensated for telling you about these overlays. These are just a great tool that I wanted to share.

Some Important Tips About “Bleed”

Look at the two layouts above. Look at what could happen if we don’t pay attention to the bleed, trim & safe zone margins. Are you willing to take that risk?

If you’re planning on creating a photo book, you almost certainly need to be aware of these margins.

If you can’t/don’t want to use the overlays I described. PLEASE do some research on what margins are required by your chosen printing service. Then make the necessary adjustments to your layout(s).

You should also be cognizant of these margins if you plan to frame a printed layout.

As usual, if you have any questions or need a bit of help, please don’t hesitate to “Message Me” for some assistance.

Thanks for reading this week’s Tuesday Tip. If you want to stay informed about next week’s post, just click “Follow Me” to get an update. I hope you have a wonderful week!

Stay In Touch

Leave a Reply