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Bleed, crops, gutter, safety lines and other essential marks for illustrators

When I was working as a senior graphic designer I was shocked at how many freelancers had no idea what bleed was or how to set it up correctly. This is one of the fundamentals for setting up images that you plan to print.

So what is bleed? Bleed is extra image that goes outside of where the final print will get cut. It allows the image to “bleed” off the page without accidentally leaving white space when it’s trimmed. As an illustrator it also provides safe space for the designer to move your image around within their design if necessary. They’re not just stuck with the edges you’ve provided. You also need to define where the printer cuts the image by setting up crop marks outside of the trimmed area.

Because we’re visual people, here’s a quick diagram:

Why am I sharing this? Because I know I would have killed to have this process mapped out for me as a young illustrator. It makes you look like a PRO to a client when you show you know about the printing process and have taken it into consideration. 

 📏 Crops, bleed, trim, gutter and a safety line are all marked out on another layer so they can be seen, used and then turned off or deleted from the final image. 

 This is why it’s so important to have the correct sizes for your project from your client. Going through this process keeps the art that you’ve worked so hard on safe from getting cut off in the printing process.

BLEED - A quarter inch of extra painting around the whole layout. This extra space allows for a bit of movement for the layout designer. I fill this with a transparent grey because I know it’s going to get cut off.

GUTTER - The gutter is the seam where the magazine folds. I add a line for it so I know to keep anything important away from it.

SAFETY LINES - I add a rectangle a quarter inch within the trim line where the magazine will get cut. This lets me know not to put anything too important, like text, near the edges.

CROP MARKS - Two little lines on each corner that indicate where the printer will cut the page. They are always outside of the trim line, so they don’t show up in the image. They’re also the only lines I will leave in my final piece, but on a separate layer so they can be deleted after the art is placed.

Hope this helps you set up your next client project easily and professionally.

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