What is a bleed?

Bleeds in a document are a very important consideration, though they are easily overlooked during the design process. Please review the following information to ensure your files are properly formatted for quick and accurate printing, especially when it comes to your book’s cover.

Basics of bleeds in digital printing

Even with tremendous advances in printing there is no digital printer that can lay ink or toner all the way to the edge of the paper. With this in mind, if your finished page is designed to have color all the way to the edge, you must adjust your design to have bleeds, or an extension of the background color, images and fills that will be trimmed off during post-press production.

The example here is borrowed from our parent company, R&R Graphics, and is a generic letter-sized flyer that has full bleeds. The solid black line is the outside of the print document with a recommended .125” additional extension for a bleed. The dotted line is where the finished document will be trimmed.

It is also important to consider the “safe area” you should allow yourself during the design process. You do not want to get text or any other important elements too close to the cut line, as it is possible for the paper to shift during the printing process by minimal increments. If your text, or an important image is too close to the line where the production staff will trim, it is possible that this can be cut off. Always better to be safe rather than sorry!

Bleeds specific to book printing

The bleeds we’ve discussed here so far are important to analyze for the interior pages of your book. If you have bleeds on your interior pages you’ll want to follow the example above. The best example of where this is appropriate is in a children’s book where there are full page illustrations. If you choose an 8” x 8” size for your children’s book, you’ll want to be sure your pages are set up to be 8.25” x 8.25” so that .125” can be trimmed all the way around.

The cover of your book is a slightly different animal. When designing a book cover, you must consider the front cover, the spine and the back cover as all one piece. If you are designing your front cover as its own piece of artwork, you do not need a bleed on the left side of your image as it will butt up against the spine and not be trimmed individually. The same applies to your back cover, where the opposite edge will also butt up against the spine. The spine itself only needs bleeds on the top and bottom, as it will be wedged in between the front and back cover. The example below is a book cover that has been perfectly formatted for print.

The final size of this book is 5.75” x 8.5” and is set up with appropriate bleeds. The front cover panel is 5.875” x 8.75” which will allow .125” to be trimmed off on the top, bottom and outside edge. The back cover panel is the same size as the front, again allowing for trimming to take place on the top, bottom and outside edge. The spine is .25” wide, which is appropriate given the page count of the book, and has a bleed on the top and bottom that can be trimmed. Lastly, all key elements in the design are placed at least .25” from the trim lines so that nothing will be cut off during volume production.

It is critical for proper production that book covers be set up in this manner. In the picture above the solid white lines in the center show where the folds of the spine will be, and the dotted white line shows where the final trimming will take place when the book is finalized.

Regardless of whether you’re printing a book with us, or printing flyers, business cards, brochures or posters with another shop, be sure to consider your bleeds. Contact us if you have any issues building your files for print with Steuben Press, or consider hiring our design staff to help finalize your book files.

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.


I’ve had three books printed by the team at Steuben Press. The folks here are generous in their advice and insights and efficient and timely in delivery. As long as this team exists, and I author books, our relationship will endure.

– Fr. Joseph Oblinger, Montana

Check out Fr. Joe’s new book, “A Mighty Wind!” at www.frjoeoblinger.com