Marks and bleeds: 8 Printer’s Marks step-by-step

Pass4Press Marks and bleeds

Print is not dead

We’ve all heard the news—“Print is dead”. Well, no, it’s not. Print is alive and well. That said, print projects come few and far between for some graphic designers. To those designers, I’d recommend reading up on how to save for print—including marks and bleeds. In this first series of tutorials, we’ll learn about Printer’s Marks in relation to Adobe’s Save Adobe PDF Marks and Bleeds panel.

Bleed area

To start, what is bleed? The bleed area is a space in which the artwork continues to run past the trim marks. The purpose of a bleed area is to ensure no white paper lines remain on the finished product. Movement during printing is common, so it’s best practise to allow 3mm of additional artwork, or bleed, around each edge. Some printers recommend 5mm—3mm is most common.

In Adobe Illustrator, the user can set bleed both before and after document creation. Click File, then Document Setup (⌥⌘P). You’ll see an option for Bleed. Top, Bottom, Left and Right are all editable. Chances are, you’ll want to set all four to 3mm.

Bleed

Type area

The bleed area protects artwork outside the trim marks. The type area protects artwork inside the trim marks. Most good printers recommend a type area. Don’t place typography outside the type area bounding box. This ensures no typography is unintentionally cropped.

Type area

Bleed marks

Let’s talk printer’s marks. A number of software packages allow the designer to export a PDF including bleed marks. These mark the bleed area. Should the printer use these marks to trim, the printer would trim the entire artwork—including bleed. This would likely result in white paper edges which—as we now understand—is what the bleed is intended to prevent.

With that in mind, bleed marks aren’t the most useful, and thus aren’t offered in every software package.

Bleed marks

Trim marks

Trim marks are important. Trim marks indicate where the artwork ends and the bleed begins. To include trim marks informs the printer that the user understands what will and won’t be trimmed, and that the document does include a bleed. Include trim marks for best practise.

In Adobe Illustrator, click File > Save a Copy… (⌥⌘S) to save a PDF copy of your completed print-ready artwork. Unless told otherwise—the printer should recommend a preset—change the Adobe PDF Preset to PDF/X-1a:2001. Click Marks and Bleeds. Ensure Trim Marks are selected beneath All Printer’s Marks.

Trim marks

Registration marks

Next up are registration marks. Registration marks resemble black targets. They sit outside the trim and bleed area. Registration marks help the printer align colour plates to the artwork. This will ensure a more precise print. The registration marks, once printed, will appear sharp if printed with correctly aligned plates. Otherwise, the registration marks may appear blurry with several overlaps. It’s a simple method of ensuring a top-notch print job.

In Adobe Illustrator, check Registration Marks for best practise.

Registration marks

Colour bars

Colour bars (or color bars) enable the printer to identify colour attributes once printed. Colour bars allow for the measurement of colour density, dot gain, grey balance and misalignment. While colour bars are, more or less, printed outside the trim area, some designers choose to incorporate colour bars in the artwork itself. Despite this, colour bars aren’t a requirement for Pass4Press—more on that later.

Colour bars

Page information

Page information differs by application. In Adobe Illustrator, page information includes the document name, file extension, page number, date and time of export. Page information is recommended for ensuring the correct documents have been supplied. While hassle.pdf is a useless—relatively speaking—file name, the export time and date can be used to identify this hassle.pdf from an earlier or later hassle.pdf.

Check Page information for best practise.

Page information

Pass4Press Marks and bleeds

Pass4Press is a print standard adopted by a number of professional UK publishers. Pass4Press documentation allows the user to ensure their project is ready for print. Visit Pass4Press here and read the documentation firsthand. Pass4Press follows the work of international PDF experts the Ghent Workgroup. Now, the Pass4Press documentation on marks and bleeds recommends trim marks, a 3mm bleed, registration marks, colour bars and page information.

Pass4Press Marks and bleeds

Save PDF

That’s that. You’ve now mastered the Marks and Bleeds panel. Looking for more tutorials? You’re in the right place. Click here to visit our Articles, blog posts and tutorials page.