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Live Area, Margins, Trim, & Bleed: What they mean and how to use them effectively.

When you're designing a project for print, you may run into a few (if not all) of these terms. Let us help you understand how to use them effectively:


Live Area:

The "area in the center" of your design, minus the margins is where the most important information should be. All text should be within the Live Area and NOT be within the margin area.


The area around the outer edge of the piece to allow for printer shifting. If you have a background, pattern or other design elements elements that will be "going off the edge" of the design, it is okay for these to be here. DO NOT put text or other important information or assets in the margin.

Trim Line:

Where the design will be cut after print production.


If you have a design with elements that will be "going off the edge" of the design (ie pattern, background, photo, etc.) there should be bleed allowance to allow for the printer shifting. It is next to impossible to cut printed products right on a straight line, having bleed will help make your final product look more polished and eliminate the possibility of a "white line" around the trimmed edge.


How to use them in your design:

When looking at specs for a print piece, there should always be the above 3 sets of measurements, 4 if you have a design with bleed (or a design that runs to the edge of the paper). Many free applications do not account for them, but if you know what you're looking for, you can help ensure that your design is print ready every single time.

Not all printing companies will take a look at how your artwork is sent to them; sometimes they'll just run it as it was received. At Pinnacle Printing, Inc. We pride ourselves in the best final product every single time - no matter how large or small of a job. This means, we ALWAYS double check for Live Area, Margins, Trim Line and Bleed (if applicable) no matter how we receive the artwork. If we have any questions, or notice anything off about the artwork, we'll reach out directly prior to proceeding. Sometimes this can causes a delay in the printing job, and we apologize for the inconvenience in advance.

When we receive artwork that does not account for those printing specs, we like to give it a .25″ margin on a document that is around 8.5″ x 11″ (flyer/brochure) to 3" x 5" (smallest postcard). If it's for a business card or smaller, we usually like to stick with a .125" margin. For larger items such as banners, building signage, posters, etc we recommend a larger margin - sometimes even 1" or so.

The most common (and most commonly overlooked) spec we add is bleed. Standard bleed on pretty much any type of printed material is 1/8" (.125") around all edges. The main reason you would want bleed on a printable document is so when the document is being cut to its final trim size, there are no errors or "white" space on the edges. Even though there are spectacular paper cutters out there, it's next to impossible to cut multiple printed documents in the exact same spot.


Sometimes when working in programs not entirely created for graphic design, you may not have access to adding/viewing certain printing specs; Typically you're unable to add bleed. When this happens, I usually recommend creating your artwork/file to be LARGER depending on how much bleed you'll need. For example: You're creating a Standard Flyer: 8.5" x 11" (trim size). Instead of making the file 8.5" x 11", make the file size 8.75" x 11.25" and make your margin .125" larger around all sides. The trim line stays exactly the same, but it may be easier for you to create a print ready file.

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