Adobe Illustrator is primarily a drawing tool for vector art. But, you can also use it as a layout program, and there will be times when you need to include bleeds if the final piece is going to be printed. Posters, magazine covers, business cards, and postcards are some of the 1- or 2-sided layouts you can create in Illustrator. If the project has more than 2 sides or pages, then I recommend using InDesign.
Creating a file with bleeds in Illustrator is actually pretty similar to what you do in InDesign. Here are the steps:
- Launch the Illustrator program. Create a new document: FILE MENU > New (CMMD-N / CNTRL-N).
- In the New Document window, select the PRINT tab.
- Select the size that comes closest to what you need. In my example, I selected “Letter”.
- On the right side of the New Document window, type in the title (“Poster Example”).
- Change the measurements to Inches (Points is the default), and width and height as necessary.
- Change the bleed settings to .125 (1/8) inches for all sides (top, bottom, left, and right). This is what most printers require.
- Change the color mode to CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black).
- Select “More Settings” if you need more than 1 artboard. A new window will pop up and you can change the number of artboards. You’ll also see all of the other settings you’ve already selected, as well as the Raster Effects (resolution, which should be High 300 ppi).
- Click the CREATE button (if you didn’t select “More Settings”) or the CREATE DOCUMENT button in “More Settings”.
In the poster example “New Works”, the white area is the paper. The red border outside of the white area represents the bleed. You’ll notice that the top area of the poster has nothing that touches the edge of the paper. All of the images, though, do touch and actually extend beyond the edge.
If your design layout has images and/or colors that touch the edge of the paper, then you must extend these items beyond the edge to the bleed area. Otherwise, things won’t print as you intended. The edge of the paper is called the “trim” because pieces with bleeds are printed on a larger sheet of paper and then trimmed down to the correct size. The bleed is what gets trimmed away; it provides a small amount of space to compensate for the movement of paper.
If you prefer, you can watch the video tutorial I made that shows you how to create a file with bleeds in Adobe Illustrator: