Adobe InDesign is my go-to layout program for multiple page print projects, such as magazines, brochures, and books. You can, of course, also use it for single-page documents, and even digital projects. For many years, I used Quark XPress, another fantastic publishing software. I switched to InDesign, because I was already using other Adobe products (Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Acrobat) and liked the seamless integration among the programs.
What the heck are bleeds?
Clue number 1: Print pieces often have bleeds. Digital pieces never have them.
Clue number 2: Bleeds are needed when colors and/or images touch the edge of the paper.
If your print design layout has images and/or colors that touch the edge of the paper, then you must include bleeds in the InDesign file and extend these images and colors 1/8″ to 1/4″ beyond the edge. Otherwise, things won’t print as you intended. The extra space beyond the edge is the bleed area. 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 on the printing press.
Steps for creating a file with bleeds:
- Launch the InDesign 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 (“Brochure Example”).
- Change the measurements to Inches (Points is the default), and width and height as necessary.
- Change the number of Pages to what you need (I have 8).
- Do NOT select “Facing Pages”, unless you are using 2-page spreads. In my example, I am simply folding the letter sheet in half, so I changed the orientation to landscape.
- Leave Columns and Column Gutter as is.
- Change Margins as necessary. Usually the .5 inch default is fine.
- Change the bleed settings to .125 (1/8) inches for all sides (top, bottom, left, and right). This is what most print vendors require. Sometimes, the printer will ask you to use wider bleeds. When the chain link icon is active, all 4 settings are the same and you only have to input a number into the first field.
- Leave Slug as is, unless your print vendor asks you to place the slug information in the file. Slug refers to basic document and project information that helps identify the piece.
- Click the CREATE button.
Brochure Pages With and Without Bleeds
In the brochure example, the white area is the paper. The red border outside of the white area represents the bleed. In the first example, nothing touches the edge of the paper. So, even though we built a bleed into the document, there is actually no image or color bleeding off the edge. This sometimes confuses people. Building a document to include a bleed is good “best practice”. But there won’t be any bleeds if your colors or images do not extend beyond the trim.
In the second example, we’ve enlarged the picture frame so that it goes beyond the trim to the bleed area. We also extended the width on the right side, so that it meets the middle of the page. Now the page will print correctly with a bleed.
If you prefer, you can watch the video tutorial I made that shows you how to create a file with bleeds in Adobe InDesign: