Colleen is back from maternity leave (with limited hours)

What are Crops and Bleed?

Have you ever wanted to have something printed for your business and the printer required that your files to have “crops and bleed”? This is a very common term in professional printing. This quick rundown will explain what they’re used for and why you need to include them.

Crops and bleed are important for your professionally printed materials to look their very best.


BLEED is an extra bit of artwork or image added to the sides of whatever you’re printing. This is helpful for any elements or images that goes right to the edge of your printed format.

FULL BLEED is when you’re printing something that goes to all edges of the printed piece.

CROPS are little crosshairs that are offset from the trim line, and indicate the edge of the printed format, which is where the printer should trim the extra bleed off.

TRIM is the invisible line that the crop marks indicate. The printer will cut along the trim lines.

How it Works

Imagine your office or household printer. If you’ve ever tried to print a full-bleed image that covers the entire paper (edge to edge), you likely noticed that the printed product had a thin white border on all 4 sides.

crops and bleed, office printing, white edges on full bleed paper

This happens because standard printers need space along the side of the paper for its little mechanical hands to grab and guide the paper through the printer. The borders of the paper are left white to leave space for these hands, and no ink will be printed on them.

When you send files to be printed by a professional printer, you definitely won’t receive these unfortunate white borders. That’s where crops and bleed come in. The extra “bleed” added to the sides of your artwork will help the professional print machine hands to easily grab and guide the paper without affecting your artwork.

crop marks example, what are crops and bleed

The printer will trim the extra bleed off (using the crop mark guides) when finished.

crops and bleed, trim the extra bleed off example

Alternatively, the printer may lay several artworks out on one large sheet (like 4 business cards on one A4 sheet, as below – this is called 4-up) and need the crop marks to see where to cut each one out. The bleed then ensures that there will be no slim white lines after trimming. The printer will be as precise as they can be, but trimming can sometimes vary a little from the crop marks. The bleed gives them extra artwork to work with to ensure your print materials looks professional.

4-up layout, crops and bleed on one a4 paper

How do I add Crops and Bleed?

Ideally you have a graphic designer on hand who does your artwork. They’ll be able to add crops and bleed according to your printer specifications.

If you don’t have a graphic designer, my recommendation is to provide your image or artwork to the printer with instructions on how you want it printed and cropped. They’ll do their best to accommodate your needs, but may charge a fee for adjusting your file for printing.

PRO TIP: Amount of bleed required can vary depending on the measurements of the printed piece. Here are some regular standards, but check with your printer on what they need:

  • Millimeters: bleed is 3mm
  • Inches: bleed is 0.125”


If you’re looking for instructions on adding Crops + Bleed to your artwork with an Adobe program, I recommend checking out Adobe’s detailed instructions here for Illustrator and here for InDesign.

Photoshop doesn’t have simple settings for crops and bleed, but you can accomplish it with a bit of planning, as per these instructions from

If you have any questions, you’re always welcome to contact me.

Need a Cheatsheet to reference what Crops + Bleed are?