Dealing with BLEED!

  • Hey guys! With this month's prompt being a book cover, I know that it might be a lot of people's first time working with bleed and I wanted to offer some helpful tips based on some things I've noticed happening around the forums this month.

    Something I'm seeing a lot of (and I'm by no means not guilty! I noticed this happening in my thumbs and that's what inspired this post!) in people's thumbs and comps is text or foreground elements bumping right up against where the bleed lines would be.

    It's super important to remember that bleed is going to be CUT OFF! I think a lot of people understand that on a logical level, but it really takes going in and "cutting off" your bleed to see what's going on - it's really unintuitive because you're looking at your entire image and it seems balanced!

    Here's the first try at one of my own covers for a personal project (I've done some others but have any I can share right now either due to NDA or having my working files on a separate drive)

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    At first glance it's okay! Nothing's bumping into each other or fighting each other, nothing important is being cut off, etc. But everything is balanced to the edge of the canvas, not the edge of what's actually going to be published. Here's what happens when you cut off the bleed:

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    YIKES! You can definitely tell I wasn't thinking! The top text has no space to breathe, the subtitle is about to fall off the cover entirely, and, perhaps the sneakiest part, the DD on my title is about to get lost in the spine (if you look at a book, even a simple stapled book, there's usually some curve at the spine). LUCKILY it's just text and I can just move it around, but I've had this happen with the artwork as well because I wasn't thinking things all the way though. Here's what happens when you fix it!

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    It almost looks like there's TOO MUCH negative space now, especially since this cover is all white (this was especially noticeable in my back cover, I'll see if I can find that file!) But when you "cut off" the bleed?

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    MUCH BETTER! I do covers in InDesign which has a handy toggle for "bleed" mode and "preview" mode exactly for this purpose so you can flip it back and forth. For thumbnailing/comps, I'll usually go in and make a layer mask in Procreate or Photoshop that takes away the "extra" bits of my image so I can double check the comp as I go. If I'm working traditionally, I'll 100% go in and do my drawing digitally so that I can double check and then transfer it to my watercolor paper later. It really, really sucks to have an important part of your piece fighting with an edge because you forgot about bleed and it can be a hard mistake to recover from after a certain point, so I've become very careful of remembering it and incorporating it into my process!

    I really hoped this helped someone/ I wasn't out of place to write up a mini-lesson! It's not something that's super intuitive unless you've actually done something for print before and I had a hard time finding good info on it when I was starting out, and it's something I still have to remind myself of even though I've been designing for print for years! Let me know if y'all have questions about it!

  • Thank you! This is very useful.

  • If a designer is going to designing for bleed they also need to be designing for gutter or clear space. That's rarely mentioned in any specs. If you have a 1/8" bleed, you also need a 1/8" inside gutter to keep clear of any import information/text/etc. more is better in this case.

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