Did you say Cutting Full Bleed?

When doing your own invitations, it helps to understand a little about design and print.  A lot of times you'll be asked questions you won't know how to answer, or hear terms that aren't quite clear to you.  Having a base of knowledge will help you start designing, have something designed, and definitely be useful when you have something printed.  With just a few minutes of time, you'll be that much more prepared to have a smooth printing experience, and end up with just what you want.

I have chosen what I think is the most important and most useful information. This glossary is not alphabetical. Instead it is divided and sorted by subject.  Sometimes the terms used to explain the terms are defined next and so on.

The first thing to know is Copyright.

Copyright: A group of legal rights granted to the author or creator of written or visual work. All work appearing with the © symbol or the word "copyright" is protected by its creator or his heirs.  Copyright ownership belongs to publishers, photographers, artists and more.  It lasts something like 90 after the death of the artist.  Copyright should not be taken lightly.  If you wish to use a copyrighted photograph or trademark, you must first obtain permission from the copyright owner. 

Basic Information: About the Page

Landscape: Page layout in which the width is greater than the height.

Portrait: Page layout in which the height is greater than the width.

Page Sizes (Cut sizes): Standard page sizes when printing digitally are:
Letter: 8.5 x 11, Legal: 8.5 x 14 and Ledger(or Tabloid): 11 x 17.

Multiple-up: 2 up, 4 up, 6 up. This indicates how many pieces can be printed on page. For instance, a 4.25 x 5.5 postcard will fit 4 up on a letter size sheet. A full bleed version of the same size will 2 up. This is because when you factor in the bleed, the printed image is bigger than 4.25 x 5.5.

Cutting: Printing happens on standard page sizes and are then down to the final, or trim, size of the piece.  Both the page size and the trim size determine how many cuts are necessary, and so are a factor in economy.  Full bleed requires more cuts.  While a stack of paper is cut at one time, the number of cuts per stack will be determined by page size, trim size, and bleed.

Trim Size: The final size of the piece you want to end up with. Standard trim sizes from a letter size page are 5.5" x 8.5" and 4.25" x 5.5". These sizes are a no bleed size, because all machines print with an approximate 1/4" border. For a full bleed piece with these sizes, you need to reduce the number of pieces you print per piece, or make the trim size smaller.

Margins: The blank border around the edge of an printed image. Printers generally do not print to the edge of a sheet, so you need to set your piece up with at least 1/4" margin so nothing gets cut off, or set it up with a bleed.
Note: Usually, printing with a margin is less expensive that printing with a bleed, since you can often fit more up on a page and there are fewer cuts necessary. In many cases, creating a design which utilizes the paper color as part of the design will yield as good, or better quality, than printing a full bleed piece. In my experience, when printing with a fully printed background on an inkjet or digital copier, you have a greater chance of banding, especially with darker colors like navy or black. Using a photo printer avoids this problem.

Full Bleed: When the printed image or color goes to the edge of the page.

Bleed: The part of the image that runs past the edge of the piece. Files to be printed with a bleed need to be between 1/8" and 1/4" larger than the final trim size, and the full bleed image runs into that space. That way, when the piece is cut you are cutting into the color instead of trying to cut right along the edge. This avoids a slight white (or paper colored) edge.

Shifting: Whenever you print, on a home printer or on a commercial printer or copier, a slight shifting occurs. This means two things: 1) Front and back images will never line up perfectly every time. 2) The images won't be on exactly the same place from page to page. That means when you cut down your piece to bleed, there must be a bleed to cut into and any text or image that you don't want cut needs to be at least 1/4" from the edge. This way, nothing gets cut, and everything looks spaced correctly, even if it's minutely off.

Color & Quality

DPI: (dots per inch) the number of dots that fit horizontally and vertically into a one- inch square space.  Generally, the more dots per inch, the more detail is captured, and the sharper the resulting image.
Note: When designing or scanning for print, you want a minimum of 300 dpi.  72 dpi is a standard online dpi.  Monitors have a resolution of 72 dpi, so things that look clear online or on your monitor will print blurry.  Something with a high resolution can be made smaller, for instance to load more quickly online.   However, not much can be done to a file that starts out with a low resolution.  It will need to be recreated or re-scanned.

Color Calibration: This is more of an explanation than a definition, but maybe the most important one.  Every monitor, printer, and copier has its own calibration.  In simple terms, this means that each computer and printer interprets and shows colors differently.  When it comes to printing, paper type and humidity levels also play a factor.  What this means to you is this:  what you see isn't always what you'll get, so proofing is very important.  Your colors will always be some version of themselves, but might not match what you see on your screen.  You need to choose your printing method and then print a proof when it's possible.  If you upload to an online website, you probably won't get to see a proof.  But if you are printing at home or somewhere local definitely have one printed; in fact your should be offered one first thing, and your answer should always be yes.  And have arranged with your designer to make a color adjustment if necessary.

Above all, remember: printing is not a science.  It's a bit of an art, and as such things might not come out exactly as you are expecting the first time.  Give yourself time, be patient and flexible, and ask for advice from those who can help you.  Once you make it to the printer, not much can be done in terms of color correction.  The file can usually be lightened or darkened, so ask and you can compare prints.  If you need actual color changes, contact your designer. 

CMYK: Abreviation for the four process color inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

Process Color: A method of printing that uses dots of magenta (red), cyan (blue), yellow, and black to simulate the continuous tones and variety of colors in a color image.  Most copiers and ink jet printers use a CMYK color process with toner and a fuser (which is a heat process that adheres the toner to the page).

Digital Printing: A type of printing which uses digital imaging process that transfers the image directly onto plain paper immediately, without traditional offset rollers and plates.

Offset: An indirect printing process.  Ink is transferred to paper from a blanket that carries an impression from the printing plate, rather than directly from the printing plate itself.  This tends to more expensive and have minimum quantities for printing runs because plates have to be made.  Offset printing allows you to be more exact with color matching, print on darker paper stocks by using opaque inks, or using metallic colors like silver or gold inks.  Be prepared to pay for these things.

Ink Jet Printing: Method of printing by spraying droplets of ink through nozzles.  The ink saturates into the paper.  Most home printers are ink jet printers.  Ink jet paper often has a coating to help the ink adhere to it. 


Serif: The curls and points that appear as outward extensions of the bottoms and tops of letters on some type faces. Times Roman is a well known serif type font.

Sans Serif: A type face that has no tails or curled points (serifs) at the ends, like Arial or Helvetica.

Script: A type face that mimics the appearance of hand written text.