We occasionally see images coming off the digital printing presses with cropping problems. This is often because photographers are not aware of the different lines used by most software to help you crop your prints. The lines are called “safe”, “trim/crop” and “bleed.”
• Safe – blue or cyan, everything inside these lines will be printed.
• Trim/crop – magenta or red, an approximation of where the paper print will be cut
• Bleed – black or white, spillover of the background so there is color on all 4 print edges (full-bleed).
Why are these lines necessary?
Sheets of paper printed on modern digital presses (photo books, holiday cards, etc.) are pulled through the presses by friction rollers. These rollers grab the edge of each piece of paper to pull it through the machinery. To keep the rollers from gumming up with ink, the edges aren’t printed. This means that every full piece of paper that goes through the printer has a small amount of non-printed border on all four edges. To create a full-bleed print, we trim off the edges.
To account for edge trimming on your prints, here are 3 tips you should know:
Tip 1: Put everything important in your image inside the safe line.
Due to the mechanics of high-speed printing, the trim area – the area between the safe line and background edge – can vary in size by 1/32″ to 1/16″ on all four sides. This means that if you put your subject or text too close to the trim line, it MAY get trimmed off. That’s why we put a “safe line” on each print template. If you keep the subject inside the safe line, you’ll never have to worry about it being trimmed away. For example, the top image has text and the child’s hat outside the safe line. It MAY be trimmed. On the bottom image, because they are inside the safe line, the text and hat will NEVER be trimmed. This is a fact all digital press printers have to deal with. We have the best machines on the market, and edges still need to be trimmed.
Tip 2: Make sure your image covers the entire print area.
Since you know every image is trimmed, you might think it makes sense to crop your image so that it only goes up to the trim line (see the middle image). The problem is, you’re taking a chance that your final print may then have a white border on one or more edges. Since we know you don’t want white edges, we will either trim extra paper off the print (smaller print), or we will have to zoom your image in software to the bleed line and reprint it. Either way, you won’t get what you expected. If your images background covers the image on all 4 sides to the bleed line, you’ll never have to worry about white lines on your prints.
Tip 3: If your subject goes to the edge of the image, crop or add a border.
Some images have the subject against the border. In this case, you have 2 options: you can creatively crop your image, or you can use Photoshop to add a border to the outside of your image. You can create a border yourself, or purchase border graphics packages online. Make sure the subject and text on the image is inside the safe line while your new border fills the image out to the bleed line. Then the border will be trimmed instead of your subject.