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What is the Difference Between Trim, Bleed and Safe Zones in Printed Adverts?

Understanding trim, bleed and safe zones

One of the keys to having your print adverts looking their best is to follow and understand advertising spec sheets supplied by publishers. Not preparing adverts correctly can result in information getting lost when the advert goes to print. Here, we explain the difference between the measurements and why they matter.


Follow the instructions closely regarding trim, safe area and bleed and you can be sure that your important information will be placed correctly within your printed advert. In practice, these dimensions compensate for variations in the trimming and binding of a publication—variations which can be small but highly critical. 



Trim size represents the final dimensions of your advert. For full page adverts, this is also the size of the publication. However, artwork and images must extend beyond the trim size (see bleed below) to avoid narrow areas of white at the edge of your advert. When adverts are prepared for print, small lines in the upper and lower corners called crop marks. These indicate where an advert is to be trimmed too.


Bleed is the portion of your design that extends past the trim size and is normally 3mm. Bleed is cut off when the publication is trimmed to the final size. Its only purpose is to make sure your design or reaches the edge without leaving white edges. 


Safe zone

This is an area inside the trim. A safe zone is a smaller dimension than your final advert size. This is where you should place your most important information within your design. Any content outside of this area is in risk of being cut off! Ok for an image but no so good for text! The safe area can also account for the gutter, or middle, of a publication,

Safe zone

The example above shows the safe zone (shown by the magenta rule), trim (shown by the black crop marks and blue rule), and bleed (shown by the red rule), which will be trimmed ie the finished paper size.

How big should the safe zone be?

We always recommend a 5mm safe zone as a minimum but this can differ depending on a number of factors. A full page advert appearing in a 112 page A4 magazine that is saddle stitched (stapled) allow a 5-6mm safe zone. If your advert is appearing in a 76 page A5 directory that is perfect bound (glued) we would suggest making the safe zone bigger, maybe 8 or even 10mm. In to this you also need to factor in the actual content of your advert, where the logo appears, the type of copy, the message and of course what the call to action is?


Trim, bleed and safe zones can be confusing and are frequently overlooked. It is critical that you get these specifications correct so your advert looks its best once printed.

For two decades Character Design has been designing adverts for businesses just like yours. If you need help and advice please get in touch on 01981 541154 or email

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