Ever see those slick one-sheets that are covered with a photo that runs all the way to the edge of the paper? That’s because it was printed with a bleed. A bleed is done by overprinting and then trimming back. A good minimum bleed size is an eighth of an inch (.125 in).
How do you set it up?
Ideally, you should be setting up print jobs in InDesign, when you place objects, files and photos in your document you can let them fall outside of the working area of the document.
Don’t contract the bounding boxes of the images to fit the document, otherwise, you won’t have anything to “bleed” when you export. Once you have everything set up where you want and you are finished designing it’s time to export as a pdf. In the dialog boxes, you can set the size of the bleed and include bleed and trim marks. Bleed and trim marks show the printers where to cut to make the final trimmed piece.
Print jobs with bleeds cost significantly more because you are adding several steps to the printing process and printing on larger paper. If you are printing a standard letter size sheet with a bleed it is actually printing at 8.75 by 11.25 inches and getting cut down to the standard 8.5 by 11.
Something else to consider is the paper weight. Print jobs with bleeds usually cover most of the paper in ink. Paper weight is determined by how much 500 sheets of a type of paper weights. Standard bond paper, (the stuff the average office has in their copy machine) is 20lb paper. If you print a full page image or even a block of solid color over the whole sheet, you’ll notice some wrinkling. What is happening is the same thing that happens when paper gets wet, ink just wets the paper down too much.
If you are printing with a bleed I would recommend a paper that is around 60lb weight. Yes, it’s more expensive, but not as costly as running the whole job on cheap paper only to have the client not happy with the wrinkled up final product and eating some of the final cost for a reprint.