Bleeds, margins, creeps and gutters… Oh, my!

Your guide to bleeds, margins, creeps, and gutters.

Ann Turbeville
May 20, 2024

What’s my printer talking about and what do I need to know?

Creep isn’t the guy down the street and gutter isn’t that aluminum thing attached to your roof. We’re talking about four words commonly used in the print industry. These terms refer to different elements of the setup of print files. After reading this article, you can “wow” your print provider by talking like a pro.

Margin and Bleed


Bleed is a term that refers to printing that extends beyond the trim edge of the project, so the edge can be trimmed and no unprinted area remains.  A full bleed describes when a project has been designed with an image or images that touches the cut edge on all four sides.

For example, if you are designing a postcard with an image you want to cover the entire background, you would need the image to extend beyond the edge of your design by .125 inches (typical bleed size). Printers usually ask for .125 inch bleeds to allow leeway for cutting, but technically any amount of space beyond the cutline is considered a bleed.


The margin is the space between the main content and the edge of the printed page or next page. There is no typical margin size, they can vary greatly depending on the project. It is important to keep the margin in mind while designing, especially if your project is going to be bound. Depending on your binding choice your inner margins may vary. Your print consultant can walk you through this.



When your project goes to press, usually multiple copies of your layout (i.e. postcards, flyers, pages of a booklet, etc.) will fit on the much larger single sheet of paper your printer uses, known as a press sheet. Gutter is the term that refers to the spacing between the copies on the press sheet, which is important to allow for bleeds and trimming.

For example, if you are printing a postcard, multiple copies of the postcard will fit on a single press sheet. The gutter is the space between each copy of your postcard on the press sheet. Gutters are setup during the prepress phase of the printing process and something your printer will handle once your design files are handed off.

*Note: In desktop publishing layout, a gutter also refers to the space between two facing pages (also known as a two-page spread).



When creating a booklet, creep occurs when the paper is folded and the mass of the paper causes the inner sheets to creep out further than the outer sheets. Booklets are frequently trimmed to clean up this appearance. However, the inside pages that get trimmed require adjustment to account for the creep. If you are sending a document to a commercial printer, they will adjust for creep.

Now that you can speak the lingo, stay up-to-date on ink and innovation!


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