Creating a print document in Illustrator CS3


This document is written for Illustrator CS3. Read the Illustrator CS5 print document creation tutorial here.

Any printed work should be in CMYK mode, 300dpi resolution.

About bleed and the printing “safe zone”

Bleed ensures that the design will reach the edge of the paper (“medium”) when printed and cut down to size. A design with bleed is usually set up to be approximately 6mm larger than the final design in both dimensions. This gives 3mm on all sides, which will be removed after printing.

For example, A4 printers cannot print right to the edge of the paper, leaving a white border around the edge. If you want to have print all the way to the edge, you must print the document on larger paper (SRA3 – larger than A3), then cut it down to size. A4 = 210x297mm; A4 with bleed = 216x303mm.

Additionally, all important aspects of the design (text, logos, images) should be kept away from the edge of the document, to avoid them being cut off. A further margin of 5mm should be enough to keep them in the printing “safe zone”.

1. Set up “bleed” on the document

Create a new illustrator document: for print (CMYK, 300dpi), with bleed (+6mm to each dimension)

Create a new document with bleed

2. Turn on rulers (ctrl+R)

3. Ensure that mm is the measurement unit

4. Ensure that guides are unlocked

Either use View>Guides>Unlock Guides, or ctrl+alt/cmd+;

5. Drag the guides into position

Click and drag either ruler to create a horizontal or vertical guide. Position four guides, each 3mm from an edge of the document.

position guides 3mm from the edges of the document

This shows the final size of the document after trimming.

Create guides 3mm in from the edge of the document

6. Create guides again

…this time a further 5mm in from the previous guides, to form the printing “safe zone”.

Create guides a further 5mm in from the bleed guides, forming your printing “safe zone”

Keep an eye on the guides when designing your document

7. If you like, you can lock the guides in place now

Use View>Guides>Lock Guides, or ctrl+alt/cmd+;

Lock guides in place

8. Create your document within the “safe zone”

Then you’re done! Ensuring that you create your work in this way will speed up the whole process of design to print, not to mention making it cheaper due to the reduced work required at the printing end; your printers will thank you for it. Good luck!

Other Illustrator tips.

Draw or resize shapes and selections from the centre in Illustrator

Apply a gradient fill across multiple objects in Illustrator

Maintain or scale stroke width while resizing in Illustrator

Creating and exporting a print document in Illustrator CS5

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