How to add bleed to a Photoshop file

Have you ever created a file in Photoshop and realized you need to add bleed around it? While page layout programs like InDesign are built to handle bleeds relatively easily, Photoshop, by comparison, is much more time-consuming.

If you’re like me, you used to add bleed by starting with a desired document size. Then you’d have to calculate bleed around the edges, add it to the document size, and create a new Photoshop file. Then you’d carefully draw guides 1/8″ or .125″ (or 9 pts if you’re using picas) all the way around the document. Guides are important. We want those. But for those creating a document on the fly, this may be a little more time-consuming than we’d like.

The solution

Create a document at the desired size. For example, 8.5 x 11 inches. Draw 4 new guides by dragging 2 down from the ruler on top, and 2 across from the ruler on the left – and have them snap to the very edge of the document, all the way around.

Photoshop guides

Then go to Image -> Canvas Size, and add .25 inches to the width and height of your canvas. IMPORTANT: Make sure the anchor is set to “Centered”. In our case, the dialog box will look like this:

Canvas Size

Then simple click “OK” and your document will be perfectly sized with the bleed added! The guides stay in the place that you drew them (marking the document’s edge), but the size of the document is now larger to account for the bleed. This is especially useful when I’m placing a Photoshop file into InDesign at 100%.

Final document with bleed added:

Bleed added

15 Responses to “How to add bleed to a Photoshop file”

  1. Thank you so much for this! It worked perfectly for me tonight and was so easy to do!

    Reply
  2. I have finished designing a flyer in photoshop but I don’t know how to add a bleed. I am wondering whether I can do it after

    Reply
  3. Eileen

    The first time I used this method, it worked perfectly without a hitch. I’m trying to do it again on a similar file and the bleed keeps coming out white or gray. What have I missed?

    Reply
  4. Eileen, your background color is probably set to gray. At the bottom of your toolbar (usually on the left) are two color boxes–one overlapping the other. This is where you set your foreground and background color. Make sure the background color is set to white before you do the steps to add bleed, and it should work.

    Reply
  5. Eileen

    Mark, Yes I had it set to gray and I changed it to white. Now the bleed is coming out white all around except for the bottom which is a different color stripe. The file is a 1″ X 2.66″ label for a dropper bottle. The background color is blue and the stripe at the bottom is green. The bleed showing at the bottom is orange (the color under the green)but only the width of the original file, not into the bleed at the sides. The blue doesn’t bleed at all. so…3 -sided white bleed, bottom orange!!

    Reply
  6. will this method create a 3 mm bleed around the image or do I need to recalculate for a 3 mm bleed? Thanks so much for the useful tutorial.

    Reply
    • Yes, Teddi. You would have to recalculate. So a 3mm bleed would mean you need to add 6mm to the height and width of your document.

      Reply
  7. Does this mean i have to cut the paper?? im new and designing something for a client they specifically asked for 4 3/4 x 9 3/4… so the file is now 5x 10,,,, do i have to change the file size and let them know? what should I do or do i tell them to cut off the quarter?

    Reply
  8. I’ve been doing this for years, very helpful when needing to design straight from Photoshop to the Printing Company.

    #8 Hi – you should advise the clients that the file has a standard 1/8″ bleed. If they only need it for the purposes of proofing, add corner brackets to each 4 corner to indicate where the cuts start.

    Bleed is only required when sending artwork to a print shop for professional printing that you want images/colors to print directly to the edge. Most printer, even professional ones, can’t print to the edge so you provide a bleed on all sides to allow for the graphic to always appear to be printed to the edge once they’ve cut it to the final size.

    #8, if you are giving the graphic to a customer as a stand alone use or for their own use elsewhere, a bleed isn’t required.

    Reply
  9. Andrés

    You can add a new guide with percentages… under view, “new guide…”, a dialogue box will open up, and you can enter a 2% and get a vertical new guide, then do it again, vertically but instead enter 98%, then do the same for the horizontal guides…

    Reply

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