Document Design Printing Knowledge
Document Design

Size | Margins | Bleeds | Color | Master Pages | Style Sheets


Begin by setting up your document with dimensions for the trim size and not the bleed size or live copy size. This allows the crop marks to be correct when it is output. You can still add bleed to the image by extending the photo or background outside of the document. Make sure you advise the printer if it bleeds, because it may need to be printed on a larger sheet of paper. If it is a folded piece, such as a three-panel brochure, set the page size to be the trim size. Add guidelines to show where the brochure will fold so you can adjust the copy to fit correctly.

It is also a good idea to determine if you need to layout the document with facing pages and if they should be in printer's spreads or reader's spreads. Spreads refer to two pages facing each other with a common gutter. Reader's spreads are set up the way that you would read a book: pages 2 and 3 would be a spread; 4 and 5, etc. Printers spreads are organized for printing signatures. For example, if you have a 8 page booklet, page 8 and 1 would be a spread; 2 and 7; 6 and 3; and 4 and 5 likewise, are spreads. See the Imposition section for more details.

Note: The even numbered pages are always on the left-hand side.

If you have items on the page that you want to extend into the next page, it is called a "crossover". You should be very careful when working with a crossover since problems can occur. If facing pages are printed on different sheets, it may be difficult to keep the color consistent between the pages when printed at a press. The color of a large image that covers both left and right facing pages may look inconsistent from the left page to the right page instead of appearing like a continuous image from left to right. The narrow rules that extend across two pages can be misaligned. Certain types of bindings can make alignment more difficult and part of the image can be lost in the binding. The only time that a crossover does not present a problem occurs with the center spread, where the entire sheet is printed as one piece instead of being joined together across two pages printed separately.


Pages 2 and 3 readers spread

Pages 6 and 7 readers spread

Pages 2 and 7 printers spread

Pages 6 and 3 printers spread

Pages 6 and 7 readers spread
The illustration above shows what can happen if a crossover is not printed on the center spread.



When setting margins, consider the following factors:

  • Set the margins to the live copy area.
  • Adjust for the left and right pages if your outside margin should be wider than the gutter.
  • Allow for the gripper margin (space at the edge of the sheet where it is "gripped" and pulled through the press). The gripper area is not printable and the size varies for different presses.
  • If you are setting up a 3 panel brochure that folds, you need to allow for overlap. For example, if you have and 8-1/2" x 11" sheet folding into 3 panels, the panels need to be 3-11/16", 3-11/16" and 3-5/8". The 3-5/8" panel would fold inside the other panels.


Bleeds refer to printed colors that extend past the edge of a page. To accommodate a bleed, the printer must print the bleed area larger than the final trim size. The printed image extending beyond the bleed area is then trimmed off so that the printed area extends to the edge of the sheet. Bleeds require more paper and production time, thus, printers charge extra for this service.


If spot colors are used in your project, specify the appropriate PMS colors in your color palette or selection. Different programs name PMS colors a little differently so, for example, if you create a document with a PMS color in Illustrator and bring it into Quark, you could end up with 2 different swatches for the same color, which would produce two separate printing plates instead of the one plate that was intended for the spot color. 

The Pantone Matching System includes swatches for hundreds of spot colors, process colors, fluorescent colors, and simulated metallic colors. A Pantone Swatch book may include the same colors printed on coated and uncoated papers which allows you to see the change in the color from coated to uncoated stock. You can see which palette of colors you have by bringing up the "Print" menu and selecting "Separations." The colors will be listed in order. 

  • Remember to delete the colors you are not using from the color palette.
  • The color titled "Registration" is NOT a true color or plate. It is seldom used, but it is available if an item such as a crop mark is printed on all the plates.
  • If you try to simulate a PMS color using process colors, the color will be close, but not exact.
  • To create a "Rich Black", create a new color swatch and set the values to 40% cyan, 30% magenta, 30% yellow and 100% black.

Master Pages

A master page is a nonprinted page used to automatically format the document pages that contain master items like headers, footers, page numbers, repeating logos, and other elements. Using master pages can minimize the time you spend keeping your design consistent over many pages. If you need to reposition an item, it is only necessary to reposition it once on the master page. You can set up a different master page for each different type of page layout in the document, such as right and left pages or pages with designs and images.

Style Sheets/Character and Paragraph Styles

An easy way to maintain a consistent look and to save time is to set up style sheets or character and paragraph styles, depending on which software program you are using. It takes more time to set the styles up, but overall it saves time because you can select the set style for every page you create rather than having to format each page individually. You can set the font, style, size, leading, formatting, etc. for each type of text you are using.


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