Photoshop How-To: Adding Bleeds and Crop Marks


One question that I receive on a fairly regular basis, is how to add bleed to an image or project in Photoshop. Both Illustrator and InDesign provide the ability to create a file that contains bleed marks that serve as a reference for you when designing your project. Photoshop on the other hand, seems to be conspicuously missing this feature. Although Photoshop doesn’t have a specific bleed setting that can be applied to a document, it can still be accomplished with a little bit of forethought and pre-planning.

What is bleed?

Bleed is a requirement specific to print jobs. You’ll never hear someone in the web or video industry ask for a file that contains bleed. Whenever you have a project where the final printed appearance contains ink that goes to the edge of the paper, bleed is required. The reason is that printing presses (and even most digital printers) cannot print to the edge of a piece of paper. In the case of a printing press, it technically can print to the edge of the paper, but the results will be poor. Ink will build up and create a big ink splotch at the edge of the paper. To avoid this mess, the project must be printed on a larger piece of paper that includes bleed (image area extended past the trim edge) and then trimmed down to produce the final product.

If the project file doesn’t contain bleed, you run the risk of revealing a white sliver (blank paper) along the edge of the printed piece, which doesn’t look good at all. See the figure below for reference. I placed a black border around the project so you could see the white sliver.



Regardless of the application you use, one of the first things you need to determine is the finished size of the printed piece. Preferably you’ll do this at the very beginning of the project instead of at the end, because sometimes at the end of your project, you’ve already removed valuable image information that you would need to create the bleed. Standard bleed in the printing industry is 1/8″ but it’s a good idea to check with your printer to be sure. Some projects (like perfect bound books and banners) often require a larger bleed. When in doubt, ask!

Create the document

Begin by creating a new document in Photoshop to the trim size (final size) and resolution that you need. You can also begin with an existing project and implement the techniques that I describe here, but I find that it’s easiest to understand if you start with a new document.

Make sure that rulers are displayed by choosing View > Rulers, and also make sure that snapping is enabled by choosing View > Snap. Click on the ruler and drag a guide to the edge of the document. The guide should snap to the edge of the document automatically. Do this for all four sides of the document.


Create space for the bleed

Now increase the image size (document size) to the size of the project including the bleed. Using some basic math, you can determine that if your desired bleed amount is 1/8″ on all four sides, simply add 1/8″ to each dimension.

In this example, we’re working with a 6″ x 4″ document so we’ll add the 1/8″ amount to all four sides to come up with 4 1/4″ x 6 1/4″.

If your project requires more than 1/8″ bleed, simply add that amount. To achieve this, choose Image > Canvas Size and change to dimensions to the correct amount. Make sure that the anchor at the bottom of the dialog box is set to the center to force the document to add pixels from the middle out.

Another option is to choose the relative checkbox and enter the amount that you want to increase your document by. In this case, it’s 1/4″. Your canvas extension color can remain the background color unless you want the added amount to be a different color.


When you’re finished, you should end up with a document that is to the bleed size of your final project and guides indicating where the document will trim.


Building the project

Now that you have the foundation for the document created, simply build the document as desired using the guides as a reference point. Keep in mind that the final printed piece will be trimmed at the location of the guides in the Photoshop document. Anything that bleeds will need to extend past the guides (the trim edge) to the bleed edge.

Feel free to use layers, shapes, and anything else that you normally use to produce the final product in Photoshop. I find Smart Objects to be particularly useful as they retain the original size of the content so you can adjust things later on.


You can also make use of the new Artboards feature in Photoshop to make this process even easier but that’s for another post ;-)

What about trim marks?

The file that we’ve created so far is pretty much all the printer should need. However there might be times for one reason or another, that you’ll want trim marks that go along with the file that indicate exactly where the project should be trimmed.

Because of how we prepared the file, we’ll simply make the canvas size even larger to provide room for the marks. Choose Image > Canvas Size and enable the relative button. Enter 1″ in the Width and Height dimensions and click OK. This will expand the canvas by an additional 1″ in both dimensions. Create a new layer for your marks and create a selection in the corner areas of the image using the Rectangular Marquee tool. You can do all four corners at the same time.


With the selections active, choose Edit > Stroke and apply a 2px stroke to the active selections. Deselect the active selections and hide your guides to view the crop marks applied to the project.

In the figure below, I shortened the crop marks as my preference but you now have a project built in Photoshop that contains the correct amount of bleed and trim marks indicating where the final piece should be trimmed.


Chad Chelius is a trainer, author, consultant, and speaker residing in the Philadelphia area. He’s been using Adobe products for over 25 years and began his career in the design and publishing industry. As an Adobe Certified Instructor and a consultant, he teaches and advises on all Adobe print and web products, specializing in InDesign and InCopy workflows, Illustrator, and PDF accessibility using Adobe Acrobat. He works with clients both large and small, in and outside the United States, helping them to solve problems, work smarter, and more efficiently using Adobe products.
  • Terry Veiga says:

    Look out Extensis, I’m gonna beat you to the punch and develop a Photoshop plug-in that creates sophisticated printer’s marks on a layer….uh, as soon as I learn how to code.

  • anonymous says:

    So, what produces the crop and bleed marks? After the selection, I’m not sure if I use the same commands that I would use normally in the print with preview dialog.

  • Anonymous says:

    thanks, this helped me

  • Anonymous says:

    This is awful advice. For one, using inches instead of mm is archaic and error-prone. Secondly, Photoshop can handle crop marks itself without room for human error, which this guide almost encourages.

    • Chad Chelius says:

      Inches are simply the unit of measurement that is used here in the US. Not archaic at all and not error prone. Inches are just as accurate as mm. Not sure why you would say that. Photoshop can handle crop marks but they’re based on the document size and doesn’t account for the bleed.

    • Lucie says:

      You have guided me amazingly! I am total newbie in Photoshop and just sitting at printing place, where they only told me “add bleedmarks and trims” – and I have done all from scratch thanks to you… inches are not the problem people can google that or use their own brain” ;).

      Thanks a lot!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    I’m using a PC (ugh!!!) and don’t find the “print with preview” command under File. Any suggestions?

  • Anonymous says:

    thank you this helped me. i was at first confused on why to make the canvas 1/4″ larger to the width and height, but later realized this is because 1/8 is added to each side, which adds up to 1/4. seems obvious, but it really took me a few minutes of thought to get there… thanks again for the help.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanx mate… you helped me out!

  • Anonymous says:

    Very handy post, and just in time for a print job I’m delivering out of Photoshop tonight. Many thanks for sharing!

  • Anonymous says:

    great tutorial, very helpful, thanks so much!!

  • Anonymous says:

    This will not work as the cut marks should be outside but in line with the area to be cut, Easier just to put them in manually using the pencil tool

    • Chad Chelius says:

      As I indicated in the tutorial, these crop marks are exactly inline where the project should be trimmed (cut). Using the pencil tool would be a bit inaccurate but the method shown above is based on measurements and is quite precise.

  • Anonymous says:

    Just want to say thank you for the great advice which worked very well. Thanks for the explanation too.

  • Anonymous says:

    It led me to this web page. Can I say… the info on bleed and crop marks in photoshop really helped me out. Many thanks!
    Chris R.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanku!! So simple.

  • Meaghan says:

    DO NOT USE THE SECOND METHOD. The crop marks need to be OUTSIDE the bleed area, otherwise you will end up with black marks in the corners after trimming.
    I work at a printer and this is one of the most frustrating things someone can do. It would be much more preferable to send the file with bleed but NO crop marks than to do this.

    • Chad Chelius says:

      In the last paragraph, you’ll see that I shortened those crop marks exactly for this reason so that the crop marks don’t go into the bleed. This way, there’s no chance of having the trim mark in the final product.

      • Daniel Vojtisek says:

        The method described is very handy and accurate. I personally seldom use it because I´m preparing for print with InDesign or Illustrator but my friend greatly appreciated it when I had trained him this because he is staying with Photoshop saying “no capacity to learn more programs”.
        For Meaghan:
        If you put the crop marks on a blank layer right beneath the layer with your artwork/picture you don´t have to worry about crop marks going into the artwork.

  • ProfBill says:

    On a broader note, Photoshop should be a last and desperate resort when preparing files for printing. Whatever Adobe’s claims to the contrary may be, InDesign and Illustrator are much better suited for the production of press-ready files, and offer much better integration with the PDF engine. Thank me later…

    • BOB says:

      I agree with that, I see way too much crap from people who use photoshop as a page layout program.

      Another way to add trim marks (if you have indd) is to place you psd into indd and export a pdf with bleed & trim marks,

    • Chad Chelius says:

      I’d agree that most projects should be built in InDesign or Illustrator as it takes care of the crop and bleed marks automatically and it’s easier to build the project. That being said, there are some projects that are perfectly acceptable to build in Photoshop and often it’s a tool that people are familiar with. I wrote this post based on a common need that people have and a limitation of Photoshop as an application. Choose the tool that suits your needs and use them accordingly.

  • Andre Dumas says:

    To have trim marks printed as part of your image you need a bigger paper size (or a smaller image) so what I usually do, when I need trim marks, I print a single dot at each corner. The dot is made with four pixels and is centred both ways on the cut lines so after trimming I’m left with one pixel at the four corners of the image, a small disadvantage that doesn’t bother me for most of my work.
    Consider that when you trim on one side you are cutting off the trim lines for the other “sides”, not so with my Dot method.

  • Shohel Rana says:

    Wow! Helpful Photoshop tutorial. Thank you for sharing.

  • Chuck Dupre says:

    Also make sure to keep anything you don’t want trimmed at least 1/8″ away from the edge of the page.

    • Chad Chelius says:

      Yes, a very good suggestion. I refer to this as a “safe area” to account for variables in the printing process.

  • Guy Atkins says:

    This is a good tutorial and describes basically the same method I’ve used for years if I’m using Photoshop as the most appropriate tool for my project.

    Similar to crop marks are FOLD marks on greeting cards and such. Dashed lines outside of the trim area can be used to simply indicate the point for a fold.

  • Samuel orris says:

    I think The size of the bleed in photoshop you use depends on its purpose. A press bleed should be at least 18 points. If the bleed is to ensure that an image fits a key line, it needs to be no more than 2 or 3 points.
    Your print shop can advise you on the size of the bleed necessary for your particular job. Between, Thank you Chad for your information.

  • Chad Chelius says:

    You’re right Samuel, the required bleed for each project may vary depending on the project and the printing requirements. I used 1/8″ in this tutorial (18 pts), which is pretty standard in the printing industry. However, you can vary the bleed amount as needed and this tutorial should still be applicable. Glad you enjoyed the tutorial!

  • Ed says:

    I have a slightly different question. I typically use ID or Illustrator for most things but have started designing some business cards in PS.

    I can set up the file to include the bleed, not a problem.

    However, for some project, I want to export as a PDF and as a jpg. And, I want to export with and without the bleed areas.

    So, for example, a standard US business card (finished size) is 3.5″ x 2″. With bleed, the file would be set at 3.75″ x 2.25″.

    How can I “save as” a .jpg without having the bleed area included?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Chad Chelius says:

      Hi Ed,

      This is where Photoshop is probably not the ideal tool for the job because it has no understanding or definition of bleed within the file. That being said, you’re already using InDesign and Illustrator so you must already know the value of those programs and choose to use Photoshop for a specific reason which is fine. To achieve the result you’re looking for, I’d place the finished Photoshop into an InDesign document with the bleed defined in InDesign. This way, when you export, you can choose whether you want to include the bleed or not in the Marks and Bleeds section of the Export dialog box.

  • SHAH says:

    Working in a design and print roll, I am often plagued by badly supplied art… It is really surprising the amounts of jobs you get with no bleed or with every darn printer mark enabled…

    Something about printer marks, unless you are the printer leave printer marks off. You will find your printer has custom marks and templates for output.

    Unless your job is a complex print job, just add symmetrical bleed and send.

  • Nat says:

    Love the article. It’s so simply described!

  • Thank you so much for this delighted tutorial. In the beginning, most of the time I was using the same process for my project.

  • Leslie Ann says:

    This tutorial really helped. I’m trying to create a print so that it can be printed at a print shop or photo lab as a 4×6, so far so good (I’m guessing they print it on a larger size paper and cut?) Could you please tell me how you shortened your crop marks. I’m creating digital art to be either printed at home, a print shop or a photo lab. So I want to be sure I’m creating the right kind of marks.

    • Chad Chelius says:

      Hi Leslie Ann,

      Your requirements are going to be different depending on if you send your files to a print shop or a photo lab because they use different equipment to produce the end product. A photo lab typically doesn’t require any marks at all. Providing them the file at final size in RGB mode should be all that’s required. A print shop on the other hand, because they use a printing press (conventional and/or digital), will need crop marks and you’ll need to include bleed in the file.

      To make the crop marks shorter, select the layer that your crop marks are on. Type cmd/ctrl + A to create a selection around the entire document. Now, choose Select > Modify > Contract (enable the apply effect at canvas bounds checkbox) and enter the number of pixels by which you’d like to shrink the rectangle. This is determining the size of your crop marks. Once you’re happy with the size of the rectangular selection, choose Select > Inverse, then hit the delete key on your keyboard.

  • league says:

    Love the article.

  • Will says:

    When you select the stroke do you use inside or outside under location?

    • Chad Chelius says:

      It probably won’t make much of a difference but I opt to choose outside. I’d rather the mark be created away from the artwork as opposed to closer to it.

  • Naim Islam says:

    Great tutorial …. you share nice tips. It’s help me. Thanks for keep sharing with us.

  • Cedric says:

    Really like the article and nice tutorial!!

  • Dave says:

    This tutorial really helped me a lot. Thanks for sharing

  • Ian says:

    Thanks for this.

    I have a question, how can the printer respect the lines if you export the document say as a JPG?

    • Chad Chelius says:

      The format is irrelevant regarding the trim marks. When the file is output, the printer will have the marks that he can use to trim the final product.

  • ??? ??????? says:

    Thanks for posting this …
    that was quiet helpful

  • Photoshop editing tips and tricks are very liked to me and I want to be a good designer.
    Your creative idea and tips really helpful and I’m impressed with that. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Trang Le says:

    I’m confused. When creating space for the bleed, am I supposed to go to Image Size or Canvas Size

    • Chad Chelius says:

      In the instructions above, I used Image Size because we’re creating a file from scratch. To be honest in this case either image size or Canvas Size can be used. If you’re starting with an existing file and need to add bleed to it, you should use Canvas Size. If you click the “relative” checkbox, it’s a bit easier because you can just add a total fixed amount of space around your existing image.

  • SMS says:

    Thank you so much for the tutorial. :)

  • Mary Q says:

    Okay…I am a little slow understanding this. And I have a Border (a nice 1/4 cross stitched ribbon) around my whole page 24′ x 12″! I have a few bordered pages. So…I am thinking that I can add a 1/8′ border around the whole page (???) I could make it a subtle blurred color from the page. Would this work for the bleed cut?? I have called the printing place, but they are not understanding what I don’t understand! I only have Photoshop…Thank you

  • Little bit straggling first time, but now okay, thanks for sharing such as brilliant tutorial.

  • bobbi says:

    does this work in photoshop elements? I have art work that I need to submit to a printer with crop marks at 1/8 in.

  • ashiq Rahman says:

    Hi, Thanks for sharing such an informative blog. Learned a lot about bleed.

  • edit paths says:

    This is poor advice. For one, using inches instead of millimeters is archaic and error-prone. Secondly, Photoshop can handle crop marks itself without room for human error, which this guide almost encourages.

    • Chad Chelius says:

      This is such valuable feedback “edit paths”. Inches is a unit of measurement. Not error prone and just as accurate as millimeters, picas, agates, or points. So your’e wrong on that account. Also, Photoshop only recognizes the trim size of a document and doesn’t allow the user to define bleed like InDesign or Illustrator does. The method outlined in this article allows you to overcome that limitation. So you’re wrong on that account as well.

  • Tania says:

    Great tutorial! Adding bleeds and crop marks can be a tricky part of the design process, but your step-by-step instructions make it seem so easy. This is definitely a valuable resource for anyone who wants to ensure their designs are print-ready. Thank you for sharing!

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