How To Add A Bleed To Your Custom Sticker or Label in Adobe Illustrator

Learn how to add bleed to your custom sticker or label design in Adobe Illustrator for print. This will help ensure your design prints correctly without any white space around the edges.

Adding a bleed to a standard shape is rather easy, but it can get a little more difficult if you are working with die cut shapes.

You can watch the tutorial below or read on for step-by-step instructions.

What is a bleed?

A bleed is the area beyond your cutline. We extend your design past your cutline to ensure it prints right up to the edge of your stickers or labels and will not leave any unwanted white borders when cutting. 

Think back to when you were a child or think of your kids, nieces or nephews. 

When they colour in a flower they want to cut out later, they might colour outside the lines to ensure there won’t be any white lines or gaps once they cut out their little masterpiece. 

That is precisely what a bleed does. You can see that in the image below. The magenta line indicated the cutline (it will not be printed). We then extend the colour of your design beyond that cutline to ensure a beautiful and even finish post-cutting. 

Custom VW design with a rectangle cutline and an added bleed

How to create a cutline for a custom-shaped design

Before you can add a bleed, you need to create a cutline for your design. 

  1. Start by creating the basic shapes for your cutline, e.g. a rectangle. 
  2. Then trace the outlines of your custom shape.
  3. Unite the two into a single shape. 
  4. Use the offset path tool to create your outline. 
  5. Smooth it

We also have detailed step-by-step instructions and a video on how to add a custom cutline.

How to add a bleed to your custom design 

Now that you have your cutline, it is super easy to add a bleed. 

  1. Select: “Object” > “Path” > “Offset Path”.

  2. Set the Offset to 2mm to create an outline beyond your cutline.

  3. Mask your shape to the bleed line by selecting both and clicking “Object” > “Clipping Mask” > “Make”

Export your artwork 

Now it is time to export your artwork as a PDF. 

Go to “File” > “Save as” and select “pdf” from the dropdown

You do not need to add trim marks or other marks because you have already created a bleed and cutline. 

How to add a bleed to a rectangular design

Adding a bleed to a rectangular design is very simple. 

When you create a new document, set it to your desired size and add a 2mm bleed.

This will create a red line outside of the artboard. 

Here, you need to add trim lines when saving your design.

  1. Select “File” > “Save as” > Choose “pdf” 
  2. Then go to “Marks and Bleeds” > tick “Trim Marks”

Screenshot of adobe illustrator adding trim marks

How to add a cutline to a rectangular design

Instead, you can also add a cutline to your rectangular design.

Add a rectangle, put it on a new layer and name that layer “ThruCut” or “KissCut”, depending on the type of cut you want. 

Then, save it as a PDF without adding trim marks because the cutline will be on the exported design. 

I can’t add a bleed, what now?

Do not worry, if you cannot add a bleed, we will do that for you. Simply upload your design to our website, and we’ll take care of everything. 

We will then send you a digital design proof that shows your bleed and cutline. You can either accept that immediately or ask for changes to be made to your design for free! 

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