We’re often asked about business card bleed, cut lines and safety lines, so here’s what each of them mean and how they’re used in the business card industry.
Bleed – The bleed is the area that all artwork must extend to in order to ensure there are no blank (or white) spaces left over after cutting the business card.
Cut Line – The cut line (aka trim line) is the line where the business card printer targets the cut.
Safety Line – The safety line is a margin inside from the cut line where all text must be contained.
Keep reading to find out why all 3 are so important to understand and use when printing business cards.
The bleed is the area that all artwork must extend to in order to ensure there are no blank (or white) spaces left over after cutting the business card.
In short, business card printers dont always cut the card to the edge of your artwork. Sometimes they cut slightly beyond the edge, and that creates unwanted white-space on some edges of your business card – not a good look.
Why is bleed important?
Imagine you’ve drawn a straight line down the middle of a piece of paper with your pen, and you cut along the line with scissors. Chances are that you wont be able to cut exactly on the line.
If you did, you would find half of the line on one piece of paper, and the other half on the other.
But, this just doesnt happen. The line is thin, your hands are shaky, and your paper isnt perfectly aligned. This results in slight variations when cutting. Meaning, you might accidentally cut into the bleed area.
Now, imagine if your artwork didnt extend to the bleed line, and instead there was nothing there. If your card wasnt cut perfectly straight, some edges of the card would expose white paper.
Business card printers dont always cut perfectly straight. This is why having a bleed area is so important if you have artwork that extends to the edge of the business card. That way, if the printer cuts the card slightly outside the desired cut line, you wont have ugly white spacing on the edges.
What is the standard bleed?
Although most printers have their own requirements when printing business cards, at the very minimum, you should have about 0.25 inches (6mm) of bleed in your business card design.
For a standard size business card which is 3.5 x 2 inches (or 88.9 x 50.8 millimeters), your whole card size, including the bleed area should be 3.75 x 2.25 inches (or 95.25 x 57.25 millimeters).
The cut line (aka trim line) is the line where the business card printer targets the cut.
Notice how I said “targets the cut“?
This is because the printer might not cut exactly on the cut line, but it will cut very close to it. This highlights the need for a bleed area and safety line in all business card designs.
What are crop marks?
Commercial printers will often use crop marks on the document to show where the cut will be made. The concept for cut lines, trim lines and crop marks is exactly the same. They all show where the business card will be cut.
The safety line is a margin inside from the cut line where all text must be contained.
If you place text outside of the safety line, you risk having the text trimmed off in the cutting process.
Why is the safety line important?
Imagine a printer cuts the business card slightly to the left, rather than exactly on the cut line. On the left hand side of the card, the cut will go into the bleed area. On the right hand side of the card, it will go into the safety area.
Another reason safety lines are important is that they make it more difficult to spot an off-center cut to a business card. For example, its easier to spot a cutting mistake on a business card if the text is closer to the edge, compared to if its spaced in a little bit.
What is the standard safety line margin?
If your finished business card size will be the standard 3.5 x 2 inches (or 88.9 x 50.8 millimeters), then you will want to use a safety zone of at least 3.25 x 1.75 inches (or 82.55 x 44.45 millimeters).
The safety zone is where all your business card text and images (excluding backgrounds that go to the bleed area) should be placed.