All files that have a bleed need all colors and images that bleed off the page to extend at least 1/8″ past where the intended edge should be. Let’s say you have a 3×5 card that has a bleed on all four sides. A file with the bleed extended will actually be at least 3.25×5.25 to include an extra 1/8 of an inch on all four sides. Not only that, but the background picture should be at least 3.25×5.25 with the intention that it will be trimmed down to 3×5.
A print job that has and printing extending to any edge of the final product has a bleed. It’s the difference between a full photograph from a developer or the white edges of a Polaroid. Most printing equipment can’t print all the way to the edge of a sheet of paper, so achieving a bleed on a print means printing a larger sheet of paper and then trimming down to the “intended edge”. For example, an 8.5×11 print with a bleed needs to be printed on a 9×12 sheet of paper and trimmed down to 8.5×11. Check out our page on Full-Bleed printing to learn more.