What Does Crop Marks and Bleed Mean on Canva? For Beginners

what does crop marks and bleed mean on canva

Are you confused? In this post, I’ll explain what crop marks and bleed mean in Canva, and why they are essential for printing your designs.

Crop marks are lines that indicate where the document should be trimmed, while bleed refers to the extra space added around the edge of a design to ensure that there is no white space when it is printed and trimmed.

Whether printing your design at home, in the office or using commercial printers, understanding crop marks and bleed will ensure that your design looks exactly how you intended it to be. 

So, let’s dive in and learn how to prepare your design for printing using Canva.

(I get commissions for purchases made through affiliate links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)

Canva provides options to add crop marks and bleed to your designs. By turning on the margins, bleed, rulers, and crop marks in the design process, you can ensure that everything prints as expected.

When designing a document in Canva for print, it is important to design it with print bleed incorporated and download it with the crop marks added. This ensures that the document is printed properly. It’ll save you and your printer time.

What Are Crop Marks and Why Do You Need Them?

Crop marks (trim lines) are little lines placed at the corners of a design to indicate where the print shop should trim the paper.

The trim marks are essential because they act as guides for the printer to know exactly where to cut the paper after printing. The printer will typically print on a larger sheet of paper than the final image size, and the crop marks indicate where to trim the excess paper to achieve the desired image size. 

Crop marks serve as a reference for the printer to cut precisely, and the lines and paper outside the crop marks will be trimmed off, leaving behind the final printed image.

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What Does Bleed Mean in Printing and Why is it Important?

The bleed, in printing terms, is the area outside the design that extends beyond the edge of the image dimensions. The bleed area is added to mitigate errors in the trimming process, it creates a buffer zone, where the printing company can safely cut the paper without cutting off vital elements within the design.

Without adding the bleed line there’s a chance that your image will get printed with a white border.

Believe it or not, trimming a pile of prints is not 100% accurate. Industrial guillotines (paper cutters) cut inaccurately for a variety of reasons, much of it is to do with settings and maintenance, even so, you can expect a slight movement in the cutting process.

Common issues revolve around dull blades, blade alignment, and clamp pressure. In short, you must have a margin of error built in.

One way to play safe is to have an image with a white background printed on white paper. Likewise, extend any plain background color to the edges of the document. This eliminates the bleed problem.     

The sizes of the margin, bleed, and crop marks in Canva are fixed and measured based on Canva’s print specifications. It ensures that their designs are optimized for printing.

Missing bleed and crop marks are likely to be rejected by your printer. If your PDF is a full-page design then you need “bleed”. Your image must be slightly larger so that when it’s trimmed to the printer’s marks, it’s cropped seamlessly.

By using Canva bleed and crop marks, you can create a professional-looking design that is perfectly aligned and safe to print or submit to your printer. You’ll save yourself time and a headache.

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How to Add Margin Guidelines and Why You Need Them.

The first thing to do is add the margin frame. It’s a faint dotted line, centered within your design. The margins are the safe zone where critical images and text should lie. The key elements of your Canva design must fit within these safety lines.

Follow these instructions to add margin lines:

  • Starting on the Home page, create or open an existing design, or as in my case, click on a template. I have chosen a book cover to use as an example. Your document will open on the page editor.
  • Tap on “File”, you’ll see it on the top left-hand side of the menu bar. This opens a dropdown menu. Scan down and look for the cog icon where it says “View Settings”. There is an arrow. Click it.
  • Another box opens where you’ll see “Show margins”. Click on the tab to activate it and the dotted line will appear around your design.
  • Adjust the most important design elements that appear beyond the margins, this is particularly important for text.

This safety line appears only on your screen to guide you. Don’t worry it won’t be printed.

How to add margins and bleed lines in Canva
Rulers, Margins, and Bleed, are all found in “View Settings”

How to Add the Bleed Lines

Repeat the first part of the process as before.

Follow these instructions to add bleed lines:

  • Go back to the top menu and select “File”.
  • In the dropdown menu select the “View Settings” tab again, but this time select “Show Print Bleed”.
  • This adds a cutting margin to the edges of your design. The trim line is a 1/8th of an inch extension of your image. The colors, elements, and photographs, should extend to the edge of your document. Remember a trim line cannot be moved.
  • If there are white gaps around the edge of the design, resize the file or stretch your background to cover them.
  • When you’re ready, select the share button at the top right-hand side of your screen to open the new menu. It’s called “Share This Design”
  • Click the download button near the bottom and it opens another selection of file types, accessible from a dropdown menu.
  • Canva will probably show the suggested PDF Standard file type as a default setting.
  • Click on the downward-facing arrow and select PDF Print.
  • Beneath the File type selection menu, you’ll see “Crop marks and bleed”. Check the box.
  • Below that, you’ll see the “Color Profile” selection. Open the dropdown.
  • You have two choices RGB and CMYK. You require CMYK for printing but it’s only available with Canva Pro.

Canva doesn’t warn you in their explainer video. It needs updating. There had to be a catch, right?

What do you do? You have two choices, you can either pay for a one-month subscription and cancel it before renewal, or you can find an online file converter and set the bleed marks yourself.

With your PDF Print option restricted, you might think to download the PDF standard file type and use a free online converter to change the color profile from RGB to CYMK. Unfortunately, Canva is one step ahead, they restrict their PDF Standard to 96 DPI which is unsuitable for printing. Jpg is a compressed or “Lossy” file type, so that’s no good either.

All you can do is save your Canva design as a PNG lossless file, convert it to a TIFF file for printing purposes, and convert the color profile from RGB to CMYK. You can do it with free online tools or with Adobe Indesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop if you have a subscription.

I use Zamzar for the occasional file conversion and Ive just had a look through the free color converters and Image Convert is simple.

To be frank, I would just pay up and use every Canva paid feature for one month, and have done with it.

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Or just crack on…

How to Use the Rulers and Guides

Turning on the “Rulers and Guides” setting can help you to place the elements in your design correctly and in theory, help you to add the trim lines yourself.

If you are determined to add your own cutting lines, the standard bleed measurement in the printing industry is 0.125 inches (1/8th”) on each side (source). The bleed area for prints larger than 18″ x 24″ is 0.5 inches. Enlarge your design with these amounts. If you’re printing your design to a standard 9″ x 12″ size, your image should extend to 9.125″ x 12.125″. Add another small margin for printing the cut lines. The width is unimportant.

To use the Ruler settings go back and select “View Settings”

  • Select “Show Rulers and Guides”
  • The guides appear at the top and side of your design. The dimensions are in pixels
  • To add a visible line, click and drag your cursor from the edge of the editor and drag it across the design. Place it in the desired position.

Making a custom size print with bleed lines is very easy with a photo editor such as Adobe Photoshop but a pain to do without Canva Pro. I’ve tried it and it’s not worth the time and effort.

how to use rulers and guides in canva
Rulers and Guides in Canva

Some common acronyms and terms you may come across in the context of printing with Canva:

  • Bleed – An area outside of the page’s final trim size that extends the artwork to ensure there are no white edges when the paper is cut. (source)
  • CMYK – The abbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black), which are the four colors used in the printing process. (source)
  • Crop marks – Also referred to as trim marks or printer’s marks are lines or marks on a printed piece that indicate where it should be trimmed or cut to its final size. (source)
  • DPI – Dots per inch refers to the resolution of an image or printed material. Higher DPI results in higher quality but also larger file sizes. (source)
  • File Type – A term used to describe the format of a digital file. Different file types are used for different types of digital media and identified by their file extensions, which are typically three or four letters following a period in the file name. Examples include .jpg, .docx, or .mp4. (source)
  • Giclee – A high-quality, inkjet printing process used to produce fine art prints on paper or canvas. Giclee prints are created using high-resolution digital scans and printed using specialized printers (home or commercial). Giclee prints use archival-quality pigment inks and are sold at premium prices. (source)
  • Margin – The blank space around the edge of a printed or digital image. Margins are typically used to frame the content of the document or image and provide a visual buffer between the content and the edge of the page. (source)
  • Offset Lithography – A high-volume printing process that uses metal plates and ink to print an image onto paper or other substrates. Full-color prints require 4 separate inks (CMYK), each applied on 4 separate plates. The image is laser or photographically etched onto the metal plates, which are then used to transfer (offset) the image onto a rubber blanket or roller and then onto the final printing surface. Its use for fine art reproductions has declined. (source)
  • PPI – Pixels per inch, a measurement of the resolution of a digital image. The higher the PPI, the sharper and more detailed the image will appear. This term is often used when preparing digital images for print, as the PPI of an image needs to be at least 300 in order to achieve high-quality print results. (source)
  • RGB – The abbreviation for Red, Green, and Blue, which are the primary colors used in electronic displays such as computer monitors and digital screens. (source)
  • Trim Size – The final size of a printed piece after it has been trimmed to remove the excess paper from the edges. (source)
  • Rulers and Guides – A tool commonly used by graphic and web designers to measure and align elements using digital design software. Rulers are vertical and horizontal lines that run along the edges of the design canvas, indicating the size and position of the design elements. (source)

You will also find these file types in Canva:

  • PDF Print – Stands for “Portable Document Format”. A high-quality Canva PDF file format that is optimized for printing purposes at 300DPI. This file format is suitable for printing professional materials like brochures, posters, and business cards.
  • PDF standard – A Canva PDF file format that is optimized for digital use and viewing at 96 DPI. This file format is suitable for sharing designs online or via email.
  • PNG – Stands for “Portable Network Graphics”. A high-quality lossless image file format suitable for both print and digital use. PNG files support transparency layers and are often used for logos, icons, text, and graphics.
  • JPG or JPEG – Stands for “Joint Photographic Experts Group. A compressed image file format that is commonly used online for things such as social media posts, web graphics, and email attachments. It’s best for imagery.
  • TIFF – Stands for “Tag Image File Format”. A high-quality lossless image file format that is often used for printing purposes or when the maximum degree of detail is needed in the image.

N.B. Please note that PDF file formats are not standardized across the industry.

What Does Crop Marks and Bleed Mean on Canva? Final Thoughts

Crop marks and bleed lines are essential for print design in Canva. Crop marks indicate where the document should be trimmed, while bleed ensures that there are no white gaps around the edge of the paper when it’s printed.

You can only print your designs seamlessly by subscribing to Canva Pro. It’s annoying, but considering what you get for free on Canva, it’s a small price to pay. As I write the cost is only $12.99 per month with no contract. It’s a bargain.

Wait there’s more! now check out these posts for more useful advice:

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The artist and Author Kevin Hayler

Hi, my name’s Kevin and I’m a real person!
I’ve been selling my wildlife art and traveling the world for over 20 years, and if that sounds too good to be true, I’ve done it all without social media, art school, or galleries!
I can show you how to do it. You’ll find a wealth of info on my site, about selling art, drawing tips, lifestyle, reviews, travel, my portfolio, and more. Enjoy