If you are editing a PDF meant for printing, remember to add crop marks and bleeds to it before sending it to the print shop. Because it will help your print service provider print and trim correctly. Also, a print-ready file will make faster progress, enhance the quality of your project, and can even reduce the price of your order.

Before we start to learn how to add crop marks and bleeds to pdf, you need to figure out what are crop marks and bleeds? Why are they important in printing?

Understanding the Printer’s Marks

What is Corp Mark/Trim Mark?

In commercial printing, crop marks, also known as trim marks, are some thin lines that are placed at each corner of a pdf document. They will indicate the boundaries of your artwork and tell the print service provider where to trim after printing.

What is Bleed Mark?

Bleed in printing means that the background, images, shape or other elements of your artwork are extended and beyond one or more trim edges of the document. Those content in the bleed area (past the crop marks) will be cut off and will not show up in the finished product. People add bleed to their PDFs because they don’t want to leave a white edge on their finished publication.

This picture explains all


To be short, the trim mark indicates where the printed pdf should be cut and bleeds is the area beyond the trim mark. Normally, Crop marks and bleeds work together to help printer decide what to trim and what to leave behind for the printed pdf.

Why do you need to add Crop marks and bleed to pdf before printing?

You need to extend the content of your pdf beyond the page edge, because:

  1. Most of the printer, no matter offset or digital, can’t print on a paper edge to edge, because the ink will build up and leave an ink splotch at the edge of the paper, which will decrease the quality of the print job. So we need to add bleed to the pdf, print it in on a larger sheet of paper, and trim down to get the final finished product.
  2. The size of the final product will be off by a fraction of a millimeter when the operator cuts the printed pages due to the mechanical limitations.
  3. Avoid inner pages of a book shift (aka creep or shingling) when folded.book-trimming-with-without-bleed
  4. Not to have a white gap on the edge of the finished artwork.

How to Add Crop Marks and Bleed to a PDF in different editors

Adding Crop marks to PDF or adding bleed to PDF is quite easy, so long as you got the right application at hand.

  • Add with pdfelement
  • Add with InDesign
  • Add with Illustrator
  • Add with Acrobat

Note: If the pdf file is important or is from your client, you’d better save an original and start with a copy.

Add Printer mark to a PDF with A Free Alternative to Adobe—pdfelement

pdfelement is an up-rising star in the pdf industry. With its robust features and easy-to-use interface, it can be the best free choice for you to add crop marks to PDF documents, especially if you are not a frequent user. Because you don’t have to pay $79.49 a month or $599.88 a year to Adobe, just to add crop marks to a pdf or add bleed to a pdf.

Step 1. Download and install pdfelement on your PC.


Step 2. Open PDF File

If you are adding to an existing PDF, go to File > Open > Browse to open the file with the program.

If you are creating a new PDF document, then go to File> New.

From this New dialog box, you can:

-Specify the name of the PDF

-Set the Page Size, like A4, A3, or custom.

-Change page orientation to Portrait or Landscape.

-Set the page number.

After all the settings here, click the Blank Button.

Step 3. Add the Crop marks and bleeds

Go to Page> Page Boxes. Then from the Set Page Box dialog box, you can add Crop Mark and Bleed Mark here. Just simply select CropBox or BleedBox from the Margin Setting.

And set the amount of bleed or crop by entering the specified number.

If you are not sure how much bleed to use, here are some examples for your reference.

Here, in the Set Page Box window, you can also drag the eight small square (Blue for CorpBox, Green for BleedBox) to adjust the box size to define the trimming path when the pdf file is printed.
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Aside from adding print marks, this free pdfelement can also ensure you fast and smooth editing with the comprehensive features. Not to mention the other PDF solution like Convert, Review, Forms, Sign, Secure, OCR. So, it’s highly recommended to get one and explore all the productivity-enhancing functionality in pdfelement.

How to add Crop Marks and Bleeds to PDF in Adobe InDesign

Step 1. Set the Page size and bleed.

To an existing pdf: Go to File >Document Setup

To a new PDF: Go to File>New Document

Select the finished size of the pdf from the Page Size section. (Such as A3 or A4.)

And from the Bleed and Slug section, set the amount of the bleed (Top, Bottom, Inside, Outside). Then click on the “Make all settings the same” icon on the rightmost side and click OK.

Usually, we set the bleed as 3mm or 5mm. If you can’t decide how much bleed to use, find some suggestions here.

Step 2. Export Adobe PDF

Go to File > Export when your PDF is ready.

Name the file and choose the location for it. Select Adobe PDF(pdf) in the Format tab and click Save.

From the Export Adobe PDF dialog box:

– Select High Quality Print in the Adobe PDF Preset tab.

– Tick Crop Marks and Bleed Marks in the Marks Section.

– Tick Use Document Bleed Settings under the Bleed and Slug section.

Finally, click on the Export button.

Note: No matter adding printer marks to a new pdf or the existing one, make sure to extend the content block (image, the color block, etc.) of your pdf to meets or goes beyond the red line(the bleed mark). If it’s necessary, adjust the content to accommodate the print marks.

Embed Crop marks and bleed mark in a PDF with Illustrator

Step 1. Set the Page size and bleed.

To an existing pdf:

  • Go to File >Document Setup
  • Set the Bleed(Top, Bottom, Inside, Outside) as 3mm or 5mm(learn how much bleed to use in different situations here.) and click the “Make all settings the same” icon and click OK.
  • Go to Window> Artboards> Artboard Options, and set the finished size of the printed pdf. (Such as A3 or A4.)

To a new PDF:

  • Go to File>New Document
  • Set the bleed and tick the “Make all settings the same” icon, then click OK.

Step 2. Save Adobe PDF

Click on File > Save as when your pdf is ready.

Name it and specify a location for the document. Before saving, choose the Adobe PDF(pdf) in the Format tab.

Then from the Save Adobe PDF window:

-Select High Quality Print in the Adobe PDF Preset tab.

-Tick Trim Marks under the Marks.

-Tick “Use Document Bleed Settings” under the Bleeds Section.

Then click the Save PDF button to save a print-ready PDF.

How to add Crop Marks and Bleeds to PDF in Adobe Acrobat

Step 1. Go to Tools > Print Production > Add Printer Marks.

Step 2. Tick Trim Marks and select All from the Page Range, Click OK.

Step 3. Go to Set Pages Box from the Print Production.

From the Set Page Boxes dialog box:

Find the Change Page Size, tick Custom and enter 1” to the Width and Height.

Find the Page Range section, tick All.

Finally, click OK.

The guideline of bleed and crop- How to use it properly in different situations.

Regardless of the application you use, here are some guidelines you should follow when adding crop marks and bleed to pdf.

  1. The Crop Box should be big enough to fit the Bleed Box or other printer marks.
  2. Better to figure out the finished size of the printed page at the very beginning of the project. Because a little bit of pre-planning and forethought can save you a lot of hassle when you adding bleed to your PDF document.guideline-of-bleed-and-crop
  3. The general amount of bleed in the printing industry is minimum 0.125″ (3mm) and ideally 0.25″ (6mm), outside the document final size. However, it may differ in some cases. For some printing projects like books, bleed required by the printer may be up to 0.5″ (13mm). And for Die-cuts, due to the possible paper movement during the die-cut procedure, you should set the bleed as 0.25”. However, if you are not sure, just ask the printer.

The amount of bleed we normally specify for in different kinds of artworks

  1. Business card 3.5” x 2” add 0.125”(3mm) bleed —>3.75” x 2.25”business-card-cutting
  2. Postcard 4” x 6” add 0.125” (3mm) bleed —> 4.25” x 6.25”
  3. Invitation 5” x 7” add 0.125” (3mm) bleed —> 5.25” x 7.25”
  4. Sheet 8.5” x 11” add 0.125” (3mm) bleed —> 8.75” x 11.25”
  5. Sheet 11” x 17” add 0.125” (3mm) bleed —> 11.25” x 17.25”
  6. Sheet 12” x 18” add 0.125” (3mm) bleed —> 12.25” x 18.25”
  7. Mounted Poster add 0.25” (6mm) bleed
    • 18” x 24” —>   18.5” x 24.5”
    • 20“ x 20” —>   20.5“ x 20.5”
    • 24” x 36” —>   24.5” x 36.5”

(No bleed needed for unmounted posters )


Convert measurements between inches and centimetres

    • centimetres ÷ 2.54 = inches
    • inches x 2.54 = centimetres

Paper Size (wikipedia)


Create a design

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