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InDesign Secrets: Margins and Bleeds

When preparing to publish a book, it’s important to remember the roles margins and bleeds have. But what’s the difference between these two concepts? How should designers apply them? Great questions. Read on to learn how to master your book’s interior design.

What do margins do?

  • Provide room for the reader to hold the book comfortably
  • Show the entire type block area easily, without “disappearing”
  • Provide space for running heads (or running feet), page numbers, or other navigation aids

So what’s bleed then?

For a New Project
Setting bleed in a new InDesign document
  • Bleed allows you to run artwork to the edge of a page
  • If you do not allow for 1/8-of-an-inch bleed, any misalignment while cutting will result in the artwork’s not running to the edge of the paper

To check current bleed measurements or set new ones in an InDesign project, see the instructions below. (Please note: these instructions are for a typical six-inch-by-nine-inch trim size.)


Setting bleed in a new document

  1. Open InDesign and click File -> New -> Document.
  2. Enter the correct Page Size and Margins dimensions for your book.
  3. Click the dropdown arrow button next to the Bleed and Slug section at the bottom.
  4. For a typical book size of 6×9, .125 in or 3mm will work fine.
  5. Click OK when finished.

Be aware that your printer will give you the correct bleed dimension, so it’s crucial that you always double-check these numbers with your printer.


For an Existing Project
Setting bleed in an existing InDesign document

Setting bleed in an existing project

  1. Go to File -> Document Setup…
  2. In the Document Setup window, click on the dropdown arrow next to the Bleed and Slug section.
  3. For a typical book size of 6×9, .125 in or 3mm will work fine.
  4. Click OK when finished.



“About Bleed.” Service Printers. Accessed 10 Mar. 2016.

“Adobe InDesign CC: How to Set Print Bleed.” Adobe Help. Accessed 10 Mar. 2016.

“Adobe InDesign Tips I Wish I’d Known When Starting Out.” Smashing Magazine. Mar. 2011.

“Understanding Book Layouts and Page Margins.” The Book Designer. Friedlander, Joel. 14 Aug. 2013.

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