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One size does not fit all. As you start your project, always begin by building to the final trim size. That is if you're creating a business card, create a business card-sized page in InDesign or business card-sized artboard in Illustrator. Don't create lonely little business card in a letter-size page. Why does this matter? Well, for one thing, it helps you more easily visualize how the piece is going to print and trim, but maybe more importantly, your printer is going to have to fix it if you build the wrong size. Now in Illustrator you might think of Illustrator artboard as an imaginary piece of paper corresponding to the real piece of paper that will be the printed in trimmed final piece.
So when you choose File > New Document, now I think in Inches, not in Points. If I'm going to make a business card and I know it's going to be 3.5 Inches wide by 2 Inches tall, I am going to put 3.5 in the Width field, Tab on down to the Height field, and put in 2 inches. And if I know I'm going to have artwork that goes to the edge, of course I've to provide bleed so that I am going to add bleed. There is my new business card. I'll zoom out so you can see it. The edge here is going to be the trim edge of the business card and then the red line that I see here corresponds to bleed.
So you can see in the finished piece I have a little problem. I don't have any bleed. So I need to take this yellow background shape and pull its edges out so that they correspond to the bleed. Now I've something that's going to print correctly. So if I print the file, or I save it to PDF, that extra area is going to carry through. When I save as PDF, if I choose Use Document Bleed Settings, Illustrator is going to automatically include that extra content. I'm going to go back, and I'm going to fix this file, because I have my bad artboard, my good artboard.
I'm going to delete all of this artwork that's lonely in the middle of the page and I am going to get rid of my extra artboard. Now I have a correct file that's appropriate to send to the printer. In Illustrator when I go to make a PDF, it's not Export, it's Save As. I am going to save it to the Desktop just so it's easy to find later. Here in the Save dialog under Marks and Bleeds, if my printer wants Marks, I am going to include them. If they don't want Marks, I won't.
For this one I am just going to include my Trim Marks, and I don't need to include anything else I think but my Page Information. Notice that if you Use Document Bleed Settings is checked, you can see it sort of goes to back in these little fields. It understands that I set up a bleed zone initially, and it's going to respect that. So if your printer asks you to send this as a PDF, there's everything in place for him. You have your Bleed and have your Trim Marks. Everything is good to go and it's built the correct size. In InDesign the same rules apply.
You don't want to build a business card in the middle of a letter-size page. You always want your New Document dialog to reflect your final trim size. So here in InDesign's New Document dialog I'm going to uncheck Facing Pages, and I don't think in Points and Picas, InDesign does by default, but I don't have to do any math in my head. I know this needs to be 3.5 Inches wide. So I can just type the 3.5 and either type IN, or I or put in quote marks, InDesign is clever enough to do the translation for me.
When I Tab out of that field, you can see that's 21p0, and the Height is going to be 2 Inches. So just for fun I'll type to 2in, and there we go. Under More Options I can apply a Bleed. So again if I can't think in picas, I just have to type .125 and Inch--although actually I know that 9 points is an eighth of an Inch. When I tab it commits to that value. You can see it populate all the bleed fields. When I click OK, there's my appropriate-sized page.
You can see the red bleed line around. So as I start populating this with artwork, everything is going to be the correct size, and I am going to have adequate bleed. So no matter what you're building, you want to make sure that you always build to the trim size, you always want to apply a bleed if you know you're going to have stuff that goes to the edge. Remember, it doesn't stop at the edge, it has go beyond. So since InDesign CS5 we've been able to include multiple page sizes within a document. So if you've something like fold-in panel, say for example, in addition to the cover, set up those pages individually within the document by using the Page tool, select the page and change its dimensions. And don't forget to do front and back.
So just remember you need to determine the final trim size of your project before you ever start building your pages.
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