How to Achieve Full Bleed Printing From a Desktop Printer

How to Do Edge to Edge, Borderless Printing

example of printing that has copy all the way to the edges
Designs that bleed off the edge may not be easy with desktop printing but it can be done. © Jacci Howard Bear

A bleed occurs when portions of your artwork - it could be background, photo, graphic or rule - go completely to the edge of your finished document.

This effect is achieved in commercial printing processes by printing the document on a larger sheet of paper than the size of the document, extending the background or bleed objects beyond the edge with a 1/8 inch bleed allowance, and then cutting the document down to the final trim size.

With desktop printers, you can do bleeds with some types of specialty papers such as business cards because they print on paper with extra space around the cards, but for larger documents that use a full sheet of whatever size paper your printer handles, you may not be able to print a bleed on the sheet. 

How to Print to the Edge of a Document

However, there are ways around that desktop printer limitation:

  • Buy a printer that allow for bleeds or examine your printer to see if it has a borderless setting.
  • Use scissors or a paper trimmer and work on a size smaller than the largest your printer can handle.
  • Buy specific types of papers for your greeting cards and other projects that give you the results you want for certain kinds of documents.

How to Find a Borderless Printer

There are some desktop printers that offer a "print to the edge" or "borderless printing" feature. The printing may be slower and you may see a small amount of distortion with patterned backgrounds or photos right at the edge.

You have to specifically choose the borderless printing option in the print dialog box, and it may work better on some printers than others.

The inkjet, photo, and multifunction printers listed here all include print-to-the-edge technology. This isn't an exhaustive list but it shows that there are many printers out there that can do borderless printing.

Check the product details for each device to examine any borderless printing size specifications.

Brother:

Canon:

Epson:

HP:

Kodak:

Lexmark:

  • X4550 Wireless All-in-One Photo Printer
  • Pro915 Wireless Inkjet All-in-One Printer

Print on Large Paper and Trim to Size

Use scissors or a paper trimmer to trim down the nonprinting area of your document after printing. This might be fine if you only have one or two greeting cards to print, but for larger quantities, that's a lot of extra work. However, it's certainly doable if you have a quality paper trimmer. 

One tip is to add crop marks to your document. The crop marks print on the sheet along with the document and makes it easier to trim the card properly.

Design for Smaller Sizes

With the typical 10-up business card stock, you often have enough room to create business cards with bleeds.

The non-printing area falls into the perforated area that is removed from around each card. However, much of the postcard and greeting card stock readily available uses a full sheet of paper and leaves no room for a bleed. There are a few alternatives, however.

Design a smaller document, print with crop marks on a full-size sheet, and then trim to size, using the crop marks as your trim guide. 

Instead of the typical half-fold greeting cards that are simply a sheet of letter-size paper folded in half, shop for card stock with perforated areas designed for slightly smaller cards. These allow you to print to the edge of the pre-perforated paper and slightly beyond, and then tear off the perforated edges so that you are left with a greeting card that's a little smaller than a folded letter size card but still a nice size greeting card.

These are typically listed as "print-to-the-edge" greeting cards. When you have a large quantity to do or if you're just not adept at cutting straight lines, this gives you bleeds with a desktop printer.