Getting Cut Off: Working with Trim Guidelines

Share the Blurb:
pin it button Getting Cut Off:  Working with Trim Guidelines

According our FAQ page views, the number one thing that Blurbarians want to know more about is trim guidelines.

All of our bookmaking tools show a range of possibilities for where a page may be trimmed. But a range isn’t exact, which can feel vague and frustrating – especially when it comes to making sure all of your content stays on your printed page.

Let’s see if we can help.

First, a little background on how your books are made at the print facility.

When you place an order for a book, a print-ready digital file is created and immediately sent to the servers at the printer. The file joins a queue and when it’s ready for printing, pages are printed on a large sheet of paper.

Printed sheets are neatly stacked in a pile and placed in the cutter.

cutter Getting Cut Off:  Working with Trim Guidelines

book pages being trimmed at the printer

Then a sharp, guillotine-like blade slices through all of the sheets very quickly. The stack is rotated to make additional cuts along all of the outer edges.

  • If everything is done perfectly, then the page will be trimmed exactly 1/8 of an inch from the edge.
  • But any variation in how the page is printed onto the sheet of paper and then how precisely the page is cut will result in a trim that is a little more or a little less than 1/8 of an inch.

The variations are small, but there is no way to avoid them completely. Consequently, there’s no way to know exactly where the page will be trimmed. The trim can be any amount between 1/16 and 3/16 of an inch. Each side could be a slightly different amount, as well.

But you can still plan accordingly.

If you want to have a full-bleed image (one in which the image runs all the way to the edge of the page), always extend the edge of your image fully to the edge of the page. This design approach works best for images that do not have important content at the edges.

Don’t try to avoid the trim by leaving a bit of white edge – you may end up with that unseemly white edge on your printed page.

waterfall screenshot Getting Cut Off:  Working with Trim Guidelines

a full-bleed image with trim guidelines in BookSmart

In the image above, the dotted line shows where a 1/8 of an inch trim would be and the pink area represents the range of where the trim could take place – a little more or a little less than the dotted line. Because there are no important visual elements within the shaded pink area, this image can safely be used in a full-bleed layout.

If you have an image that can’t afford to have any of the edges trimmed, then consider a layout in which the image is more safely placed in the middle of the page.

The Instagram image below has a vintage photo style border around the edges. In order to make sure that none of the border is lost, we’ll place the image in the center of the page with plenty of space around it.

instragram trim Getting Cut Off:  Working with Trim Guidelines

an image with a border, safe from trim

This way, we can be sure that none of the border will be lost and that the image will appear centered on the page.

Some types of images are especially hard to use in a full-bleed design. Watch out for scanned images of text, like from an old newspaper. The tops of people’s heads in a group shot are also common casualties. Be careful with anything that has graphic design elements, such as logos, borders, or text. As much as you might like the look of the full bleed layout, some images will be better suited to something with a bit more wiggle room for the trim.

And the bottom line is this:

  • If you want a full-bleed design, you should extend the image fully to the edge of the page, but be prepared for anything within the trim area to be lost during printing.
  • If something is in the pink shaded area (in Blurb BookSmart® and Bookify®) or outside the “Safe Art Boundary” (in a PDF to Book template) then it may be cut off.
  • If you can’t bear to have any of the image lost, you should choose another layout.

Why let full-bleeds have all the fun, anyway?
P.S. If you’re interested in seeing more of what happens while your book is being made, check out this behind-the-scenes video, which shows lots of great footage of the production process on the print house floor.

Share the Blurb:
pin it button Getting Cut Off:  Working with Trim Guidelines


  1. It’s a good information.

      March 5, 2012 – 6:42 am   Permalink
  2. I recently published a 7×7 photobook with Blurb. It was trimmed 1/8″ all round, as you say. What disconcerted me was how the template I used (one of the most basic) wasn’t designed with the trim in mind. This left the running heads and folios very tight to the edge of the book, which through the proportion of the page off considerably. The top, in particular, looked scalped.

    I couldn’t see a way to alter that when working on my revision. Also, it seems to me that Blurb would want to correct this at the software end.

    Is this something Blurb is going to address in the future? If not, why not?

    Also, if not, is there a workaround?

    Thanks for the attention you give this.


      March 5, 2012 – 6:02 pm   Permalink
  3. Hey Pam,

    Trims can be tricky, however we’re always looking for ways to make the bookmaking process easier. In the meantime, you should contact our Support Team. They can look at the original book files and help you out.



    By Kent
      March 5, 2012 – 6:36 pm   Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

(required, not published)