Prior to starting a job your printer should supply you with the appropriate artwork specifications for your particular project. Although the specs vary from job to job, there are a few standard printing terms which come up time and time again. In this blog post I shall explain why it’s often the case that your job might need crop marks, also referred to as trim marks and the role they play in the print process.

What are Crop Marks?

Crop marks, also known as trim marks, are lines printed in the corners of your design  to show the printer where to cut the paper. Crop marks are placed in the bleed area which is to prevent the mark from appearing on the finished card, once it’s been cut to size.

An image featuring trim marks.

Why are Crop Marks Necessary?

  • Printed items with bleed need to be trimmed to size.
  • Small items such as business cards and postcards are often printed in a repeat pattern on a larger sheet of card, and and then cut to size. The arrangement of cards below could be described as 4-Up, when four images are positioned in a repeat pattern to minimize paper wastage. Sixteen images would be described as 16-Up.

  • Printers use the term “gang run” or “gang” to describe placing many print projects on the same sheet or roll or paper, this is done to be cost effective and to minimize paper waste. This offset printing machine, pictured below, is printing on a roll of paper rather than sheets, newspapers are often printed this way, but the presses are much larger than the one pictured.

This offset printing machine, is printing on a roll of paper rather than sheets, it demonstrates the need for crop marks in some instances when printed pieces need to be trimmed to size.

Please Note!

I have encountered situations when I was expecting to include crop marks but after speaking to the printer found out I didn’t need them. There are so many different print methods and printing machines, it’s always a good idea to check with your printer how your artwork should be supplied.


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