You’ve heard of them! We all had to make our margins nice and big when we were in school, so we could make our essays look longer than they actually were, right?! Well that bad little habit of ours has hindered our inherent ability to do what’s best for making our prints, “print ready.”

So last month, we discussed bleeds. The annoying little chunk of ink you always have to make room for, only to inevitably cut it off and never see it again. Well, bleeds have a little neighbor almost just as needy. Margins! Just as we now know we have to make space for paper to be cut off, we also have to be thinking about what else is near that same cut line. If something is too close to the edge of your work space, it runs a small chance of either being sliced away or throwing off the amount of negative space you wanted to remain on the final product.

An easy way to eliminate this risk is to always use a margin as a guide! Luckily most design programs will default one into your new project for you, but it’s still good to know why it’s there in case you ever need to insert it manually. In Adobe InDesign for example, it’s always a purple box situated .5 of an inch away from the edge of the work space. You can adjust it in your project to be closer or further from the edge. You can even update your presets, so that it will always only be just as big as you want it to be. But .5 is a good rule of thumb because there’s little to no chance you’ll lose anything important if you keep your content inside of that box.

Things you typically don’t ever want to be outside your margin are things like text or even photos that have a lot of people in them.

Now we of course have to weigh both sides of the coin here. We can’t be giving anyone bad design advice. So… There are SOME instances where you want to ignore your margins, especially if you’ve got a lot of creative aspects at play. You never want to have ALL your content constrained inside of some invisible box, because it’s just not always interesting to look at. Having some elements extend off the page helps to move the viewer’s eyes around your final product, which is exactly what you want to have happen. For example: Say we were making a brochure for our company, and we wanted to include a panel with a photograph that illustrates how much we like to brainstorm our different paper options for any given project. I could include Option 1, which shows every booklet I have laid out on the table. It doesn’t look horrible, and it’s within my margins. If we were super concerned with making sure every aspect of each booklet was made visible to the viewer, we would certainly use this image. However, once your eyes catch Option 2, you’ll notice a lot more rhythm. Your eyes start to bounce around the paper and see keywords like “design” or “green.” All of it, mixed in with different textures and bright colors that make a whole lot more sense when you’re seeing them up close. So if we’ve attained our goal of having you look at this picture a few seconds longer than you did the previous one, then we know our margins are moot in this particular instance. Therefore, Option 2 would be a more effective choice.

Nevertheless, it is completely up to you, how you want to make and utilize margins. If you think you prefer a lot of negative space around your edges, then get into the habit of setting one up in your design files with the exact measurement you prefer. If you prefer thinking outside the box, then by all means go ahead and ignore those purple lines! Just please be sure to not put text or pertinent info past your margin line, unless you are okay with the possibility of it being sliced or being too close to the edge. But lastly… Please also remember that we’re here to help! So if we notice something could be a little off, we’ll always reach out and double check if that’s how you would like it to be printed.

And as always… a little about us! Metropolitan is a commercial printing company located in Dallas, Texas. We provide offset, digital, and large format printing; along with graphic design, promotional items, mail service and fulfillment. Let us help you with your brochures, postcards, or event collateral and signage! And yes… In the event you forget, we’ll always double check to make sure everything has the appropriate bleed AND margins!

Let us know what we should cover next time!