Technical Talk: The Truth about Borderless Printing

Posted on December 19th, 2017 | Tags: Bleed, Technical

Something that comes up on a regular basis is the question of printing to the edges of a page. People are so use to seeing photos, flyers, magazines and other printed items that when they send us such things to print, we tell them that it will have a white margin around the outside edges or that we can’t print it unless it has bleed. Some have even question why we can’t print borderless with our big expensive printer that’s the size of a ute, when they have a printer they got cheap from a computer store that able to do it. This is the myth of borderless printing and I would like to explain why it’s a myth and what we do to give you that borderless print.

The simple truth is those small home printers that can do borderless printing are designed to be low cost disposable printers, for the manufacturers make their money on the inks not the printer itself. When they print borderless the actually print off the edge of the photo paper and spray ink into the internals of the machine. While there there are provisions to allow for it, the process does shorten the life of the hardware, but the makers don’t mind as it will mean you’ll have to buy a replacement printer sometime after their warranty expires. And even doing that you’ll find that the special paper you have to buy to do borderless printing has a tear off tab at one end so the printer can hold onto it while printing so it’s never truly borderless as it prints over that tear point but leaves most of the tab unprinted. Now this is all fine for a printer that costs only a couple of hundred dollars. For equipment that costs tens of thousands of dollars the last thing you want is waste ink/toner flying around inside of it causing damage to those expensive electronics and mechanics. So to deal with need for borderless printing in a safe way there are several things that we do to give you that boardless finish.


If you have read a few of the articles on this website, or used our web to print system, you will see that we ask for bleed. Bleed is printing that goes beyond where we intend to cut. It’s almost impossible to cut exactly to a printed edge so by having the print being slightly larger than the finished size then when we cut there is no chance of the unprinted paper being visible. Most design software will have settings to allow for bleed, including our web to print system, where you can place artwork beyond where we cut.

Smart scaling thanks to A sizing

Sometimes we get files that have no bleed. Files that the client doesn’t have the source material for. A setup in such a way that we can’t edit to give us bleed without ending up having to make it from scratch. In this situation, sometimes the simplest solution is to just scale it up by 2-4%. If the file has been designed with reasonable sized margins, then this small enlargement will give us enough waste graphics to be able to trim it without it looking odd. This is another reason why ‘A’ paper is great, doing a percentage scale keeps everything looking consistent.

Using oversized paper

There are several reasons why we printers use oversized paper for our printing, often referred to as SR (Supplementary Raw) format. Like the A sizes it’s a mathematical calculation that generates pages that scale up and down the same using the same ratios. So an A4 which is 210x297mm SR size is 225x320mm giving us at least 7mm on each edge for both the bleed and unprinted space which is what the printer uses to grip the paper. But you don’t’ have to worry about this stuff as SRA sizes are just one of the many paper standards that printers use to give you the prints you need.

Sometimes you have to go small

No matter how hard we try, there are just some print jobs that we can’t make full bleed. Unless the customer wants to pay for us to recreate the file, which can be both expensive and time consuming. The next best option is to scale it down by 5-7% to give the file a white margin around the outside. While it might not be full bleed, a good sized white margin around a print will look like it was designed that way and can often help make the printing stand out more.’
This was just a quick look at the myth of borderless printing and what printers actually do to give you it.
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