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Adding Bleed to Book Cover with Adobe InDesign

by Ron Kurtus (revised 29 July 2012)

A book cover document that will be sent to a printer should extend a small amount beyond the intended size of the cover. This edge area is called bleed and is necessary to allow for movement of the paper and trimming tolerances during the printing process.

The process to add the bleed to cover consists of making a copy of the full-size cover document,

Typically, you want to have a cover image or file that is ready for the printer and another file that is used for promotion purposes.

One method of adding a bleed area is to design your cover to the desired size and then modify a copy of the file to account for the bleed. You could also do it in the reverse order. In either case, you need to make some adjustments.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Make full cover file

First of all, design the front and back covers and the spine of your book.

The width of the spine depends on the number of pages in the book, as well as the type of paper used. Since the spine with may change, you can use an estimated width for now.

Combine the three files into a full cover file.

You can save these files for use in your promotion material and make a copy of the full cover file to be used for printing purposes. I rename the file something like: full_cover_bleed.indd.

Add bleed to copy

If you have a 6 x 9 inch book, the width of your full cover will be 12 inches plus the spine width. The height will be 9 inches. A typical bleed is 0.125 inches on all edges of the cover.

Select File > Document Setup... to open the Document Setup dialog box. Enter 0.125 in. in all the Bleed boxes. Then click OK.

You should see a frame all away around your full cover image.

Adjust frame and boxes

Adjust the frames and boxes that extend to each edge.

Left edge

Mark frames and text boxes that extend to the left edge of your cover.

Change the X Location to X: −0.125 inches and add 0.125 to the W: value. For example, if a text box was 5.3 inches wide, you would enter W: 5.425.

Top edge

Mark frames and text boxes that extend to the top edge of your cover.

Change the Y Location to Y: −0.125 inches.

If the frame extends to the bottom edge—such as with the spine—add 0.250 to the H: value. Otherwise, add 0.125 to the H: value. For example, if a text box was 0.75 inches high, you would enter H: 0.865.

Right edge

Mark frames and text boxes that extend to the right edge of your cover.

Add 0.125 to the width value. For example, if W: 6, change it to W: 6.125. The X location can remain as it was.

Bottom edge

Mark frames and text boxes that extend to the bottom edge of your cover.

If the frame extends from the top edge—such as with the spine—you should have adjusted the size previously. Otherwise, add 0.125 to the H: value. For example, if a text box was 2.5 inches high, you would enter H: 2.625.


By taking a copy of your cover InDesign file, you can change the Document Setup to include a bleed on all edges. Going from one edge to the other, you can mark frames and boxes that go to the edge and adjust their settings to accommodate the bleed.

Be methodical and correct

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