Trim Size in Printing

The final size of a printed document is the trim size

The final size of a printed page after excess edges have been cut off is the trim size. Commercial printing companies often print several copies of one document on the same large sheet of paper. This procedure reduces press time and saves on paper cost. Then the company trims the large sheet down to the finished size of the printed piece—the trim size.

Trim Size in Printing 

In commercial printing, crop marks indicate where to cut the paper. They're printed at the edges of the large sheet of paper, as guides. Those marks are trimmed off the final printed piece. For example, two 8.5-by-11-inch brochures print on one 17.5-by-22.5-inch press sheet with room for the press gripper, color bars, and trim marks.

Trim Size in Digital Design

In page layout software, the trim size is the same as the document size in the software, unless you have ganged several pieces in one digital file. Any bleed allowance, color bars or crop marks lie outside the trim size. They print on the large sheet of paper but are cut off before the product is delivered. Typically, the commercial printer applies the color bars and crop marks. When you design a document with bleeds, position the bleed to run one-eighth inch off the edge of the document. When you gang several items on one digital file, each one needs its own crop marks to indicate where it should be trimmed. Your software may be capable of inserting these marks, or you can apply the marks manually.

When you design small pieces, such as business cards, the cards must be run on larger sheets of paper because the printing press can't run tiny sheets of paper. Whether you supply the digital file one up and the printer imposes it 10 up (for business cards) on an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of cardstock, or you supply the file already set up at 10 up, the final trim size of a standard business card is 3.5 by 2 inches.

Trim Size Isn't Necessarily the Same as Cut Size

Paper referred to as cut size is paper is trimmed to a small size before it is printed. Letter-size paper and legal-size paper are both considered cut-size paper. Trim size is not the same as cut size unless the project requires no trimming and the project is printed on cut-size paper. So, if you print an 8.5-by-11-inch document on 8.5-by-11-inch paper, for example, trim size and cut size are the same.

One way to save money on printing and finishing is to design for and print on standard cut sizes of paper to avoid the added time and expense of using larger sheets and cutting them down to trim size. For example, print an 8.5-by-11-inch document one-up on 8.5-by-11-inch paper. This efficiency isn't possible with layouts featuring bleeds, scores, or perforations, because the document must be printed on a larger sheet of paper and then cut down to the trim size.