Why margins are important

Why do margins matter so much more in print than on the screen when it seems intuitive to place content anywhere on a design using digital software? The realities of manufacturing means you could be setting yourself up a print disaster if you push text or design elements out to the sides.

Margins have been part of the process forever and they do more than you might initially think. Not only is it a bit of breathing space in a visual sense, they also offer an area at the perimeter of the page for your end user to hold! In recent years the process of publishing has become an entirely digital one so these physical concerns have fallen by the wayside. After all – in many situations there could be just as many people looking at a digital version of your image as a printed one.

But do you know that even well maintained print equipment suffers from tiny amounts of misalignment? Although an image might only move by 1-2mm on the page this could make a 4mm margin 50% smaller on one side and 50% larger on the opposite side! That’s why we suggest you allow 8-12mm of margin on larger items and 6mm on smaller items such as business cards. Although the page can still drift 1mm, the impact on your design in terms of percentage is greatly reduced. 1mm is only 10% of 10mm, so the misalignment is visually less apparent.

When do margins really matter

There are a few situations that make larger margins essential

When printing with a concentric border

If you are trying to get an evenly distanced frame on your print then you need to be aware of mechanical error. It can be an attractive idea to add a frame to your work – but if that is tight to the cut edge of a design then you will suffer that increasingly noticeable drift. Leave 10mm if you can and we should be able to create a product with a border that appears concentric.

When printing page numbers, headers and footers

All mechanical processes are subject to a degree of error – and booklet making adds an additional opportunity for skew and twist. These additional errors can compound the problems presented by tight margins further as we need to trim through all pages of a booklet in one cut.

Try to leave 5mm from the cut edge of any booklet design

When creating double page spreads in publications

Binding that uses glue or staples can make obscure content in the very middle of a double page spread. This means you need a generous inside margin if you don’t want to risk making content illegible.

Can I have any of my design outside of the margins?

Yes! Margins matter most to content that must remain legible (usually text). You can extend images and backgrounds to the outside of your design and if you want edge-to-edge printing then we would suggest you read more about how to set up a file with bleed.