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How to Add Bleed to PDFs with Adobe Acrobat

How to merge PDFs and add bleed with Adobe Acrobat.

DPI, margins, embedding fonts – there’s so many things for a new self-publisher to learn when creating their first manuscript. One concept that seems to cause issue for many is bleed. What is bleed? Do you need it? How do you set it up? All these answers and more ahead! Or, skip to the tutorial.

What is bleed?

Bleed is extra margin space that allows elements like pictures to be printed all the way to the edge of a page and trimmed without extra white space.

Does your document need bleed?

If your document does not have elements that go all the way to the edge, it doesn’t make sense to include it and most consumer document software, e.g. Microsoft Word, does not have a bleed function, so it makes sense that most PDFs in the wild do not have bleed.

But what happens if you want to combine these documents with a file that has bleed, for example, adding lined notebook pages to a planner? All of your pages, including ones without bleeding elements, will need to have bleed added.

How much bleed do you need?

The amount of bleed required will vary by printer. Amazon’s KDP print books require bleed to be .125 inch on the outside edges of a document with bleeding elements. This means that a book that is 6 x 9 inches will need to have pages that are 6.125 x 9.25 inches in size, if printing with bleed.

How do you add bleed?

Some programs, such as Adobe InDesign, allow you to set up bleed in the page or document setup. In other programs, such as Word, you can manually add the bleed to the document size and the margins. So our 6 x 9 KDP book will have 6.125 x 9.25 sized pages with at least a .5 margin on the outside edges (the .375 required by Amazon plus .125 for bleed.

But what if you don’t have the original document?

If you are working with a PDF that you don’t have the original document for, such as a purchased template, you can easily add bleed to the PDF in Adobe Acrobat. This is especially useful if you are combining pages from multiple documents that may be a mix of bleed and no-bleed.

Here’s a video where I show you how to merge pages from multiple documents, and then add bleed / make the pages the same size. Don’t wanna watch a video? Step-by-step instructions below.

How to Add Pages from Another File

Organize Pages on Sidebar of Adobe Acrobat
  1. Open one PDF in Adobe Acrobat
  2. On the sidebar, click Organize Pages
  3. Click on the page where you’d like to add pages
  4. From the toolbar, click Insert > From File
  5. Select the second PDF from the file explorer
  6. Click Ok

How to Add Bleed / Make All Pages the Same Size

Set Page Boxes Dialog Window. Change Page Size Section. Custom selected. Width includes .125 inch for bleed; height includes .25 inch for bleed.
  1. With final PDF open in Adobe Acrobat, click Organize Pages
  2. From the toolbar, click More > Set Page Boxes
  3. In the Change Page Size section…
    1. Click Custom
    2. Enter the total page width with bleed (e.g. 6.125)
    3. Enter the total page height with bleed (e.g. 9.25)
  4. Click Ok

Note, this only works if you are increasing the page size, which why I do not include bleed on my templates, unless it actually has an element that bleeds. Starting with a non-bleeding document is easier to mix and match with other documents, bleed or no bleed.

What will you do now that you are free to mix and match PDFs?

How to merge multiple PDF files of different page sizes and add bleed.
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