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Learn how to add print marks to a PDF in this simple walkthrough. Curious about why you'd want to add print marks to PDF documents? We'll cover that too.

What Are Print Marks?

Print marks, sometimes called "Printer's Marks", are marks added to a printed document to guide the printer during the process of creating your printed work.

Think of them as a reference point for things like alignment, cutting, or even folding. Imagine doing that kind of precise work without any kind of guide—it wouldn't be practical or efficient. They're an essential part of making sure your finished, printed work looks just the way you intended.

Let's review several types of print marks using this InDesign Cookbook Template from Envato Elements in Adobe InDesign.


Most of us are likely familiar with this one. They're not technically print marks, but you may also see them referred to as a "Safety Margin". You'll want to keep essential design elements (like text or focal points) within this safe space to ensure none of it is trimmed off.

Margins often act as a safety area for your content.


While the name sounds ominous, Bleed Marks are used when you'd like content to extend to the edge of your work area. You may see the term "full bleed"—this would be content that goes right up to the edge of the paper, like a color or image. In these cases, extend the content to the bleed. Otherwise, you might have exposed edges rather than the full bleed you wanted. Note that the bleed, shown below, is outside of the margins.

The Bleed is shown in red, above. Notice how the background color extends past the Bleed.

Crop Marks and Trim Marks

You might see the terms crop marks and trim marks used interchangeably. They're basically lines around the page where you'd like your design to be cut—or trimmed—to result in your desired size.  Simple, right? Note the relationship to the Bleed, shown below in a faded red. That cut is inside the bleed, ensuring that our full bleed content goes right to the edge of the finished product.

crop markscrop markscrop marks
Crop Marks indicate where the project will be trimmed. Note the relationship to the bleed.

Registration Marks

The registration marks look like little crosshairs or target symbols. They're used by the printer to ensure that the colors are accurately aligned. 

registration marksregistration marksregistration marks
Registration marks look like crosshairs or targets. They are for alignment.

Color Bars

These little squares (both in color and grayscale) provide a reference for printing. They help gauge things like consistency and accuracy. Using the color bars, your printer can adjust and check to make sure the colors and values in your printed piece are correct and appear as intended.

color barscolor barscolor bars
The Color Bars are also used for consistency and checks.


The slug is not technically a mark, but rather a space outside of your bleed. You can use this space for page information—and you may see this referred to as "page information marks". This area can include things like the name of your document, page numbers, dates, and other information. For example, you may want to include a note that the first page is intentionally blank, so there's no second-guessing if that was a mistake. This information is for the printer and would be not visible in the final printed piece.

The page information is typically in the slug and is used for production purposes

How to Add Print Marks to a PDF in InDesign

Now that we've looked at an overview of print marks, let's talk about how to add them to your work in Adobe InDesign. You don't have to add printer marks to PDF documents by hand—that would be quite tedious! Instead, InDesign can easily add them for us. 

Step 1

First, you'll need to have an open InDesign document. We'll use this InDesign template from Envato Elements in this demonstration. Go to File > Export, and choose Adobe PDF (Print). Then, click Save to continue. 

save as pdf in indesignsave as pdf in indesignsave as pdf in indesign

Step 2

Next, we're given a host of print options. One of the options on the left-hand side is Marks and Bleeds. You'll need to click on that to access these options.

Here, you'll see a lot of familiar names now—such as Crop Marks, Bleed Marks, and more. You can select whichever print marks you want to include, or choose All Printer's Marks to include them all.

After you've made your selections, click Export. Now, these marks will be included in your print-ready PDF.

marks and bleedsmarks and bleedsmarks and bleeds

Now You Know How to Add Print Marks to a PDF

Adding print marks is easy when you know where to look. You might not always need all of the print marks available—and some projects might even warrant fold marks (indicating where a project should be folded or scored) or perforation marks (indicating where the print should be perforated if it's meant to have tear-offs, like a coupon). Remember to check with your printer for the required specifications. 

Want to learn more about working with Adobe InDesign? Check out these free tutorials right here at Envato Tuts+.

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