Album Document Setup

Definitions of safety edge, safe zone, margin, and the trim or bleed.

Setting up your album document correctly to your album companies specifications will yield a better looking design in the finished album. Below are elements of your album document setup. The Safety Edge, Bleed, and Margin sizes have been exaggerated relative to the spread size to help you visualize the example. Don't try to memorize the example or understand it completely at first glance. The rest of this page has real life examples to help explain the basic terms of an album setup. These will help you understand the terms and their definitions.

InDesign album setup

(Elements of the spread above are enlarged for ease of readability and understanding.)

Safety Edge

To avoid problems during trimming keep the safety edge clear of frames and important elements of full bleed images such as heads, hands and feet. Full bleed images are images that go all the way to the edge of your spread. The safety edge is sometimes referred to as the safety margin. When companies say, "Keep all frames and details x amount of inches or cm from the edge of your spread", they are referring to the safety edge.

Safe Zone

This is the area inside the spread bordered by the safety edge containing image frames and important elements of full bleed images. It's called the "safe" zone because if it's in there, it is safe from being trimmed out of your album. Essentially, everything in your album including color fills should be in the safe zone unless it goes all the way to the edge of your spread - full bleed.


The bleed is sometimes referred to as the trim. Your album company will trim this amount off after the album is bound. With expertise, quality equipment, and quality materials, an album company can specify the trim with great accuracy. Still the trim is not exact and the "safety edge" gives it some buffer room. Want to see an album trimmed? See this video from Azura Albums: Video


The margin borders between the inside edge of the bleed and anywhere inside the safe zone. In the absence of a full bleed image, the margin is the area you'll see around your images. Some photographers will desire a larger margin than the minimum to give their spread some breathing room. It's also a good idea to have have a larger margin if you are going to have the album company resize your spreads to make clones.

Minimum Margin = Safety Edge - Trim

This is the smallest margin you can choose based on your album company's specification of Safety Edge and Trim. Some photographers maximize the design space by using the minimum margin. They are bringing elements of their design right up to the border of the safety edge.

One of my favorite features of InDesign is the ability to simulate the trim and see your actual margin by pressing the "w" key. It really gives you a feel for how your album will look.


Simulation of spread layout, printing, and trimming.

album spread


Is the image placed correctly?

album spread


Starting an InDesign Document

Now that we have the fundamentals of setting up an album, let's use them in creating a document. First, I want to point out that album companies include the bleed in the dimensions of the album spread. This deviates from print industry which specifies the page size and then adds the bleed to it. InDesign follows print industry standards. Therefore, setting up your document requires you to subtract the bleed from the pages of the spread and add it back when using the InDesign new document dialog box. Once you set up your document you'll want to create guides for the safety edge on all four sides. To save time and simplify things, has a script that generates the album spread automatically - Create Album script.

The Create Album script sets up an InDesign document quickly and easily for photographers. Simply enter the basic numbers of your spread, click ok, and your album is all setup - safety guides included! See the dialog box below:


create album


Download a sample InDesign album made with the Create Album script:Download