Lear what shift is in printing and how to avoid it.

Shift Happens: What and Why

Whether you are printing with us, or another printer, “shift” is something we must all take into consideration when designing files for print.

What is Shift in Printing?

A shift is what can happen as your printed pieces are being cut. As you can see from the photo example below, the sheets of paper are stacked up tight on top of each other. A large blade comes down from the top and cuts the paper stack into the desired size. Because of the nature of the machine, there’s a potential that the cut will be up to 1/16 inch different from the top stack down to the bottom stack.

So while each piece ends up being the same exact size, the positioning of the ink may be altered slightly. Similarly, this is how the fabric is cut too. For example, have you ever tried on four of the same pair of jeans, all the same size, but noticed that each one feels a little different? It’s because of the slight shift caused during cutting! This 1/16 inch shift can occur in any direction, not just from top to bottom.

While a 1/16 inch shift doesn’t seem like much, it can be more noticeable on smaller products, including business cards, hang tags, and trading cards.

Business cards sheets getting cut.

Shift Examples

While borders can help enhance some designs, these are the biggest culprit for a noticeable shift. Because the space around the border tends to be so small, the smallest of shifts makes the entire design look off. Click to view the image below.

Here are some shift examples when cutting business cards

If your client is insistent on a border, I recommend either making it thick, so it not only bleeds off the page but also cuts into the design quite a bit.

Or bring the border in away from the edge. You may still see the shift, but it won’t be as noticeable.

Take a look at the shift examples with the following business card print files.

Other things to look out for when designing is to keep all important design elements and text within the safe line and away from the edge of the card. If the shift occurs, these items could get cut off. Click to view the below image.Different shift variables. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid a shift completely. All we can do is prepare for it. If your design is placed strategically on the card, your artwork will look great, no matter the shift! Click to view the below image.Examples of how a business card file may shift. Have questions about the potential of a shift in your design? Our customer service team would be more than happy to take a look at your artwork, prior to going to print. Feel free to contact us, start a chat on our website and drop your print files into the chat field for us to view.

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