What Is Die-Cutting?

Die-cutting is a finishing process that uses specialized machines and tools to convert stock material by cutting, forming, and shearing. In printing, die cuts are used to create custom shapes and designs.

It starts with a part called, unsurprisingly, a die. A manufactured die is a specialized piece of wood and metal used to cut a specific shape out of a material. Think of it as a cookie cutter, but instead of a sheet of cookies, it is cutting a sheet of paper. The ‘die line’ is the outline of where the die will cut, it is usually shown as a thick colored line in proofs.

Die-cutting comes in many shapes and forms and is used for creating presentation folders, boxes, unique mail pieces, etc.

     Presentation Folder 


Folding Carton Box 


Fun Fish Shapes

What to Consider When Designing for a Die Cut

The die-cutting process can vary based on what you need. Let’s start with the shape of your design. While your design may look awesome on your screen, you need to consider whether it will work well when printed and cut. Here are some tips to consider for die cut projects:

  • Avoid acute angles and sharp corners. They may tear when the matrix is removed after the die-cutting process, resulting in avoidable waste.
  • Add a bleed area that extends your design artwork at least 1/16” past the edges of your project. This helps ensure that there are no accidental white spaces.
  • Make sure to correctly add a line of your shape into your Adobe Illustrator file. Mark the die line as a specific spot color and as a joined line on its own layer.
  • Based on the complexity of your project, utilize a die designer early in the process to make sure everything will convert correctly based on the size of the finished piece, the thickness of the paper, and the complexity of the die cut.

When considering a custom die cut option, it’s always a good idea to work with a printing company that understands die cutting. If you or your designer still need help trying to figure out how to prepare your project that will be designed for die-cutting, Alexander Clark Printing can help. We have several different dies available, and if none of those meet your needs, we have the expertise and capabilities to create a custom shape for your bran