PrintBITS: Die-cutting 101

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Die-Cutting 101

Traditionally, the die-cutting process allows your printed project to take on a unique, new shape using a wood and metal die board. The die board is a piece of wood with steel edges formed in the shape of your die. These edges, when pressed against paper, cut through the paper to remove the interior shape or eliminate any unwanted paper outside of your die shape.

Die cutting can be done in two ways; the first involves punching out a decorative shape or pattern within a larger piece. Interested ways to use die cuts are to punch out custom shapes to create geometric windows or see-through text elements. A second way die cutting is used is to cut out excess paper to create the main shape of your product. Having your entire printed product take on a custom shape can add an interesting dimension to your printed piece.

What Can Die-Cutting Do For Me?

Die cutting is a relatively inexpensive way to “push the envelope” when creating unique effects with your projects. A die-cut element draws attention to the 3D nature of paper and the character of the material itself. It will accentuate design elements and add fresh, new life to your work. Die cutting is mostly used as a feature – taking an industrial process and turning it into a creative component. As an offset and digital print shop, here are some common ways we use die-cutting:

  • to create die-cut windows for messages on cards and brochures
  • to create a unique shaped direct mailer or post card (such heart shaped die-cuts, health cross symbols, die-cut logos, and more)
  • as a design element in folders and brochures
  • to create die-cut coasters, hang tags, and custom corners on business cards for clients
  • to make the packaging and box design for a variety of items

How to get the most out of Die-Cuts:

  • It is important to prepare a 1pt. vector line-art actual size drawing of the intended die cut
  • Avoid lacy patterns that can tear easily, the goal is to achieve a clean crisp edge
  • Keep the die cut at least 1/4″ away from the edge of the paper if the die is intended to be a windowed die cut. Heavier paper stocks can take die cuts to the edge
  • Use 80# text or cover paper and higher to achieve clean, crisp die cuts with accurate puncturing
  • With stationary, avoid die cuts that distract or interfere with the text elements. Paper should be easy to place into a desktop printer without printing errors
  • Greeting cards, stationery, and tabbed books usually incorporate die cuts into their designs to push the visual appeal.

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