How to Design for Die Cutting

You can make some pretty amazing projects with the help of die cutting. This is a process that uses specialized machines to cut substrates into custom shapes and designs for various projects. Think of a die as a cookie cutter for paper! While there are some standard dies available (think envelopes or pocket folders), you can get creative and have your own dies made for any project.

As you start designing your project, you need to consider what your die line will be. The die line is the outline of where the die will cut. You can search for inspiration online or ask your MP Sales Consultant to give you some ideas. Master Print has samples of previous projects that have been created with custom dies. Or you can just let your creativity flow!

While you design, keep in mind what your flat size and finished size will be. The flat size is the dimensions your sheet will be when it prints and is die cut. The finished size is—you guessed it—the size the piece will be once it is cut, folded, glued, or other finishing.

A good practice is to make a mock-up, or a dummy, of your design. Use regular paper and create all measurements to scale so that you can have a preview of what the piece will look like once it is finished. Take it from me, sometimes what seems like a good idea on the screen can be completely unrealistic once you're holding it in your hand! Plus, it's a great time to have another check-in with your Sales Consultant at Master Print to get another set of eyes on the project.

Once you've decided on your graphic design, you will create a die line in Adobe Illustrator and save it as a vector file. This is what the vendor will use to create your custom die. Your graphic file will have all the graphics, text, bleeds, and everything you'd usually have in a print file. You'll want to have another file (or a layer within your document) for the die line itself. I like to use magenta for the die line because it is rarely used at full strength by itself in projects.

A custom die cut project is one you'll definitely want to keep in your portfolio. Not only do they look amazing, but they show your ability to think outside the box and be creative while designing something useful!