How do I setup artwork for a die cut product?

Find a good vector design program such as Adobe InDesign or Illustrator to create a mask file for your die cut projects. Here’s how you can prepare artworks for die cutting:


Step 1: Start a new design project.

To set up a print file for die cutting, your design must be made in CMYK mode and with 300 dpi. As for the size, it’s all up to you.


Step 2: Make a bleed line around your artwork.

Make a duplicate of your entire design, and place it directly above the existing one. You have to merge all the elements together as a single compound shape. To do this, head over to Pathfinder, and click on Unite. Next, select the compound shape.

To make the bleed area, go to Object, and select the Offset Path. Set up a 3 mm or .25-inch bleed line. And click on Join to eliminate jagged edges. You then need to select the duplicate layer and place it under the original design.


Step 3: Make a spot color.

Create a trim line out of spot colors. In offset printing, a spot color refers to any color produced by ink that’s printed in a single run, while a process color is developed through printing different colors.

Go back to the original file, and make another duplicate. This time, you have to set it up on a new layer. You also need to let the printer know that this isn’t a printable layer, so name it DIE LINE – DO NOT PRINT.

Click the None option to remove the object’s fill, and pick a color for the outline. Double-click on your swatch panel to make a spot color.

Choose a spot color from the color type box. This imaginary line won’t be printed, but it will serve as the printer’s guide for the die cutting process.


Step 4: Select overprint stroke in Attributes.

Finally, you need to make sure that the colors of your artwork will be printed underneath the die line. Just head on to the attributes panel, and click on the Overprint stroke.

And there you have it! You’ve created a custom-made die line for your design project.


It’s always best to consult with professional designers or die cutters before going all out in your design. This way, you will get important advice on what works and what may not.

Our design team is more than happy to assist you with this task. If you want to, we can set up a die line without you having to lift a finger. All you have to do is send in your artwork. We can create the die line, and send you a proof for approval prior to printing.

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