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What is Die-Cut Printing

What is Die-Cut Printing? – Your Complete Guide for 2024

Die-cutting is an automated and truly valuable process, making things more efficient and cost-effective by facilitating the uniform production of multiple pieces with the same shape. It is defined as a manufacturing technique that tailors a die through cutting, forming, or shearing to create precise shapes, designs, or patterns. When custom packaging is produced in larger quantities, die-cutting brings speed without sacrificing quality – something that benefits both manufacturers and businesses in a big way. It can deliver the whole thing, a perimeter, a corner, or cut out cool silhouettes from the center, giving you loads of creative possibilities. 

In the packaging industry, die-cut printing is a versatile process to create unique custom packaging. The key element required in the process of die-cutting is a "die" – a specialized metal (steel) tool used to cut, shape, or mold any material into particular shapes and designs. Dies have sharp areas, more precisely, exact contours to get the desired figure. Despite their sharpness, they comprise protective layers of plastic or foam to ensure safety.

Primarily used in cutting packaging materials, they are similar to how a cookie cutter creates uniform shapes in dough. For instance, to get custom-shaped hang tags, the first step is to make your own die using a press. Also, many printers offer a range of standard dies for common cuts and shapes. Yet, for unique designs, custom dies are typically crafted.

Tip: Steel-rule dies are specifically crafted for cutting thicker packaging materials or slicing through a stack of less dense packaging simultaneously. In contrast, there are slimmer metal dies that lack the same level of sharpness and are unsuitable for cutting through very thick materials. These lighter, more manageable dies don't have protective foam or plastic, making them easier to store.

Different Types of Die and Their Applications 

It's widely acknowledged that most printed materials typically adopt a conventional appearance, often being rectangular or square. Die-cutting provides a means to deviate from this norm by introducing intriguing shapes, contours, flaps, holes, etc., thereby capturing attention.

Before delving into the die-cutting process in the printing and packaging industry, look at some common types of dies used for different applications.

Common Types of DiesApplications 

Scoring Die
Creates score lines on materials used for items having folded designs like brochures and cards

Perforating Die
Creates tiny holes or perforations in the material used in the production of tickets and coupons


Foiling Die
Used in hot foiling stamp process Adds a thin metallic or shiny layer onto the material's surface Considered an embellishment to decorate packaging and book covers

Debossing Die
For creating indented designs on a surface Used in printing and packaging for a subtle look on printed materials

Embossing Die
Creates raised patterns on the material surface to add texture and dimension Ideal for greeting cards, invitations, packaging

Die-Cutting Die
Used to cut paper, cardboard, or other types of materials into precise shapes For business cards, packaging materials, labels, etc


Steel-rule Dies/ Flatbed Dies
Very sharp-edged dies with foam/plastic wrapped around them for safety Used to cut thicker packaging materials or to cut bundles of thin packaging

Creating dies for packaging designs might cost initially, but it's a one-time investment. Once you have the die, making large volumes of custom packaging becomes affordable. Moreover, just one die can be used for multiple products, making it a valuable asset for your brand. 

Think of it as an upfront investment that pays off in the long run for your business!

Die-Cutting for Practical Applications

Beyond its role in promotional contexts, die-cutting serves to enhance the functionality of printed materials. For instance:

  • A door hanger necessitates a hole or hook cut into it to enable hanging from a doorknob. 
  • Mailing envelopes frequently feature die-cut windows, ensuring that an address or information printed on the contents remains visible even after sealing the envelope. 
  • Even the uncomplicated slits or tabs for business cards within certain brochures and pocket folders are fashioned through die-cutting operations.

6 Standard Shapes of Die-Cut Prints Used

In the past, making steel dies to cut customized shapes and designs was quite pricey. So, the printers had very limited options to choose from. Only six dies were available, each for a different shape. The following six standard die-cut shapes were their go-to options without draining the finances:

  1. Leaf shape
  2. Half-moon side
  3. Circle
  4. Rounded one corner
  5. Oval
  6. Rounded corner

5 Steps of Die-Cutting Process Work in Printing? 

Design Crafting & Die Creation

The process starts with creating a design with the right use of a dieline or a design template. This step demands the top-tier expertise of the graphic designers. Once the design is finalized, a matching die is formed, customized exactly per the provided design. 

Printing Process

Moving forward to the printing process, ensure that the printed sheets contain the desired visuals and typography. The technique is decided per the artwork’s requirements. 

Die-cutting Process

To get the desired shapes, perforations, and scorings, printed sheets are meticulously passed through a die-cutting machine.

Waste Removal

It is time to get rid of the extra material that could be chads left around the shapes. It helps get the printed design in a sharp, clean, and tidy profile.

Final Touch-Ups

Lastly, add-ons and finishes are decided to keep the exclusivity alive. From embossing and debossing to varnish and laminations, UV-printing, and foil stamping to metallic accenting - you can pick any option for a luxurious texture. Where these premium finishings improve the exterior of your die-cut design, they also ensure a protective layering. To convert the die-cut material into a high-end material, you need these specialties.

Difference Between Traditional and Digital Die-Cutting 

Traditional Die-Cutting 

Steel dies were used in traditional die-cutting, but this method faced several challenges, such as material limitations and high costs. Besides, pricing was done through manual communication, which was another exhausting producer, resulting in expensive custom dies. Due to high expenses, short runs were not possible. Moreover, for different shapes and designs, multiple dies were required. 

All these barriers make traditional die-cutting a complex and inflexible method. 

Digital Die-Cutting

On the other hand, digital die-cutting, unlike traditional methods, eliminates the need for physical dies. Using software (CAD), designs are created on a computer, offering flexibility and precise control. Digital machines operate faster, allowing for shorter turnaround times without changing dies. Further, the process is user-friendly, requiring less skill than traditional die-cutting. It is precise, budget-saving, and versatile, handling materials like vinyl, cardboard, leather, and more with ease. It is suitable even for small quantities and various materials.

This method enables creative freedom, making it a go-to for quick, intricate projects.

For crafting bespoke shapes and printing designs, the die-cutting process differs, and there are no hard-and-fast rules or protocols to follow. One is advised to pick the one that serves all your professional needs and personal demands. A few names that are commonly used include:

Blanking

A process dedicated to achieving a flat and uniform look by clipping the material from the outer edges.

Drawing

Typically a preferred choice for thin and/or cylindrical packaging, it is used for pulling material through the machine until a predetermined length is reached.

Forming

It is a method where raw materials are shaped on a curved surface with keen attention to detail. Forming is suitable with a design that involves creating tubular parts for custom packaging.

Coining

Ideal for making precise circular holes in materials with great pressure, it is used to accomplish complicated structural design features. 

Broaching

The broaching method uses several rows of "teeth" to cut material that is considered difficult to cut with steel dies. 

Die-Cutting Advantages In the Printing & Packaging Industry

  1. Die-cutting promises spot-on consistency! You can acquire and maintain uniformity through all the printed designs, as each print mirrors the first one.
  2. Need more money-spinning and cost-saving ideas? Die-cutting your labels and business cards is your way out! It ensures greater benefits than costs, particularly when printed in bulk quantities. Let’s say you're in a rush for a networking event. Printing unique business cards in huge quantities will ensure a quick and hassle-free outcome. 
  3. If you are an eco-conscious brand, go for a rotary or digital die-cutting method. They cut down on waste while offering more productivity.
  4. It goes without saying, but your brand can surely stand out by incorporating new and unique shapes, as they will stick in people's minds. Die-cuts enhance customer interaction, making your designs more powerful. 
  5. Feel free to design whatever you want! Apart from aesthetic printing designs, die cutting is a practical technique for creating holes, slits, or folds for practical purposes. It may comprise tear-off coupons, easy-open packaging, or interactive elements.

Do You Need Custom Die-Cut Prints?

Whether you are a non-professional, lack specialized equipment, or need to print a rare shape, using metal dies without any guidance from an expert can negatively impact the quality of die-cut results. It is advisable to get the needed help from packaging experts. 

You can rely on Custom Packaging Lane to deliver all your die-cut materials, signage, and merchandise. With an effective approach, we steer you in the right direction to lure your customer base, extend your brand’s reach, and double the popularity of your product or service. We welcome you to pick custom designs from our gallery, or you can provide our team with your distinctive layout, artwork, logo, or typography. You'll be awe-struck with the top-notch quality of our materials and exotic finishing touches. 

To request a free quote, contact us right now and enjoy our special discounts and deals on bulk orders!

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