How to Set up Custom Die Cut Artwork

A guide on setting up and suppling artwork for new die / custom shapes for packaging, cards, brochures etc

Product Packaging Die Cut Boxes Rogue Print

What is a dieline in printing?

A dieline - or die, or knife  - in printing, refers to the shape that a stock needs to be cut to to. Generally, anything that isn't a rectangle will need a dieline created. In offset printing, this shape is actually custom manufactured by a diemaker. In packaging, the die may also include special lines for perforation, scoring, glue, tape etc. This tutorial is focused on setting artwork up in a custom shape that isn't part of our 'stock' die library (such as presentation folder dies), including with foil and spot uv. 

Ensure your artwork follows these guidelines:

  • Artwork must be correctly sized with 3mm bleed and crop/trim marks
  • All transparency effects are to be flattened (you can do this in photoshop or follow this tutorial on flattening artwork)
  • Overprint must be turned off 
  • All colour profiles are to be removed (i.e. don't include when exporting to PDF)
  • Ensure all images are at 300dpi / high resolution 
  • For full colour printing of large solid black areas, a rich black will produce a deeper black colour and a better printed result. We recommend a rich black of the following values 30,20,20,100 cmyk.

Time Needed: 1 hour

Things Needed?

Adobe Creative Cloud
Your logo, Images, Fonts etc.
Basic Graphic Design Skills.

Required tools:

A Computer.
Internet connection.
Adobe InDesign or Illustrator.

Setting up and saving PDF using Adobe Illustrator:

Step 1: Set up your document

  1. In Adobe Indesign, Illustrator or other professional vector graphics software (note Canva or other non-industry standard programs will not support this process), set up your document as follows:
  2. Artboard or document to the trim size. For example if you are creating business cards that are 90mmWx 55mmH, set your document to that size
  3. Add in 3mm bleed on each edge
  4. CMYK mode

Step 2: Create your die + set up artwork

  1. Factor in all the general guidelines above. 
  2. Create two layers - one called 'die' and the other 'art'. It is a good idea to lock the art layer and vice versa so you don't move elements around as you are setting up your artwork.
  3. To create your die, select the die layer.
  4. Use the pen tool or shape tools - the shape must be a vector 
  5. Check with us if your dieline needs a spot colour (as depending on the item a different process may be used). At a minimum, make the die 100% black (C:0 M:0 Y:0 K:100)
  6. The shape must be 100% of the print size -i.e. not scaled down. Ensure corners are smooth and flowing and not jagged. 
  7. Once you have created your shape, complete your artwork on the art layer

Step 3: Set up additional pages for export

  1. Now you have your die, it is time to set up the document to provide to us to print. We need the following so we can understand the position of the die and have artwork with and without the die for both processes. You will need to duplicate pages/artboards and ensure that the die is in the correct position as you create these pages:

    • Page 1: the front page artwork with die line on top
    • Page 2: the front page artwork only, no die line
    • Page 3: the back page artwork with die line on top
    • Page 4: the back page artwork only, no die line
    • Page 5: the die line only, no artwork

    If your artwork has a foil or spot uv embellishment:

    1. On Page 5, add the foil along with the dieline, in the correct position. 
    2. Add a sixth page - Page 6: foil artwork only, no die line
    3. Note that foil or spot uv set up is the same as die - must be vector and check with us the colour requirements

Step 4: Export to PDF

With all your artboards/pages set up, export or save to PDF ensuring:

  1. Trim/crop is selected and 3mm bleed is included
  2.  Artwork compressed to 300ppi and maximum image quality (or use the Adobe PDF High Quality Print  preset) 
  3. Ensure the page order is exactly per Step 3
  4. Export/save out, and send to us to review.
  5. Repeat the process for each kind / design as required

If you are happy with your digital proof, send through to us for print. To do so, you can email us the file or upload to our wetransfer: site: