Die lines: things you need to know

March 02, 2014

Die lines: things you need to know, AM-Insider article by Sarah Ritchie

A die line indicates an area on a print layout that will be cut into a specific shape, rather than guillotined with square edges. The die line will include all the cut lines, perforation marks and fold marks required to complete the job.

An Account Manager needs to understand, generally, how a die line is made, and the requirements of the printing process, to ensure that their job runs smoothly.

Your relationship with your printer will be invaluable at this point. If in doubt, talk to your printer BEFORE you create the artwork, to ensure your design can be produced without difficulty. Questions you could ask include:

  • How will this job be die cut? (e.g. digital flatbed cutter, traditional metal die forme, etc)
  • Will the physical size of this job allow me to use a standard die forme, or do I need to have this digitally cut?
  • Does the run size suit traditional or digital die cutting?
  • What limitations are there with the substrate we are using? (e.g. you will get a cleaner cut with cardboard than you will using corflute board)
  • Can the detail in my die line be cut successfully, or do I need to simplify the lines?
  • Will the shape be difficult to strip (remove) easily from the substrate?
  • Is there anything else that I need to be aware of? (a great catch-all question to finish with!)

You can achieve a more detailed shape using a digital cutter, but no matter what type of die cutting process you use, you will need to watch that the die line (shape) is not too complex. Sharp corners should be rounded off and the shape simplified as much as possible.

Here are the industry standard die line specifications (Illustrator/Photoshop/etc). 

 
  • Solid line, no fill.
  • 0.5 pt stroke weight.
  • Choose a spot colour that will stand out against the colour of your artwork, and rename the colour "die line".
  • Lines should be trapped (set to overprint).
  • Separate layer in your file titled "die line", and this layer sits on the top of all other layers.
  • Fold lines: 0.5pt stroke weight, with a dash of 4 pt line/2 pt space.
  • Perforations: 0.5pt stroke weight, with a dot-dash of 1pt line/2 pt space.
  • Die lines do not require crop marks.
  • Ensure vital artwork/text is located away from the die line, to avoid it getting cut off during the die cutting.
  • Add bleed to the artwork in case the substrates shifts during the cutting process.

As an Account Manager you don't need to know these specifications in detail, but what you do need to know is that the artwork must have bleed and the trapping must be set to OVERPRINT the other inks. You can check that the print file is accurate before you send it to print:

  • ILLUSTRATOR: Open the file and click on the die line > Window > Attributes > Overprint Stroke - the box should be checked.
  • ACROBAT (Professional version only): Open the file > Tools > Print Production (you may need to make this visible through fly-out menu) > Output Preview. Die line should show up as a separate colour "separation". When you uncheck the ticked box, next to the die line colour, it should reveal the artwork underneath. If it reveals a white line, you know the die line has not been set up properly and needs to be sent back to your designer for correction.

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