Die-Cut Stickers: File Preparation Info For Graphic Designers

Getting Started With Custom Die-Cut Stickers

Perfect die cut sticker begins with a properly set up print and cut file. The artwork can be anything from a simple line art logo to a complex combination of photography and type. But in order to turn your file into a die cut sticker, you’ll need to follow a few easy guidelines to make sure that no matter the level of complexity, your final product will be produced exactly as intended.

Die-Cut stickers from Printastic feature a white border around the image area. The border is called a “cut line” and is added to help the sticker stand out on any background and to compensate for any slight irregularites that may occur during the actual cutting operation. This cut line will be automatically added by Printastic - at no additional cost you - and is between 1/16 and 1/8” thick, depending on the size and complexity of the image file supplied.

what is a die cut sticker
Recommended Design Applications for Print and Cut File Setup
using creative cloud for die cut setup

For best results, we recommend using Adobe Illustrator® - the leading vector image design application used by graphic professionals. A major advantage of working with vector artwork is that your design is resolution independent, meaning that your graphics can be printed at virtually any size – large or small – without any negative impact on quality.

Once you have created your sticker design, there are a few easy steps to follow in a graphic editing application before your artwork is ready to send for printing. Due to the fact that Adobe Photoshop® is the most powerful and popular image editing application in existence, we will use it in the examples below to ensure die-cut sticker success.

Preparing Your Die-Cuty Sticker File In Photoshop

diecut sticker sheet

The following information will guide you through the steps required to produce flawless die-cut sticker sheets. Your die-cut sticker file can contain a single image or multiple images, whether they are several copies of one image or different individual images.

In this example, we will be making a letter size (8.5” x 11”) sticker sheet containing 6 individual images. Our images have been created in Adobe Illustrator using pure vector graphics and are ready to be prepared for cutting in Adobe Photoshop.

The image to the left represents the final product of 6 die-cut stickers on a single sheet, ready for use.

1. Begin A New Photoshop Document

The key to die-cutting success lies in making sure that your images are presented on a transparent background. Your final image file should consist of only two individual layers - a transparent background layer and an image layer.

To begin, open a new Photoshop workspace with the following settings:

Photoshop contour cut file setup

2. Bring Your Artwork Into Photoshop

Your artwork may consist of a fully vector image, or a combination of vector and raster elements. The key to die-cutting success lies in making sure that your artwork is cleanly presented on a transparent background. To begin to prepare your images, click “File > Place Embedded...” and then select the file you wish to use.

Your artwork is now presented on top the transparent background layer. You will be able to see the checkerboard Photoshop background layer in between the images that you intend to make stickers from. If the checkerboard is not visible, you will need to remove any background color that you may have in your image file. Please refer to the following examples regarding correct vs. incorrect image setup:

Common contour cut sticker mistakes
The example above has the monsters sitting on a colored background, obsuring the checkerboard design. This means that the images are NOT a transparent background and the image is therefore incorrectly setup.
Proper file setup for die cut vinyl stickers
In the correctly setup image above, the checkerboard background is clearly visible in between each monster and can be seen anywhere that an image is not intended to be. This means that the images are on a transparent background

3. Finalize Your Sticker Sheet

With your images placed on the transparent background, it’s time to finalize your Photoshop file. In the Layer menu, click “Merge Visible”. Now we have a single layer Photoshop file with transparent background.

setting up file with diecut and graphics layers for contour cutting

4. Save Your Sticker Sheet

Now click “File > Save As...” and give your file an appropriate name.

Your Die-Cut Stickers are now ready to send to Printastic!

Additional Information For Advanced Users

What Is A Cut Line?

Vector graphic images are fairly simple. The difficulty lies when creating a contour around a bitmap image or certain portions of the bitmap (for example, there may be white space surrounding the image). Cutting individual images out of a larger sheet with tight tolerances is very exacting work, therefore, correct image preparations are vitally important.

Before producing Die-Cut stickers, the images must be made rady for cutting by first generating a line or contour around each image that is to be cut out. This line - called a cut contour line - is added to indicate to Printastic’s cutting equipment the shape of the image that needs to be cut out and indicates the path which the blade should follow.

In the example below, a white cut line has been added to the monster sticker that was supplied to Printastic. The finished sticker will have a 1/16” to 1/8” border around it when removed from the backing.

sample of properly setup die cut sticker graphics file

Custom Color Cut Lines For A Bleed Effect

Advanced graphic designers may wish to utilize cut contours in various colors to give the illusion of a full bleed or to accomplish other visual effects. While Printastic utilizes white cut contour lines as standard, we have the capability to accept files that have custom cut contour lines applied.

In the example below, the customer desires a “full bleed” effect, and has therefore added a custom cut line that is the same color as the monster. The 1/16“ to 1/8” border still exists on the final sticker, but is invisible since it’s the same color as the image it surrounds.

Designer Information:

Please note that adding custom cut lines is a procedure that requires an advanced level of proficiency in vector design applications. When submitting an image with a custom color cut line, Printastic must receive one of the following pure vector layered formats: .EPS / .AI / .PDF / .SVG

When ordering Die-Cut stickers with custom color cut lines, please contact Printastic via live chat to discuss your printing requirements and to review your file setup procedure.

setting up full bleed contour cut diecut sticker

Multiple Cut Lines For Complex Stickers

While typical Die-Cut stickers consist of a single cut contour around the perimiter of the image, it is possible to cut smaller shapes out within a larger image. For exmaple, a sticker of a donut may have the hole in the middle cut out, giving it a highly polished appearance. In order to perform this action, multiple cut lines must be applied to the image.

In the example below, the custoimer wants a donut sticker with the middle removed. Cut lines have been added around the outside and the inside to designate to cut to be performed. The final sticker will have 1/16“ to 1/8” borders around both cut areas and the middle of the donut will be removed. Multiple cut lines may be white or use the custom color method described above.

Designer Information:

Adding complex cut lines is not performed by Printastic and should only be attempted by advanced vector design application users. When submitting an image with complex cut lines, the digital file supplied must be one of the following pure vector layered formats: .EPS / .AI / .PDF / .SVG

Advanced graphic designers that wish to provide files with complex cut patters should contact Printastic via live chat to discuss requirements and to review your file setup procedure.

setting up cut out contour cut diecut decal with cut outs