How to set up a die cut for print in Indesign

So you’ve designed a box or a sticker or something similar that will need die cutting. We’re here to help. So basically you need to provide your printer with a PDF that is both usable art but also clearly indicates where the box or sticker needs to be cut after printing.

For this explanation I am going to use a round sticker as an example. Something like a license disk sticker.

Create your document
Remember that if you want a 90mm x 90mm sticker result you’ll have to setup your document to 91mm x 91mm in order to make sure your cut line falls within the constraints of the page. I also add a 2mm or 3mm bleed to my document in Indesign to make sure I have enough ink coverage for the cutting process

how to setup a sticker for print

Define your cut area on a top layer
cut line

Draw your cut line on this layer, and make sure that it is set to:

  • a 0.25pt line
  • the line colour must be a Spot Colour
  • Name the spot colour “CutContour”
  • Set the Line to “Overprint Stroke” in the attributes tab

spot colour on overprint

overprint stroke

Design your sticker
Design on a new layer below the “Cut Line” layer.
Lock the “Cut Line Layer”

layers
Make sure that any design elements that bleeds off the page are extended to the bleed line.

bleed

Check your final design

  • Make sure all printing colour are CMYK [if you are printing CMYK]
    • If you are printing Pantone colours make sure they are correct and set to Spot.
  • Make sure your images are set to CMYK.
  • Don’t use PNG images when printing, only JPG, PSD, TIFF or PSD images.

bleed final

Export your Design to PDF

  • Make sure to include crop and bleed – don’t include colour bars and other registration marks.
  • Make sure to export as PDF/X-1a

export to pdf

Check your PDF

When you open the PDF in Acrobat Pro DC and go to Output Preview, you should see all your process colour plates and Pantone Plates [if you have Pantone colours] – But you should also see the Spot colour you named as “CutContour” onder Spot plates.

If you hide the “CutContour” plate by unticking the check box, the line should disappear from your design and you should NOT see a white line where the cut line used to be. Then you know your artwork is correct.

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no line

willem