The ins and outs of die cutting

The ins and outs of die cutting

There are a variety of ways to print from letterpress (an inked, raised surface is impressed on paper) to silk screening (ink is press through a screen and into the paper or fabric) to die cutting among other options. Die cutting is when a shape is cut into a product such as paper, wood or leather, and then that piece is punched out to make the design stand out. It can also create the basic shape of the product being used. Read on to find out more about this fascinating process.

Die cutting started in the mid-19th century as a way to cut leather for the shoe industry, but can be used for a variety of items such as stamps that can then be used to create other printed products. Today?s die cutting machines are strong enough to cut through laminate. Die cutting is not commonly used in printing due to its limitations, but it makes a distinct impression on a wedding invitation or thank you card to see a punched out object such as a heart or a letter. It adds to the statement you are trying to make.

To find out how die cutting is used in printing you have to scour the literature due to its uncommon use these days due to the use of computers. Die cutting involves a large machine that is manipulating using stamps and thin plate/cutting plates that allow for a solid surface on which to press the cutting die. Some printers create their own dies and have local die makers produce them, this way they are assured their design is exact to their specifications.

A cutting die is secured into the die cutting machine and a mock-up is created to make certain placement is where the printer needs it to be with any tweaking and adjustments made to get it right. The paper is secured onto the printing bed with tape and the cutting begins. Keep in mind die cutting can also be used to create raised surfaces.


As mentioned before, die cutting has its limitations. The minimum and maximum size of the cut is dependent upon the machine you are using. The shape cannot be too intricate either, but a die cut shape lends itself to vintage designs or simply an air of distinction in your card or other die cut product. There is an excellent, short video on the process at The Printing Process: Die Cutting.

If you are planning to send out fancy invitations for a wedding or other important event, consult a printer who is adept at die-cutting paper. When you learn more about how die cutting is used in printing, you will see that this small touch can make a big impression on your guests and set the tone for your event. Even a small heart in the corner lends an air of sophistication.