How to digitally add a dieline (Die-cut, Keyline) to artwork

A dieline should be a vector line on a layer in your design. It should never be negative space or the edge of a piece of art or the boundary of a mask.
  • If your die-cut piece folds, make a dummy, unfold it, and build your file flat – the way it prints. The art on the pocket of a pocket folder prints on the same side of the sheet as the outside cover. Visualizing this kind of thing is a magical gift bestowed upon some designers; the rest of us make a dummy.

    • Build the dieline in Adobe Illustrator first so you know what size it is, then place it in an InDesign document of exactly that size. The die cut must extend to all edges of the page because the trim marks allow the die cutter to locate the die on the press sheet. For a two-sided piece, imposition software uses the document boundaries to align the art back to back.
    • In Illustrator, make a new spot color called “Dielines”, give the dieline a 1 pt. stroke, and set the stroke to overprint in the Attributes pallette. Be sure the fill is “None” on that dieline shape, because you’re going to place it in the top layer in InDesign and you want everything on the lower layers to show (choose High Quality Display in InDesign’s View/Display Performance).
    • Check the Transparent Background box when you place the die file. I usually make the Dieline’s color 100% magenta so it’s nice and visible, but green or orange might show up better over some art. The on-screen color doesn’t matter because “Dielines” is never going to print anywhere except on a proof.
    • If the job requires scoring, you can indicate that by a dashed dieline, or just make a spot color called “Scores” and add a Score Layer.


    • For small die-cut pieces, add .125″ bleed beyond the trim edges; for packaging, especially when we’re printing something that laminates to corrugate, allow .25″ bleed; and for large-format printing, where the cutting is done by our computer-driven flatbed cutter, add .25″ bleed for a 1-side-only piece, and .5″ for a 2-sided piece.
    • If there is an inside cut, like the hole on a door hanger or a cutout for a plastic blister on retail packaging, outline that area with the dieline and run the art right across it. Bleed is necessary inside those internal cuts too.


    • Glue tabs are almost always .75″ wide and on a pocket folder they should extend from the body not the pocket. Ink should bleed no more than .125″ onto the face of the tab, leaving the rest ink-free for gluing.


    These are 3 important points that will save you money and speed your die-cut job through our shop:

    • Make your document size exactly the same size as the dieline.
    • Make the dieline a spot color vector line that overprints.
    • Put the dieline on its own layer.

     How to set a dieline (Keyline, die-cut) to spot colour?

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