Die cutting: Creative Finishing Ideas Add Power to Print

folded die cut self-mailer

Even a simple die cut can transform a bland self-mailer into a powerful marketing piece. Creative die cutting highlights the 3D nature of print – its tactile and functional nature. It also grabs attention and makes a marketing piece stand out from a stack of generic mail pieces.

The finished shape of a die cut print piece can serve an aesthetic purpose, such as making an image pop off the page or highlighting either text or a specific object. It can also provide functionality; for example, the slots in some folders which hold business cards or the curved and angled flaps on a folder which fit together as a means of closure for the piece. Another practical function for die cutting is a “pre-punched” card that is still affixed into the sheet of paper by a few, small uncut areas but can easily be popped out by the recipient to use the piece as a coupon, membership card, etc.

die cut rounded corner print pieces
Even the simplicity of a die cut rounded corner makes a print piece unique.

As a general rule, offset and digital printing (other than web-fed presses) is done on precut, rectangular pieces of paper. A special die cut press is used to trim or shape the pieces further. Think of this as similar to a cookie cutter. A die is made of metal and adjusted onto the die press at the right amount of pressure. Printed sheets are then fed into the machine and the die will both cut and/or score each sheet, leaving small attachment areas so that the finished pieces do not separate and fall down into the press. The unused portion is then scraped or weeded out and recycled, leaving the finished shaped piece.

die cut printed pieces


All “shaped” pieces of printed paper have been die cut by this or a similar method: envelopes with a curved flap, folders with slots for holding a buisness card or insert, and anything with rounded edges are all examples of die cut print pieces. You can creatively design your die cut to work in most any shape. Of course, the extra process adds cost to your print project, and a very complex die will cost more than one as simple as a rounded corner or curved shape.

One hint: paper manufacuturers often provide printers with sample books of their materials, showing off their products through creative, eye-catching print. These sample books and other marketing pieces often include examples of die cutting. Ask your printer to share some of these with you, or for samples of their own die cut projects. You can get a lot of inspiration from holding and inspecting the paper yourself, and perhaps it will get you excited about new options for your next print project.

Paper manufacture samples of die cutting


Rely on your printer for advice, inspiration and direction on your integrated marketing options. They should be able to answer all your questions – if they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.