A Simple Guide to Creating a Die Cut Sticker

Stickers are an interesting and exciting form of advertising that you can add to your brand collateral. Sure, you have other cool and useful items to give away like pens, business cards, notepads, and the like, that bear your logo or icon. But why not also include stickers? Stickers are a great way to make your brand and identity popular, as stickers can, well, ‘stick’ to almost all types of surfaces where they can be seen, like on the cover of notebooks, on cars, walls, laptops, etc. Even graffiti artists, and other types of creative artists and designers, use stickers to showcase their artwork.


For marketing or for personal use, or for whatever purpose, designing and printing stickers are easy! 99designs came up with a step-by-step guide to designing die cut (“die cut” means cutting into a certain shape other than the standard square or rectangle shape of the adhesive paper) stickers using Adobe Illustrator, setting a cute kitten as a sample design.


1. Prepare the design

cat sticker design


Documents for print must be set in CMYK color mode and 300dpi in raster effects. The size will depend on your design and how big you want it to be.


2. Create a bleed

Once the design is done, the next step is to create bleed for the custom shape. A design that is for edge to edge printing needs to have a 3mm bleed line around the perimeter of the sticker. This is necessary to enlarge the border limits.


die cut sticker shape


To create a bleed line, just select all and create a copy, and place it directly on top of the existing the design. After creating a copy, join all the elements together in one compound through Pathfinder then selecting Unite.


Select the compound shape and then select Object > Path > Offset Path in order to create the bleed area. Set offset to 3mm (.25in) and Join to round. The border limits will be enlarged by 3mm, as shown below. Select this layer and place under the original design and name it ‘bleed’.


create bleed line


Notice that the dark border became thicker compared to the original file.


3. Use a spot color

After creating a bleed, you also need to create a trim line using spot colors. Unlike process color that uses the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks, spot colors refer to printing colors with their own ink.


Use the original file and make another copy and place it on a new layer. In order for the printer to recognize that this new layer is not printable, name it ‘die line – do not print’. Select the layer and set the fill to none, and then choose a color from the swatches panel for the outline. Double click on the swatch to create a spot color.


create a spot color


Select spot color in the color type box to take that color and make its own plate for printing. The trim line created will serve as the imaginary line that the printer will recognize as the die cut.


4. Select overprint stroke

Now the final step before printing your sticker is to go to Window > Attributes, then select Overprint stroke in order for the colors of the design to print under the die line. Otherwise, the sticker will be printed with a white line where the die line goes.


And voila! Your custom made die cut sticker is ready to print!